It was a cold Carolina winter morning. I was taking my husband’s car, which had been parked outside all night, to an early morning appointment. The hotel valet pulled up the car with the heat on full blast trying to thaw a vehicle doing a faithful impersonation of an iceberg.
Okay - it wasn't THAT frozen, but it was certainly cold enough that I was wishing I was wearing gloves for the steering wheel. However, as I pulled away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the steering wheel was warm! What? A heated steering wheel! All this time, I had no idea his car had the feature (I live in Florida, why would I?). I never thought about a warm steering wheel, but suddenly I found myself yearning for one in my own car.
The automotive industry brilliantly updates their models with innovative features designed to make your life easier and, perhaps most importantly, make you want a new car.
A simpler example? Cup holders! I remember when I was a working mom and was giving a client a ride in my new SUV. He asked me the size of the engine, to which I confidently and enthusiastically replied, “Seven passenger seating and ten cup holders”. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but copious seating and cup holders made me the Carpool Queen while minimizing the in-car arguments.
Of course, we tend to buy cars more frequently than we buy houses, but we can still learn a lesson or two from the automotive industry by constantly evaluating the built environment in which we live and focusing on how to improve. Perhaps it starts with an irritation like a cold steering wheel on a cold morning. Let’s run through a few past “Ah-ha!” moments.
Curved Shower Curtain Rods
The straight curtain rod seemed pretty straight forward at first glance. But as soon as you turned on the shower, the curtain was sucked into the tub and proceeded to stick to the person bathing. Yuck! How long did this to go on before someone finally implemented the curved shower curtain rod? Not only would the curtain not stick to the bather, but it also gave them more space inside the shower.
Kitchen Cabinet Garage Cans
What was the design inspiration behind designing it into our kitchen cabinets? Was it a kitchen designer who felt their beautiful kitchen was ruined by the large, white plastic garage can? Or was it the need to have two trash cans, one for trash and one for recyclables? Perhaps it was because the dog kept getting into the trash can sitting out in the open. All of the above? Whatever the reason, I’m a big fan and it has become a standard in kitchen design.
Dust-pan Central Vacuum
I was never a big proponent of the central vacuum system. That was before I learned that you could get an electronic dust pan in the base board, eliminating bending down to sweep dust and pet hair into a dust pan. Now I’m convinced I can’t live without it.
Today, we’re still innovating. Have you ever tripped on the dog’s water bowl in the middle of the night? This spawned the pet palace. Have you yearned for a place to house our deliveries that’s safe from weather or theft? Bring on the parcel delivery vestibule!
Such simple things can have a big impact on our daily lives. A collection of small but impactful innovations that make used homes obsolete and new homes all that more desirable. But more importantly, we should all raise our awareness of not accepting the status quo just because it’s the way we’ve always done it. Instead, we should be constantly questioning and seeking improvement.