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The Future of Home Design and Automation: Mansion Global Interviews Francis Nicdao


Francis Nicdao, Principal & Chief Creative Office, speaks with Mansion Global’s Rory Glaeseman about what’s next for home design and automation in an ever-changing real estate market.

Pembrooke & Ives Leadership, Francis Nicdao

How do you balance creative vision with the right level of automation for the client?

We have a holistic approach to design. It’s about listening to the client and being site-specific to each project. Form and function are equally important – we don’t value one over the other. I think our most successful projects are the ones where technology seamlessly integrates with the design.

Tribeca Loft, Photography by Genevieve Garruppo
Tribeca Loft, Photography by Genevieve Garruppo

What are you seeing in New York City and urban areas of the East Coast as it relates to how automation and design are working together?

At Pembrooke & Ives, we are fortunate to have clients that often have multiple homes, so a lot of the projects we work on are second or third homes. Full-house automation is something that is pretty consistent throughout all of our projects. By that, I mean audio, visual, music, HVAC, lighting, shades, etc. What’s been coming up recently is security as it pertains to a second or third home. It’s the kind of thing that lets our clients sleep at night; knowing all the lights are off, that their sensors for fire or moisture are working properly, and knowing their safety and possessions are taken care of.

West Side Elegance - Pembrooke & Ives - West Side apartment with alabaster light fixture, custom...
West Side Elegance, Photography by Genevieve Garruppo

Do you find synergy between multiple homes to be important to the client to keep an eye on their properties while they’re residing elsewhere?

Definitely. I think there needs to be synergy with how the client’s technology works. We find that it’s easiest when there is some sort of consistency among their various homes because ease of use is so important. The simpler the better. Right now luxury is different. It’s not about shiny things or so many buttons. I think there is luxury in having ease of use.


What are you seeing as far as the pairing between design trends that are coming up and the technology that follows or pairs with that?

We’re really happy with the availability of automated systems with wireless capacity. Being in New York, renovation projects are difficult. We try to avoid opening up walls when possible. With Wi-Fi enabled products being much more reliable, we’re happy that we have much more flexibility and freedom to be doing what we want to do.

The other trend that has been coming up a lot is clients having a little bit more control. Before, for you to have the luxury of these automation systems, you always needed someone to program them for you. Some of these companies are learning that a client is going to want to set their own scene and they’re going to have to compete with retail-type products that may not work for larger homes. So I think clients want to have more control. That trend is across all levels of our projects and we’re happy to see it.

Red Mountain - Primary bedroom of Red Mountain vacation home with upholstered headboard, medium...
Red Mountain, Photography by JC Buck

Are you seeing a particular room with your clients and the space you create that is focusing a lot on automation and home design?

Since the pandemic, I find that the focus is back on the primary bedroom. It has become a command station for a lot of our clients, where they control security, lighting, etc. All of these elements have become accessible in the primary bedroom to escape or monitor the home.


Are you finding that in your space you can bring technology and automation synergy to the client in a convenient way? I imagine in the New York space, technology is pretty prevalent, so maybe there is a higher level of fluency within the market.

Many of our clients invest in technology. In some cases, it’s a little bit scary that they know more than we do! Luckily in New York, there’s so much access to all of the latest and greatest technologies and so many of the major players have showrooms here, so our clients and our team are easily educated and exposed. With so much access come so many choices. We like to say we know enough to be dangerous, but we rely on AV consultants to teach us and to make the best recommendations because every project and every client is different. Some like everything wireless, some sleep better at night knowing that it’s wired. You can really take it in many different directions. We always make recommendations based on what we know, but we listen to the experts’ guidance whenever possible.


Are there structural concerns with technology?

It takes a lot of work to make technology look easy. There are many benefits of these automations with regards to sustainability or effects on the environment, so that’s a big thing to consider. Something even as simple as the shades being timed with sunrise and sunset offer benefits to heat gain. It’s our job to surface some of these concepts as a cost-saving measure for energy consumption.


If you could have your way, what “tech treat” would you need to have?

Some products are so beautiful these days, such as the Forbes & Lomax controls, that it may not be all about hiding them. They’re part of your life, you want to touch them. I’d love to have more items like this that become jewelry within a space. In terms of lighting, with full-spectrum lighting for products like Ketra, it’s no longer just about dimming capability. Now there’s warm dimming and full-spectrum, so you can be in the California sun or grey London weather, or at a party with pink lights all within one system. That flexibility for me is huge.

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