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Ingenious new technology promises to take the strain out of housework



Housework will never disappear, alas. But a global technology revolution is set to make our homes simpler to operate – and also more hygienic.

Change was already under way before the pandemic, but lockdowns and working from home have accelerated the pace. 

Now a whole range of companies are betting that more people will invest in devices that take the strain out of cleaning, combat infection, provide a restaurant-type experience, or lift the mood through lighting or other means.

Home of the future: Companies are betting that more people will invest in devices that take the strain out of cleaning, combat infection or provide a restaurant-type experience

Home of the future: Companies are betting that more people will invest in devices that take the strain out of cleaning, combat infection or provide a restaurant-type experience

Banish the gloom

American houses are being equipped with systems that mimic the light outdoors based on the time of day, allowing the occupants to be ‘at one with nature’.

In the UK, sales of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps, such as the Beurer Wake Up Light have risen by 81 per cent at John Lewis. 

This Bluetooth device (£120) helps you fall asleep to a light that mimics sunset and rouses you from your slumbers to a simulated sunrise with soothing sounds.

For further solace, you can jump into a chromotherapy shower, where the water changes colour, either to a prefixed palette, or your own selection of cheering shades. Living House offers systems starting at £170 (

Robo cook and clean

Robotics will play a crucial role in this transformation of the way we live, clean and cook. Irobot (, the U.S. company behind the £1,199 Roomba robot vacuum cleaner and mop (operated via an app on your phone), contends that, before too long, a robot will load and unload the dishwasher.

The Sage pizza oven (£699.99) is powered by algorithms that ensure even cooking

The Sage pizza oven (£699.99) is powered by algorithms that ensure even cooking

Not every innovation smacks of sci-fi. Huge effort is being applied to the improvement of everyday gadgets, particularly those essential for breakfast, which has become a more important family meal thanks to home-working and schooling.

Lovers of toast will be unable to wait for the arrival on our shores of The Toaster from Balmuda, a Japanese company. For £240 it pledges to deliver the perfect slice of toast (or cheese on toast) thanks to steam technology.

It is now possible to see how such appliances could look in your kitchen by downloading an augmented-reality app onto your phone.

Anyone thinking of acquiring a Sage espresso machine (£379 to £1,999.95, sage or £699.95 pizza oven, powered by algorithms that ensure even cooking, can use this technology to see which machine best suits their decor, while weighing the cost against likely usage.

In the UK, sales of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps, such as the Beurer Wake Up Light have risen by 81 per cent at John Lewis

In the UK, sales of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps, such as the Beurer Wake Up Light have risen by 81 per cent at John Lewis

Contactless kitchen

The appeal of the £279.95 Simplehuman ( combined waste and recycling bin — which opens when you approach or say ‘open can’ — may seem less obvious.

But this item is in the vanguard of the shift towards contactless living in the kitchen and elsewhere in the home, which is set to be the lasting legacy of the fear of infection spurred by coronavirus.

A voice command will open the door of the next addition to the LG range of InstaView smart fridges, which connect to wifi and have an interactive screen that displays the contents of the fridge.

LG’s £5,449 wine cooler opens with a sensor, a high-tech feature in a device which promises to replicate the temperature conditions of a deluxe restaurant cellar (

Visions of the future

Assuming that we want to have as much family fun as possible at home, this month LG also unveiled a 48 in TV bendable screen, to be used flat for watching TV and curved for gaming.

Other devices that may be on their way include the Sparshless contactless button that can be installed in existing lifts to reduce the transmission of bacteria. You choose the floor to which you wish to go by pointing at the button.

Future Of The Home, a new report from Aritco, the Sparshless developer, outlines other designs spurred by the pandemic, such as the Vortec bladeless ceiling fan, developed at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which kills microorganisms.

Researchers in the Swedish city of Umea have produced the Muho, a hallway sanitisation station that disinfects hands, keys and phones. 

Let’s hope that Electrolux, which collaborated in the project, opts to roll-out the product.

Justin Sablich of the consultancy Springwise, the report’s author, says that ‘the pandemic has shifted our priorities’.

The assumption that our lives will be different for a number of years will drive the adoption of more technology, especially since many households were already running their lives differently thanks to voice assistants such as Alexa and mobile phone apps.

But our readiness to adapt to this change should not throw us off our guard. The smarter your home becomes, the higher the risk of hacking. 

A dishwasher that orders up its own supplies of detergent and salt may be a handy housemate, but it has the potential to become an enemy within.

A report from the Which? consumer agency revealed that the security updates on some smart appliances run out before the end of the lifetime of these appliances, leaving them vulnerable to hackers.

Let’s hope that the Government moves swifty, as promised, to ‘ensure stronger security is built into consumer smart products’, because the home revolution is unstoppable.

What your home really needs is a… new vase 

Argos's ribbed glass vase in smokey blue , £16) adds a hint of 1930s glamour

Argos’s ribbed glass vase in smokey blue , £16) adds a hint of 1930s glamour

There are still 57 days until the first day of spring. But as every home needs that season’s spirit of hopefulness just now, a new vase will help.

Fill it with daffodils from the supermarket and position it close to yourself on a Zoom call and you will spread the cheer around. 

You could tell everyone that the Egyptians (who began making pottery vases in about 1,500 BC) seem to have been the first to display blooms this way, but that’s up to you.

Whatever your taste in decor, this is one of the cheapest ways to raise the mood. At Dunelm, a rectangular glass vase with a Scandi feel costs just £6 ( 

Argos ( has a ribbed glass vase in smokey blue , £16) with a hint of 1930s glamour. 

Wayfair ( supplies a wide assortment, including a silver jug-shaped vase (£13.99) for the ‘cottagecore’ (hip rural) look.

The ancient Greeks’ obsession with vases is well-chronicled, and many of their masterpieces fill our museums.

If you long for a modern masterpiece, Selfridges ( can oblige with examples of Waterford crystal (£100 to £1,121).

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Real Estate

Planning permission sought for 600 apartments on former Irish Glass site



Planning permission for 600 apartments on the former Irish Glass Bottle site near Ringsend in Dublin has been submitted by a consortium led by developer Johnny Ronan.

The consortium, which also includes the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), Oaketree Capital Management, and Lincor Developments, is expecting construction to commence on what is the first phase of Pembroke Quarter early next year.

The site was once a symbol of Celtic Tiger hubris after receivers appointed by Nama were appointed in 2012 after its respective owners ran into financial trouble. However, the vacant plot is now earmarked to become Dublin’s newest suburb, which once completed will deliver 3,800 homes, more than one million sq ft of commercial space, and educational facilities and other community amenities.

One quarter of the units developed at the site are to be allocated to social and affordable homes.

The property has been earmarked for development for some time with a company called Becbay, which was backed by developer Bernard McNamara, property financier Derek Quinlan, and State agency the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, having acquired the holding in 2006 for €412 million in an Anglo Irish Bank-backed deal.


Mr Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE), Oaktree Capital and Lincor were chosen as preferred bidders for a 80 per cent controlling stake in the former Irish Glass Bottle site last year after submitting a bid valued at in excess of €130 million. Nama has retained the remaining 20 per cent stake in the project.

Other shortlisted bidders for the controlling stake last year were: Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Group; Dallas-based private equity giant Lone Star’s Quintain Ireland housebuilding unit; and Hines, a US real estate group.“This site that, for many years, has held so much unfulfilled potential to deliver housing in Dublin is finally being brought to life,” said Rory Williams, chief executive of RGRE.

“Over the coming years Pembroke Quarter will deliver much-needed homes for more than 10,000 people in Dublin’s city centre. We understand deeply how acute the need for housing is in the city, so we are very pleased to be able to submit this planning application for the first phase of development so quickly after the purchase of the site,” he added.

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said: “We are delighted to see this superbly located Dublin Bay site move into the first phase of its development lifecycle with the submission of this first planning application for 600 residential units.”

He added that the 25 per cent allocated to social and affordable units would “provide homes to those most in need, close to the heart of Dublin”.

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New-build flats with communal work-from-home space are just the job 



Whether it’s perching computers on ironing boards or struggling to find a peaceful corner in the chaos of a noisy family house, most of us have had to adapt our homes over the past 18 months.

But as the trend for flexible working looks set to continue, a new concept in housing is gaining traction.

Work from home (WFH) developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents are popping up across the country.

Modern living: Work from home developments with a 'hub' shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

Modern living: Work from home developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

‘The hub is a way of retaining the social aspect of office life,’ says Karly Williams, director of Barratt North Thames. ‘Being close to home enables residents to manage domestic issues, while mixing with others staves off any sense of loneliness and alienation.’

At Barratt’s Linmere development in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, which is due to launch in December, the office hub will be surrounded by cafes, shops and green outdoor space.

WFH residents won’t feel they are missing out on the coffee breaks and sandwich lunches they used to enjoy as part of conventional office life. Barratt’s co-working offices and homes are priced from £101,000 to £439,500.

WFH developments can also be effective in regenerating rural areas where unemployment is a problem.

In the village of Lawrenny in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, planning permission has just been granted to a local farmer, David Lort-Phillips, to build a WFH development of 39 homes with shared offices. 

Lawrenny has been in steady decline since the 1980s and until recently looked like becoming little more than a cluster of holiday homes.

‘A village should be more than that; it should be a place to earn a living and to have a busy family life,’ says Lort-Phillips. ‘Many of the new WFH houses will be bought by people returning to Lawrenny, having been brought up here.

‘They will put back into the community, using local businesses and training up local young people.’

Prices of the new homes will range from £300,000 to £500,000 for two to four bedrooms, with management fees of £400 per annum.

One danger of building this kind of development in the countryside is that the new homes will jar architecturally with older, nearby properties. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Galion Homes builds its developments in Somerset with home-workers in mind, so all the homes have offices with superfast broadband as well as nearby hubs and cafes.

‘We won’t be ugly “tack-ons” to villages,’ says Victoria Creber, sales director at Galion. ‘We build developments of no more than 50 homes, at low density, using local stone with a big nod to the local vernacular.’

Disturbing research, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, was published recently showing 25 per cent of WFH Londoners said they had suffered reduced well-being.

Fizzy Living, which targets its rental apartments at young professionals with an average age of 32 and earning £44,000 a year, tries to make life as stress-free as possible in its East 16 block in Canning Town. 

The scheme comprises 292 apartments, each with its own balcony. Amenities include a meeting room, residents’ lounge, games area and yoga studio.

It claims to be the most pet-friendly building in London, having a specially designed dog washroom (known as the Pawder Room) and it offers a pet-friendly furniture pack for the more delinquent cats and dogs.

‘This block works for me because I can use different spaces for different activities and this combats stress,’ says designer Asher Peruscini, 37, from San Francisco.

‘I use my desk when I’m in design mode, the balcony for more creative stuff and the meeting rooms downstairs for socialising.’ Rentals are from £1,430 pcm.

For those who appreciate the zany side of life, Quintain Living has built The Robinson, a collection of three apartment blocks at Wembley Park in North-West London, in what its describes as ‘retro kitsch’ style.

Each building has a roof terrace where there are surreal delights such as a giant orange-shaped juice bar, a 50-yard row of sun loungers — reputedly the longest in Britain — and a slide that runs down to a courtyard in the floor below.

The WFH component isn’t forgotten — high-speed wifi is found in converted campervans on the terrace.

To de-stress, there is even a rentable spa caravan with a hot tub. From £1,755 furnished; £1,670 unfurnished.

Are WFH developments here to stay?

‘I don’t think working from home will ever replace the buzz of a team of people working towards one goal in the same office,’ says Harry Downes, managing director of Fizzy Living.

‘But I do foresee people being given the freedom to work at home when they need to, reporting into the office only to be kept updated on the bigger picture. It’s a new lifestyle and this type of development caters for it.’ 

On the market… with office space 

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South Africa 17 Lions 22



15 Stuart Hogg

Something of a flip-flop in terms of his strengths as a player as one or two misplaced passes in attack but resolute and solid in defence. A couple of glimpses of his footwork and pace but he’ll be hoping for more ball next Saturday. Rating: 6

14 Anthony Watson

He was excellent in the first half, the Lions most potent force in attack in being able to escape multiple tacklers, albeit most of the time in lifting pressure in his own 22/half. The ball didn’t run his way after the interval. Rating: 7

13 Elliot Daly

It was his first game at outside centre in Test rugby in five years and it showed. He gave away a couple of penalties, missed his trademark long-range penalty, was bested physically in the collisions and will be under pressure to retain his place. Rating: 5

Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

12 Robbie Henshaw

Shaded his physical duel with Damian de Allende, carried aggressively, was accurate in the tackle and scrambled well, highlighted by forcing a crucial knock-on from Lukhanyo Am. He made one fine break albeit losing possession and a couple of finger-tip knocks-on but generally good. Rating: 7

11 Duhan van der Merwe

A couple of snapshots of his power in the tackle but like Watson was never given the type of ball where he could impose his strength. He didn’t have many questions to answer in defence because Cheslin Kolbe got very little ball. Rating: 6

10 Dan Biggar

The Welsh outhalf kicked 14 points from the tee and in a general sense, one pulled place-kick aside, his kicking game was reasonably well directed. He didn’t really bring his backline into play at any stage, suffocated by the Boks’ defensive press but overall the ledger was appreciably positive. Rating: 7

The British & Irish Lions

Full coverage of all the action in South Africa READ MORE

9 Ali Price

He looked a little overwhelmed by the pace and physicality in the first 20 minutes but he gradually settled to the task. It was his excellent box-kicking after the restart that yielded opportunities for the Lions to regain possession and wrest control. Rating: 7

1 Rory Sutherland

A late call-up to the starting team due to Wyn Jones’s unavailability he was pinged twice at the scrum and the fact that his replacement Mako Vunipola made an appreciable difference when introduced could see him struggle to be in the matchday 23 next Saturday. Rating: 5

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

Two errant lineouts, one overthrown the other crooked, were the only real blemishes on his try-scoring performance that was accompanied by a high work-rate on both sides of the ball. Rating: 6

Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

3 Tadhg Furlong

Loves a good celebration from the lineout maul tries, he won an important scrum penalty and was an important buffer in that set-piece when the Boks chased dominance there. He carried and tackled with typical application in a robust performance over the 67 minutes. Rating: 7

4 Maro Itoje

Deserved man-of-the-match, three turnovers in the first half alone including one within a few metres of the Lions’ line that saved a try. Immense in every facet of the game, he led by example especially in defence; intelligent and unrelenting. Rating: 9

5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt)

He was very quiet in the first half but considering the injury from which he has recovered that was to be expected. He was a key figure in the Lions’ second-half revival that included work-rate and decision-making. Rating: 7

6 Courtney Lawes

A huge performance in all aspects of the game, out of touch, carrying, making an eye-catching break that took him through three attempted tackles as a pre-cursor to one of his side’s better attacking moments. Tackled with authority. Rating: 8

7 Tom Curry

There could be no faulting his desire and work ethic but in conceding three penalties he demonstrated an impetuous streak that proved a bit of a handicap to his team in that opening half. His place will be under threat. Rating: 5

8 Jack Conan

He provided illustrations of the many qualities that he brings to a team, making one of two line breaks, defending and tackling with intelligence and carried the ball more than any other Lions player. Rating: 7


In a collective sense they, to a man, added energy and momentum at a crucial stage. Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler gave their team a rock solid scrum, forcing a penalty there to boot. Hamish Watson was lucky to avoid a card for a dangerous tackle. Conor Murray and Owen Farrell brought control and maturity for the most part. Rating: 8


Warren Gatland deserves great credit for the team selection initially as most of the big calls that he made work out superbly. His half-time recalibration of tactics and focus worked a treat as did the timing of the replacements. He’s never been afraid to change things up and that may be reflected in a couple of changes for the second Test one of which could see Bundee Aki drafted in at 12 with Henshaw moving to 13. Rating: 8

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