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If you know a gadget junkie, you know that they hanker after after anything automatic. They adore the kitchen faucet that you tap on and off with the side of your hand. For them, it was a happy day when drawers that close on their own hit the market and ovens that go into a holding mode after the timer runs down became common. A wall hung bath towel warmer would make them smile as they step onto their electrically-warmed tile floor! Yet, very often gadgets do much more than captivate. They might provide out-of-the-box space-saving ideas.

Traditionally, we think of a gadget as a small tool that has a particular function. Recently, it has also come to describe any cool new technology. Sometimes folks use the term gizmos interchangeably. No matter how we call them, devices that allow increased function and flexibility are a valuable wonder.

The kitchen is a familiar area in the house to find an array of contrivances. European hardware is highly specialized. For instance, thanks to drawer organizers, one can store plates and bowls in a drawer instead of on an upper shelf. This invention enables more space-planning possibilities in cramped kitchens, as does the hardware that allows for pull-out pantry shelves. Magic corners describe the hardware that enables the dead space where two cabinet runs meet to morph into accessible storage space. In some space-starved kitchens this is a critical piece of making the room function.

Featured is the Clean Cut touchless paper towel dispenser that not only keeps food preparation sanitary, it allows you to cut the paper towel in whatever size you really need. In the most cramped of kitchens, this would lift the paper towels off the counter and keep the look super clean. I have three bottles sitting by the sink that drive me crazy: The dishwashing liquid, the hand soap and the hand lotion.

Not only does it look sloppy, the space occupied is about nine inches by nine inches. My kitchen could benefit from a more modern solution.

Often gadgets help with aging constraints. Cupboards that slide up and down to allow one to access upper shelves without getting on a dangerous ladder are popular modifications for the elderly. A person with limited use of fingers and hands might be aided by automatic dispensers of various types. A microwave drawer could be positioned lower and afford the chair-bound easier access to the device. Dishwasher drawers can be positioned at optimum height for a senior, as can refrigerator and freezer drawers.

Some specialty items expand the quality of life for those living in 700 to 1,000-square-foot homes. From portable, folding or rolling exercise equipment to home offices, there are very user-friendly options. Brookstone has treadmills, cardio steppers and elliptical striders that all fold away. Hammacher Schlemmer offers the Foldaway Armoire Gym that collapses into 42-by-28-by-8 inches to slip under a bed or stash in a closet. Nordic Track has a variety of foldaway gym furniture.

Office armoires are plentiful and narrower now with the proliferation of laptops, iPads and notebooks. From the eNook station that hangs off a wall to more traditional furniture, you can compactly store files, mail and bills out of site. The eNook is a narrow station for all your smaller electronic gadgets to charge or a place for your laptop. Open, a unit can be 21.5-by-36-by-25.5 inches. Closed, the entire cabinet only extends into your room by 7 inches. You can configure these cabinets to your own needs and still conserve precious floor space.

Photo Credit: Clean Cut

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net. To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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