Smart Home Transparency and Trust

Smart Home Transparency and Trust  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

If you have smart devices in your home like a smart speaker or a smart appliance then you have given permission to a tech company to share your data. Consumers have given a level of trust to tech companies up until now but that may all be changing. The loss of trust and lack of transparency by Facebook will likely have far reaching effects and maybe none more than in the home automation and smart technology industry which is just in its infancy.

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri and Samsung Bixby smart assistants all share personal data with app developers, it’s part of their user agreements. Some user agreements like Houzz' give ownership rights of your data to themselves — forever. Appliance companies like Samsung mine personal data from your smart devices like your refrigerator, washer/dryer and TV. In 2015 Samsung warned its SmartTV customers that every word they say in the same room as their SmartTV is being captured and sent over the Internet

Facebook and Instagram and other social media companies pass your personal data on to other entities such as app developers and you agreed to this in the user agreement. In some cases an honor system is in place between the software company and the app developer about sharing users’ data. We now know that that self-monitoring system isn't working out and tech companies’ sharing of personal data needs to be regulated. Facebook and their “partner” Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company, have misused personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Facebook has known about this issue for a long time but didn’t share it until this past weekend. This lack of transparency has compounded the negativity of the misuse of personal data and Facebook today is in crisis mode.

This Facebook debacle will hopefully shine a light on the need for a personal data bill of rights in the United States. This is particularly important for home automation and smart kitchens since this data is our most personal and intimate details of home life.

Mark Zuckerberg is being asked to appear in the US and the UK to answer for the misuse in sharing of the personal data of 50 million people. The European Union has a law on the books that will take effect on May 25, 2018. The USA has no one law — instead we have many laws and some conflict others.

Without up-to-date laws in place to guarantee the rights of individuals regarding their own personal data the home automation industry might find itself in a situation like the one Facebook finds itself in today. It’s time to open up dialogues about user rights and user agreements. It’s time to talk about and do something about trust and transparency in the home automation industry.

Kitchen & Bath Business: A Dream Home Come True

The following was published in Kitchen & Bath Business on March 2, 2018.

With plans to build their retirement/dream home on an almost unbuildable lot in a remote area in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Stan and Montana Wakefield took a fearless approach and combed the planet to find inspiration and products to make their dreams come true.

The Wakefields were hands on in every facet of the project. After the shell of the house was built, they moved from their other home in Florida and assumed the role of general contractors for their new one so they could personally coordinate the local craftspeople and subcontractors. Montana did part of the manual labor, including staining, painting and caulking, and the only reason she didn’t stain the floors was because Stan thought she was working too hard. She designed the home inside and out and sourced and selected finishes for all the spaces. My job was to design custom cabinetry for the kitchen, the Murphy bedroom and the bathrooms.

Kitchen & Bath Business: A Dream Home Come True  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Finding the Motivation

Montana’s inspirations came from her world traveling and her degree in fine art. European design informed her selections for authentic materials like the carved marble sinks in the bathrooms and in the kitchen. She did online image and text searches for months, looking for products in England, Italy, France and Spain. Alibaba, the Hangzoo, China, group of Internet-based businesses, “kept popping up.” She chose Alibaba because she found people who could make one-of-a-kind products to her specifications for less than similar off-the-shelf versions.

Montana wanted products that were decorative, functional and affordable. She found artisans in a small stone shop in China that made the custom marble sinks, as well as bathtubs and fireplace surrounds. An artist in Spain made a 10-lb. door knocker for the front door. Wood was repurposed from a 200-year-old cotton mill in South Carolina, which created the worn, old, rustic contrast with the clean white finishes chosen for the cabinetry, molding and trim. Montana chose sparkly things like the clear acrylic cabinet knobs, which were inspired by pretty things she saw in Paris.


Functional Kitchen with A Spectacular View

The most important requirement for the kitchen design was that it had to work well for baking, cooking, gathering and entertaining. Secondly, it had to look beautiful.

“The kitchen is the heart of the home,” said Montana. “It is so important for it to be beautiful, large and stately because it makes the house.”

She wanted lots of counter space for when she bakes several things at once, and the cabinet drawer interiors were customized to her cooking needs. We incorporated a baking drawer to store spatulas, biscotti tins, measuring cups and spoons, and custom drawer organizers in the prep area include a knife drawer, a two-tier utensil drawer and a spice drawer made from recycled wood. The walk-in pantry for food storage was important to the Wakefields because they buy in bulk.

Montana chose Crystal Cabinetry for the whole home because the product is made to order with a furniture finish and a lifetime warranty. The kitchen design features white-painted cabinets with classic Shaker doors.

“I selected white cabinets because white kitchens are classic, and white is always going to be in,” said Montana. “I like a bright house, and a light kitchen makes everything sparkle.”

Crystal Cabinetry’s commitment to green initiatives was another reason it was chosen for this project. The company not only has numerous green certifications but has also been directly involved in the development of the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) to promote green building.

The kitchen sink was inspired by an original marble farmhouse sink Montana saw in a 300-year-old home in Venice, Italy. The oversized single-bowl sink – carved out of one piece of marble and weighing about 325 lbs. – anchors the enormous island. Comfortable seating for four and large prep areas make this kitchen perfect for hanging out and putting some fabulous meals together.

Montana enjoys the changing view at the top of the Great Smoky Mountains while baking and giving online guitar lessons. The home was designed so the kitchen is oriented to take advantage of floor-to-ceiling glass, affording an unobstructed view of the mountains and lake.

Read the rest on Kitchen & Bath Business  >> 

Kitchen Builders Move HQ to Moore County

The following Press Release was published in the February 7 issue of The Pilot. 

Kitchen Builders Move HQ to Moore County  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Dream Kitchen Builders LLC has moved operations from Greensboro and is now designing and remodeling kitchens, bathrooms and other rooms in this area.

Owners Scott and Gwen Koehler relocated to Whispering Pines to be close to their children and grandchild.

The Koehlers have been in the kitchen business since 1989. Over the years, Dream Kitchens has designed and produced award-winning kitchens all across North Carolina and as far away as New York City.

In 2011 the Greensboro showroom was sold and, in 2015, the Koehlers formed Dream Kitchen Builders to offer all of the same services and products without a showroom which has cut cost for their clients.

Dream Kitchens instead operates a website, a Facebook page, a Houzz site, a Pinterest site and is active on Instagram, all of which help new clients to learn about Dream Kitchens and see projects they’ve designed and produced.

Scott Koehler, a nationally recognized expert on kitchen technology, spoke at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show KBIS this past January in Orlando, Florida. He participated in two panel discussions and also offered a presentation about connected kitchens, smart appliances and using technology to help people live in their homes longer — age in place. To learn more, Visit, call (336) 312–3540, or email

Image Search: A New Tool For Designers

Designers have a new tool to add to their bag of tricks.

Image recognition means that computers gain information and understanding from digital images or video and they also analyze and categorize image data. Designers can now search their files by image instead of just text and automatically add metadata tags to images in their libraries — for example, a hideaway door on a kitchen cabinet. A meta tag or metadata is information that is not shown in the image but is attached to the file such as descriptions, keywords, document authors, last modified dates, etc.

Image recognition, a type of artificial intelligence, is more advanced than just identifying an image; it also has the capability to identify context. Instead of identifying “two people in a kitchen,” computers (like smartphones) can recognize that the two people are at the kitchen sink with plates in their hands and the water is turned on; thus understanding and conveying that people are doing dishes.

Below are some areas where designers can benefit from image recognition, which is just in its infancy.

Automated Image Tagging. You can have your image files tagged with meta-data automatically by a cloud service like Google Drive or Box so they are easily searchable. You can literally dump tons of photographs into one of these cloud services, and it will attach meta tags for you using artificial intelligence. I was stunned to look at my image files recently and see all the added meta tags. If you’ve ever been in a design meeting with clients, and you know you have the perfect image to share with them – but you can’t find it right then – image recognition will be a game changer for you.

Reverse Image Search. You can now search online by uploading an image to a service like google reverse image search. I have use this to find manufactures of wallpaper and ceramic tile in less than 30 seconds. I’ve also use the search to identify products such as Kohler sinks and metal finishes like copper for hoods.

Discovery. Designers love discovery and new inspiration, so for this example, I’m going to compare a search for a piece of cabinetry hardware by text and then by image. By text, I type “cabinetry hardware” and all my results down at the bottom of the page are cabinetry hardware (below).

Image Search: A New Tool For Designers  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Next, I’m going to upload a piece of hardware to start the image search, and although cabinetry hardware does come up, check out what else the computer found based on the image and the “nickel” meta tag .The screenshot of other nickel images is well down on the page, but on the way there, I see images and shapes that I’ve never thought of using for cabinetry hardware (below).

Image Recognition  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

For the whole history of computing searching has been just by text, which is narrow because you’re searching for something very specific. Just the opposite is true with images because images can convey many things all at one time. Image search has open the door for discovery.

Talking Smart Kitchens at #KBIS2018

This week, Dream Kitchen Builders is attending The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Orlando. KBIS is one of our favorite annual events -- we've attended the last four years and been inspired at every turn by the people and products we've seen.

I'll be speaking for the third year in a row at this year's show. I'll be presenting a one hour presentation as part of the Voices From The Industry series, and I'll be participating in two other panel discussions. 

If you're attending #KBIS2018 join me Tuesday, January 9 from 9-10am. Or, get a peak at my notes for the presentation below: 

Artificial Intelligence In The Kitchen

SMART KITCHENS AND HOME AUTOMATION are crossing over into the mainstream. Kitchens are the biggest work places in the home so we can use this new technology to minimize our work in those spaces and provide ourselves with more free time. We can now control hundreds of new devices for the home remotely and wirelessly.

Artificial Intelligence In The Kitchen  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

It'll be interesting to see how kitchen designers manage the opportunities and challenges all this new technology brings with it. We will need to be fluent in smart technology but most of this technology seems to be DIY, so what's in it for us? Smart kitchen technology is a proficiency kitchen designers can offer their clients as a service and those designers who are fluent in home automation and smart kitchens will have an advantage. The following are some products, trends and potential issues I see affecting home automation and smart kitchen design.


Inventions can look like toys when they first come out, but if they are adopted and productive they become tools. Corporate America made fun of the Apple mouse at first but then adopted it once Microsoft designed software requiring a mouse. Most of us thought Snapchat was just another cute app - nothing more than a gadget that lets us glimpse photos and then makes them disappear. Snapchat is actually the first mobile native app to go mainstream and is now worth billions; Snap now also offers a desktop app and snap spectacles which is little camera/computers embedded in eyeglasses that are helpful for taking hands free photos and videos. This could be useful to designers who produce their own marketing content. Designers can walk through a project while narrating and the spectacles record it all. 

This year's big "toy" is the smart speaker, the Apple HomePod will be vying for home automation market domination with Amazon Echo and Echo Dot as well as Google Home. Smart speakers can be used to control functions in the kitchen like lighting, music and appliances to make those spaces more efficient. They can help unlock our doors and turn on our lights when we come home, they can help us buy our groceries and deliver them they can help feed the dog and let them out; and they can provide the evening's music or movie entertainment.

Smart speakers can make our homes better in so many ways but they can also have negative outcomes. Some voice assistants are always listening and recording conversations, and some send your personal data to the cloud - which you agreed to let them do. Now you no longer own all the rights to the conversations that took place in your home.

Another concern is that TV commercials have been known to trigger smart speaker assistants to make phone calls for you to online stores or even to the sheriff. It's cute when Alexa, Amazon's assistant talks to you but I don't think it's such a good idea that anyone within hearing range of the Echo smart speaker - children, for example- can order merchandise that will be charged your account. Amazon is currently working on the ability to understand different voices.



Touch screens are being replaced by our voices because speech recognition technology has reached an accuracy level equal to humans. Computers can recognize our speech at about 95% accuracy. Say "turn on the exhaust fan" to your assistant or "light up the prep area" and almost magically these things can happen.


Battle lines are being drawn around our privacy in the home. On one hand Amazon needs your data to be a leader in sales, Google needs your data to be a leader in search. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is willing to sacrifice profit for privacy. Apple does not send your data to the cloud like Amazon and Google do. As a professional designer I won't be recommending smart kitchen systems that use my data and share my personal information. There are no laws to protect personal data ownership once across your threshold and goes to the cloud. Read the fine print to see who owns the rights to conversations taking place in your kitchen and your clients' kitchens.


Smart speakers (machines) can learn from us and from our behaviors, and voice recognition is just one aspect of artificial intelligence. Image recognition is another and that's the reason Amazon just introduced the Echo Look, which is a $200 hands-free camera that doubles as a smart speaker.

Artificial intelligence (AI) specifically speech recognition, is making our connection to all things digital and online less abstract. Instead of keyboards touch screens and mice, we can just talk to computers. AI will be a big benefit for us and our clients as we age in place our voices will be able to do things that arthritic hands can't, and folks with shaky hands will be able to use voice to operate things in the kitchen instead of using a keyboard or a touch surface.

Smart kitchen technology has the potential to provide us and our clients with huge benefits - especially when it comes to saving time and ease-of-use. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a big ride, as smart kitchens are now front and center in the race for home automation.

KBIS Announcement

I am really thrilled to be asked to do a presentation about "Designing a Smart Kitchen" at the Kitchen And Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Orlando in January. It's such an honor to be asked by The National Kitchen And Bath Association (NKBA) talk about my two passions, kitchens and technology.

If you are coming to the show please come by and let's chat about the latest in smart tech, voice input and artificial intelligence in the kitchen. We'll see you there!

KBIS Announcement  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

My love affair with my Subzero 700 | Dream Kitchen Builders

Earlier this month, I shared that we were moving to Whispering Pines to spend more time with family. As I was packing up my kitchen to head to the Sandhills, I was thinking about the appliances I chose for our kitchen back in 1997. The one that I distinctly remember purchasing -- and loving over the years -- is our 27 inch wide Subzero 700 all refrigerator. Not only do we love the design, but we've also never had to make a single repair to it! 

My love affair with my Subzero 700  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Subzero was a leader in food preservation in the 1990's, this one even had 3 zones for different types of food preservation. Subzero was also a leader in cabinetry integration. Being great at two things is always awesome -- making this the perfect choice for my home. 

On a different note, we've just gotten started on our second kitchen remodel in Whispering Pines. Here's a couple of before photos: 

My love affair with my Subzero 700  |  Dream Kitchen Builders
My love affair with my Subzero 700  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Continue checking back for updates. And, in the meantime leave us a comment telling us about your favorite kitchen purchase!

Dream Kitchen Builders is a Moore County based design/build firm specializing in kitchens and baths.

Galley Kitchen Fun

Our first Whispering Pines project! This galley kitchen is everything we love about galleys, like how easy they are to prep in and cook in and to clean up after a meal.

Check out the kitchen here:

Galley Kitchen Fun  |  Dream Kitchen Builders
Galley Kitchen Fun  |  Dream Kitchen Builders
Galley Kitchen Fun  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

This pretty kitchen is in need of some storage organizers, updated finishes and some smart technology. All of these objectives can be accomplished with the gut kitchen remodel but good options for a partial remodel as well as a kitchen makeover are available too...What will we do?

Follow along on Dream Kitchen's blog and see the inspiration boards, concept designs and finish selections as we navigate a kitchen remodel with our clients. Stay tuned! 

Dream Kitchen Builders serves Pinehurst, Southern Pines and all Sandhills communities.

Our newest location: Whispering Pines

Our newest location: Whispering Pines  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

The historic Sandhills of North Carolina are the newest location for Dream Kitchen Builders, the North Carolina firm that specializes in designing and producing of one-of-a-kind residential kitchens and other spaces. 

Our Whispering Pines office will allow us to spend more time with family and friends in the Sandhills and we will continue designing and producing kitchens in Greensboro and Guilford County. 

For kitchen renovations in Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen and Whispering Pines Dream Kitchen Builders offers free on-site design consultations and budget estimates.

See you in the Pines!

Our newest location: Whispering Pines  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Times are changing in the Kitchen and Bath Industry

It's striking to me how much has changed in the kitchen & bath industry over the past 10 years. 

There have been many changes in communications, product sourcing, smart technology and consumer awareness and they can all be traced back to the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Smartphones have changed the ways we communicate, shop, learn and they have changed the way we live in our kitchens. Mal Corboy, a well known Auckland NZ kitchen designer says that all of this evolution has changed the design process. 

Most residential design/build project communications used to be done in person, by phone and by email. Dream Kitchen Builders still uses those tools but now we also use messaging apps and social media apps and we use these business tools to communicate via mobile devices.

The amount of kitchen & bath information that's available to consumers is enormous and growing larger every day. This has made us all educated buyers and given consumers more control of each aspect of a design/build project.  

We're now experimenting with smart appliances and wireless devices in the kitchen and bathroom that use artificial intelligence to help us get things done. I cook so I give voice commands to Siri to set a timer adjust my music and more while I'm cooking. I'm hands free so I don't have to stop what I'm doing. Smart Technology hasn't gone mainstream yet but appliance makers and device makers are designing and producing amazing new kitchen and bath products and early adopters are trying them out and talking about them to their friends.

Last but not least every kitchen and bath product seems to have almost limitless options and price points and many include free shipping. Clients are now buying kitchen & bath products online and sourcing them internationally. 

Kitchens & bathrooms have always evolved but the changes we are now seeing are so revolutionary that they are disrupting the way kitchen and bath business is done, changing the relationship between professionals and consumers and changing the way we live.