DIY smart home: Here’s how to get started

When my parents, my sister, my 90-pound black lab and I quarantined under the same roof for the majority of the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear our condo’s galley kitchen needed a major facelift to keep up with our new housebound lifestyle. It hasn’t been renovated since being built in the 1980s, and one by one, appliances and fixtures were giving out. During the first week of stay-at-home orders, the pull-out faucet’s lever snapped. Most recently, the microwave stopped reheating leftovers.

After making do with bad lighting, a shoddy sink basin and a dishwasher that sounds like a bulldozer, my parents decided they wanted to bring their kitchen into the 21st century – and they wanted to do it themselves. I might not have the eye for finishes like my mom or knowledge of power tools like my dad, but there is something I have to offer: experience with smart home devices.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be highlighting the upgrades that will raise our family home’s IQ. While remodeling the kitchen is the central project, I’m using the opportunity to outfit the larger living area with the latest smart home technology. My ultimate goal is create is to create an automated, accessible and affordable IoT space.

DIY smart home

Don’t mind the mess: Here’s peak inside my condo’s galley kitchen. We’ve already begun dissembling the cabinets and making way for demolition. (Image credit: Future)

For those who want to create their own DIY smart home, I’ll document my decision making while providing context to the complex and saturated market of connected devices.

We’ll inspect every aspect of a smart home, from appliances to the best smart light bulbs, best video doorbells, and more. We’ll look at virtual assistants and highlight the often-overlooked benefits that come with upgrading to intelligent systems. I’ll also show you how simple (or not) it is to install any of the best smart thermostats or best smart locks on your own.

I’ll also disclose some hacks I’ve picked up on in my time as a smart home writer, especially ones that should simplify things for my parents when I’m not around to ask Alexa to change the light scene on their behalf. Who knows? I’ll probably learn a few new things in the process, too.

But most importantly, I’ll look to answer questions you might have. E-mail me at or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover in these series of DIY smart home stories, whether it’s a how-to or buying decision you’re struggling to make. Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices (and best cheap smart home devices) while you’re at it.

The first installment you can expect to see covers the wide world of kitchen appliances. Finding the right suite of machinery was one of the earliest steps of our renovation process. And, it happens to align with the 2021 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), which kicks off February 9. GE, Samsung, Kohler, LG and Miele are some of the big names participating in the virtual exhibition. We previewed some of their appliance announcements at CES 2021 last month, but next week we’ll learn more about the leading trends and technologies for ovens, ranges, refrigerators and more.

We’ll update this page as new DIY smart home installments are published. Bookmark it for the latest reports from the demolition site – err, I mean, my kitchen.

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