John Gomes is already living in the future. An early adopter of the kind of advanced smart home technology that is a fantasy for most of us, Gomes had his new Tribeca apartment intelligently connected about six months ago. He still gets a thrill when he realizes how much he can accomplish by doing almost nothing at all.
When he wakes, he says to his Amazon digital assistant, “Alexa, master bedroom shades up,” and it is done. When he puts his head on his pillow at night, he says, “Alexa, home off,” and the shades come down, while lights all over the house turn off. When he wants music, he requests it from one of the six Echo Dots spread throughout his 2,700-square-foot home, and Alexa puts on “Chill,” the Apple Music radio station that he always wants to hear. And most importantly, the lights are precisely calibrated to the right warmth.
Like many smart home early adopters, Gomes has a thing he’s really into—a kind of technological cause—and his thing is lights. Finding the right light for one’s home is “super serious,” he says. “I truly believe in the future that more people will understand this.” So he worked with his interior designer to find a company that makes custom light bulbs, searched for just the right lamps and sconces, and then, with the help of his smart home integration service, tweaked and tweaked the lighting till it was the “perfect amber.” These days, Gomes is one of the leading brokers in Manhattan’s luxury real estate market, but the amber glow of his apartment reminds him of the days when he was a waiter at the French brasserie Balthazar, and the lighting was just right, and everyone looked that much more beautiful.
The lighting in Gomes’s home has different settings—daytime, evening, and entertaining—to suit different moods and light levels. In the winter, he goes into his Lutron lighting control and adjusts the settings to account for the weaker light coming through the windows. When Gomes, his husband, and their twin babies are away at their second home in Connecticut (where the light is set to a more orange cast, appropriate for a country setting) and guests are staying in their city apartment, Gomes wants to make sure they have the right experience. From afar, he sets the house to “evening” mode before they walk in from their dinner and a show.
“When they come back at 11, I want them to walk in and say, ‘Wow, it’s still perfect,’” he says. Sometimes, Gomes says, his domestic life seems positively Jetsonlike: “I feel like I’m getting more out of life because I’m living more efficiently.” (The perfection of Gomes’s well-lit home is only occasionally pierced when his husband walks into the kitchen and absentmindedly hits a wall switch, turning on the overhead bulbs, which are not calibrated to the warm glow of the under-the-counter lighting.)
Smart home cynics might claim “efficiency” is shorthand for “enabling laziness,” as if, in a not-too-far-off future, people will waste the time they previously devoted to manually adjusting the thermostat and raising the shades by eating ice cream while watching episodes of Real Housewives. But to leap to this conclusion is to miss a whole lot of context in the lives of people like John Gomes—people who already have more than enough to do; people who are never off; people for whom technology demands as much it gives. People who are now realizing, more than ever before, just how infinitely customizable their lives can be.
Gomes’s search for the ideal amber glow is part of a larger quest for a more optimal existence. He made sure no wires are visible (“They make me very nervous”), and a company called Sun Basket delivers meal kits twice a week, and Amazon delivers certain necessities automatically, like Cocofloss, this special dental floss he likes. He vividly recalls the bad old days when he used to have to deal with “all these annoying things like wires and grocery bags and having to touch all the lights.”
And not having to do all those things makes Gomes less anxious, which makes him happier, which in turn makes him more productive, which is important, because he works pretty much all the time, and he needs to maximize every moment. Because you do not sell multimillion-dollar houses in one of the most high-profile markets in the world by taking it easy or failing to sweat the details. Everything matters—everything—and technology makes the precise details easier to sweat with every passing day.
Anyone who thinks smart homes will allow us to become lazy isn’t paying attention.