Apparently, there are 75 (!) electrical outlets in the average American home that serve one and one purpose only: to deliver the juice.

That being said, electrical outlets have long been considered an unattractive, strictly utilitarian affair; an archenemy of interior designers and aesthetic-conscious homeowners that are rarely gussied up in the same manner as more visible light switches. They’re also, unless preventive measures are taken, unsafe for foreign object-wielding tykes (2,400 children are admitted to emergency rooms each year due to injuries sustained from sticking things into outlets). Plus, unless you practice extreme vigilance or invest in a special vampire energy-combating device, electrical outlets are a huge source of wasted energy when appliances and electronics are left plugged in but continue to draw electricity while standby mode.

LivingPlug InletSan Francisco-based startup LivingPlug has set out to reinvent the electrical outlet with a potentially game-changing device dubbed the INLET. Currently seeking funds/taking pre-orders on Kickstarter (eight days left, folks!) and making its grand debut as this year’s Dwell on Design show in L.A., the INLET tackles all the issues — “ aesthetics, child safety, energy efficiency and antiquated functionality — that have longed plagued outlet-hating homeowners.

Not only does the INLET obscure the outlet itself but enhances it with the inclusion of a 2.1v USB charger, three-tamper resistant outlets, and an UNPlug Button which allows users to halt the flow of electricity to appliances without having to physically unplug anything, which as well all know, is sometimes easier said than done.

As explained on the INLET Kickstarter campaign page, safety played a key role in design of the device:

The three tamper resistant outlets will improve child safety by creating a lock that will prevent electrical connectivity if a metal object (paperclip, scissors etc.) penetrates only one of the receptacles, electricity will only flow if the outlet is used properly. Adding to the child safety benefits is an optional anchor screw that allows parents to secure the INLET directly to a standard outlet, thus preventing a child from accessing the non-tamper resistant outlets on the wall.
As did good looks:
As we focused on the utility deficiencies of the modern outlet, we also realized how unaesthetic it is and how outlets are an afterthought (at best) when a room is designed or decorated. Our frustration was not alone, almost all architects and designers we spoke with identified this as a challenge and home décor magazines and furniture catalogs go to great lengths to avoid having outlets pictured in layouts (go ahead and try to find one – it’s a lot harder than Where’s Waldo).
To that end, the INLET boasts an interchangeable faceplate system that allows users to “further conceal their outlet.” However, from what I’ve seen, the faceplates draw even more attention to the outlet ... but in, of course, a tasteful way.

At launch, a solid walnut INLET faceplate will be available along with ABS and MDF wood options in which customers can choose from a variety of prints and designs to grace the unit. LivingPlug also plans to provide a personalized faceplate option where users can upload their own graphics or photographs. Just think … instead of an ugly old outlet you can have a photo of your pug, your grandma, a bouquet of flowers, or even an electrical outlet (in case you miss it) gracing the wall. Eventually, the company also plans to partner with a variety of decorators and artists to introduce a range of custom designs that further beautify the device.

Explain the folks at LivingPlug:
We decided to focus on this century old technology because we are frustrated that society takes for granted something so central to everyone's lives, not only in the outlet’s singular use, but also in its complete lack of aesthetic. It became very apparent that most attempts to improve on the outlet resemble the powerstrip and are sold in a hardware aisle, inversely there are a few beautifully designed solutions that are largely inaccessible due to a hefty price and a challenging installation.

In developing LivingPlug, we have deconstructed the outlet and have mapped a new solution that will enhance aesthetics, improve child safety, assist energy conservation and add to the human experience through greater utility.

Good stuff. As mentioned, the INLET is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign that will enable the company to complete the tooling process and move into the production phase. LivingPlug has already partnered with a manufacturer in China to produce the units while the faceplates will be milled in Minnesota. As for custom printing, that will happen in Sacramento.

There's only a few days of the campaign remain so if you like what you see — and what you potentially won’t see — put in a pre-order starting at $20. And be sure to check out, LivingPlug’s online community dedicated to promoting the fact that “human beings deserve better than the ubiquitous duplex outlet.”

Have you long struggled with the inherent ugliness of the electrical outlets in your home?

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Outlet-deconstructing device aims to beautify, stamp out wasted energy
Now seeking funds on Kickstarter, the INLET is a safety-boosting and energy-saving device that hides ugly wall outlets.