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Creating the Smarter Smart Home

smart home devices
Illustration by Errata Carmona.

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We spend a lot of time in our homes. It’s not just where we lay our heads—it’s also where we make special memories with friends and family, host game nights, celebrate birthdays and holidays, cook meals with loved ones, and so much more. And over the past few years, we’ve only become more aware of the ways our home spaces work (or don’t work) for us. And with that also comes an opportunity to reassess and improve how our homes function. Creating a smarter home doesn’t have to mean a futuristic remodel. Sometimes, it’s as easy as introducing products or swapping out old items with their smarter counterparts to make your space work better for you.

There are a ton of smart home devices out there, and they all range in scale, need, and price. To help you decide which products might be a worthwhile upgrade, we’ve gone room by room, identifying the best thermostats, toasters, shower heads, mattresses, and more. Don’t worry—none of them will push you toward a sterile futuristic Jetsons reality. They’ll just help to ease your load a bit, and make your daily routine that much less of a headache.

First Thing’s First, What’s Up With Smart Home Devices?

Where anything is lacking, we can rethink and optimize. Whether that’s something as simple as painting walls, changing up light fixtures (or finally switching to LED bulbs), or investing in landscaping, there are plenty of smart ways to upgrade our current setup. And although the idea of the “smart home”—where your lights can be controlled by your voice, or your fridge can text you when you’re running low on milk—can feel futuristic, the tech has actually been around for more than a decade.

At first it was just out-there ideas for early adopters, more about cool points than functionality. The latest generation of smart-home products aren’t that. The technology’s had time to mature, so there are better ideas, fewer bugs, fewer fancy functions you don’t need, and a solid track record of security (these things are linked to the internet, remember!) And they’ve only gotten easier to use. If you can download an app on your phone, you can handle most smart tech. In fact, you might not even realize how smart your home is already. A lot of us started making our homes “smarter” with the rise of digital assistants like the Amazon smart home devices Alexa and Echo Dot, or the Google Home. But that’s just the beginning.

Kitchen Smart Home Appliances

smart kitchen illustration
Illustration by Errata Carmona.

Countertop Oven

Smart ovens answer the dreaded “What’s for dinner tonight?” quicker than you can order a pizza. The Brava smart oven cooks with infrared heat and can handle three different foods at a time—even if they require different temperatures! Just put in a main and two sides and hit a few buttons, and your space-age oven senses the types of foods inside and cooks them, serving dinner for up to four people. The Tovala smart oven uses similar tech but it’s based on a meal-subscription service. Each dish comes with a QR code, so you don’t have to hit buttons: Just scan the code, put the food inside, and relax till dinner’s ready.


Composting is a few obvious things: It’s good for the environment because it reduces waste, and it’s good for your garden because it makes the best fertilizer there is. What it’s usually not? Fast. But with the new Lomi composter, you can turn everything from banana peels to chicken bones to yard waste into nutrient-rich compost in as little as three hours.


If there were such a thing as a good “dumb” toaster—one that could consistently make non-burnt toast or heat up a frozen bagel without charring the outside and leaving the inside ice cold—we wouldn’t need the Revolution touchscreen toaster. But there isn’t, and we do. The Revolution uses infrared heat to give everything from bread to waffles to Pop-Tarts a crunchy outside and a perfectly warm inside. It uses a simple touch screen, so all you have to do is find the picture of what you want to toast and press it. And when you want to go beyond bread, there’s an available panini press insert (that also makes quesadillas) and a warming rack above the toaster for muffins, croissants, and other larger baked goods.

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Bathroom Smart Home Products

smart bathroom illustration
Illustration by Errata Carmona.

Soap Pump

A touchless soap pump inside your own home? Yes, please! It’s the little things that make life easier that are the most appealing. The simplehuman rechargeable sensor pump is sleekly designed, with an adjustable output and USB-chargeable battery that lasts for months.

Trash Can

We don’t know about you, but we could deal with never touching a messy trash bag again. The 4-gallon TOWNEW trash can uses a sensor to automatically raise the lid when you bring garbage close. But what makes it truly unique is that, once full, the TOWNEW will bag and seal the garbage for you. Hit a button, and after a whirring noises and the slight scent of warm plastic, the lid pops open to reveal a sealed trash bag—with no dental floss, old bandages, or diapers trying to escape.

Shower Speaker

If you’re a podcast fan or a morning person with pep in her step, the Kohler Moxie incorporates a Bluetooth speaker into a 1.75-gpm shower head. The speaker, made in partnership with Harman Kardon (an exceptional audio brand), is held by magnets, so it’s easy to remove to charge—or to bring to the bedroom to keep the music going while you’re getting dressed.

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Smart Home Living Room Devices

smart living room illustration
Illustration by Errata Carmona.

Smart Speaker

Google Home and Alexa are the best-known smart speakers, offering music playback and voice control over any of your home’s connected devices. But they’re made by tech companies. The Sonos Era 100 smart speaker is made by one of the best audio companies around. It does all the same stuff the other guys can do, with nearly studio-quality sound. Plus, if you have other Sonos speakers, it’ll pair with them seamlessly for stereo sound.

Smart Plug

Once you start using smart-home products, you may be disappointed by some of the regular ones. A smart plug like the Kasa Smart Plug lets you turn any device into a smart device. It plugs into a traditional outlet, and anything you plug into it is controllable through an app or your smart speaker. You can set a schedule for any old lamp, or turn it on and off with your voice, right from your couch. And the next time you get hot and don’t want to walk to the fan, Alexa will turn it on for you.

Dog Camera

After 18 months of having their owners around all day, pets will be dealing with serious withdrawal once everyone is back at school and work. The Furbo dog camera lets you check in on Fido any time you have your phone and an internet connection. There’s a bark alert to tell you when your fur baby is stressed, and a talk feature that lets them hear your voice so they can calm down. You can even use the app to dispense treats for pup being the goodest boy!


If there’s a gateway smart-home device, it’s the Google Nest Thermostat. Not only does it feature a sleek design and low price (and the simplest thermostat setup we’ve seen yet), it’ll also help you lower your energy consumption by automatically going into an “eco” mode when it notices no one is home. It can even give you a heads-up when your AC or heater is acting funny and might need a service call.

CO2 Alarm

If you don’t mind giving a little more money to Google, the Google Nest Protect is a combination smoke-and-CO2 alarm that goes above and beyond. If you’re at the office and someone burns toast at home, the Protect will beep and tell you the degree of danger. Plus, instead of chirping incessantly if the battery is low, the Protect tests its own power and tells you when it’s going to run out. And when you walk under it at night on the way to the bathroom, it’ll turn on a little light, which is nice.

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Furbo 360° Dog Camera

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Google Nest Thermostat

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Smart Home Bedroom Gadgets

smart bedroom illustration
Illustration by Errata Carmona.

Mattress Pad

Got sleep issues? It might be your body temp. Humans sleep best in cooler conditions, and when your body gets too warm at night, you’ll sleep restlessly and wake regularly. Trouble is, the ideal temp is different for everyone. ChiliSleep’s Cooling System has a science-y solution: a mattress pad with channels that circulate warm and cool water. The app helps you find your perfect sleeping temp and tells the pad when to cool you down and when to let you warm up and wake refreshed, ready to take on the day.


If you’re over there saying “But I already have an alarm clock built into my phone!” then it’s clear you haven’t tried the Hatch Restore Sunrise Alarm Clock yet. Because once you do, you’ll never go back to your old ways. The Hatch has a ton of features that’ll make your sleep (and your waking) far easier. Supporting your natural circadian rhythm, it includes a variety of white noises to help you drift off, as well as an alarm that mimics the sunrise to gently help lift you out of bed.


Opening the bedroom shades in the morning is kind of like making the bed: A lot of us don’t bother since we know we’ll just be undoing the effort some hours later. While it won’t make your bed for you, the Smith & Noble Scott Living line offers dozens of options for custom voice-controlled shades. Set up a schedule via an app, or use your smart speaker to command them to do the work for you. Check them out at a local Smith & Noble store near you to see all your options.

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Laundry Room and Garage Smart Home Products

Water-Leak Sensor

Water damage is one of the biggest dangers to your home—and one of the most expensive issues to diagnose. Instead of hoping to catch a leak in time, put a YoLink sensor in the laundry room, under the water heater, or anywhere you’re worried about. The second it senses water, you get an alert on your phone so you can stop it before the damage is done.

Garage Controller

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store or left for vacation only to suddenly think you might have left the garage door open, ADT’s garage controllers (as part of the Command and Control security package) or Liftmaster’s Smart Garage Control Hub can put your mind at ease. Just pull up the app to see if the door is open or shut. You’ll get alerts when it’s left open, and you can open it for the dog walker while you’re away.

Electrical Panels

The Span Smart Electrical Panel is beyond smart—it’s brilliant. It lets you control every circuit in your home from an app , which is useful if you’re traveling and a fuse blows or the power goes out. But it also future-proofs your home for any electrical or tech innovation, like solar, and it includes a lot of the equipment you need for it, which will net out in savings.

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