Although we're only into the second decade of the 21st century, any mid-20th-century predictions that our homes would now resemble something close to that of George and Jane Jetson just haven't materialized.
Our TVs are certainly much flatter and our land-line phones have largely disappeared, but most of us still want to come home to a place that feels a lot more inviting than George and Jane's uber-clinical abode ever did.
That's not to say that advanced technology and breakthrough innovations haven't affected our lives. For the most part, gradual changes in our homes have occurred as old stuff died off and newly redesigned stuff moved in.
With spring finally here, now's the time to take a look around your home, assess those elements nearing obsolescence and consider embracing some of these home innovations:
q One of the brightest ideas to recently hit the home-improvement scene is the affordable, dimmable and warmly colored LED bulb. Still, it hasn't been easy for many Americans to say goodbye to the incandescent light bulbs now disappearing off store shelves. When this announcement was first made, a countrywide collective sigh could be heard from interior designers and homeowners who feared houses would soon be lighted like laboratories -- albeit efficient, environmentally friendly ones.
The LED options -- while actually comparable to the quality of light offered by the incandescent bulbs -- can be confusing. I spoke with lighting expert Chris Winters, general manager of USALight.com, about the challenge many of us are facing in transitioning to these new lights.
"For most customers, the problem is that wattage ratings are so low on LED bulbs that they're having trouble figuring out what to select," Winters said. "The dimmable A19 bulb is a warm white 'standard' bulb that is a good choice to replace a 60-watt traditional, incandescent bulb. If you're looking for a 40-watt replacement, the TCP 7 watt dimmable A19 bulb is a great substitute. Both will last approximately 25 times longer than a traditional bulb, with 85 percent energy savings and a five-year warranty."
Although these LED bulbs will be a little more costly upfront than incandescent bulbs (ordering online can save you a significant amount), they put out much less heat, last much longer and tend to be cheaper over the long haul, all while providing that familiar warm light. An added benefit is that you won't have to change burned-out bulbs for 20 years or so.
q If your snow-covered shoes have finally worn out your bedroom's wall-to-wall carpet or living room rug, this next home-improvement innovation might just be for you. Milliken, one of the world's leading carpet manufacturers, has come up with a revolutionary program called Inspiredesigner.
Essentially, Inspiredesigner allows homeowners to create custom-colored carpet by first selecting from 50 available patterns and then custom-coloring that pattern using 105 colors dispersed into three palettes.
It's akin to a giant coloring book exercise for grown-up design aficionados. Within 24 to 48 hours, the dealer you're working with will produce a high-resolution image of your custom-colored design for your review, and, if you're pleased with the results, Milliken will produce a 27-inch-square sample for your approval at no charge.
Five weeks after order placement, the completed custom-colored carpet arrives. Although there is a 25-yard minimum order, many wall-to-wall projects can handle that quantity.
q Although we're barely into spring, it's not too early to upgrade your air-conditioning system. If you're suspicious that it might be on its way out, the good news is that there have been huge technological advancements with new cooling/heating systems that could result in unprecedented energy efficiency. These highly efficient systems can mean a more comfortable interior environment for fewer operating costs.
You may never need a robot sporting a frilly apron named Rosie roaming your home, but a well-lit home, a cool place to relax and a soft rug underfoot seem like fundamentals with little chance of going out of style. I think the entire Jetson clan would agree.