It’s a common dilemma: how to integrate technology into the home without detracting from the interior design. It’s certainly a problem I’ve faced over the years – I love listening to music and watching films, but after spending time creating calm, clutter-free rooms, I don’t want to ruin the look and feel with a tangle of ugly cables, a set of nasty black-plastic speakers or leads trailing across the floor. Luckily, there are some very stylish home-technology products that are ideal for minimalists, design enthusiasts and anyone who wants gadgets that complement their decor rather than dominating it.
Here are a few of my favourites, all of which I’ve tested myself…
Urbanears’ ‘Baggen’ and ‘Stammen’ speakers
First up are two speakers from Swedish audio brand Urbanears, who are already well-known for their stylish headphones. ‘Baggen’ (£399), designed for larger rooms, and ‘Stammen’ (£299), for small to mid-size spaces, are connected speakers which can be used on their own or linked up to play simultaneously all over the home. There’s a handy app which allows you to control them from your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi, and you can store up to seven playlists or radio stations; they can even be hooked up to turntables if you want to play vinyl. I love their pared-back, clean-lined look, and they come in six beautiful colours – plant green, goldfish orange, dirty pink, indigo blue, vinyl black and concrete grey – so you can blend them into your décor or turn them into statement pieces.
I have the ‘Stammen’ speaker in concrete grey and I love it – it looks great on my shelves, and the sound quality is top-notch. It’s not wireless but it is lightweight, so it’s easy to move from room to room until I can treat myself to another one and link them together.
The Sony ‘LSPX-P1’ portable ultra-short-throw projector
This clever little projector is wireless and incredibly compact. It measures only 13cm in height, yet it can project a super-sharp image of up to 230cm; it also has built-in speakers that produce excellent sound quality, and the perforated exterior eliminates the need for a noisy cooling system. Best of all, you don’t need acres of space as you can position it right next to whatever surface you want to project onto, making it perfect for smaller homes like ours. The accompanying HDMI unit and dedicated app mean you can sync it with your smart phone, tablet or computer – we’ve used ours to stream Netflix from a laptop, show photos and browse websites, and when it’s not in use we turn it into a clock! There’s no denying it’s pricey at £999, but I could see this gradually replacing all the TVs in our house as we can move it from room to room as needed. It’s just worth noting that it works better in darkness, so unless you’re happy to close the blinds during the day, it’s best for evening use.
Sony ‘LSPX-S1 Glass Sound’ speaker
Also from Sony, and also in use in our house, is the ‘LSPX-S1 Glass Sound’ speaker (£799). It looks more like a designer lamp than a speaker, but it connects to your phone via Bluetooth and produces pin-drop-sharp sound in every direction. It’s wireless and rechargeable so it can be moved anywhere, but what makes it particularly special is the way it combines sound with ambient light. The glass cylinder and dimmable LED filament are designed to mimic soft candlelight, and they produce a wonderfully cosy atmosphere. We use ours for lazy evenings curled up on the sofa with music and a bottle of wine – and, because it has a battery life of four hours, we can even take it into the garden.
Ruark’s ‘R2’ music system
Family-owned British company Ruark has a long history of making high-quality loudspeakers for the audio industry, and it launched its first product for the home back in 2006. Since then its range has grown to include Bluetooth radios, integrated music systems and more, all combining excellent sound with stylish design. I’m a big fan of their timeless look, which pairs simple, curved shapes with white, black or walnut-veneer finishes, and their large dials and handy remote controls make them incredibly easy to use.
We have the ‘R2’ music system (£419.99) in our bedroom, and it acts as our radio and alarm clock, as well as streaming music from our phones via Bluetooth or the USB charging socket; it also has a built-in Spotify connection. It fits in perfectly with our décor, and I can’t imagine it dating – either in technology or looks – anytime soon.
The Samsung ‘Serif’ and ‘Frame’ TVs
Last but not least are two new designs from Samsung, both created in a bid to make TVs more aesthetically pleasing. I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit sneaky here as I haven’t tried them in my own home, but I have been able to play around with them in various showrooms over the last couple of months and they really do look snazzy.
Designed in collaboration with French duo Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, the ‘Serif’ TV (£699) blurs the line between furniture and technology. It’s available in red, white and blue (no surprise which is my favourite!) and it makes a statement piece in its own right. And when you’ve finished watching TV, the standby screen can show a clock, a calendar or a personal photo gallery.
The work of Swiss designer Yves Béhar, the soon-to-be-launched ‘Frame’ model was created to stop TVs taking up valuable wall space that could be used for other things. Available with a range of magnetic veneer frames in different colours, the flat ultra-HD screen can be placed anywhere thanks to its discreet cable and no-gap wall mount. When it’s turned on it acts like any other TV, but when it’s switched off it displays a curated collection of more than 100 artworks, which appear on screen as though framed by a paper mount.
Urbanears and Sony kindly provided free products for me to review, but all words and opinions are my own.
Most photography by Abi Dare; ‘Serif’ and ‘Frame’ TV images via Samsung