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Published March 6, 2008 09:37 AM

E-design: Ecology, electronics shaping home interiors

What’s next in home design and decor? Greenness and gadgetry, that’s what. Local design experts say that technology and ecology are shaping the way homeowners build, renovate and otherwise outfit their homes, and they see energy savings and electronics as fuels for the fire.

“I think that laptops — and I’m not quite sure where it’s going to go — are going to change the way we use our spaces,” says licensed interior designer Davia Gallup of Davenport, Iowa, owner of HomeFront Interior design. Gallup uses a computer-aided drafting program like the one seen on the HGTV network’s “Hidden Spaces” program to show her clients what their dream spaces will look like before they’re renovated or built from the ground up.

As early support for her hypothesis, she cites the disappearance of the kitchen phone nook. “Ten years ago the little phone station in the kitchen became obsolete. It’s a laptop station now.”

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“It’s this mobileness that kids have,” she explains, recalling a recent day when her daughter and a friend plopped onto the bed with two laptops while another family member worked on yet a third laptop in another room. With wireless Internet, the home computer no longer needs a home base.

“My daughter is 15, and she doesn’t need a table or a desk. They go all over the house,” she says. “What is this going to do to our homes? I’d say in five years, we’ll see it.”

Once upon a time — like five years ago — even cutting-edge electronics were hidden away in gargantuan media cabinets. Not anymore. In 2008 the sleek flat screen TV continues its ascent as in-home status symbol.

“Now you want a chest with a flat screen above it,” the designer says.

Despite the love for toys, however, most homeowners have a budget. Good design — from the architecture of a space itself to the architecture of its window coverings — helps them create places that match the moment and save money, too.

“People are going to honeycombs and wood blinds — things with an insulation value. It’s heating and cooling costs — anything to knock down the UV rays during the summer and open things up in the winter,” says Mark Brown, owner of Tri-State Blind and Shade, Eldridge, Iowa.

From the front, honeycomb shades appear to fold like other shades. But from the side you can see their cells — which actually resemble nature’s honeycombs — that trap air and create an insulating barrier that’s especially helpful in extreme heat and cold.

“It’s an evolution of the pleated shade,” he says.

Neutral colors complement window-coverings’ natural designs and materials. Hues from sage green to taupe to brown are gaining momentum over off-white and white, he says.

Perhaps because window coverings — at about $100 per window on average — are meant to last a bit longer, they don’t sell in the same eye-popping colors as paint, which is easy and relatively cheap to change.

“I think darker walls are becoming more popular, but I say that with caution,” Gallup says. “If you have volume — newer homes have volume and large windows — you can go with a dark color. I think people are using more color on their walls — and bolder colors.”

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