Out of Africa: Furniture and accessories gallery

Patrizia Moroso's celebrated m'Afrique collection was launched in 2009, and new pieces have been added over time. Kiwis ...

Patrizia Moroso’s celebrated m’Afrique collection was launched in 2009, and new pieces have been added over time. Kiwis looking for a splash of bright colour and imaginative design can find m’Afrique items at Matisse.

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In 2009, celebrated Italian furniture manufacturer Moroso launched the m’Afrique collection – a group of outdoor furniture designed by some of the biggest names in contemporary design, using sustainably sourced materials, hand-made in African communities.

Patrizia Moroso is the creative director of her family’s eponymous company and one of the most influential names in contemporary furniture.

Moroso’s husband, Senegalese artist and designer Abdou Salam Gaye, was

[Source”pcworld”]

The beauty and ecological benefits of a garden in decay

gardening-1.jpg

Spring is not a moment in the garden but a sequence, a gentle unfurling of plant life that grows fuller by the day at a tempo that is almost out of sync with human perception.

One minute perennials are peeping out of the earth, and the next the soil is covered by fully grown greenery. The fall is the same way, except the movement is in reverse. With each passing week between early October and Thanksgiving, more perennials, grasses, groundcovers and the stuff of the lower layers of the garden will shrink, darken and start to lie down. Because our gaze is fixed on the changing leaf colors of the trees and shrubs, this other show occurs at a more subconscious level, but the two are related and deserve to be enjoyed together.

Where once the odd coneflower looked dried in the flower beds, other plants follow the same course, until there is a wholesale shift in the character of the garden from repletion to decline and seediness.

We are wired to see decay as rot, and rot as a threat to our well-being. So when we take stock of the autumn landscape, especially after a killing frost, our instinct is to clean it all up. This is a mistake on a number of levels.

The withering of the top growth of perennials and grasses is not a pernicious thing, but a natural part of their life cycle. They will re-sprout afresh in the spring from their crown buds. This year’s declining growth, meanwhile, is likely to be full of the very stuff of life, ripening seed.

I think – I hope – that our gardens are becoming more lavishly and dynamically planted with perennials and grasses, and with an ecological bent. If so, this fall conundrum will only become more pressing.

I see this decay as something beautiful, the way a steel panel becomes patinated with surface rust. So my approach to garden grooming in the fall is to remove obvious blight – shriveled hosta leaves, for example, along with diseased foliage – but to let anything else stand through the fall and winter as long as it isn’t an eyesore.

I particularly like the effect of the black stalks and seed heads of rudbeckias, from the knee-high black-eyed Susans to the taller giant coneflower. Composites as a rule make for handsome zombies, especially the purple coneflowers. The tall, wiry cup plant is lovely in its deterioration. Asters, too, are attractive in the dead months, especially when the fluffy, downy seeds make a break for it. Other effective perennials include amsonias, calamintha, perovskia and swamp milkweed. Need it be said, this is the time of year when all the ornamental grasses come into their own, green or brown, including the native bluestems, panicums and prairie drop seed.

If you want icing on this cake, nature provides it in the dewdrops of October and the ice crystals of November and December. The latter is a phenomenon called riming, and although the mid-Atlantic isn’t perhaps the best climatic region for this, when it happens you should take a moment to savor it. The most dramatic display of riming I saw was about four years ago in England, where a whole woodland beyond a field was frosted. It was like observing a finely crafted black-and-white art photo, but in negative. Such morning scenes, in miniature, await the untidy gardener.

There is an equally compelling argument for not weed-whacking and clearing the ornamental beds at this time of year, or the leaf litter that is obsessively blown, gathered and bagged in November. This detritus provides vital shelter and nourishment for wildlife. Doug Tallamy, author of a landmark book about ecological gardening, “Bringing Nature Home,” sees a direct link between the decline of fireflies and the modern-day fixation with leaf blowing. “Fireflies spend their entire larval life in the litter,” he said. “They are only adults for a short period.” Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, is also co-author of “The Living Landscape.”

When we cut back the seed heads and stalks, we deprive birds and small mammals of seeds. “I always encourage people, if they have seed-producing plants such as black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers or goldenrods, to leave them up because the overwintering birds really rely on them,” said Deborah Landau, an ecologist with the Maryland/D.C. chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Neatniks also harm countless species of beneficial insects. Landau said other casualties include the egg masses of such creatures as praying mantises and spiders. The former resembles a hardened foam mass enveloping a stem; the latter looks like a string of pearls.

Many native bee species spend the winter as pupae within the pithy stems of perennials and the canes of hydrangeas, Tallamy said. “Much of the insect community is spending winter in that debris we get rid of all the time,” he said. One option for appearance’s sake is to cut back material in the front yard but leave dead top growth standing in less-visible parts of the garden, he said. Stalks and leaves that must be cut can be stored elsewhere outside, but don’t lay them down. The snow will flatten a pile and it will rot, he said.

Landau said these undisturbed beds also provide shelter for frogs and salamanders (and presumably a third amphibian, the toad).

Also, this debris is home to butterflies. I was in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden the other day, and it was Grand Central for monarch butterflies – adults, caterpillars and even pupae. If it stays warm, the chrysalises will hatch soon and the butterflies will head south. But other butterflies spend the winter here in their cocoons, and the pipevine plants were loaded with pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eating their way into a pupal stage, to emerge as adults next year.

“The less disturbance the better,” Landau said. “All these animals have adapted to depend on these plants in the winter.” Maybe we can be smart enough to copy them.

 

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

Designing Kitchens, Bathrooms and Bedrooms – Summer Holidays 2016

Design 1 - 110 Range

We like to think we finally had some breathing space last week, as Leicestershire got their head start on the summer holidays and most people like to take advantage of the pre-school-holiday prices. But in reality, we have lots of customers coming in this week and next to see the designs we have been working on in their absence, and we want to make sure that every design ticks as many boxes as possible. We have a few major designs going on at the moment, and we’ll give you an insight into the process behind three of them.

Mrs P

We designed and fitted Mrs P’s elaborate yet understated new bathroom for her last year, so we’ve been given another chance to impress with her huge kitchen.

Elongated but with cute alcoves and features, the open plan kitchen / diner / sitting area looking out onto a gorgeous garden is an exciting challenge for any designer. When we started meeting Mrs P about her kitchen, we discussed whether she would prefer modern or traditional, form or function, whether glazed or solid doors were preferable, and many, many other topics of conversation relating to Mrs P’s kitchen preferences. Fortunately for our creative side, Mrs P is open to all ideas, but particularly loved our Austin (real ash, painted shaker) door in our showroom.

So, to begin with, we used ArtiCAD to create three different designs which all utilised the adorable little alcove which you will see on the rendered image below. The first placed a lovely 110 Range cooker in the space with cupboards and spice racks either side for immediate access to anything Mrs P may need when cooking.

The second incorporated a bank of tall larder units framing Mrs P’s American Fridge Freezer, with a lift up top box above the fridge itself for maximum utilisation of space.

The third is completely different, turning the alcove into a cosy window seating area with incorporated under-seat bookshelves, allowing us to move the Range cooker to another wall where we can put a mantle over it, which is always a fabulous statement in any kitchen. So far, Mrs P has eliminated option 2, which means we can focus on other elements of the kitchen. It may sound strange, but we like to show our customers designs even if we do not think they will like the design in particular. It means that when you have finally chosen your design and had your new kitchen fitted, you’ll never have any doubts or wishes that we had designed it for you in a different way.

Before Mrs P left our showroom a couple of weeks ago, we discussed the idea of a beach-themed kitchen, making full use of our brand new Windsor Blue doors, complemented with Ivory or White Cotton wall units. We all got quite excited about designing this, and let us tell you, it looks fantastic. However, we can not show you the designs until Mrs P has seen them first – sorry! Keep checking our News page for updates and we might let you have a sneak peek!

 

[Source:- greenstone-kbb]

 

Solve this puzzle and (maybe) win a job at Dyson

Image result for Solve this puzzle and (maybe) win a job at Dyson

Are you smart enough to escape a locked room — and walk into a job at Dyson?

The British company, famous for its vacuum cleaners and other slinkily designed home appliances, is recruiting 110 software engineers. And in a stunt to promote that hunt for new talent, Dyson is combining cryptic video brainteasers with one of those “escape the room“-type challenges.

On Saturday 4 February and Sunday 5 February, Dyson will open The Smart Rooms, a pop-up puzzle palace in London where contenders must complete software-engineering-based challenges. It’s like “The Crystal Maze”, only nerdier.

Working as part of a team on on your own, you’ll quest to solve each puzzle and advance to the next room. Each challenge is projected onto the walls, so although you’re not actually moving, you advance through different virtual environments.

The winners take home a 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner signed by James Dyson himself. And who knows, maybe Jim will spot your talent and take you on.

If you think you’re smart enough to crack the Smart Rooms, all you have to do is find the entry code hidden in this video and send it to Dyson. Oh, and travel to London, but you’re smart — you can figure that out on your own.

 

 

 
[Source:- CNET]

Best Blu-ray players 2017 UK: the most popular Blu-ray and DVD players you can buy in the UK, including 3D Blu-ray players | 3D Blu-ray player reviews

We reveal the best Blu-ray players you can buy in the UK in 2017. Blu-ray player buying advice. Most popular Blu-ray players to buy today.

Also see: Best Tech Deals

In a world of online catch-up TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube who needs a DVD player any more? Without the arrival of high-quality Blu-ray discs some time ago maybe watching content on disc would have died out by now but most of us still have enough DVDs and box sets to warrant that extra box below the TV.

And today’s best Blu-ray players boast streaming features themselves, with smart apps and access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and the rest built in.

If you have a 3D TV then you need your DVD/Blu-ray player to be 3D compatible, too – so look out for players that work with 3D Blu-ray discs.

Here we highlight the most popular Blu-ray/DVD players on Amazon, which are considered some of the best Blu-ray players by their user reviews. We also take into account user reviews on Reevoo, and independent reviews from the likes of Which? and other testers. We haven’t reviewed these products.

Features to look out for. All these players will play both Blu-ray and DVD discs, but some boast greater features than others.

Best Blu-ray players: what is Blu-ray

Blu-ray discs can hold much more data than DVD discs, and so are great for high-definition TVs, where the picture quality can be much higher than you’d get from a DVD. All Blu-ray players can also play standard DVDs (upscaling the video to near-HD resolutions). Usually the Blu-ray player is preset to upscale a 480i recording (SD-DVD) to 1080P (full HD) output by default. This doesn’t mean that content on DVDs looks as great as on Blu-ray discs but it should noticeably improve the DVD’s quality. Some newer models of Blu-ray player can “up-convert” 1080p high def to 4K for the latest Ultra HD TVs.

Best Blu-ray players: Blu-ray specs explained

Best Blu-ray players – 3D: You might think that owning a 3D TV means you can play 3D discs, but you’d be wrong. Your Blu-ray player also needs to be 3D compatible, so look out for this feature if you want to enjoy 3D movies on disc.

Best Blu-ray players – Wi-Fi: Some Blu-ray players have Wi-Fi built in so you can stream or download movies and TV shows from the Internet without the need for a wired Ethernet connection.

Best Blu-ray players – Ethernet: If you want your downloads to complete faster than via Wi-Fi look for a player with an Ethernet LAN port. These are only useful if you have a wired connection from your router nearby, which most people won’t have near their TV. However, you can use your house’s electrical cabling as a proxy Ethernet cable by using Powerline adapters. You plug one in to a wall power socket near your router, and connect that via Ethernet (cables included with the Powerline adapters), then plug another adapter near your home-entertainment centre/TV/Blu-ray player. Then you connect thise devices to the Powerline via another Ethernet cable. Bingo, you now have wired internet access straight to your TV/player. See Best Powerline adapters.

Best Blu-ray players – Smart apps: Smart Blu-ray players include built-in apps that offer TV- and movie-streaming on services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, catch-up TV on apps such as BBC iPlayer, and even social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Best Blu-ray players – DNLA: DLNA (which stands for the Digital Living Network Alliance) allows sharing or streaming content such as movies, music and photos over a home network – for example, from your laptop to your TV, or playing an MP3 on your phone.

Best Blu-ray players – USB: Some Blu-ray players include a USB slot so you can simply plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive to play movies, TV shows, home videos, photos and music on your TV screen.

Best Blu-ray players – 4K: If you have a 4K TV you’ll want a Blu-ray player that can upscale to super high-resolution 4K, so look out for this feature. If you don’t have a 4K TV (or aren’t planning on buying one in the next year or so) this feature won’t matter to you.

Best Blu-ray players: where to buy

In this feature we look at the most popular Blu-ray players, using data from Amazon. But the models listed here can also be found – sometimes cheaper – on other online retailers such as Tesco, Currys, PCWorld and Argos.

Samsung BD-J4500

Samsung BD-J4500

  • RRP: £45

The Samsung BD-J4500 is one of the most popular Blu-ray players on Amazon. It’s super cheap but garners great user reviews on many retailer web sites, although it’s a no-frills budget model that lacks a network connection or smart apps. That said, if you’re after just a Blu-ray player and none of the extras this is great value.

It plays both Blu-ray and DVD discs, but not 3D. It plays high-quality Blu-ray discs and upscales DVDs to Full HD for rich, sharp visuals and clear sound.

The BD-J4500 also lets you play your own multimedia from a USB memory stick or HDD. And AllShare lets you access movies, music and photos via DLNA, so you can enjoy your content wirelessly.

One of its big claims – aside from the super-inexpensive price tag – is support for the largest number of codec and file formats. Many popular video formats such as Flash and QuickTime are supported, as well as VOB files from DVDs. In addition to MP3 audio, you can listen to lossless FLAC files as well as .WMA, .OGG, .WAV and more. Pictures can be viewed in the popular JPEG picture format, as well as PNG files, GIF files and more.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: No

Smart apps: No          DNLA: Yes        USB: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S1500

Sony BDP-S1500

  • RRP: £69.60

Another bargain Blu-ray and DVD player the Sony BDP-S1500 offers Full HD. Images are detailed and clear, and colours take on a rich intensity thanks to Sony’s TRILUMINOS colour technology. (Note this technology is exclusive to Sony and optimised for use with accompanying TRILUMINOS TVs, so you’d need a matched TV to get the most from it, although the player will work without it on other TVs.)

Like the other Blu-ray players the BDP-S1500 also upscales standard definition DVD movies to near-HD quality.

You can also stream content from a variety of online entertainment providers (BBC iPlayer, YouTUbe, Skype and apps made for your TV via the Opera TV Store), via the Sony Entertainment Network.

The BDP-S1500 boasts a quick start so will deliver fast loading times, and it boots up in less than a second.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA:          USB: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S5500 3D

Sony BDP-S5500 3D

  • RRP: £100

The compact Sony BDP-S5500 offers not just Blu-ray and DVD playback, but also supports 3D Blu-rays discs. This Blu-ray Disc player also upscales 2D video to “simulated 3D” for enhanced depth and improved on-screen image detail.

With the BDP-S5500’s built-in super Wi-Fi Pro, you can browse the best online entertainment on the big screen. Smooth, fast streaming means you’ll enjoy Internet content with fewer interruptions and greater picture quality. Upscaled and native 3D Blu-ray movies also come to life in Full HD 3D for a more immersive viewing experience.

With Miracast you can view and share smartphone content on your TV, giving your photos, videos, and music the big screen treatment. Also you can use your tablet or smartphone (Android or iOS) to control your Blu-ray Disc player, and learn more about what you’re watching, with the TV Sideview app.

Like the BDP-S1500 it is compatible with Sony’s exclusive TRILUMINOS colour technology.

Enjoy all the fine detail of the original recording in clear, high-fidelity surround sound with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. DLNA allows you to share multimedia content across all supported devices in your home. The USB slot is handily positioned on the front.

3D: Yes          Wi-Fi: Yes          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA: Yes          USB: Yes          4K: No

LG BP250

LG BP250

  • RRP: £49.99

The no-nonsense, compact LG BP250 is a Blu-ray and DVD player that also allows you to play videos, photos and music via a USB drive (handy slot on the front).

Like the other players here it will also upscale your DVD collection to near-HD quality.

While it won’t work with 3D discs and doesn’t offer smart TV apps most people won’t miss these extras. It has an HDMI slot on the back, but no Ethernet.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: No

Smart apps: No          DNLA: No          USB: Yes          4K: No

Samsung BD-J5500

Samsung BD-J5500

  • RRP: £61.99

This is one of the cheaper 3D Blu-ray players, and also includes smart functions such as Opera TV apps so you can watch BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, You Tube, and Netflix among others.

The curved design makes this Blu-ray/DVD player stand out from the crowd, and mimics Samsung’s curved TVs and soundbars.

You can plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive and then use ConnectShare Movie to share everything from home movies and downloaded music to photos, with friends and family. The BD-J5500 is DLNA compliant, and has built-in Wi-Fi.

3D: Yes          Wi-Fi: Yes         Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes         DNLA: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S7200 4K

Sony BDP-S7200 4K

  • RRP: £169

The Song BDP-S7200 might cost more than the other Blu-ray drives listed here, but it does upscale Blu-ray Full HD content to 4K for the latest, high-resolution TVs. Audio playback is super high resolution too.

Its dual-core processor enables faster streaming, quicker loading and smoother playback.

Download the TV SideView app to start using your smartphone or tablet as a remote control. And you can view and share your smartphone on your TV with screen mirroring.

3D: No         Wi-Fi: Yes          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA: Yes         USB: Yes          4K: Yes

Samsung DVD-E360 DVD Player with USB Host 2.0

Samsung DVD-E360 DVD Player with USB Host 2.0

  • RRP: £29

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

This Samsung player is as simple and affordable as they come. It has the clever functionality of being able to play videos stored on USB sticks. You can even convert audio CDs onto MP3 with the built-in audio rip feature.

Sony DVP-SR170 DVD Player

Sony DVP-SR170 DVD Player

  • RRP: £39

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

One of the best selling DVD players on Amazon, this Sony DVD player will do everything you want (apart from play Blu-rays – scroll up for those).

It’s only 270mm thick, meaning it’s a great space saver with the ability to playback a plethora of media formats for video, audio and images.

Panasonic DVD Player

Panasonic DVD Player

  • RRP: £29.99

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

Hassle-free, dust-proof design coupled with handy USB playback make this a slim, easy DVD player to use. You really don’t need much more than the basics if all you want to do is play films.

 

[Source:- PCA]

Sharp is bringing a ninja-fridge to Europe, and I am so jealous

Image result for Sharp is bringing a ninja-fridge to Europe, and I am so jealous

People often ask me if it’s boring writing about refrigerators. I think it’s a silly question. After all, pretty much everybody has a fridge and uses it every day — how many other product categories on CNET can claim that? I get to write about tech that’s relevant for everybody.

But, I will confess that I do get bored with seeing the same old features and the same old designs trotted out with fresh coats of polish year after year. I like seeing new features, new designs — the stuff that I didn’t know I wanted in my own kitchen instead of the stuff I already know I don’t.

That’s why the new Sharp Karakuri fridge/freezer caught my eye. It’s a European fridge that doesn’t look anything like most of the fridges I write about, thanks to a nifty, asymmetrical design and a hidden water dispenser that spins into view whenever it senses you reaching for it.

Sharp claims that the revolving water dispenser design was inspired by the “Karakuri” doors ninjas allegedly used to conceal themselves, according to this very academic source.

Historical accuracy aside, it’s patently pretty cool as far as refrigerator PR pitches go. And it’s not just a gimmick — hiding the water dispenser makes for a clean, seamless design, and one that protects it from dust and allergens.

On top of that, the Karakuri fridge offers the ability to customize the size of your ice cubes, and promises to make that ice up to 45 minutes faster than the competition. There’s also an “Express Cooling” mode that claims it can chill a drink down from room temperature in 30 minutes or less.

Size-wise, the refrigerator’s 758 liters (roughly 27 cubic feet) offers plenty of storage space even when compared with American fridges, which tend to be a lot bigger than European models.

Sharp tells us that the Karakuri fridge will make its debut in the final months of 2017 at an asking price somewhere around €3,700 — or about £3,230, AU$5,250, or just a little under $4,000 in the US, converted roughly. All in all, it’s a fridge that looks and sounds like something I’d want to consider for my own kitchen — a shame, given that it’ll only be sold across the pond.

Pay attention, US manufacturers

The Karakuri fridge is a stark difference from the “me-too-ism” that runs rampant in American appliance design. Samsung has a smart fridge with a big ol’ touchscreen on it? Oh great, now LG has one, too. People seem to like door-in-a-door fridges? Oh great, now Whirlpool and GE are jumping in with copycat models of their own. See-through doors were all the rage at CES? Oh great, now Frigidaire has a see-through fridge, too.

At times, US manufacturers seem to spend more creative capital on coming up with unique-sounding names for copycat features than they do on the actual features themselves. Just consider Whirlpool’s “Infinity Shelves” (sliding shelves) or Samsung’s “CoolSelect Pantry” (drawer). At least GE was honest enough to call its clone of the LG Door-in-Door fridge the GE Door-in-Door fridge (though, given that LG has “Door-in-Door” trademarked, I have to believe the moniker won’t stick).

And sure, it’s hard to fault major manufacturers for playing it safe. After all, no one wants to miss out on the next big market mover, that new feature or style that makes everything else look obsolete and compels people to upgrade. It happened with French door refrigerators nearly 20 years ago, and with most of those models starting to get pretty long in the tooth, a lot of experts think the time is ripe for it to happen again.

Still, it won’t happen without innovation, or without risk. It’s why I tend to give manufacturers a little bit of leeway when they go out on a limb and try something different — that’s the only way we’ll ever find the appliances we didn’t know we wanted. So, to that end, good on Sharp for making a weird-looking fridge with unique features.

 

 
[Source:- CNET]

Best smart switch 2017 UK: Control lights, fans, heaters, kettles, cookers, irons, straighteners and more from your phone

Which smart switch is best? What do smart switches do, and are they worth the money? We test five of the contenders: the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Elgato Eve Energy, Energenie Mi| Home Adapter Plus and the Efergy Ego. Also read our reviews of the best smart light bulbs

Also see: Best Gadget Deals

Just as smart thermostats are muscling in on old-school programmers, smart switches are having a good go at yesterday’s twiddly timer switches.  Also see: Best robot vacuum cleaners

What is a smart switch?

Basically it’s a switch that you plug into a power socket, and then plug another device’s plug into so you can control it via an app on your smartphone or tablet over Wi-Fi.

With the best smart switches you can set schedules, monitor energy usage and find out which devices are used most often and when. Armed with such data you can start saving on your home’s domestic electricity usage. Sounds interesting, but is it really useful?

The not-very-smart traditional power timer switch is pretty handy at switching things like lights, kettles and fish tanks on at set times or intervals. You can buy an analogue timer switch for under a fiver, or get a fancy digital one for a few pounds more.

The ‘smart’ switch is more capable, linking with a smartphone app for device control wherever you are with an internet connection (Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, etc). Say you stay out longer than you were expecting to (“Go on, just one more pint:”) and really want a light on inside your house to pretend you’re home. With a dumb-ish switch you’re stuffed. With a smart switch you’re only dumb if you let your phone battery run out.

Tap the app, select the smart switch you’re after, and turn on the light. Bingo.

Some experts think you could save on your energy bills by powering down your fridge freezer for a couple of hours a day. Read: Best smart home heating systems.

With a smart switch you could control the TV in your child’s room from the comfort of your armchair, although popping your head around the door and/or reading them a book would be better parenting. Read: How much screen time is safe for kids.

Energy monitoring

One of the more appealing functions of smart switches is energy use and cost monitoring. Not all switches offer this feature, but many do. Devices are often left on standby when not in use for large parts of the day, and standby use accounts for around up to 16 percent of the average electricity bill, reckons energy gadget maker Efergy. With a smart switch you can dramatically cut down on this wasted Standby time. Efergy’s own Ego smart socket, see review below, is especially clever at cutting back on Standby time.

And there’s enough on offer to save you time and effort, too, in the day. Fill your kettle or coffee maker in the morning, and turn it on via the app when you get out of bed so that it has boiled by the time you get to your kitchen. This might sound a very lazy use of technology, but it’s a daily time saver – if you remember to fill the kettle the night before!

The ability to turn devices on and off via Wi-Fi from afar, plus on various timed schedules, is useful. Seeing the energy usage and costs of various devices could help you save money, but this would be even more useful if such switches could monitor multiple devices on a power strip, and these do exist now.

Prices

Smart switches start at around £25, and rise to around £55, so they’re not yet so cheap you can buy one for every appliance. But for those you really want to control from afar, it can be worth the outlay.

TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug

TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug

  • RRP: £24.99 inc VAT

TP-Link’s Wi-Fi Smart Plug is one of our top picks. For a start, it’s only £24.99 from Amazon and second, it connects via Wi-Fi directly to your router. So it doesn’t need a hub, nor does it need (as Elgato’s Eve Energy does) an Apple TV or iPad for remote control away from home.

There are iOS and Android apps, but the icing on the cake is that it also works with Amazon Alexa. That means – while at home – you can say, “Alexa turn on the xxx” and control your device hands-free.

Via the app you can create schedules as you can with Energenie’s switch, turning the plug on and off as many times as you like, with different schedules for each day if you like. Using your location, you can also choose sunrise and sunset as triggers.

There’s also a timer mode so you can turn the plug on or off after a preset time, which could be handy for a sleep timer or to turn off the TV once the kids have had enough screen time.

For £10 more, you can buy the HS110 which is the same except that it also monitors the energy the connected device consumes. You see at a glance how many kWh the appliance has used so far today and how long it has been on. Tap on each and you get more detail, such as current power usage, plus totals and daily averages for the past week and month. (It’s the same breakdown for runtime).

With a well-designed and good-looking app, no need for a hub and a decent price, the TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug is one of the best you can buy right now.

Efergy Ego Smart Switch

Efergy Ego Smart Switch

  • RRP: £29.99 inc VAT

The Efergy Ego smart switch (which you can buy from Amazon for £29.99) can work like a regular timer, and also has the knack of switching devices on and off at random, which could be useful when you’re trying to give the impression that a home is occupied when it’s actually vacant for a long time.

Its smartphone or tablet app will show you the energy usage of a device or strip of devices, plus their estimated cost over a period of time. Isolate the worst culprits and you’ll soon be making sure they’re properly switched off when not required.

While it lacks WeMo’s handy Notifications feature, the Ego wins out with its ability to learn and turn off appliances automatically that have been on stand-by for too long

When the appliance, most probably your TV, is plugged into the Ego and is on standby you go to the Stand-by/Learn screen in the app. Press the learn button and the Ego stores that value. Then in the Standby feature you set an amount of time, so after ‘x’ minutes of the TV being on standby I want it to turn off at the mains.

There is a also a Group function for those who multiple Ego switches in their home. You can group them together and control them all from the Group/scene page. The best application for this is to have all appliances in one room in a group.

Like the WeMo, the Efergy Ego is reasonably inconspicuous but still a little too bulky to not get in the way of other sockets’ flick switches. It is taller than the WeMo.

No hub is needed, so the price is all you pay, and at £29.99 at the moment (usually £39.99) it’s great value.

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Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

  • RRP: £49.99 inc VAT

You can buy the WeMo Insight Switch for £49.99 from Argos, so it certainly isn’t cheap. It’s part of a larger WeMo home-automation series of products, including Smart LED Bulbs and Light Switch, and WeMo Motion.

There’s a very visible green power-on indicator on top, and, weirdly, a Micro USB port that currently has no function. Setting up the switch is straightforward, if a little long-winded at first. It took us a couple of goes to get it to recognise our Wi-Fi. But at least it doesn’t require a separate hub connected to your router.

Plug the Switch into a power outlet in your home and then plug your chosen device into the Switch. Download the free WeMo App (iOS and Android), and pair it with the Switch and your Wi-Fi network.

Aside from turning things off without getting off your backside WeMo can inform you when, for instance, a laundry cycle is complete, which is actually rather handy. This is set up in the WeMo app’s clever Rules section. Or you could be alerted when your child has exceeded his or her allotted screen/TV time.

Via the app you set rules that trigger the power according to preset times, or to respond automatically to sunrise and sunset, or through motion detection via Belkin’s WeMo Motion detector (an extra £64).

Rules can be set for: Weekends; Weekdays; and, Individual days. And allow for: Turn on only; Turn off only; and, Turn on then off.

It isn’t the cheapest but the ability to create rules could make it the best option for you.

Elgato Eve Energy

Elgato Eve Energy

  • RRP: £44.95

The Eve Energy is a smart switch which also monitors how much power the connected device uses over time. It’s an Apple HomeKit plug which means it works only with iOS devices. However, this also means you can control it with your voice using Siri and that it benefits from the full encryption that HomeKit offers.

Rather than use Wi-Fi, the switch uses Bluetooth. This makes setup easy (and also means you don’t need to have a hub connected to your router) but it does limit the range over which it can be controlled. It will work in most ‘normal’ UK homes, but if you want to control it when away from home, you’ll need an Apple TV (3rd gen or later) or a spare home-based iPad (newer than iPad 2) running iOS 8.1 or later.

You can turn the switch on and off via the Apple Home app in iOS 10 or use the Eve app. If you’re standing next to the switch, there’s a button on top for manual control, too.

Setting up timers is possible using the Scenes tab in the app, but creating a schedule is needlessly complicated compared to other apps, such as TP-Link’s. However, the Eve app is built to work with the whole Eve range – not just a smart switch – and you can make all the gadgets work together using Scenes. It’s powerful, but could be easier to use.

It’s fairly expensive at £44.95 from Apple, but if you already have an iPad or Apple TV for remote access and you like the idea of controlling it via Siri, it could be right for you .

Energenie MI|Home Adapter Plus

Energenie MI|Home Adapter Plus

  • RRP: £34.99 inc VAT

Energenie’s Adapter Plus is the top-of-the-range switch which monitors and controls connected devices. It’s not too expensive at £34.99, but does require a £69.99 hub that connects to your router.

You can buy the Adapter Plus bundle, though, which includes two switches and the hub for £109.99. And there are other products in the range including two-gang wall sockets, smart TRVs, motion sensors and door / window sensors.

Pairing the switch with the hub is as simple as plugging it in and holding down the button for a few seconds. You can then add it as a new device in the Mi|Home app (Android / iOS).

In the app you can tap ON or OFF to manually control the switch (even when away from home) but you can also set up timers. You’re free to create as many as you like, for multiple power cycles each day and different times on different days.

There’s also a geofencing setting so you can turn it off (or on) when you leave the house and then do the opposite when you return. You can even set different distances to trigger the geofencing depending on whether you’re leaving or returning.

For energy monitoring, you can see current and average power use, plus daily and hourly totals. It will also tell you how much the connected device has cost to run each month for the last quarter.

Plus, Energenie has just launched a skill for Alexa, so you can control the plug using your voice – and an Amazon Echo.

 

[Source:- PCA]

Kitchen extensions: All the inspiration and advice you need

Colour code kitchen zones

Make large, open-plan spaces work by using colour to define different functions. Try white, handleless cabinetry for a practical, easy-to-maintain cooking and food preparation area. Introduce a contrast shade on a breakfast bar island to signpost the change of function, but keep the worktop white to indicate that this is a dual-function surface. For dining, go unfinished wood – in keeping with its proximity to the patio, this table and chairs could be mistaken for garden furniture. Unify the whole with timber flooring, a wooden sideboard and a row of wooden bar stools.

 

 

[Source:- IH]

How to take care of your orangery, conservatory and garden room this winter

Orangeries - Auburn Hill

The winter months are some of the most exciting and yearned for; crisp country walks, cosy log fires and chunky blankets. But if you are lucky enough to have a conservatory, orangery or garden room, the winter season can pose a threat.

In order to be able to continue to use this room to appreciate the pink winter sunsets and robins on the lawn, you must be prepared to take several steps. Paul Matthews, managing director at Auburn Hill, explains exactly what you need to do:

1. GUTTERING AND DRAINAGE

The guttering and downspouts that many orangeries and conservatories possess are known to become blocked in both the autumn and winter months, as the leaves fall and the weather becomes unfavourable with lashings of wind and rain.

Clearing them of debris and leaves is not going to be the highlight of your year, but it’s going to pay off long term. If guttering becomes blocked during the wet weather, gutters can leak, and this inherently leads to internal damp and mould growth – far from ideal at any time of the year!

By doing this, you also have the opportunity to identify any part of the guttering that is old, tired and a little worse for wear, or if it is damaged. If this is the case, the problems should be replaced or repaired immediately before the water can infiltrate the brickwork.

While dry days are ideal for this chore, frosty days also make it a little easier – just make sure you have someone with you to ensure accidents don’t occur while using a ladder.

2. TREES AND SHRUBBERY

As the temperatures plummet and the air gets damp – we would rather retreat indoors to practise hygge rather than continue cutting the lawn and preening trees and bushes. But it’s incredibly important that you make trimming your garden a priority if it’s home to the aforementioned flora.

As the wind is whipping around your garden, hearing next door’s gate being thrown around should be your biggest worry – not the branches from your Japanese cherry tree about to crack the glazing in your orangery.

Trees, hedges and bushes should be trimmed right back to prevent them causing damage to your orangery or conservatory. Branches that are dead or weak should be removed completely as these pose the biggest threat to your home extension.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

Be inspired by this luxurious and feminine bedroom makeover

Relaxing and clutter-free bedroom

‘I’ve lived in the Newbury area all of my life and love the countryside, so when a converted barn came up for sale, my husband and I were quick to snap it up. I’d always dreamt of living in a barn and this one was just what we wanted. Our bedroom, however, was quite small so we decided to convert the garage and create a gorgeous new master suite.’

This house was originally a narrow old barn, so they were able to take advantage of this and create a dual-aspect bedroom out of the garage. ‘As we didn’t need planning permission, we contacted a local building company that could complete the project fairly quickly. My only problem was clearing out all our junk! Within four weeks, the garage door was removed and blocked up, new windows were cut out and fitted, and the walls plastered.’ The owners knew they wanted a luxurious new bedroom that would be clutter-free and relaxing but not too feminine, as it had to work for them both. ‘I was keen for the design to have a slightly organic feel.’

 

 

[Source:- Ideal home]