Solutions: Technology downsizing many home components

Jeanine Matlow

When I finally replaced my ancient garage door opener for my car, I took some time to admire the new one that was tiny by comparison. It made me think about all the home components that have downsized in recent years, despite the fact that many houses continue to increase their footprint.

I still remember my first cellphone, even though it had such a pathetic aesthetic that it would be easy to forget. Unlike today’s varieties, this phone barely fit in the glove compartment and it would never be able to fit in my purse. I saw a similar version not too long ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. It is truly amazing to see how far the industry has come.

Through the years, our cellphones have become a lot smaller and a lot smarter.

Although TV screens seem to increase in size by the minute, their sleek profiles make them practically disappear in the room. I remember it took two people to haul away the old ones because they weighed a ton.

Even our furniture is more compact these days with selections that take up less space while providing equal or greater usage than their predecessors.

For instance, instead of a substantial coffee table and end tables, you could substitute nesting tables that tuck together and ottomans on wheels for easy movement.

Adjustable tables that adapt to different heights let you eat and lounge in the same spot, often eliminating the need for an additional dining area.

On a similar note, c-tables, a modern-day interpretation of TV trays, free up a lot of space. Those that have a rectangular shape can often accommodate a laptop or a magazine.

Entertainment centers, though not entirely extinct, are no longer necessary in many situations because we’ve done away with cumbersome stereo equipment, TVs and other components.

Some households have replaced traditional books with e-readers, traded albums and CDs for iTunes, and swapped DVDs for streaming video.

Photos proudly displayed in frames are often stored on smart phones and other devices.

Personal computers have gone from permanent fixtures that require a dedicated desk to portable laptops and tablets that can be carried around the house.

Just about anything comes in a smaller version. For example, budding musicians can take piano lessons with an electronic keyboard instead of the traditional upright instrument that takes up more room and costs more, too.

Some homeowners have gone so far as to forgo upper kitchen cabinets in favor of open shelves. Pedestal sinks have made a comeback in the bathroom, even though they have little to offer in terms of storage.

Conventional dining room hutches are not as popular as standalone buffets. And while I fondly remember growing up with a grandfather clock, many rely on wall clocks to check the time.

Maybe we can take a cue from the “bigger isn’t always better” trend and fill our homes with smaller pieces that leave more breathing room for the people who live there.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at