L.A. at Home

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Category: Technology

Review: Krups Cup-on-Request coffee maker

Cup-On-Request Single-cup coffee makers may be the rage, but even some fans are uncomfortable with the cost and packaging waste that come with the disposable coffee pods (or K-Cups, in the parlance of Keurig). So when we heard of the new KM9000 Cup-on-Request from Krups, touted as a revolution in “the single-serve coffee experience,” the Home team fired up a test model.

A bit to our surprise, the KM9000 Cup-on-Request fell somewhere between the Keurig concept and a traditional coffee maker. The machine has an internal  removable steel carafe that can brew up to 12 cups of coffee like a traditional machine — no brewing by the cup. The pull-out plastic filter lets you add as much or as little grounds as you'd like, and after they have brewed, you can compost the leftover grounds and filter. What's different is how the coffee is served: Press a button, and it's automatically poured through a spout, a bit like a water dispenser on a refrigerator.

The machine ($199.99) is handsome, but the biggest advantage was how the internal steel carafe and heating system seemed to keep coffee hot for longer than a traditional coffee maker could. The machine allows you keep coffee heated up to four hours, and it has a countdown timer that lets you know how long a brew has been sitting. Though coffee lovers liked the flavor of a fresh batch, resting coffee not surprisingly still smelled and tasted burned as the minutes ticked by.

Bottom line: Cup-on-Request is more like a traditional coffee maker than a Keurig, which is a plus or a minus, depending on one's point of view.

Look for more product reviews, consumer buying guides and chef's kitchen profiles as the Home team embarks on “Mission: Kitchen,” a series running for the rest of the year.


Kitchen counters, a material for every taste and budget

Kitchens: Photos from our home profiles

Daily Dish, The Times' food blog

— Lisa Boone

Photo credit: Krups

Vinci, the tablet computer for babies

Vinci tablet computer

Vinci is believed to be the first tablet computer designed for babies as young as 1 week, and before you roll your eyes, consider this: A recent study by Parenting magazine and BlogHer found that 29% of Gen X moms say their children had played with a laptop by age 2. (OK, now roll your eyes.) In her latest installment of Parentology, Times staff writer Deborah Netburn looks at the Vinci tablet, the latest high-tech "learning system" targeted at the under-4 set.


Neuroses 101: Dorm shopping

Modern diapers: Too many choices

Baby carriers: Who are you wearing?

Credit: Rullingnet Corp.

Function, style merge in emergency mobile homes at Little Tokyo Design Week

EDV3 The victims of Hurricane Katrina would have benefited from the mobile emergency housing unit on display during Little Tokyo Design Week. Called the EDV-01, the self-contained mobile home not only provides  shelter but generates its own electricity and water for two adults for an entire month.

The stainless steel container is 18 feet long, 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall. With the flip of a switch, a hydraulic pump raises the walls to form a second floor with fold-away beds and an office space. The ground floor contains a shower and bio-toilet, as well as a kitchen that cooks food with induction heating.

EDV4                                                           Equipped with a rooftop solar system and a fuel cell to generate power that's stored in lithium-ion batteries, the emergency house can also pluck enough moisture from the air to collect about 5 gallons of drinkable water per day.

"We are extremely proud to ... [show] how design can be used to create function in adverse emergency situations which can be utilized in an efficient and self-contained unit," said Hitoshi Abe, chair of Little Tokyo Design Week and director of the UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies and UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design.

Designed by the Japanese firm Daiwa House, the EDV-01 is making its U.S. debut during Little Tokyo Design Week. It's on display in the plaza of the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. through Sunday.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: EDV-01. Credit: Daiwa House

Little Tokyo Design Week opens 'Future City'

Cities in the Air by#DB93BA

Architecture meets anime at the first Little Tokyo Design Week, which opened Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles. With the theme "Future City," the ambitious program brings together technology and the creative arts in museum exhibitions, design symposiums, a screening of the Japanese animation classic "My Neighbor Tortoro," robot displays and a closing party with food trucks and -- break out those Sailor Moon outfits -- a "cosplay" contest.

If you you aren't sure who Sailor Moon is or didn't know that cosplay is short for costume play, then perhaps you'll want to get with the program, a mixture of intellectual stimulation leavened with pop culture diversions and gee-whiz digital advances. Local and international designers and students will be exploring visions of new urban living, and events are centered on the evolution of futuristic cities since World War II as well as emerging design trends in Japan and Los Angeles.

Among the highlights is the U.S. premiere of the traveling exhibition "Struggling Cities," which includes urban-planning concepts by Japanese architects during the 1960s. (That includes the Lego totem pole cityscape rendering, above.) "Struggling Cities" is on display at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center through July 31. A retrospective of the work of comics artist Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo (again, if you have to ask ...), and a custom vinyl-toy show featuring the work of American artist Frank Kozik will run through Oct. 30 at the Japanese American National Museum.

Logo200 During the "Future City" festival, which, adorably, uses Astro Boy as its mascot, Little Tokyo will be dotted with nearly two dozen steel storage units.

These will serve as pop-up container galleries curated by educators, architects and designers from Los Angeles and Tokyo. They will be on site to discuss their individual installations.

For a full schedule of events, which run through Sunday, visit the Little Tokyo Design Week website.

-- David A. Keeps

L.A. scene: For a steady stream of future headlines, join our Facebook page for California home design.

Photo and illustration credits: Little Tokyo Design Week

Retro accessories for the iPhone and iPad

Iphone_alarm_clockThe iPhone is having a retro moment. Those iPhone photos that look like they were shot in the '70s are showing up on our Facebook wall with increasing frequency, and online shopping site Etsy is teeming with iPhone cases that camouflage your phone as a cassette tape, a Nintendo Game Boy or a pIcadelastic point-and-shoot camera from the '80s.

Why all the interest in making the iPhone look old?

"As technology gets more sophisticated, it kind of loses its soul,” said New York industrial designer Jonas Damon, who created the Alarm Dock, pictured above. “Before, things had a stronger identity because they had physical and mechanical structure, but now objects with archetypal shapes are disappearing.”

To see how designers are bringing back designs of the past for this device of the future, click to our photo gallery of the best retro iPhone looks.


iPhone apps for bird-watchers, wildflower-lovers

Remote control kitchens and other bad ideas

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo, top: Jonas Damon's Alarm Dock is $40 at Areaware.com. Credit: Areaware. Bottom: The iCade by ThinkGeek, $99.99, plays classic arcade games on the iPad. Credit: ThinkGeek.

In touch too much? Kids head off to college -- with mom and dad just a text away


For plenty of parents -- and I am likely to be among them -- the temptation will be great to write a quick email or just shoot a sentence in a text message to a child who's gone off to college. After nearly two decades, letting go won't be so easy.

In fact, many parents and students are not breaking their ties the way they did a couple of generations ago. " 'Good' parents believe that they must always be involved in their children's lives and available to them," Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore write in the book "The iConnected Parent." But, they say, it's not the same to be the parent of a child or adolescent as to be the parent of a young adult.

The college students, too, play a role in how much contact -- and what kind of contact occurs between home and campus. The Home section takes a closer look at the relationship this week.

Hofer and Moore suggest setting some goals and ground rules together over the summer. I, for one, will try to keep my hands off my BlackBerry -- at least some of the time.


The Bond: Why can't some parents let go?

-- Mary MacVean

Illustration credit: Stephen Sedam

A gas station at home? It's Honda's vision of the future

Hydrogen-refueling-Ellen-WeinsteinHonda's FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell car made headlines when it premiered a couple of years ago, and with good reason.

The only emissions from the tailpipe are droplets of water. Who wouldn't want that?

But one of the obstacles to wider adoption of the emerging technology has been the question of gas stations: Places where drivers could refill their tanks with hydrogen were few and far between.

Times staff writer Susan Carpenter, however, recently got a peek at one potential solution: a Honda Clarity home refueling system that essentially turns your house into a personal gas station.

A car that's refueled at home using solar panels and water? Could this be our future?

Read the story to find out. Carpenter and Times videographer Jeff Amlotte also have put together an accompanying video showing the Honda hydrogen refueling station in action.

-- Craig Nakano

Illustration credit: Ellen Weinstein / For The Times 

Remote-controlled kitchens and other bad ideas

In case you didn't have enough remote controls in the house, designers are adding them to the kitchen. At Eurocucina, the biennial exhibition held in conjunction with the Milan furniture fair in Italy, several manufacturers showcased remote-controlled doors that slide to hide appliances or kitchen storage. Others such as Miton premiered kitchen islands with shelving units that popped up or down on cue; Gruppo Del Tongo showed a mirrored-finish island whose faucet lowered so part of the countertop could slide over to hide (partially) the sink. Because what you need more than a Transformers-esque island is a mirrored-finish Transformers-esque island.

Here's video of one example from Pedini (and apologies for cappuccino-withdrawal shakiness):

The islands-in-motion seem more novelty than necessity, but who knows: Next time I have a burning desire to hide spices, then maybe I'll consider buying that island. (Or maybe I'll just put them in a cabinet?) And I'm pretty sure that, as arduous as it will be close a door the traditional way, the process will take less time and energy than looking for another lost remote.

-- Craig Nakano

Video credit: Unfortunately, Craig Nakano

When binoculars won't do ... the wearable hummingbird feeder


Hummingbird enthusiasts, how far are you willing to go for the ultimate hummingbird experience? Because a California inventor has created a hummingbird feeder that you wear on your face.

For $79.95 (shipping included) you buy one of these plastic helmets to pop on your head, sit quietly and motionless near a tree, and wait for the buzzing little birds to zoom up and drink sweet sugar water from a hole between your eyes. It sounds sort of awesome, and sort of terrifying. 

The wearable hummingbird feeder was created by Doyle Doss, a bearded inventor from Humboldt County (surprise!). He got the idea in the 1970s when a humming bird flew right in front of his face, inspecting his then gargantuan red beard for a place to stick its beak.

"I was frozen and then I blinked and it flew away, but it was just so unique," he said. "I always wanted to be able to share that experience with other people."

Here's a video that shows what he came up with:

Doss put the video up on YouTube last fall, and around October it went viral and got more than 300,000 views. All that led to about 100 orders of hummingbird face feeders.

Doss says he hasn't gotten much feedback yet. "Locally any time I can get someone to take a few moments and try it out ... well, everyone has been positive and amazed and ... well, just a little awestruck," he said. "It truly is a personal birding experience unlike any other."

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo credit: Courtesy of Heatstick.com

The Deal: New Joule iPad stand from Element Case

Kicthen HR

You might have trouble finding an iPad in stock at Best Buy or an Apple Store this weekend. So as you have a little time to plan your gadgety future, size up this new accessory.

Element Case, a Belmont, Calif., manufacturer of high-end protective cases for iPhones, has just released a sleek new iPad work stand called Joule. It provides a prop-up base so you can look up recipes from your kitchen countertop, surf the Web at your desk or watch movies from your coffee table.

Joule Back HR The solid-aluminum stand comes in a polished finish or with an anodized black coating and has rubber feet so it won't slip or tip over when you tap or swipe the touch screen. And the recessed slot is lined in velvet to be gentle on your precious new gadget. Custom laser engraving with your name, company logo or other graphic is also an option.

The Joule retails for $129.99 plus $9 shipping to Los Angeles, but Element Case is offering a special promotional discount of $99 to the first 100 L.A. at Home Readers. Simply enter the code H3U2LF9VR at checkout.

-- Lisa Boone

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Photo credit: Robert Hatch


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