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Furnishings evolve to keep up with technology

It's one thing to bring new technology into the house. It's another to know what to do with it.

Linda Boldt knows all about that - especially the giantscreen TVs entering today's homes.

As manager of Arthur's Home Furnishings in Orchard Park, she presents the big picture on big-format TVs: The husband loves them; the wife sees them as a huge decorating challenge.

What in the world do you do with these things?

But the furniture industry has come to the rescue with newly introduced entertainment furniture that either conceals today's big-format TVs, as some people prefer, or showcases them - a design trend noted by the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a trade association based in High Point, N.C.

For those who want their TV visible at all times, consoles are available in styles ranging from traditional cherry to contemporary rosewood, Boldt said.

Then, again, some people do not want to see anything that vaguely resembles a console, Boldt said.

No problem. Other entertainment furniture resembles credenzas - but with added technology.

"They have a SmartEye; it's peep-hole size. You just aim your remote at the peep hole to operate all your components inside," Boldt said.

Lift consoles have become a popular option.

"These are the ultimate in elegance because they hide everything. They remotely open and close, allowing your flat screen to rise or disappear efficiently. They are engineered so they do not even disturb the elegant lamp you have on top," she said.

The new entertainment furniture can stand alone or be part of an entire library or wall system.

Something else to watch for in the coming months: Charging stations integrated into furniture suitable for a hallway or den. These accommodate cell phones, iPods and laptops that need to be plugged in, recharged, deposited somewhere besides the kitchen table.

Coming this spring: Sligh Furniture ( has introduced the Family Communication Center that features hidden wire-management technology. One design, at 42- inches wide, resembles a secretary's desk yet it can accommodate eight to 10 gadgets.

"The whole family can walk into the house and plug their cell phones into it," Boldt said.

Similarly, sleek laptop credenzas can be opened to create an instant home office and closed again when not in use. Hardly the massive computer stations of the past.

New technology comes to the garden as well. Consider, for one, the Hydro-Mat available through garden supply companies and catalogs.

"It's a mat that is made out of a poly-spun fabric with polymer crystals," said Lisa Breidenstein, owner of Lisa's Greenhouses on Stoney Brook Road, Town of Aurora.

The 7-by-7-inch mat holds up to a quart of water, which is released slowly.

"They allow people to water less. The mats can be placed in hanging baskets or containers and are very helpful to the gardener," she said.

Also of interest to gardeners are the home weather stations on the market, Breidenstein said.

Brookstone's wireless fiveday forecaster keeps gardeners and other weather-watchers updated with real-time reports received via radio signals from AccuWeather, for example.

Other things to watch for:

* Kitchen gardens. Now you can grow herbs, salad greens and vegetables in your ki tchen year-round with a fully automated appliance called the AeroGarden. No dirt, mess nor pesticides. Visit

* "Performance" sheets. Nano-Tex Coolest Comfort fabric, a nanotechnology-enhanced fabric, is being integrated into bed sheets. The fabric is engineered to draw moisture away from the skin; balance body temperature; retain its natural softness, and more.

Target recently incorporated the fabric into its line of luxury Ultimate 300-Thread-Count Sheet Sets. The sheets are available in five colors and retail for $49.99. JCPenney's line of 350- thread-count Sheet Sets by Studio with the fabric debuted last August.

* Outdoor leather. That's right. Imagine a "leather" chair you can keep on the deck all summer.

"It looks and feels just like leather, but it can go out in the elements. It has the benefits of leather without the cleaning and staining issues," Boldt said.

It was created for the marine industry for big yachts where tacky vinyl won't do, she said. It comes in many colors and costs approximately 20 percent less than a durable grade of leather upholstery. It can be used indoors as well.

Someday, you may even see it on recliners, she said.