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Around The Home

The expanding dining table

December 12, 2006 It is not often that we see a product of exquisite beauty, ingenious design, and made from extraordinary materials that scores 10 from 10 on the usefulness scale. This is such a product. David Fletcher is a bespoke furniture manufacturer who has spent many years producing distinctive pieces of exceptional quality, each custom designed and built for each commission. Nothing is copied, nor are any two pieces ever created the same. The expanding table shown here is the result of many years of development, but follows a line of history of more than one and a half centuries. The Fletcher Capstan Table is the only table in the world with its unique properties. It is a circular table which, when rotated at its outer perimeter, doubles its seating capacity, yet astonishingly remains truly circular. The masterpiece is of course the operating mechanism which is beautifully engineered, yet simple and robust … and you can have one built to your exact requirements for a sum commensurate with this functional work of art. Gizmodo’s comments are worth reading and the videos are here, here and here. Just to show they know their way around functional design, the company also manufactures another expanding table done by entirely different means - the Fletcher Rising & Folding Table achieves many of the same functions, but also raises and lowers. And if you like this table, you'll also like this one.  Read More

The Cyberlux EverOn LED Portable Light – a 'must-have' for the emergency kit

December 8, 2006 We do get excited about useful things that become more useful in an emergency and the Cyberlux EverOn fits that bill perfectly – it is an easy-to-use, inexpensive emergency light that offers over 500 hours of nightlight level light, or 60 hours of a medium, room-filling light, or 30 hours of intensely bright white light – all from one set of 4 AA batteries. It can perform this seemingly magical feat because it is bulb free - it uses Cyberlux solid-state LED technology which is 90 percent more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lighting elements found in most lanterns and flashlights. And an ideal safety light for young children.  Read More

The Chumby, the wifi internet-connected news-gathering squishy clock radio

December 6, 2006 The chumby is a modern day equivalent of the clock radio, but it’s very different in what it will enable you to do, and enables you to appropriately introduce or conduct your day just as you would wish. It’s a really low-cost, WiFi, Internet-connected information device that will accompany you in the bedroom (or any other room) and wake you up. The starting point was the humble clock radio concept of audio information presentation, but it was extended into multimedia and is designed to connect up to the information resources you require, such as pictures that your friends send you from their cellphones, messages from your IM buddies, your blogs and social network sites. In fact, you can set up your chumby to show you almost any information you want, and anything your friends want to send you. It will wake you up with anything you wish - AM or FM radio, MP3 files or podcasts from the Internet, from your computer, or even from your iPod. It can display your daily horoscope and the weather, and a whole community of artists and animators can send their creations around the chumby network to entertain you. Chumby is the product of a group of hackers who wanted to create something interesting, useful and different. It doesn’t look like a clock radio - it’s soft, and squishy and you communicate with it by tapping or squeezing it and in the true spirit of open collaboration, its open and hackable and they encourage everyone to “pull out its electronic guts and reprogram it.” There are alternative skins for your chumby so you can do whatever you want to personalize it. Several hundred chumbys are currently being beta tested with a view to a commercial product some time in in the 2007-2008 time frame with a target retail price of US$150. If you are a serious alpha-geek hacker, they can be convinced to give you a prototype.  Read More

Melitta Smart Mill & Brew – the Intelligent Coffee Pot

November 17, 2006 Now here’s a must have for any self-respecting, caffeine-powered technophile – a coffee maker with real-time weather forecast information and the ability to brew a cup of coffee from either whole beans or ground coffee. The US$200 Melitta Smart Mill & Brew with MSN Direct incorporates Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) and automatically detects current weather conditions, the day's forecast, probability for precipitation, and sunrise and sunset times, without the need for outdoor sensors, through MSN Direct.  Read More

The Rotating Home – high efficiency, high tech and dial-a-view

October 24, 2006 Which way do you orient your home when you have spectacular views on all sides? Luke Everingham had that problem but having worked as a high-end audio/video engineer and construction contractor, he looked for and found the solution to the problem in a different way. Taking an idea from a throwaway comment from his wife, he conceived, designed and built a rotating house that offers not only dial-a-view, but can take full advantage of its rotational powers to optimise the use of sunlight to create better thermal efficiency. The Everingham Rotating House is situated four hours north of Sydney, NSW, and any room in the house can choose its view from pristine rapids and deep water river views on one side to soaring mountains on the other. The rotating home is one of the most remarkable and unique homes in the world but it wasn’t always that way. Luke and wife Debbie lived initially just a few metres away in a 90-year-old farmhouse and had theorised for some time on how to take most advantage of the landscape when they built their dream home. One night at a dinner party Debbie made a comment about how it would be nice to be able to turn an existing design by 15 degrees and Luke came up with the idea of a rotating home. Ingeniously solving engineering problems for a living in the construction industry had prepped him well. The drawings took six months and were the start of thousands of hours of research over six years to the completion of the house. “There’s a fair bit (of work) in it to make it work,” says Luke. Everingham is now seeking to commercialise the expertise he gained in constructing ERH Mk I and living in it for several years, and looks forward to creating new and innovative solutions for using natural light and the environment to assist the house… and check out this stunning pictorial.  Read More

The combination wine cabinet and refrigerator

October 20, 2006 Liebherr is well known for its high quality wine cabinets and also makes a range of superb refrigerators so it was only a matter of time before someone got the bright idea for combining them. If you’re a regular wine drinker, it’s heaven sent as the wine cabinet holds 32 bottles and has two zones for storing and/or serving wine at the exact temperature desired, ranging from +41°F (+5°C) to +64°F (+18°C). In all, the SBS 24I5 unit has five different climate zones and ensures everything is kept as it should be. As such, we figure it qualifies as a new and innovative appliance that allows you to store all food and drink under perfect conditions.  Read More

The handheld vacuum cleaner that never clogs and never loses suction

October 19, 2006 Gone forever are the days of frustrating, ineffective handheld cleaners. Loss of suction, poor pick-up and useless clogged filters may have once been standard fare, but will no longer interfere with your cleaning if you buy a Dyson Root 6 Cyclone, or at least that’s what Dyson is claiming. The Root 6 uses a lithium ion battery and comes with a specially designed combination brush/stair tool for versatile cleaning. Given that the company’s other products always do the business as claimed, we figure that makes the Root Cyclone a likely winner when it goes on sale next week at US$150.  Read More

Bespoke apartments created in 24 hours

October 16, 2006 From any tall building in almost any major city, dozens, possibly hundreds of roofs can be seen which carry free space which is not being employed the owner’s benefit. The free space on top of buildings has never been ascribed much value, and rarely gets any consideration on a balance sheet, but offers a major opportunity because in some locations, it represents very valuable virgin real estate indeed. Last week we wrote about the pre-fabricated Loftcube which can be made-to-order and helicoptered into position, commisiioned and fully functional in 24 hours, with prices starting at US$138,000. The Loftcube is a modern construction and doesn’t suite everybody, as in most such instances, additional construction must be in sympathy with existing, important buildings. St. John's Wood Court is a century-old double winged mansion block directly opposite the W. C. Grace Gates, the main entrance to Lords Cricket Ground, the home of the sport of cricket. One of several major Central London apartment projects by specialist rooftop developer First Penthouse, the project added seven ultra-exclusive apartments to the building. First Penthouse uses a modular construction system not dissimilar to that used in custom automobile construction – all components are handcrafted, assembled and tested in a controlled factory environment. By finishing the apartments off-site, then loading them into position with cranes, one-day installation is also possible. Instant-use residential and commercial property is hence viable, without noise, dust and disruption and with the units constructed in the style and values of the original, traditionally-constructed buildings. First Penthouse is actively seeking new developments and can prepare portfolio surveys for property owners which will identify short, medium and long term opportunities.  Read More

The kitchen timer/clock for serious multi-taskers

October 12, 2006 Like it or not, no matter how much you try to avoid it, there are some things that run to a very strict schedule. It might be the personal trainer every Tuesday morning at 6am when on all other days you can sleep to 7.30am, or it might be that the exquisite meal you wish to prepare needs military precision in coinciding the readiness of the hollandaise sauce with the Chateaubriand. American Innovative is a company which specialises in creating “products that make sense” – interestingly it’s key successes so far have been related to solving timing issues. The company's first offering, the Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock is a bedside clock radio designed with a variable schedule in mind and the company’s latest product is a kitchen timer for the serious home chef, the avid entertainer and the modern multi-tasker. The Chef's Quad-Timer provides four countdown timers with indicators arranged to look like a 4-burner cooktop -- what's on the stove and what's being timed are intuitively linked - green lamps indicate which burners are still cooking, red lamps are done. Though both products are available in some countries other than the U.S., the company is seeking international distributors.  Read More

The Vocal Smoke Alarm

October 9, 2006 The SignalONE Safety vocal smoke alarm is the only smoke alarm on the market that allows the appropriate caregiver to record a personalized "wake up and escape" message for their child. We wouldn’t have picked that this was such an important feature off the bat, but apparently there’s a growing body of evidence showing that children do not awaken reliably to the tones found in conventional smoke alarms and the key aspect of the vocal smoke alarm is the use of a familiar voice to awaken a child by name and urge the child to escape a burning home safely. A new study, released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics, showed that 96 percent of children woke up to the recorded sound of their mothers voice in a median time of 20 seconds, compared to only 58 percent who woke up to conventional smoke alarm tones. We’ve seen a few good ideas in smoke alarms over the years, such as the wireless smoke alarm and the ingenious snap alarm – interestingly, none of their compelling features are mutually exclusive.  Read More

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