- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

The whiz-bang factor has come home.
Our domiciles have become showcases for fancy technology in unusual configurations such as refrigerators as communication devices, a concept that should add a whole new dimension to dinnertime By year's end, a newfangled ice box somewhere between freezer and Palm Pilot will go on sale. It's connected to the Internet and has a video screen, electronic message board and digital camera built into the door. One can watch TV and broadcast images with this refrigerator, and send e-mail, too.
Presumably, it has a crisper drawer.
Manufacturer LG Electronics wants $10,000 for what it calls an "Internet-enabled refrigerator" and "multifunctional appliance."
Meanwhile, there's something called the "Icebox," which is not a refrigerator at all, but rather an "entertainment appliance," according to its maker, Samsung.
This waterproof combination TV, VCR, DVD and CD player plus Internet connection and video camera port sits on the kitchen counter to further muddle the boundaries between pantry and rumpus room.
This is only the beginning, though. One can have one's cyberspace and lounge in it, too.
Four months ago, LaZBoy introduced its "Explorer" model, which is, they say, an "e-cliner."
The tilting, unfolding, reclining, swiveling, overstuffed chair is wired for the Internet and has a built-in infrared keyboard, WebTV receiver and electrical outlet for anything extra.
Oh, and it has a drink holder, too.
Samsung's "Internet Microwave," meanwhile, downloads recipes from a special Web site, then sets its own temperature and cooling time. Not to be outdone, Sunbeam has a new line of appliances that quibble electronically among themselves.
There's an alarm clock that starts the coffee maker and turns off the electric blanket, and a console that can shut down the whole mess if need be, while simultaneously serving as electronic address book, calendar and cookbook.
And while Rival is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Crock-Pot with a limited-edition, copper-plated, hand-numbered commemorative model of the famous slow cooker, it has also introduced something called the Smart-Pot.
This digitally enhanced stew maker can be programmed with complicated messages and instructions. It still sits there all afternoon just like the original, though.
Elsewhere, there's a fancy new lounge chair from Werner Aisslinger that should appeal to an athlete. It's made from Techno-Gel, the springy stuff on the bottom of running shoes.
And MTI Whirlpools now makes an electric sink that can wash unmentionables all by itself.
There are three "swirling jets" and a built-in washboard, MTI notes, plus a "deck-mounted control" that automatically pulls the plug.
All these confusing amenities are just part of the burgeoning American home front, analysts say.
Folks "want a bigger house with more cool stuff in it," summarized Atlanta Realtor Ellen Crawford.
The National Association of Home Builders reports that the average size of new American homes has more than doubled in five decades from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,225 square feet these days.
Standard fare for a typical house in 2010, the group notes, will include automatic security systems, multiple telephone lines, energy-management and lighting-control systems. And while home designs will lean toward the "neotraditional," lots will be smaller, streets narrower and the materials well faker.
The NAHB predicts we'll build our domains from engineered wood products, steel, concrete and recycled materials.
The 5,000-square-foot "New American Home," recently highlighted at the International Builders' Show in Atlanta, boasts a wine cellar, home theater, spa and a "master retreat" with its own laundry.
The 12,000-square-foot concrete-and-stucco "Safe Haven" features a master bedroom closet that is actually a "safe room" concrete floor, walls and ceiling, plus a steel door with four locks.
Not much can beat the "Manalapan Residence," from luxury developer Frank McKinney in Florida. It weighs in at 61,300 square feet, with 11 bedrooms, 21 baths and a 16-car garage.
Along with such amenities as "fur storage," "nanny's sitting room" and "oceanside pub," there are two pools with built-in caves, an archery range, a caterer's kitchen and a movie theater with "concession stand."
Needless to say, this residence does not list a price tag, but is highlighted nonetheless by Opulent Homes at the company's Web site (www.opulent-homes.com).
It is, they allow, "destined to be one of the finest oceanfront estates in the World."

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