Best New Home Products 2010
A complete cheat sheet to this year's 47 freshest ideas for your home
Our lists, well, most of them, are really just long to-do lists. But we, the editors of This Old House, do have a special one. It's the one we keep of all the cool new home products we come across in the course of the year.
From finds at trade shows to briefings from big tool manufacturers to peeks at the genius of basement inventors, we see it all, and then some. And without fail we want most of it. At least at first. But that's just silly, of course. Because when it comes right down to it, most new products aren't all that special. Or necessary. Some—Toilet Tattoos, anyone?—are downright absurd, not much more than thinly veiled excuses to separate us from our money.
But the products you'll find on the following pages—some budget-friendly, some breakthrough, some stylish, some sustainable—they're different. They are, still now, at the end of the year, the special ones. We could go on, but then we'd have less space for the good stuff. Better to just keep clicking and see for yourself.
Pur 3 Stage Horizontal Mount Faucet Water Filter by Procter & Gamble
This water filter wins our vote because, unlike the rest, it clicks onto your faucet without major tools. The filter purifies about 100 gallons of drinking water before it needs changing, and a red light tells you when to do that. The whole thing swivels 360 degrees to fill pots and easily switches over to unfiltered water for washing them.
About $40, filter included; purwater.com
Bedford Kitchen Island by Ballard Designs
It's the crafty design of this island that caught our eye. It offers the substantial, furniture-grade look of a built-in plus modern design conveniences, such as storage on all four sides—and portability. A solid-pine base supports a 57-inch-long maple butcher-block top.
About $899; ballarddesigns.com
28 Cubic Foot French Door Refrigerator by Samsung
The waist-high drawer in this family-size fridge adapts to your household's ever-changing needs with four temperature settings. You can store meat or fish at a super-chilly 29 degrees F, a week's worth of juice boxes—right at kid height—at 33, a cheese platter at 37, or wine for a party at 42.
About $2,999 in stainless steel (shown); samsung.com
Meridian Stool by Thos. Moser
We couldn't help but sit up and take notice of Thos. Moser's latest barstool design. With its gracefully arched legs and sculptural back, the handmade solid-cherry perch delivers a wholly original silhouette that's still timeless. Call it a modern heirloom.
About $1,200; thosmoser.com
'Inspired by Marcus' Range by Bluestar
This admittedly pricey range packs more commercial-kitchen features into a residential model than we've ever seen. It boasts easy-close French doors and blazing 22,000-Btu burners, comes in a 30-inch and a 36-inch model, and is available in a raft of striking finishes, including matte black, bronze, silver, and copper (shown).
From $6,300; bluestarcooking.com
Integrity Silestone Sink by Cosentino
As fastidious as you may be about cleaning, the joint where your kitchen sink meets your counters always fills up with crud. Cosentino gets the nod here for resolving this issue with an integrated-sink-and-countertop combo made of its popular antimicrobial scratch-and-stain-resistant quartz Silestone—the first of its kind.
Starting at $800; silestone.com
Rainshower Icon Showerhead by Grohe
Handshowers aren't new—they're just Euro—but one with a water-saving sliding button that you can work with only one digit deserves a slot on our list. Shift the Icon into low-flow mode and water volume is reduced without diminishing the spray coverage. It comes in six colors, from cheery to elegant.
About $114; groheamerica.com
Grundtal Hanger by Ikea
This nearly 2-foot-long stainless-steel towel rod ingeniously packs in six pegs in alternating directions to boost the usability of each. Bonus: It fits on even the slimmest sliver of wall.
About $7.99; ikea.com
Outreach Centerset Lav Faucet by American Standard
We'll give this a Why Didn't We Think of That? award for adapting the kitchen pull-out to the bath. We also appreciate that it comes in traditional styling at a nice price. Available only from The Home Depot.
About $98 in polished chrome or $118 in satin nickel; americanstandard-us.com
No, we're not crazy. If these LEDs still seem pricey, consider that most of them will last longer than your mortgage. The widely spaced heat-wicking fins on GE's Energy Smart 40-watter distribute light evenly by letting it slip out the sides (450 lumens; about $50; gelighting.com).
Lighting Science Group's A19 EcoSmart, a 40-watt equivalent, boasts the longest lifespan—46 years!—and the most lumens, 429, per dollar (about $19; lsgc.com).
Lemnis Lighting's Pharox 300 Flame is an inexpensive 60-watt equivalent (330 lumens; about $30; lemnislighting.com).
Philips is gunning for the honor of brightest with its 806-lumen EnduraLED, which squeezes a 60-watt equivalent out of 12 watts. As for the funky design, the yellow phosphor coating casts a warm incandescent glow—just like the one we've grown used to over the past 100 years or so. About $40; lighting.philips.com
Franceasi LED Lantern by Kichler
A thumbs-up for knowing that old-world looks don't have to come with old-school technology. The outdoor-rated cast-aluminum fixture has a traditional filigree pattern with a bronze finish but is fitted with a 40- or 60-watt-equivalent LED that lasts up to 15 years (it's replaceable).
Choose from four sizes. From $255; kichler.com
Hood Hanging Fixture by Rejuvenation
We find this pendant globe a welcome substitute in period lighting, bridging the gap between industrial and decorative. A 1915 fixture created to vent heat from high-wattage bulbs inspired its open-top shade.
Choose from 13 finishes for the handcrafted brass fixture; $220. Shades: $76–$220; rejuvenation.com
WhisperGreen-Lite Bath Exhaust by Panasonic
This 80-cubic-foot-per-minute bath fan has a motion sensor that activates it automatically when you enter the room. And though you may not hear the quiet motor (0.3 sones), listen to us when we tell you you'll appreciate it.
About $393; panasonic.com
Faux Impressions Paint by Sherwin-Williams
As specialty wall-finish paints go, this one has to be the easiest to apply—it goes right over a flat latex undercoat—and among the least pricey. Available in effects from polished quartz to antiqued plaster, the 12 paints come pre-tinted or can go over other colors for a custom look.
About $50–$75 per gallon; sherwin-williams.com
Indah Tile Series by Ann Sacks
These decadent 12-by-12-inch wood tiles—hand-carved by Indonesian artisans from sustainably harvested plantation teak—make us do a double take every time. The seven designs include the Horizontal Lines in natural wax and the Circles in dark French polish shown here.
From $82.50 per tile; annsacks.com
We're always leery of greenwashing, but these get the nod for their looks, too. Trikeenan Tileworks repurposes scrap brick for its Boneyard Brick tiles and also waste glazes for a unique sheen; from $8 per square foot; trikeenan.com
Anchor Bay Tile's unique 3-by-6-inch Bamboo Subway Tiles are veneered with bamboo harvested when the reeds are between five and six years old, for optimal hardness; about $25 per square foot; anchorbaytile.com
Bendheim's unique Color Coated EcoGlass is remarkably clear, considering that the majority is recycled content: 25 to 40 percent consumer-recycled glass, 20 percent factory waste. 2 by 2 inches to 5 by 10 feet. From $25 per square foot; bendheim.com
Dragged Papers by Farrow & Ball
After waiting years for an update to this company's classic, textured Dragged papers, our patience paid off in the form of 34 new colors, from brilliant jewel tones to muted pastels. They include Ruby Red (DR 1289), Mint Green (DR 1299), and Royal Blue (DR 694).
About $190 for a double roll; farrow-ball.com
Boxee Box D-Link Media Center by D-Link
We cherish the notion of cutting the cable bill out of the picture, and now it's tantalizingly possible. Link this magic cube to your router, and it pipes any streaming video on the Internet to your HD television. There are other ways to do this, but none with such a user-friendly interface.
About $199; boxee.tv
InfinityEdge Touch Screen by Control4
This gadget actually does what so much new tech only promises to do: make life easier, by combining all your home-automation controls into one touch pad. It retrofits with components that talk to your home's electronics, from the thermostat and alarm to the tube.
From $599; control4.com
Railtones Track-Light Speakers by Tech Lighting
Truly one of the most ingenious entries we saw, these 15-watt speakers snap onto most any track lighting as easily as the lamps do, creating an entirely new A/V arrangement. Plug the wireless transmitter into your source of tunes and get the party started.
About $479 per pair; techlighting.com
Heritage Pellet Stove by Hearthstone
It took this vaunted stove purveyor two years to marry the romantic aesthetics of a wood-burner with the clean-burning efficiency of a pellet stove, and we're thrilled they made our deadline. It's the first pellet stove we've seen with panels of soapstone—a distinctive material that happens to hold twice the heat of metal.
About $3,999; hearthstonestoves.com
DC26 Multi Floor Vacuum by Dyson
If TOH had been handing out these awards eight years ago, Dyson's pioneering root-cyclone model would've been a sure bet. As it is, we'll give one to its first truly totable canister vac. It's 12.2 pounds.
About $399; dyson.com
XE Series Composter by NatureMill
Designed to make composting as easy as throwing out the trash—and a lot less smelly—this pick was a cinch: a home composter sporting a carbon odor filter and an automated grinder that renders garden-ready fertilizer in just two weeks. The indoor/outdoor bin slips inside any standard 15-inch-wide base cabinet for easy access.
From $299; naturemill.com
E19/238 Solar Panel by Sunpower
We've been waiting for a breakthrough in residential solar, and here it is. These panels convert up to 19½ percent of the sunlight they receive into electric power, far more than any other panels. Specially shaped solar cells that occupy 3 percent more surface area than standard cells deliver up to 238 watts per panel.
About $15,000 for a 2.5-kilowatt system (sans subsidies); sunpowercorp.com
VIERA GT25 3D TV by Panasonic
Those who lack the space or the desire for a TV the size of a billboard now have access to some of the best television technology going. At 42 inches, this is the first 3D plasma TV under 50 inches. And even if you don't own Avatar on DVD, the TV features Panasonic's best 2D plasma technology.
3D glasses sold separately, at $150 a pop. About $1,700; panasonic.com
Altherma Hydronic System by Daikin
Why mess with a heat pump that generates only hot and cold air when
one system can supply AC, hot water, and heat through a radiator or radiant
floor? That's the level of innovation we're talking about. This system's efficiency rivals the best geothermal heat pumps—minus the pain
of underground piping.
About $19,000 for a 54,000-Btu system, intstalled; daikin.com
Custom Folding Sliding Doors by Folding Door Co.
Here's a secret we had to share: You no longer have to refinance your property to afford an architectural wall of glass doors that collapses to create an indoor/outdoor space. In fact, you can order this system as if you were ordering drapes—it's that simple. Custom made for openings up to 50 feet, these aluminum-framed doors are shipped in a DIY kit directly from the factory in Britain.
About $10,000 for a four-door system; foldingslidingdoors.com
Pet Door Option by YesterYear
The typical plastic doggie door has as much charm as a mud flap. That's why we fell for this wood pet hatch, which matches the door's decorative panels and preserves its design integrity.
Cottage Charm in Spanish cedar; about $789 as shown; http://www.vintagedoors.com
Door Surround Kit by Focal Point
It's great to see this exterior door molding offered as a kit. The two pilasters, header with dentil detail, and keystone will put the finishing touch on your home's first impression. The primed molded polyurethane resists insects, mold, mildew, and rot, and promises to look good for years to come.
About $174; homedepot.com
Essence Series Windows by Milgard
Behold, the first fiberglass window to feature solid-wood interior trim. Finally. Now you can show off stained or painted woodwork without sacrificing the myriad benefits of fiberglass-framed windows—which, as you know, are strong, stable, rot resistant, insect proof, paintable, low maintenance, and, now, attractive.
A 3-by-5-foot double-hung starts at $400; milgard.com
Electrochromics Tinting Windows by Sage
While we're waiting for flying cars, we'll settle for electronically tinted glass, now available in triple-pane construction with a whopping R-value of 8 (versus, say, 3 for double-pane windows). At the touch of a button, the built-in nanotechnology dims the glass to shade a room. Sync it with your home automation system to save energy.
A 30-by-60-inch awning window from H Window Company costs about $1,575; sage-ec.com
LuxePlank Peel and Grip Vinyl Strip Flooring by Armstrong
The embossed wood-grain vinyl strips of this floating floor grabbed our attention for their mercifully easy install: They stick to one another rather than the floor. And that they go down like planks means no more uniformly obvious joint lines that reveal your preference for plastics. Beveled edges complete the ruse.
From $3.39 per square foot; armstrong.com
Nautical Timbers Veneered Flooring by Fontenay Woods
Up until the 1970s, the way to fix level platforms in the V-shaped hulls of cargo ships was to pad them out with hardwood posts. We were thrilled to find that a salvaged cache of this exotic lumber—including Spanish maple and Honduran mahogany—is being made into beautifully patinated flooring as veneers on birch planks. Talk about character.
From $14 per square foot; fontenay.us
Puzzle Floor by Brazfloor
Laying hardwood not challenging enough for you? Allow us to suggest this best-of pick from the brain-teaser category: a life-size wood jigsaw puzzle custom made for your floor. Call up with your room measurements, and the company will ship you numbered pieces—each roughly 1 foot or 2 feet square—along with a handy diagram. Bonus points for puzzling them together without peeking.
From $70 per square foot; brasfloor.com
Shaker Collection Rugs by Dash & Albert
Inspired by textiles shown at Massachusetts' Hancock Shaker Museum, this line of cotton rugs inspired us. It spins classic American weaving techniques, patterns, and colors into fresh designs that add a bit of historical flair to any floor.
From $34; dashandalbert.com
Bioessenze Faux Wood Porcelain Tiles by Lea Ceramiche
Porcelain isn't a material we'd typically associate with faux wood, but this winner convinced us otherwise. Long tile planks printed with a wood grain make a very tough floor that looks as if it were made of hardwood. Great for areas where water might make caring for real wood a headache—and where guests can get a good look.
From $11.75 per square foot; http://www.ceramichelea.com
Classic R&R Shingles by Nucedar Mills
These shingles are made with enough variation that you'd think no two were alike—something we can't say for factory-molded fare. Boards of cellular PVC are abraded with wire bristles to mimic the wood-grain warmth of real-deal cedar—but of course without the maintenance issues—and then band-sawed into individual shakes.
From $5.50 per square foot; nucedar.com
Fiber-Cement Crown Moulding by James Hardie
Here's a no-brainer: Restore period details with classic crown moldings made from a material that won't warp, rot, or even burn. Surprisingly light for fiber cement, they can be fastened in place with a nail gun. The colors come factory finished.
From $1.95 per linear foot; jameshardie.com
Though wood may grow on trees, true inventiveness is a far scarcer resource. And yet we found these newly available—and virtually indestructible—modified woods.
Cali Bamboo's Lumboo, the first dimensional lumber made from eco-darling bamboo, consists of bamboo strips compressed in a low-VOC resin; from $3.12 per linear foot; calibamboo.com
Kebony and Accoya are molecularly tweaked to take on the traits of tropical hardwoods, with all their handsome stability: They're rot resistant, won't warp, and aren't subject to the insults of water and insects. Kebony, from $2.75 per linear foot; kebony.com. Accoya, from $3.20 per linear foot; accoya.com
Kerdi-Board Building Panels by Schluter
Imagine a type of waterproof foam panel strong enough to form a partition wall yet soft enough to be trimmed with a box knife and assembled with adhesive. Oh, wait—got it: With these panels you can build the most intricate of bath structures, like a shower bench, and tile directly onto them. No more framing and sheathing in backer board.
About $2.60 per square foot; schluterkerdiboard.com
Sheetrock Ultralight Drywall Panels by USG
Weighing about 30 percent less than the regular stuff, these ½-inch panels are that much easier to haul and install—and happen to be our favorite Best New Product. They bear the same Class A fire rating as conventional drywall, but thanks to the colloidal chemistry in the plaster core, the material is stiffer, less crumbly, and easier to cut.
From $4.40 for a 4x8 panel; usg.com
Wallboarder's Buddy Drywall Trimmer by Wallboarder's Buddy Tool Co.
Only a professional builder could've invented this, but we're pretty sure that all DIYers can rejoice. A T-square fitted with a dual-sided, spring-loaded utility knife replaces the measuring, squaring, and chalking of each cut. Just set the knife to your width and pull the square along the factory edge, reverse, then repeat on the opposite face.
About $60; wallboardersbuddy.com
Dual Angle Block Plane by Bridge City Tool Works
Instead of switching planes, you can flip the lever and easily flop the blade on this eminently deserving design. One side gives you a 47-degree general-purpose plane to shave with the grain, the other a shallower, 42-degree plane for stubborn end-grain work. Equally sharp? The body, milled from a single billet of stainless steel.
About $859; bridgecitytools.com
58-500 NailSet by Bostitch
It's hard to rethink a tool that's been around for centuries, and that's why this one's a big winner. Bostitch paired a 1/32-inch and a 2/32-inch bit in one dual-sided tip that locks into a quick-change hex sleeve like those on drill/drivers—a combo that covers most common-size nails.
About $10; bostitch.com
Bladerunner Table Jigsaw by Rockwell
This pick is a slam dunk because it gives you the versatility of a jigsaw in the stable platform of a table saw. The inverted jigsaw blade lets you cut and scroll wood, metal, PVC, or tile with both hands firmly on the material while a shroud covers the blade to keep your digits intact.
About $160; rockwellbladerunner.com
12-Volt Max Compact Lithium Clampsaw Reciprocal Saw by Porter Cable
We love that an adjustable clamp secures pipes for one-handed cutting—a first—while a variable-speed trigger controls the ⅝-inch blade stroke. It also articulates, letting you get in there and demolish tight spots previously protected from your creative handiwork.
About $130; deltaportercable.com