In & Around the Home

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&Around the ■ Best ways to beat the heat this summer ■ How to make your home more energy efficient ■ Create a feline-friendly environment ■ Adding smart products to your home ■ And more great ideas to enhance your home

Tree houses

To tree or not to tree, that is the question

have to contact your homeowners association, obtain building permits and take other legal steps to ensure that your magical tree fort doesn’t magically get torn down.

Foot; somewhere to serve as home base when playing tag.

Even into adulthood we remain in trigued by treehouses. You may have been a fan of the show Treehouse Masters or been tempted by a treetop vacation rental.

The good news is you don’t have to let go of the treehouse love. Whether you’re a parent, aunt, uncle or simply a big kid yourself, here’s the lowdown on how to make 2022 the Year of the Treehouse.

it yourself or outsource the work; what kinds of materials and permits you’ll need to get the work done; and your budget, among other consider ations.

There’s certainly much time, thought and labor involved when you decide to live amongst the trees; however, it can be done, and the knowledge that it’s possible is enough to make anyone feel a little sappy.

When scouting out the spot that will be your treehouse’s future home, consider how its placement could af fect your neighbors. It may be a good idea to have a conversation with them before building, especially if the treehouse may be visible to some in your neighborhood.

Once you’ve picked the place you’d like to build, you’ll have to decide whether you want to tackle this project on your own or call in (yes) professional treehouse builders.

For children, play sets that come with a ladder, wooden deck and slide can replicate the feeling of being high off the ground, despite not being nestled among branches and birds’ nests.

If it’s a grown-up retreat you’re after, a small shed or barn customized to function as a tiny office, reading nook or sports cave may provide a comparable environment to help sate your treehouse hunger.

In childhood, there are fewer things cooler than having your very own treehouse. The aesthetic trappings matter less than what the space accomplishes: a kid-friendly hideaway; a place to eat Fruit by the

First off, let’s address the elephant (tree) in the room: Can one actually live in a treehouse full time, with all the amenities befitting modern life? The answer is, gloriously, yes.

There are a lot of factors to consid er, should you decide to live a la the Swiss Family Robinson. Keep in mind the kind of tree you’ll put your house in (maple, beech and oak trees are among the best); whether you’ll build

It could be that you’re not looking to build quite as big. Perhaps you’d like to create a treehouse for your child, or you may want to enjoy a recreational tree fort of your own. The considerations are much the same.

As with larger treehouses, when building a treehouse in miniature, you’ll want to make sure the project is cleared by the powers that be. Depending on the size of the tree house and where you live, you may

Treehouses are endlessly tailorable, and the options you choose aesthet ically, structurally and logistically will depend on your goals for the final product.

If building a treehouse on your property is simply not an option, don’t despair. While not technically situated in the treetops, there are plenty of treehouse-adjacent options on the ground level that can help you achieve a similar feel.

You’re grown, sure, and you have responsibilities, but why not take your property to the next level with a treehouse fit for a king or queen, honoring your inner child in the process? If you’re looking for me, you know where I’ll be.

Times Total Media is the sales and marketing division of the Tampa Bay Times. Contact timestotalmedia@tampabay. com with questions.

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Home Cooling

What you can do to keep your cool this summer

So. Would you like the good news or the bad news first?

Summer is here.


Now for the good news. Even in Florida, there are coping strat

egies that can keep you cooler. Whether that’s setting the AC and fans at full blast, hanging out by the pool (with a misting fan), or floating blissfully in a cool spring, we all have our ways to cope.

If you’re a homeowner, there is more you can do to deal with the

record-breaking summer heat we’ve been seeing. Some of these changes might actually lower your electric bill (or eliminate it altogether) in the process. But all of them can be considered an investment in the future, which is promising us hotter summers in general.

Let’s take if from the top, literally – your home’s roof. Consider a “cool roof.” A cool roof is designed to reflect more sunlight than a conventional roof, absorbing less solar energy. This

lowers the temperature of your home just as wearing light-colored clothing keeps you cooler on a hot, sunny day. Conventional roofs can reach tem peratures of 150°F or more on such a day. Under the same conditions, a cool or reflective roof could stay more than 50°F cooler.

There are cool options for nearly all types of roof coverings. Cool roof ing products usually cost about the same as comparable conventional roofing products. The most seam less and most cost-effective way to make your roof a cool roof is to have it installed during construction, or when your existing roof needs to be replaced. (If you can’t wait, prod ucts can be applied after the fact.)

Still on the roof, consider solar panels. Properly installed, a solar energy backup system can reduce your electric bill significantly or even entirely; it will also reduce your carbon footprint while you stay cool and maintain power during storm-in duced outages. Plus, if you decide to sell your home, the warranty is trans ferable to the next owner – adding to your home’s resale value.

Now for the windows. If you have modern two-ply windows, you’re halfway there, as they’re more energy efficient. If your house is older and the windows haven’t been updated, replacing them with two-ply win dows isn’t cheap, but is crucial for op timum protection against heat, glare,

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break-ins, and harsh weather. (If you can’t update them all at once, start with the west-facing windows.) Level up that heat and glare protection with insulated window films; they can enhance privacy, while keeping your home cooler still.

If you work from home (and even if you don’t), getting through the peak hours of daytime heat can be

a challenge, even with a functioning air conditioner. Give it (and yourself) a leg up with a portable AC device. Some (like the ChillWell and the USB-powered Evapolar evaCHILL) are about the size of a clock radio cube. Fill it with tap water, plug it in, turn it on and go aaaaahhhhh. The ChillWell model uses 10% as much electricity as a typical air-conditioning unit, and can run on a rechargeable battery if

Consider buying solar panels for your roof.

need be. So it can go where you go, and works during power outages. How awesome is that?

More suggestions to keep your home cooler during our blazing summers, starting with the least costly:

■ Make sure your ceiling fans are rotating counter-clockwise.

■ Place a bowl of ice water in front of a table fan to amp up its cooling effects.

■ Seal gaps around windows and replace dried-out, cracked weather stripping.

■ Replace all incandescent light bulbs with LEDs.

■ If you sleep hot, use 100% cotton sheets. Buy a Chillow or a cooling gel pillow.

■ Hang blackout curtains or keep your blinds closed, or both.

■ Install or top up the insulation in your attic space.

■ Buy a cooling mattress, or a cooling mattress topper.

■ Have some trees planted in strategic areas of your yard.

Seal gaps around windows.

Plant trees in strategic areas of your yard.Use a cooling gel pillow.

■ Consider ceramic tile flooring throughout your home.

■ Install a pool or a swim spa. Nothing beats a swim for its cool ing, stress-relieving effects.

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How to make your home more

Energy Efficient


know, sooner or later, you need to replace things … the roof, appli ances, windows, toilets, the HVAC … and replacing them with more energy-efficient versions just makes sense.

According to ENERGY STAR, the energy used in the average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car. If you don’t

like the sound of those numbers, there are many things you can do to improve them. Some are big ticket items to be sure, but all of them can be considered an investment –because they’ll pay dividends in the form of improved energy efficiency.

First things

first. Where do you stand?

To determine where to focus your attention first, have your home’s energy efficiency assessed by your power company. Tampa Electric will do an energy audit and Neigh borhood Weatherization for free for qualified customers. (Call 813275-3909 to see if you qualify.) Or consider the Comprehensive Audit, which provides an in-depth energy evaluation of your entire home. TECO’s energy analyst will compile a list of specs based on your HVAC and other appliances, and is only $15. Or select TECO’s online audit feature, at Duke Energy provides a FREE Home Energy Check. (Visit duke-energy .com/home/products/homeenergy-check or call 877-364-9004

to get started.) You’ll receive a custom report showing your home’s past and current energy usage, a free energy efficiency kit, low-cost tips that you can use right away to improve energy efficiency and recommendations for home improvements that will save energy and add value to your home. Or visit home-energy-yardstick and answer the questions on the Home Energy Yardstick questionnaire for an assess ment of your usage, and tips (and links) for improving your results.

Keep the hot air OUT THERE

Seal air leaks and install/bump up the insulation in your attic. Insulation works best when there are no air leaks disturbing it. (TECO and Duke Energy customers can receive a certificate to help pay for added attic insulation.) Get a “cool roof.” When it’s time to replace your roof, opt for a cool roof. The cost of materials is about the same, but a cool roof is much more appropriate for Florida homes. Timberline’s Cool Series Shingles use specially designed roofing granules that have greater reflectance than traditional shingles. This results in less transfer of heat to the space below – to keep your home cooler in the summer. Did you know that as much as half of all

household energy use goes toward cooling in our area? So installing an ENERGY STAR certified HVAC system makes tons of sense. If it isn’t time to replace your AC, have it serviced twice a year by a reliable HVAC ex pert, change the filter every month, heed their advice and keep an eye out for algae buildup, an issue in our humid climate. Consider adding a whole-house dehumidifier to your HVAC. It works with your HVAC sys tem to pull extra humidity from the air while helping the entire system work more efficiently. This means your home will feel more comfort able without your cooling system having to kick into warp drive.

Update appliances, water heating equipment, and lighting: Energy used in these areas can account for a tidy chunk of your utility bill, so there’s a big opportunity to save by installing ENERGY STAR certified products, such as the refrig erator, washing machine, etc. (If you have a washing machine that’s over 10 years old, you’re spending about $180 per year on unnecessary water and energy.) Washing machines with the Energy Star label use an average of 40 percent less water and 25 percent less energy than standard washers. How old is your water heater? If you can’t remember, or you know it’s been more than 8 or 10 years, consider replacing it with a heat pump (or hybrid) water heater. It captures heat from the surrounding air and uses 70% less energy to heat water. Some models include a timer so you can place it in “sleep” mode while you’re away from home or on vacation. Replace incandes cent light bulbs with longer-last ing LEDs. If you’re not sure about the light output, follow this approximate guide: A 100-watt incandescent bulb is roughly equivalent in brightness to an LED bulb of 1,600 lumens, a 75-watt bulb is about 1,100 lumens,

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Detecting heat loss outside a house using a digital tablet.
72 f

a 60-watt bulb is about 800 lumens and a 40-watt bulb is about 450 lumens. These comparisons aren’t exact, so if you prefer light on the dimmer or brighter side of your incandescent benchmarks, choose an LED bulb with a lumen count that is slightly lower or higher, respectively.

Replace any pre-1992 toilets in your home with water-saving low-flow toilets, designed to flush efficiently with no more than 1.6 gallons of water.

Update your windows and add solar or tinted films for extra heat resistance. If you live in an older home and you suspect the windows came with the house, this is one of the best investments you can make to improve your home’s energy efficiency and resistance to summer heat, break-ins and storms.

Install low-flow shower heads

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average fam ily could save 2,700 gallons of water a year by switching to a certified low-flow shower head. A quality wa ter-saving shower head is designed to use less than 2 gallons of water per minute but still produce a powerful stream of water. Look for the EPA’s WaterSense logo on the packaging.

Install a smart thermostat to adjust your home’s temperatures to

your schedule. You can set it to be cooler or warmer when you’re away at work or traveling, etc. (Since it can help you save money, it may earn you a rebate up to $50.) Download the smart thermostat’s app onto your smartphone, and you can even change the temperature from work or receive filter replacement remind ers on the go.

Go solar

Installing a solar energy system with a solar-powered battery will supplement ex isting power supplies, lower or eliminate monthly utility costs, and serve as a backup if the power goes

out. These systems are built to last decades with minimal maintenance, and the warranty, typically good for 25 to 30 years, is transferable if you sell your home while it’s still in effect.

(If you have an HOA, check first; there may be some rules to be aware of.) For more information on energy savings, rebates and more, visit or

A tankless water heater saves space and energy.

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Low-flow shower heads save water without sacrificing water pressure. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED ones to save money and energy.

Cat Friendly Spaces

Not everyone is cut out for cat (or pet) ownership. But for those of us who are, they are a nonstop source of squee, purrs, love and joy; they’re family. They are with you until they breathe their last breath. To make sure they are as happy as they can be, give them lots of snuggles, play with them, and keep them well fed, comfortable, and safe from danger – whether that’s the danger of wild

or venomous animals, poisonous plants, toxins, abuse or getting struck by a passing car. And if you’re a solo pet owner, have a plan in place in case you predecease your fur baby, because life is unpredictable, and that’s how you treat family.

Many dangers can be avoided by keeping kitty indoors. Avoid the others by keeping toxic solutions and potential poisons inside pet-proofed cupboards (substances like OTC and prescribed medications, cleaners,

other household chemicals, etc.). For details on what’s unsafe for your pet, visit animal-poison-control/poisonoushousehold-products.

Scratching is a fact of life for cat owners. Declawing is not an option – it’s barbaric, disfiguring, traumatiz ing to the cat, and renders it defense less against attackers. To protect your furniture, set up scratching boards or posts wherever your cat seems to prefer to scratch, whether that’s the sofa, upholstered chairs or near a door, or all of the above. If you want to always have a cat or cats, replace carpet with LVP, tile or wood floors for your own sanity. (Tight carpet is just one more tempting surface to scratch; plus it holds odors, and is tough to get clean after accidents.)

the floor, so that kitty’s sensitive whiskers don’t repeatedly rub against the sides of the dish while she eats.

A fenced cat enclosure (a catio) extends out onto an open patio to give kitties the feel of being outdoors.

Stay ahead of the litter situation. If your nose doesn’t clue you in fast enough, kit ties have a way of letting you know if you’re slacking in that area. (They like a clean place for nature breaks just like we do.) If you’re short on space, there are litter stations that look like furniture and can do the job of an end table. Set a lamp and a potted plant on top, point the entry away from guests, and no one’s the wiser –

Cats love to climb, so these wooden ledges, affixed to a wall, offer both exercise and a perch for viewing.

board boxes, between sofa cushions, under a car or in the clothes dryer (watch out for those), in sock drawers, in a fruit bowl. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to ensure your cat has comfortable places to nap, but it’s fun to see what’s out there. Those floofy sinkable donuts of soft ness (you know the ones) are loved by cats and dogs alike. There are also cushioned baskets, hanging macra me cat beds, smile-shaped carpeted ledges, window perches for watching the bird channel…you’ll find a cor nucopia of kitty napping beds and platforms on,, and amazon .com, among others.

Dining in. You may not be able to force a cat to drink water, but you can make it more inviting. Keep fresh water handy, and ideally, moving water. There are loads of cat fountains out there; just remember to clean them a couple of times a week as the fountain surfaces can get slimy if left unattended. For meals, serve food in

as long as you refresh it regularly. Or, if you have an attached garage, set up the litter box in there and install a cat door in the door to the garage for easy access.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Kitties are notorious for their napping skills and can fall asleep just about anywhere – card

Indulge their curiosity. Some own ers love their cats so much that they install carpeted ledges at various heights on the walls of their home to give kitties places to roam and perch above it all. Additionally, you can install a screened cat enclosure (a catio) that extends outward from a window or cat door. It can be as basic or as involved as you want, with one or several floors, and multiple spots for napping, scratching, climbing, and birdwatching. You could even put a covered litter box out there, and a carpeted cat tree. In terms of options, the sky’s the limit – its style could mirror or complement the style of your main home.

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How to make your home feline-friendly


collection and will have room for new favor

Create a comfortable environment to enjoy reading in.

already curated, and shop staff can help you choose titles based on what you like.

year ... the options are endless. Just make sure that the way you organize your collection makes sense to you.

The Silver Chair: If your budget allows, add some seating to your library. You can be as traditional (armchair) or as whimsical (bean bag

Bookworms, rejoice: If you’ve long dreamed of designing your own personal library, dream no more. We’ll help you get one step closer to a book nook you’ll adore with our guide to creating your own in-home library. Sliding ladders and roaring fireplace not included.

Great Expectations: The first step in creating a library you’ll love is to be selective. Maybe your current collection of tomes includes books you outgrew, books you bought and never read or books you read once and didn’t enjoy (guilty). If you want your library to be a real thing of beauty, sell or donate volumes that no longer suit you. This will ensure that you enjoy every book in your


If you’re starting from scratch, you can often find great books for less on websites like eBay, or at local haunts like thrift stores and the flea market. Don’t forget about indie booksellers. Indie book shops can be excellent places to peruse selections that are

The Sun Also Rises: Next, scout out a space to place your library. A cozy corner is always ideal. If possible, place it out of the way of common areas and spots that get a lot of direct sunlight in order to avoid unwanted noise and damaged books.

A Room of One’s Own: It’s time to choose your shelving. Yay, you! Keep in mind the mood you want your library to have. Is it going to be dark and academic, cozy and seclud ed, or something else entirely? Your ideal aesthetic, plus your budget, will help you choose the size and type of shelving for your library. Thrift and antique stores can often have great options if you’re looking to buy something secondhand.

Also think about how you will ar range your books. You can sort them alphabetically, by genre, by color, by

pouf) as you want, just make sure that whatever you choose is comfort able enough to support you during the many hours of reading ahead. Might we recommend a sophisti cated and stately leather wingback chair?

On Beauty: This step is optional but delightful: Knickknacks. Do you need them? No. Will you love them?

Yes. Adding knickknacks like bookends, framed photographs, little plants and other such joyous deco rations helps personalize your library and can make it feel truly unique to you. Snow globe, anyone?

One Hundred Years of Solitude:

Now that your library is built, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Pour yourself a cup of tea, settle in with a tome or two and have yourself a nice read. Try not to think about all the new books you want to add to your collection, and how much shelving it will take to accommodate them all. No matter! A bookworm’s work is never done.

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NOT Summer is coming.

You know what I mean by NOTsummer: those blessed months of the year when the weather here really shines and makes everyone else jealous. These fresh, gorgeous days inspire us to open the windows, plant something new in the garden, and get creative to make the home more appealing. How about an outdoor haven?

Great idea! But first, you need to decide what you want to do with your outdoor haven. Relax with your main squeeze while enjoying bird song and tropical breezes? Linger over dinner with friends? Or relish “me time” with morning coffee and evening rosé? Once you know what you want to (and can) do with your outdoor space, ideas for how it will look will start to take shape.

Begin with a firm, level surface.

To create the “outdoor room” vibe,

Let’s take it outside…

place an outdoor rug to anchor the space. (If you’re feeling ambitious, a kit for a 10x12 cedar pergola on runs about $1500.)

Introduce a focal point, like a firepit or a solar-powered water fountain. Add some outdoor furniture: a dining table and chairs, or various seating with end tables or a bench. Add a couple of solar-powered outdoor fans. Provide some shade (patio um brellas, shade sails, a pergola roof or a retractable awning), and add festive string lighting and battery-powered or citronella candles for when the sun goes down.

If your space gets ample sun, solar lanterns come in a bazillion styles and can add romance in the evening. To keep mosquitoes at bay, put up two or three solar-powered bug zappers. If you have mature, shade-giving trees in your yard, hang a hammock or a swing; if you don’t, consider a freestanding canopied hammock

or egg chair. If you have a pergola, capture the drama of the evening breeze with gauzy outdoor drapes. Another thing that adds drama as well as improves visibility is photolu minescent resin “pebbles.” (Set them in direct sunlight for about five hours before use and then decorate at will. You can get bags of 200 for about $14 each on Amazon.) Did you know they make solar-powered fairy lights too? Two 33-foot strings with 100 LED lights each go for about $16 on Amazon. Finish everything off with a potted ficus, areca palm or bougain villea, and various smaller potted

plants, and you’ll have an inviting space you won’t ever want to leave.

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Unexpected changes?

Adapt A Room.

A garage that was converted to a very comfortable studio apartment.

Life comes at you fast…and sometimes, that means reconfigur ing a space in your home to adapt. Maybe a senior parent is moving in, or you need to create a space for working from home, or managing inventory for an online store. Perhaps your youngest has moved away and you’d like to repurpose their former bedroom into a workout room, an additional bathroom, or a dream closet with oodles of cubbies and drawers, full-length mirrors and plush seating.

Add storage space

“We have too much storage and closet space.” Said no one ever. Stor age space is prime real estate, and if your home is lacking in that area, you’re in good company. (And IKEA would like a word.) To address this ever-important need, you can carve out some previously underused space in your home to make room for a built in or freestanding bookcase, a cabinet or armoire, or repurpose an unused bedroom, or even the dining area or “formal” living room.

If you don’t plan to sell anytime soon, and there are rooms or spaces that you are not using, that’s an opportunity to make your home’s lay out work for YOU and how you live. Think about it. Do you never use the

dining area because you eat all your meals in the kitchen? Is the formal living room a dust collector because everyone gathers in the family room? Then those rooms can be turned into what you need them to be.

If you have a garage, the oppor tunities to create storage or new purpose are wide ranging, especially if you aren’t parking your car in it, like so many of us. (We know who we are.) Garages are especially blessed with vertical storage space, so you can make use of north-south as well as east-west space. Depending on what you would like to store in your garage, or how you’d like to repur pose it, supplementary AC might be called for. And the advice of an orga nization expert would be invaluable.

Add sleeping space

Adding a bedroom is great if you have the money and space, but if you don’t, think creatively. Do you have unused space under a staircase, for instance? A cozy sleeping “nest” could fit in there and would be extra popular with the kiddos. Depending on the space available, you could add an air mattress, a sleeping bag, or a storage bench with a comfy cushion and pillows. Add a sconce or a string of twinkly lights, and a small bookcase or cabinet if there’s room. Wallpaper the back wall or paint it with chalkboard paint for extra fun. Give the space a little privacy with a

door or some curtains, and voilà!

When your visitors have gone, that inviting little room still beckons as a reading nook.

Another option to consider is a Murphy bed. Designs include a cabinet style for smaller spaces, all the way to larger versions that can have bookcase storage on each side

An under stairs hideaway is the perfect spot for Fido to feel safe and secure and keep his toys neatly corralled.

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It’s your home; make it yours

of the bed, for additional function ality. Smaller designs could easily be added to an existing office, making the room do double duty. Alternate ly, a trundle bed can add sleeping space to a kid’s bedroom (and is great for sleepovers). Some designs feature drawers on one side for extra storage.

Add an exercise room

Why not create your own exercise room? (And in this one, all the fans can be blowing at YOU.) Mount a large screen TV on the wall to stream fitness programming. If you like pole dancing for exercise, you could have an exercise pole installed (installa tion kits are available online). Add a stationary bicycle for spin classes, a treadmill, a jump rope and weights — and a mat for cool-downs, yoga and/or Pilates — and you’re on your way! A bonus room, which is typically larger than a bedroom, is ideal for repurposing as an exercise room; but an unused bedroom can work too, albeit on a smaller scale. Whichever you use, manage heat with ceiling and floor fans and perhaps a supplementary AC unit. Keep the room smelling fresher by replacing carpet with LVP, laminate or wood flooring. Hang a large mirror or posters of athletes who inspire you.

No matter what plans you have for making your home fit your needs better, know that it’ll take a hefty dose of purging junk. This is not the

Having a comfortable place to work out is half the battle when you’re trying to stay in shape.

time to be sentimental about “stuff;” whatever stuff you’ve forgotten you have, or haven’t used or touched in over a year is dead weight — taking up valuable space in your home and preventing it from truly serving your needs. Be brutal and you’ll reap the rewards of a home that fits your new life — whatever that entails — like a glove.

Turning a spare room into your own private gym pays off in better health.

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Get Smart

of karaoke isn’t your speed, press play on a podcast to unwind after a long day.

Although we’re not yet living in the age of The Jetsons, circa 2062, we’re well on our way. Innovation and ever-advancing technology have made what was once impossible now perfectly normal, from the good (smart vacuums) to the surprising (smart jump ropes) to the seemingly superfluous (smart egg trays). There’s a whole cache of resources at your fingertips to make your home a mod ern oasis, with remote capabilities available for nearly every item in the house (yes, if you want it, there’s even a smart spoon). Fingers crossed that

one day we’ll zip around our yards on smart hoverboards, a la Marty McFly.

The good

Who among us hasn’t lamented that we couldn’t bring our phone/ record player/home theater surround sound system into the shower with us for an endless singalong while shampooing? Shower soloists, lament no more: Smart showerheads are here. These bathtime bits of tech wonder, like the Kohler Moxie show erhead, use Bluetooth and a built-in speaker to fill your shower with the musical stylings of the Smiths, the Smashing Pumpkins, Sade or any artist you choose. If a shower by way

If work obligations and other life necessities mean you often have to leave your pup at home, keep an eye on them with the Furbo 360° Dog Camera. Besides having a downright fantastic name, the best-selling Furbo cam connects to your phone via an app so that you can see and hear what your dog is up to while you’re away. This smart tech also allows you to speak to your dog, get alerts if they’re barking and remotely activate a built-in treat dispenser to give them something to snack on while you’re gone (!). Talk about a doggone good invention.

The surprising

In the highly specific category of “Not Sure We Needed This but at Least We Don’t Have to Touch the Lid” is the voice-activated and maybe slightly sentient smart trash can from

simplehuman. Does it talk back? Blessedly, no (if it could, it might yell). But this stainless-steel receptacle can and will harness the power of three microphones to recognize voice commands and open the trash can lid for you. How polite!

Sure to prevent porch pirates is the looks-kind-of-like-a-printer smart mailbox from Danby Parcel Guard.

The mailbox is made of industri al-grade plastic and sits, stalwart, on your curb day and night, waiting to gobble up parcels. The smart mailbox locks your shipments in (you can unlock them via the box’s app or through a keypad), so that no nosy neighbors/small children/feral racoons can come and haul them off.

The mailbox comes equipped with a motion sensor, camera and even an alarm. That gets our stamp of approval!

The seemingly superfluous

Not to be outdone by the smart spoon is (ahem) smart fork technol ogy. Do we need that? “Need” is a

very strong word. While the sweetly named HAPIfork from HAPILABS may not be a life essential, it nonetheless dares to exist and intrigue. If you’re eating too fast, the HAPIfork vibrates to signal you to slow down. The idea is to help people create healthy hab its by eating at a proper pace. It’s an interesting concept, although track ing down a HAPIfork is difficult these days, with the product appearing only to be available on eBay or similar resale sites. It’s likely the digi-fork wasn’t a concept the general public was ready for. Gone, but not forgotten.

Last but by no means least is the surprisingly practical and beautiful ly bizarre Banana Phone, which is exactly what it sounds like. This little yellow banana-shaped phone uses Bluetooth to make calls or play music, with a portion of its proceeds going toward helping endangered gorillas. How could your house truly be a smart home without the (fruitful) ability to take calls on a plastic ba nana? I rest my case.

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Automation comes home to some of the strangest places
Check in on your pet from anywhere to see how he really spends his day.

The Power of Periwinkle

insights after the challenges we’ve all faced over the past couple of years.

Periwinkle. That’s the story.

No longer relegated to sit on the sidelines as a type of flower or one of Blue’s friends on “Blue’s Clues,” peri winkle is officially having a moment.

Color matching behemoth Pantone named Very Peri (Pantone 17-3938) as its Color of the Year for 2022, citing periwinkle’s carefree confidence and daring curiosity as

elements that spark creativity. The Pantone Color of the Year is chosen annually by experts who examine color trends worldwide. The chosen color often has a direct influence on the marketing, design and product development industries.

As a soft color that’s not quite blue but not quite purple, periwinkle combines the soothing properties of the former with the quirkiness of the latter. Pantone hopes this combina tion will encourage innovation and

“As we move into a world of unprecedented change, the selection of Pantone 17-3938 Very Peri brings a novel perspective and vision of the trusted and beloved blue color family,” said Leatrice Eiseman, exec utive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

“Encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, Pantone 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages coura geous creativity and imaginative expression.”

You, too, can partake in Pantone’s periwinkle panoply. If you’re low on

creativity, jump-start your inven tive side by sprinkling touches of periwinkle throughout your home. Start small by adding dashes of the color to noncommittal areas – think low-stakes investments like pillows, a throw blanket or inexpensive art pieces. Consider placing periwinkle accent items in your home office to energize your environment and encourage creativity during the dreaded 3 p.m. slump.

Once you’ve dipped your toe in the proverbial pool and are ready to dive in, it’s time to go big and go home. If it’s a playful paint job you’re after, periwinkle’s got you (and your bedroom … and your kitchen … maybe even your entire house) covered. Grab some paint or Very Peri

patterned wallpaper to make your home an on-trend whimsical wonder.

Don’t limit yourself to indoor-use only. Procure periwinkle outdoor rugs and pool towels or plant the color’s namesake flower in your garden for a pop of purple-y petals – extra credit if you snip some stems to add to a vase inside. Periwinkle planters, patio chairs, even pool floaties can add flair to areas that may have been overlooked. Might we suggest a Very Peri garden gnome?

No matter what you choose, we can all lean into the idea of fresh starts and new pathways embodied by playful periwinkle.

“Creating a new color for the first time in the history of our Pantone Color of the Year program reflects the global innovation and transformation taking place,” said Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.

“As society continues to recognize color as a critical form of communi cation … the complexity of this new red-violet-infused blue hue high lights the expansive possibilities that lie before us.”

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, September 4, 2022 | 15I
Color of the Year 2022
16I | Sunday, September 4, 2022 | Tampa Bay Times
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