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SHOP : Smart Home

Our favorite smart home product combos

We’ve experimented with lots of smart home products at our various studios and homes in NYC through the years. So when we got our first little cabin in the woods, we realized it was the perfect opportunity to start with a whole-home approach.

Since we didn’t live in the cabin full time, we knew we wanted the ability to monitor and control as many aspects of the cabin’s functions as possible. We started by choosing a hub that was compatible with as many of the smart home products we were interested in as possible. We also wanted the interface and programming experience to be intuitive, functional and good looking, so we ended up choosing Wink which uses the Z-Wave protocol. (Technology changes fast though, so that of course could change in the future).

The areas we wanted to control ranged from lighting and security, to heating, cooling and blinds, and eventually expanded to voice control (through Alexa) and media (with Sonos, and even a custom work around for a drop-down projection screen).

You can learn a bit more about the things we’ve discovered through our write ups which you’ll find under “why we love it” in the product descriptions.

Note: We may earn a small commission if you end up purchasing any of these items through these links. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy researching, testing, and sharing what we’ve learned over the years and we appreciate if it ends up working out for you too!

Keyless Entry

Smart lock hardware at Cook House in the Catskills.

This smart lock features a key pad, and can be accessed remotely if you use a Z-Wave compatible hub like Wink.

Because it functions as a deadbolt, we recommend pairing it with this passage door handle so there are no other locks in the mix to interfere with the setup.

Media

Drop down projection screen and Sonos Beam at Cook House in the Catskills

We love the idea of hitting a button and having the space change into ideal movie mode, and a motorized drop-down screen and projector that operate in tandem is a key to achieving that.

We figured out a work around to force that to happen, which requires the addition of a power-triggered on/off switch, which will send the screen to go up or down when the projector turns on or off, with the Apple TV interface and Sonos speakers on and ready to go.

Heating & Cooling

Propane fireplace, controlled by Nest thermostat at Cook House in the Catskills

Being able to control the temperature in your space without actually being there is priceless. (it’s also nice doing it from your phone if you don’t feel like getting up to adjust it on the wall or via another remote!)

The air conditioner works on it’s own hub system (slightly less convenient) but it’s also easier and more cost effective to install than most split unit air conditioners. The thermostat can also do smart things like put your house in “eco” mode when it knows you are away, and will also give you detailed and visual data about your energy usage.

Outdoor Lighting

LED String lights, remotely controlled at Zink Cabin in the Catskills.

Something to know is that nearly anything that’s electric can be made controllable and “smart” by adding a smart switch.

In the case of outdoor twinkle lights, all it takes is a little outdoor z-wave plug, paired with your z-wave-compatible smart home hub.

Safety & Security

While there are lots of different home monitoring products out there, we do like the simple, intuitive design of Nest products. They are also very reliable (although nothing is full-proof) with great customer support.

But while the Nest protect has both a carbon monoxide and smoke detector, we recommend also getting a super basic (not smart) CO2 detector to plug in as a backup in a low outlet (since smoke detectors are usually installed high up, but CO2 is best detected down low).

Voice Control

Controlling everything from your phone is great, but controlling it with your voice can be even better. Like when you just got to bed and realize you forgot to turn off the outside lights, or lock the door…

This is all possible with a combination like Alexa + Wink. There are a number of different products that can achieve this, but we’ve chosen this combo because of it’s decent looks, usability and reliability (although no tech is full-proof!).

Also, most new Sonos products also include Alexa voice control built-in, so simply by focusing on getting good sound in your house, you can also gain smart home controllability in the process.

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