[ED. NOTE: THIS POST WAS UPDATED IN APRIL 2019 AFTER INITIAL PUBLICATION IN DECEMBER 2019.]
It’s a little challenging to find stuff on this blog. I think it’s in part because I favor titles that are punny and weird over the more straight-forward “5 Coats You Need in Your Closet,” and in part because I write a lot, so there’s a lot to sift through.
Anyway, I get a lot of questions asking things like “what’s the curling iron you use again?” and “I can’t find the post with the makeup removing pads you use in it” and “where can I find your list of small apartment gear recs?” So, I thought I’d start compiling a few lists of my absolute favorite products, organized by category, and will update them on occasion. I’m focusing this list on home products since they’re top of mind with the recent move and I’ve had occasion to give some thought to what I like vs. what I don’t (for example, the jury’s still out on the OXO Good Grips canisters I bought for flour, sugar, etc — I don’t find the airtight seal works particularly well! UPDATE: I can confirm that Progressive’s Prep Solutions series is far superior to OXO’s Good Grips. I especially love their sugar keepers — this little container ACTUALLY keeps brown sugar soft!), and will do another on baby gear (update: done), and another on clothing/self-care (update: here) at some point, too. LMK what you think or if there are categories I’m missing.
I’ve written about all of these products elsewhere on the blog, but I’m included a brief note on each. If I don’t have something you’re looking for, please feel free to ask me, but if there are omissions, it might also be that I just haven’t found something I’m enthused about…
The Best Kitchen Products.
+Paring knife: Kuhn Rikon 4″. We have a full set of fancy Shun knives, but these are our go-tos because they’re inexpensive, can be thrown in the dishwasher, and remain remarkably sharp for a long time.
+Loaf Pan: Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch. DOES NOT WARP OR TARNISH. Dish-washer safe and nonstick. The full package.
+Muffin Pan: Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch. See virtues outlined above!
+Baking Sheets: Nordicware. Commercial grade — does not warp and conducts heat very evenly across the pan.
+Cutting Board: Epicurean and Boos. Mr. Magpie prefers the former (lighter-weight, knife-safe, heat-safe, dishwasher-safe), I the latter (heavier-weight, more attractive, has a lip that catches any juices that might run from carving meat, etc.) Mr. Magpie also gifted me a mini epicurean cutting board in my stocking this past Christmas and it’s probably the single most used cutting surface in our kitchen — perfect for dicing up fruit for mini, slicing sandwiches, etc.
+Steak Knives: Laguiole. Beautiful. Sharp.
+Electric kettle: Bonavita. Heats water instantly, with an easy-to-use display. The gooseneck spout is a delight to pour from, and — more practically — is exactly what you need for making perfect pourovers.
+Citrus Juicer: Can’t find our exact model (it’s OLD and label-less), but this looks identical. You want something heavy that will catch all the seeds. I know a lot of chefs swear by a good old-fashioned hand-held reamer but I hate that the juice drips all over my hand and I still need to catch the seeds.
+Cast-Iron Skillet: Lodge. Gets better with time, as it continues to “season.” Possibly our most-used cooking vessel in the house. It leaves everything with the perfect crust.
+Peeler: Kuhn Rikon. The perfect handle length to give you complete control, and it retains its sharpness for a long, long, long time. Those long spindly ones are so unwieldy! Plus — CHEAP!
+Burr Grinder: Capresso. Works without a hitch and hasn’t let us down in over a decade. If you grind your own beans, and are purist about these things like Mr. Magpie is, definitely invest in a burr grinder vs. a conventional grinder — with the latter, the grinding process burns the beans and alters the taste.
+Knife Set: Shun. Beautifully designed. They have a great heft to their handle and are exceptionally sharp. If you prefer a lighter-weight knife, Globals are where it’s at, but Mr. Magpie and I are both devotees of the Shun. It’s more about personal preference.
+Liquid Measuring Cups: Pyrex and ISI Silicon. Pyrex is tried and true and heavy-duty. I like the narrower design of the ISI when heating my milk in the morning — you can insert the frother and froth it way up without it overflowing.
+Dry Measuring Cups: All Clad. They never warp, stand up on their own (i.e., don’t tip), are dishwasher-safe, and nest inside one another.
+Frother: Aerolatte. Inexpensive but makes a lovely batch of frothed milk for a poorman’s home latte.
+Wine Tumblers: We have nice sets of Schott Zwiesel and Riedel wine glasses in all different shapes and sizes, but I like to drink my wine out of juice glasses. We own a few different sets — these are my current favorite. We call them “stubs” in our house — “Do you want a stem or a stub?” (Ha!)
Cheese Grater / Citrus Zester: Microplane. Indispensable to everyday cooking.
The Best Storage Products.
+Cabinet organization: Interdesign. They come in a range of sizes, but truly simplify and organize your pantry.
+Snack Storage: Crate + Barrel Glass Storage Canisters. I like to keep things like pretzels, peanuts, M+Ms, etc. in these little storage containers.
+Bath Toys: Ubbi. Bath toys can grow mold easily and I never liked them sitting on the floor of our shower/tub, when we so often stand there / use cleaning products to clean the shower. I love the clever design of this little tub, with its removable drying rack portion. You can also use the base as a “toy scoop.”
+Beauty/Medicine Cabinet Storage: Acrylic Cube. I have two of these, one for cosmetics and one for medicine/bandaids/etc. They are sturdy and have just the right size drawers. My one gripe with them is that the drawers can be a little temperamental if they don’t slide in just the right way. But still — I love that everything’s organized and visible. I have the drawers organized like so: bandaids, first aid, stomach ailments, flu/cold, pain killers. Keeps everything very easy to access when you wake up in the middle of the night in need of something.
+Travel: EZ Packing Cubes and Eagle Creek Compression Cubes. These truly make your traveling life much easier — and they make the most of limited suitcase space! I now have a set of EZ cubes in different trim colors for myself and each of my children.
+Utility Shelving: Seville. Anything by this brand is incredibly well-made and sturdy. We use this in our pantry closet, and it can bear a lot of weight. It also looks better than the standard issue covered wire rack situation.
+Laundry Room Storage: Trademark. OK, this is *not* sturdy or pretty to look at, but I think the design is fantastic. It’s narrow enough to slip in right alongside your washer/dryer and pull out any time you need something, but it keeps a lot of unattractive things hidden and makes good use of lost space.
+Laundry Basket: The Container Store. I know it sounds weird, but how many cracked and warped laundry baskets have you been through in your life? This one is much sturdier. Also love that the handles flip up so they’re easy to carry. I only have one laundry basket, but if you need multiple — they stack!
+Cutlery Organizer: Seville. Expandable so it fits nearly any drawer size, and the wood makes it a little classier/sturdier than the standard plastic or metal variations.
+Shelf Risers: Seville. Adjustable size, so it accommodates any shelf length. And VERY sturdy. Shockingly sturdy.
+Shelf Dividers: Closetmate. I loved these in my old closet — they kept my shelves super tidy!
+Jewelry: Beadaholic Bags. OK, this sounds weird, I know — but I keep my nice jewelry in a proper jewelry case, and then all of my costume jewelry in individual baggies that I then store in lucite organizers. So much easier to find, earrings are never without their mates, and I’m never untangling a mass of necklaces.
+Closet Organization: Target 13″ Fashion Cubes. I contemplated dozens of solutions for organizing out-of-season clothing at the top of my closet in my old house, and I wound up with these, which were an excellent choice. They’re lightweight, so you can easily lift them out yourself, have a little handle to facilitate removal, and completely collapse, so if you’re not using them, you can easily stow them. Plus, they look pretty sleek when they’re all lined up tidily in a row, and the textured fabrics look extra luxe. (I own them in the sand linen color.)
+Drawer/Medicine Cabinet Organization: Stori Clear Organizers. I use these in every drawer and cabinet in my home. They keep everything tidy and easy to find, from pens to cosmetics to hair ties and beyond. I’ve turned everyone in my family onto these!
+Beverage Organization: InterDesign. A modest thing, but I take true joy in moving sparkling waters, sodas, etc. out of their cardboard boxes and into my beverage organizers. They make the fridge so much tidier and easier to navigate — and they block out a lot less light.
The Best Cleaning Gear.
+Hand Soap: Molton Brown.
+Gloves: Mr. Clean. Lined, and don’t have that nasty latex smell so many gloves do.
+Bottle Soap: Dapple. Removes the fatty/greasy residue left by breastmilk and formula, and with no scent. Much stronger than Dr. Bronner’s!
+Wood Floor Solution: Murphy’s. A classic, and leaves no film.
+Granite Cleaner: Method. The only one I could find that left no cloudiness.
+Wood Spray: Method. We use this daily and it’s an excellent product.
+All-Purpose Cleaner: Soft Scrub. Useful on everything from tile to toilets.
+Iron: Rowenta DW5080. Yes, it’s expensive, but just wait until you see what it does to your clothing. (Thanks to a reader for the rec!)
+Ironing Board: Minky. I initially wanted to get a Brabantia, which seems to be the top pick the world over, but I was drawn to this style for a few reasons: less expensive, more compact, and the cover is dark and therefore doesn’t show discolorations as easily. It’s also super sturdy — no wobble here. We’ve been pleased. A lot of the reviews talk about the fact that the manufacturer glues instructions/descriptions to the top, which in turn mars the cover, but that was not the case with ours, so I think they’ve corrected that issue.
+Nursery table lamp: Pillowfort. I LOVE that this turns on/off with the touch of a finger on the base — no noise for a sleeping baby, and no messing around for the switch when you’re holding a squiggling baby. Genius. Also, love the design.
+Paper napkins: Caspari. I always keep my buffet stocked with seasonally-appropriate cocktail and luncheon napkins. These have the cutest prints and are much better quality than your average napkin.
+Tree Stand: Kinner XXL. Worth the investment to avoid the inevitable marital strife that followed using the dinky metal ones with wimpy screws.
+Suitcase: Tumi Alpha. This thing is a WORKHORSE. It’s very well-designed, and built to last. I love the zip front pocket, which is wide enough to stow my laptop so I don’t need to lug that around in my shoulder bag.
+Bed Pillows: XTreme Comforts Bamboo Memory Foam. We upgraded to these over Christmas this past year and they have made such a huge difference in our lives. We had invested in a fancy mattress but had drawn the line at pillows (?). These STAY COOL ALL THE TIME (!?!?!??!?!) and enable us to sleep much better than we used to. We used to find we were constantly re-positioning ourselves/flipping the pillows/folding them/putting our arms under them. No more. These are an excellent buy.
The Best Office Gear.
[Ed. note: I added this section after initial publication based on comments below! Thanks for reminding me of this whole category…EEEP!]
+Printer: Brother DCPL2540DW. For living in a so-called paperless world, the amount of stuff I need to print is mind-boggling. Forms for our new vet. Document transfer requests from our old pediatrician. Shipping labels. Return forms. DMV documents. I MEAN. It’s insane. I’m obsessed with our compact printer/scanner/copier — it connects wirelessly to any device, so I can print straight from my phone or my laptop, none of that “must install driver” nonsense. Mr. Magpie did a lot of thorough research on this particular topic, and this was the top pick for him.
+Shredder: Fellowes. I know this is very unsexy but if you don’t have one of these, YOU MUST BUY ONE. We had our personal information abused SO many times when we used to just throw out documents in the trash — people sorted through the trash and then must have sold it or given it to shady people. I had fake debt collectors calling me, asking for money; I was getting so many weird phone calls from shady people; my credit card information was stolen at least three times in one year; etc; etc. I mean, just do it. Protect yourself. This one even shreds credit cards and it works like a charm.
+File organization: Container Store’s Bigso Boxes. Come in great colors and can be lined up to not look horrible on a desk or — in my case — lined up against the wall beneath it. I dream of having beautiful built-ins around my desk and lining a bunch up along them. I organize all my bills/paperwork/etc in these and then try to sort through and shred stuff periodically or move it into a huge tupperware for tax season.
P.P.S. 10 things I can’t live without.