The TOH Top 100: Best New Home Products 2014
This year's editors' picks are decidedly low-tech yet very smart, and make owning or renovating a home a better experience
When it comes to innovation, tech companies get all the glory these days—especially, we've noticed, as it relates to the home. Indeed, smart-home gear is everywhere, including within the pages of this issue (see “High-Tech Ways to Make Entertaining Easier,” page 45). That's fine. And though we've selected a few such products to receive the TOH Top 100 mantle—we couldn't resist the brilliant DIY security camera on page 73—our mandate goes well beyond stuff made with silicon. We're talking about a clever spit to oven-roast the perfect chicken (page 66), trash bags that stand up by themselves (page 76), a suite of moldings with matching doors (page 79), and a drywall knife notched to leave the ideal joint in its wake (page 71). These are decidedly low-tech yet very smart, and they possess a quality we value above all others: They make owning or renovating a home a better experience. Which is to say, they deserve some glory too.
The Ultimate Chicken Roaster, by Williams-Sonoma
This clever contraption suspends a roasting chicken facedown on the grill or in your oven, allowing air to circulate freely around the bird and juices to stream down and baste the breast, keeping it moist. The result? Perfectly crisp skin, and dark meat that's done cooking long before the breast meat is bone-dry.
About $30; williams-sonoma.com
45-litre semi-round sensor can, by SimpleHuman
Here's how you build a better trash can: Make it open with the wave of a hand and stay open as the task requires. Extra points for the
half-round shape, which hugs the wall instead of hogging kitchen space.
About $120; simplehuman.com
Undersink Pullout U-shape basket with soft-close, by Rev-A-Shelf
We're big-time fans of cabinet drawers that maximize hard-to-access space, all the more so when they fit as precisely as this U-shaped slider that wraps around undersink plumbing. The chrome wire design will stand up to leaks and drips.
About $240 for a 29½-inch-wide version; rev-a-shelf.com
Powered Water Filtration System, by Aquasana
If the drip, drip, drip, of a filter pitcher isn't cutting it, consider a countertop apparatus that plugs in to push out a gallon of clean water in 2 minutes. Filters 96 percent of chlorine, lead, and other contaminants.
About $130; aquasana.com
Terna Pendant Fan, by Kichler
Five smartly engineered blades push air sideways, not down, so this compact pendant fan won't blow recipes off the counter, snuff gas burners, or cool down dinner.
About $445; kichler.com
Twin-cut compact 2-in-1 scissors, by Joseph Joseph
Slide a catch forward and the spring-loaded, stainless-steel blades open; close them and these scissors hang from a hook or fit neatly in a drawer. In locked position, they double as a box cutter.
About $13; josephjoseph.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Pull-Out cookware Storage, by Glideware
We're happy to say good-bye to that jolting clatter of rooting around for an early breakfast frying pan. This dreamy drawer organizer mounts to the top of any base cabinet and arrays your pots and pans (and their lids) on a single extending rack with adjustable hooks. Dual glides on ball bearings make it one smooth operator.
About $200; glideware.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Instead of dedicated “burners,” this 36-inch cooktop is studded with 48 individual coils that sense the size, shape, and position of up to four pots—or a single 23-by-13-inch pan—so that you can focus your juggling skills on the salad. It sits flush with the countertop.
About $5,500; thermador.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Docking Drawer SLIM USB, by Jtech Solutions
Counters covered with charging smartphones and tablets? Install this handy apparatus in the back of an existing drawer and plug it in, and you can power up to four devices at once, all while keeping them stashed out of sight.
About $220; dockingdrawer.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Side-By-Side Food Showcase Refrigerator, by Samsung
Grab a bite without letting out all the cold. This fridge's stainless-steel outer door opens onto shallow bins for drinks, snacks, and condiments. The transparent inner door offers a glimpse of what's inside the main compartment.
About $3,000; samsung.com
FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, By Ball
This countertop canner takes the guesswork out of preserving fresh foods. Follow one of the 26 included recipes, load the appliance with up to six half-pint, three quart-size, or four pint-size containers, and set it for the food you're canning. You'll be left with perfectly preserved fare, no stockpot needed.
About $300; freshpreserving.com
Dekton countertop, by Cosentino
Quartz, porcelain, and glass are compressed under extreme heat and pressure to produce this nonporous composite countertop. The result is a surface material so strong that you can use it in a 12-inch overhang with no supports—great for islands and bar tops. And because it's nonporous, it works both indoors and outdoors.
From $58 per square foot; dekton.com
OvenChef Tempered Glass Baking Dishes, by Duralex
Tempered glass bakeware is nothing new, but these French-built beauties will withstand temperature swings of nearly 400-degrees F without shattering, and they're oven-safe to a scorching 572-degrees F.
Six sizes, from $15; duralexusa.com
Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven, by Kitchentek
Using the same principles as your grandma's classic pressure cooker, this appliance has a sealed door designed to build pressure and slash cooking time. It'll belt out a beautifully browned chicken in a staggering 35 minutes—more than an hour less than a conventional oven.
About $250; puckoven.com
Blue Dolomite tile, by Ann Sacks
We can't say we've ever seen natural stone quite like this before. It's beautiful. The incredibly rare blue dolomite radiates an icy-blue hue contrasted with streaks of brilliant whites, grays, and blacks.
From about $37 per square foot; annsacks.com
Bath mirror with pullout, by Decora Cabinetry
It's nice to see such a novel concept for cramped baths: a medicine cabinet with shelved drawers that open to the sides so that you don't have to duck a swinging door to grab your toothbrush.
From about $1,620; decoracabinets.com
Nightlight toilet seat, By Kohler
At last, an upgrade to ye olde toilet seat that doesn't involve wood grain. A soft light built into the seat hinge illuminates your target at night, and a timer turns it off in the morning. No need to switch on the overhead light—or remove splinters.
From about $66; kohler.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Steamboy Pro, by Reliable
Witnessing this sterilizing steam mop lift crud from grout opened our eyes to the power of 248-degrees F water vapor, sans chemicals. If steam alone isn't enough, the scrubbing bristles should be. Other attachments handle any flooring or carpeting, and the swiveling triangular head keeps up with corners.
About $109; reliablecorporation.com
Easy clean glass treatment kit, by EnduroShield
This spray-on treatment repels water, oil, dirt, minerals, and soap scum, rendering cleanup all but effortless. Our favorite feature? One application lasts three years. Great for shower doors—and windows and windshields too.
From about $35 for a kit that treats 40 square feet; enduroshieldusa.com
Swash, by P&G and Whirlpool
Pop your favorite dress shirt, sequined sweater, or cashmere jacket into this magic machine to have it spritzed with a neutralizing solution and then speed-dried. Ten minutes later, ta-da! Your garment is refreshed, de-wrinkled, and clean-smelling. Reserve trips to the dry cleaner for actual stains.
About $500; swash.com
Prevail shower door with Comfortrack, by Sterling
Here's a brilliant answer to the universally uncomfortable metal track on bath and shower doors: a soft and flexible rubbery bottom track that gently compresses under pressure. Cleaning the tub is now a tad less of a pain.
From about $280; sterlingplumbing.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Pittock cup holder and soap dish, by Rejuvenation
We couldn't resist the shiny curves of this classic Victorian-inspired wall-mount design, a tidy way to keep the essentials out of the splash zone.
About $65 each in polished nickel;
MaxPerformance Toilet Plunger, By Korky
We love low-flow toilets. Until they clog. This clever implement is the first model designed to fit the elongated bowls of high-efficiency commodes, thanks to a conical insert that seals against the waste hole. Works with conventional flushers too.
About $14; korky.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Ashland Ceramic Utility Sinktop, by Ronbow
Who decided laundry sinks had to be big ugly plastic tubs? We're impressed by the depth and shine of this ceramic utility sink, which can swallow a soaking comforter and look great doing it—for a price.
About $1,180 for the 37-inch model shown; ronbow.com
Stealth dual flush toilet, by Niagara Conservation
This dual-flush throne takes the crown for an industry-low average of 0.65 gallon per flush, well under the challengers' GPF rates. That's thanks to a tank redesign that creates a pressurized trapway to pull wastewater out of the bowl.
From about $322; niagaracorp.com
Terra tile, by Nemo
Terra-cotta isn't necessarily the most durable of flooring materials, so we're tickled to see an attractive and earthy look-alike made from porcelain, a hard-wearing material.
From about $7.85 per square foot; nemotile.com
FS-300 Adjustable Bathroom Condensation Control, by DewStop
Picture a wall switch that automatically turns on the vent fan when certain people “forget” that they just took a shower—then shuts it off once the humidity level is back to normal. Now picture it tracking humidity levels to know what's normal for your home so that it won't be fooled by weather. Pretty smart.
About $49; dewstop.com
Toilet Gasket, by Sani Seal
Rejoice! No more dashing out for a replacement wax ring because you mangled the first one. With this flexible one-size-fits-all polyurethane foam gasket, you can lift and reposition the toilet until it's just right. It keeps bolts upright, too.
About $12; saniseal.com
7-inch Tile Saw With HydroLock system, by Skil
We're not sure why it took so long to line the blade guard of a wet saw with a water-corralling rubber gasket, but we're delighted that the time has finally come. Now we can cut tile without getting sprayed by a steady stream of sludgy water.
About $150; skiltools.com
AirStrike 16-Gauge Cordless Straight Finish Nailer, by Ryobi
A compression chamber built into the body of the tool lets you fire fasteners with the power of a pneumatic nail gun—and without the compressor. The 18-volt battery will fire 800 nails on a single charge.
About $200; ryobitools.com
Smart Point 18-Gauge Brad Nailer, by Bostitch
Ever notice how the contact arm—that safety mechanism wrapped around the nose of most nail guns to prevent you from firing into the air—is so bulky that it blocks you from seeing where your brad will go? So did Bostitch. That's why they built it into the nose, greatly reducing its profile. Hello, Hollywood!
About $120; bostitch.com
Dust Collecting Circular Saw, by Roan Tools
Ingenious open ports on the blade guard create a pressure differential that pulls sawdust into the clear chamber as the saw cuts—no vacuum, no hoses, no kidding. Made for siding contractors handling toxic dust, it's a boon for the average DIYer, too. May we please have a miter saw version?
About $180; roantools.com
Chipolo locator tag, by Chipolo
Stop shouting, “Honey! Have you seen my tape measure?” and start using this chirping Bluetooth-enabled tag and its smartphone app to track items that often go missing. Can't find your phone? Shake the tag to make it ring.
About $29 apiece; chipolo.net
Nexabond 2500 Instant wood adhesive, by Sirrus
With this versatile, one-part adhesive, there's less clamping time—it sets in as little as 60 seconds and cures to 80 percent in 30 minutes—and less prep work because it doesn't shrink or stain like woodworking glues. Also works on metal, plastic, ceramics, and rubber.
About $7.80 for 1 ounce; sirruschemistry.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Red Heat portable Ceramic Sanding Belt, by Norton
We don't enjoy cleaning sanding belts any more than changing them, so we welcome the first belts with all-ceramic abrasives. They cut sanding time and last up to five times longer than standard aluminum-coated options.
From about $5.20 each; nortonconsumer.com; Made in the U.S.A.
FLIR One infrared iphone case, by FLIR
With this case piggybacked onto an iPhone 5 or 5s, you can see through your home's walls into a hidden world of hot and cold—indicators of air and water leaks, missing insulation, buried pipes, even termite infestations. The compatibility is limiting, but it's such a cool tool that we think it would be worth hanging on to your phone: The case costs a fraction of a stand-alone device.
About $350; flir.com
Inkzall Markers, by Milwaukee tool
Jotting down a measurement on a scrap of most anything, from a greasy pipe to a cinder block to a sawdusted 2×4, just got easier. The non-permeable acrylic tips in these markers don't clog up like typical felt-tipped options.
From about $1.29 each; milwaukeetool.com
20-Volt max lithium cordless Drill With Autosense technology, by Black+Decker
We have to applaud a self-adjusting clutch that automatically cuts power when it senses that a screwhead is flush with the surrounding material. When you need to sink a screw below the surface, simply override the setting.
About $80; blackanddecker.com
Ratch-N-Lock Pliers, by Skil
Ratcheting cam gears in the jaws of these pliers allow them to slip, lock, or ratchet, depending on the need, so you can twist wire, pull nails, or tighten a hex nut, all with one uncompromising tool.
About $20; getskil.com
Perfect Pass joint Knife, by Warner Manufacturing
Taping and patching drywall joints is an art. The notched lip on this taping knife builds the ideal layer of compound over butt joints, making mudding a skill within anyone's reach. Now, if only it could sand and paint, too.
About $12; warnertool.com
DualSaw RS1200 reciprocating saw, by Dualtools
All hail the first recip saw with two blades. Cutting in opposing directions, they offset each other's push/pull, reducing vibration and kickback. Now get out there and find a wall to demolish.
About $200; dualsaw.com
Power ready wireless charging system, by Bosch
This impact driver's inductive dock charges the battery without it coming off the tool, letting you juice as you work. The only downside? The old “my driver isn't charged” excuse will no longer cut it when you're trying to avoid projects around the house.
About $275 as shown; boschtools.com
Camo Marksman Edge, by National Nail Corp.
This spring-loaded drill attachment lets you install pressure-treated deck boards snug up against each other, fasteners buried in their edges so that when they naturally contract you'll be left with a smaller gap between boards.
About $35; camofasteners.com
Air Cordless, by Hoover
Gone are the days of sacrificing canister size and run time for the convenience of cordless. This vac has the same capacity (1 liter) as corded models and two batteries that last 25 minutes each. Did we mention there's no cord?
About $300; hoover.com
Lyric thermostat, by Honeywell
We like the friendly round shape and the fact that there's no programming. It detects your comings and goings (actually, your smartphone's) from seven miles away and automatically adjusts temperature settings to save energy.
About $275; lyric.honeywell.com
H2i MSZ-FH Ductless heat pump, by Mitsubishi Electric
As the only mini-split that functions down to minus 13-degrees F, it can be used in climates previously out-of-bounds to heat pumps. And nothing matches its cooling efficiency: more than double the Energy Star baseline. Helpfully, it turns itself on when people enter the room and shuts off when they leave.
About $3,900; mitsubishipro.com
PowerCube outlet adapter, by Allocacoc
With receptacles arrayed onto four of its six faces, the compact PowerCube offers plenty of elbow room for each plug. Available with or without USB ports and extension cords. Daisy-chain them to make your own power strip.
From about $20; powercube-usa.com
Aros window air conditioner, by Quirky
Meet our favorite product of the bunch: the first window air conditioner that we consider tolerable. It's sleek, for one. And smart, too. It adjusts output to your patterns and shuts down when you step out, until it senses your return. Or you can turn it on with your smartphone before you arrive—to a nice, cool space. Ahhh.
About $275; quirky.com
Bluetooth Smart True HEPA Allergen Remover, by Honeywell
You'll breathe easier with this room air purifier, which lets you control air quality with your smartphone. We love that it notifies you when pollen and mold counts are high in your ZIP code and adjusts its cleaning settings accordingly.
About $270; honeywellcleanair.com
TechTop, by LG Hausys
Can you spot the phone charger? Nope. It's mounted discreetly under the countertop, allowing smartphones with Qi wireless-charging technology or a Qi-enabled case to recharge simply by placing them on the right spot. Available on LG HI-MACS solid-surface countertops.
From About $100; lgtechtop.com
Warmsource, by warmboard
We're all for anything that reduces the cost of installing radiant heating, and this plug-and-play unit does that significantly. The pumps are built right into it, saving you the expense of hiring a radiant-heating specialist to build a custom wall of connections. Saves space, too. Available in early 2015.
About $3,900; warmboard.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Synergy standby generator, by Generac
This variable-speed natural-gas- or propane-powered 20kw-unit adjusts its output to match a household's actual need for electricity. The payoff? It's quieter and runs more efficiently than a typical single-speed standby generator. The neighbors will thank you—from the comfort of your couch.
About $5,300; generac.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Goji Smart Lock, by Goji
This dead bolt keeps an unblinking eye on visitors, snapping photos of anyone within 6 feet of your door and sending them to your smartphone. Not home when the plumber arrives? E-mail a digital key for temporary access. When you get home, it unlocks with a phone, a fob, or even a traditional key.
About $275; gojiaccess.com
Finally acandescent, by the Finally Light Bulb co.
For anyone lamenting the loss of 60-watt incandescents, this bulb has that same warm glow and familiar shape. But instead of flimsy filaments, an electromagnet energizes plasma that excites phosphors to produce light, so it lasts longer—15,000 hours—and only draws just over 14.5 watts.
About $10; finallybulbs.com
Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker III, by Bose
The sturdy body, the slim profile, and a battery life of 14 hours make this our favorite speaker to grab-and-go. Impeccable audio performance doesn't hurt either. The only question left: Which of five optional cover colors to choose?
About $300, and zip-up cover, about $35; bose.com
Wally home-monitoring system, by WallyHome
Placed around the house, these little wireless sensors alert you to water leaks, frozen pipes, and mold growth—the stuff of homeowner nightmares. Amazingly, they last 10 years without a battery change.
About $300; wallyhome.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Piper home automation and security, by icontrol networks
Using the smartphone app to marshal the capabilities of this home-monitoring system—from the 180-degree HD lens to the temperature sensor to the piercing audio siren—you can set rules like: If window opens, record video, sound alarm, send text. No monthly fees or installation costs. We're sold.
About $200; getpiper.com
Delta Force cordless Hand Vacuum, by Rowenta
Cleaning up Fido's fallen fur just got a whole lot easier. At 2.9 pounds, this hand vac is the lightest model made, yet it still has the guts to suction up pet hair, even on upholstered surfaces, with an assist from the easy-to-clean bristled-brush attachment.
About $185; rowenta.com
Ego Power+ mower, by Ego
With its industry-first 56-volt lithium-ion battery, this 20-inch mower packs the power of a gas engine minus the fumes, noise, and weight, and runs up to 45 minutes. The battery recharges in just 30 minutes.
About $500; egopowerplus.com
Tea Rose decorative tile, by Motawi Tileworks
Hand-stamped and hand-glazed tiles reproduce a 1909 Craftsman rose illustration by iconic designer Dard Hunter. The hefty 4-by-8-inch size slides right into Motawi's house-number frames to create an artful welcome.
About $54 per tile; motawi.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Classic Vertical G(art)en Kit, by PlantasyWe love vertical gardening, even more so with a kit that deftly manages the chore of watering. Just plug your plants into a spongy mat of organic materials, fill the reservoir on top, and let it drip water at precisely the right rate.
From about $89 for a 10½"×22"×3½” kit; plantasy.us
barbecue reusable Grilling Sheet, by Cookina
Let's hear it for the first grill-friendly foil that manages to transfer attractive (and flavorful) grill marks onto food, so you can keep racks clean and keep smaller items from falling through.
About $15 per roll; cookina.co
The first-of-its-kind automatic sealing function of this BPA-free plastic pitcher means you can entertain outdoors without worrying about sloshing, spills, or sugar-crazy party invaders like bees and wasps.
About $30; gocontigo.com
Organic Plant Food Maker, by Burgon & Ball
The alchemy of transforming comfrey and nettle leaves into nitrogen-rich, fast-acting fertilizer tea just got a whole lot easier with this stainless-steel infuser bucket. Cut. Soak. Brew. Feed.
About $68; burgonandball.com
DuxxBak composite deck boards, by Green Bay Decking
Pure genius: The interlocking edges of these composite deck boards form drainage channels that funnel water to the ends, leaving that formerly unusable space underneath dry. Available in lengths up to 20 feet.
About $4.30 per linear foot; greenbaydecking.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Colorful Potato Grow Bag, by Gardener's Supply Company
Never had a fresh-dug spud? Time to grow your own. This clever contraption removes the tilling and hilling of in-ground potato planting: Just add more soil to the 18-inch-tall bag as plants grow, then dump it out at harvest.
About $15; gardeners.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Aerocart, by Worx
This super-ergonomic wheelbarrow can be used as a handtruck to carry mulch or soil or fitted with included straps to easily cart propane tanks, planters, or even boulders, all while lightening a 200-pound load to feel like a mere 17 pounds.
About $160; worx.com
Automatic Sprinkler System, by Rain Bird
As much as we love fiddling with plumbing fittings, this sprinkler kit removes the guesswork from designing your own system, giving you everything you need—and nothing you don't—to water a lawn of up to 3,000 square feet.
About $180; rainbird.com
Rain outdoor fabric, by Sunbrella
We're pleased to meet the new waterproof version of this already terrific fade-resistant fabric. It'll keep your alfresco furniture cushions delightfully dry long after you've forgotten them outside.
Prices vary; sunbrella.com/buy for retailers; Made in the U.S.A.
ComfortGEL garden tools, by Corona
Ultra-cushy, ultra-grippy handles are easy on the joints and a breeze to hang on to in sweaty weather. The bargain price is nice, but these stainless-steel tools—including the transplanter, hoe/cultivator, and weeder shown—are not at all cheap.
From about $9.99 each; coronatoolsusa.com
Indoor Plant Food, by Miracle-Gro
Houseplants give us a horicultural headache: Too little fertilizer, they pout; too much, they wither. This ingenious foam-based plant food cracks the code, delivering a precise rate of nutrients with each pump.
About $4; miraclegro.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Refuel Propane Gauge, by Quirky
This handy propane tank scale works over Wi-Fi, so you can see how much fuel is left while you're picking up the steaks—instead of when the flames fizzle out beneath them.
About $50; quirky.com
Martini Iron Stackable Bistro Chair, by Alfresco Home
We're suckers for color, as well as for this fresh take on the bistro chair: A kicky lime-green powder coat over lacy wrought iron infuses a jolt of energy into your patio.
About $325 for a set of two; alfrescohome.com
HD Steel Craftsman with Element glass door, by MasoniteCraftsman is one of our favorite house styles, and we're elated to know that now, with this new embossed-steel door, you can get the look at your front entry—at a fraction of the price for a fiberglass or wood version.
From About $755; masonite.com
Self-Standing Bags, by Gorilla GlueWhat does magic look like? A trash bag that stands upright on its own. The material is thicker than the stuff used for standard contractor bags, making these sacks a cinch to fill and strong enough to hold 200 pounds of rubbish—a big help when you're knee-deep in demo debris.
About $13 for 12; gorillatough.com
Zola No-Compromise Quad-Pane window, by Zola European Windows
Amid the rush to reduce home-energy use, it's gratifying to discover a tilt-turn, clad-wood window with a whopping R-11 rating. Its four panes of glass make it 3.3 times better than the Energy Star performance requirement.
From about $1,085 for a 28-by-48-inch tilt-turn; zolawindows.com
JetBoard, by JetProducts
Fireproof, waterproof, insect-proof, and strong, this sheet good, made of lightweight magnesium oxide cement, does it all. Use it instead of plywood for sheathing, instead of gypsum board on interior walls, or instead of backer board under tile. Even the sawdust from it is harmless.
About $25 for a 4-by-8-foot, ½ -inch-thick panel; jet-board.com
TruGrain porch decking, by Westech Building Products
Lots of composite decking tries to look like tropical wood. This slip-resistant product, made with rice hulls, mineral oil, and salt, actually pulls it off. It won't crack, splinter, or rot, and you can stain it immediately—with a sealer that has a 10-year life span.
About $3.25 per linear foot; westechbp.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Wear-Dated Allure carpet, by Mohawk Flooring
This is the first residential carpeting with fibers that are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and then stripped of nearly all the dirt-attracting residues that normally make it into recycled carpet. Each yard diverts up to 77 bottles from landfills.
About $36–$40 per square yard; mohawkflooring.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Carpenter's Color Change wood filler, by Elmer'sThe rule with wood filler is, Sand when dry. But how to know? This filler takes out all the guesswork by shifting from a pink hue to white (or beige) when it's dry. Interior use only.
About $5 for 4 ounces; elmers.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Grande Collection, by Kahrs
A sustainable update of an old-world penetrating-oil finish tops this engineered wide-plank flooring, allowing you to easily touch up scratched or worn areas with a pine oil. There's no need to sand the whole floor down to bare wood. The 9-foot-long boards can install as a floating assembly.
From About $11 per square foot; kahrs.com
EcoSlate floor tiles, by Quality Craft
A real stone floor without messy mortars and grout? Yup. These click-together tiles feature a thin veneer of slate over fiberboard and cork, giving you genuine stone that's warmer and more cushioned than solid stone, and that goes down quickly.
About $7.99 per square foot; qualitycraft.com
Here's a great alternative to rigid foam, made from basalt rock and iron slag. It's breathable and water-repellent and insulates exterior walls, roofs, foundations, and basements at R-4 per inch—and that won't diminish over time. It's also noncombustible and a near-perfect sound absorber.
About $53 for 48 square feet; roxul.com; Made in the U.S.A.
SmartBond heavy duty construction adhesive, by DAP
We'll take any innovation that replaces the cramp-inducing caulk gun. To apply this adhesive, simply pull the can's trigger, and a stream of sticky, strong polyurethane foam will shoot out. You get eight tubes' worth of adhesive from a single can.
About $17; dap.com
Zinsser B-I-N Advanced synthetic shellac sealer, by Rust-Oleum
Meet the world's first man-made shellac. It has all the magic of the original finish—excellent sealing, easy recoating, fast drying—and cleans up with water instead of ammonia. Plus, it costs less than the stuff made from lac bugs.
About $36 per gallon; rustoleum.com
CPTZ Concealed Post tie, by Simpson Strong-TieWhat a slick way to anchor a post in concrete and protect it from rot: Slip the kerfed end of a post over the bolted-down base, then tap three pins in place, just like a timber framer.
About $30 for a 4×4 base; strongtie.com
Freemont Collection Sconce, by Feiss
This indoor variation on the barn light transcends its down-home roots with a touch of unexpected glamour: Clear crystals shimmer at the fixture's neck.
About $140; feiss.com
Modular carpet tiles, by Kinder ground
Created for kids, these wool carpet tiles have resonated with design-minded grown-ups, who, like us, love the creative possibilities presented by three shapes, six patterns, and five solid colors. The price is outlandish, but maybe you'll want to splurge.
From about $400 per piece; kinderground.net
Wood tiles, by Mirth Studio
Your artistic skills may have peaked in Pre-K, but having a hand-painted floor is as easy as installing these unique tiles, designed by artist Sally Bennett and digitally printed on a durable engineered hardwood. Choose from a classic gingham or a fun floral, or customize your own for a few extra bucks.
From about $15 per square foot; mirthstudio.com; Made in the U.S.A.
We're glad to see someone else is as appalled as we are at the prices of foam mattresses. This medium-firm polyfoam sleep aid is just $500 for a queen, delivery included.
About $300–$600; tuftandneedle.com; Made in the U.S.A.
Mid-Century desk in Acorn, by West Elm
If a desk is too bulky, it dominates a room; too petite, and it skimps on workspace. This beauty, made of FSC-certified eucalyptus, has a winning mix of great lines and enough surface area to get the job done.
About $600; westelm.com
Hex knob, by Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
We took notice of the matte oil-rubbed bronze and brass finishes on these otherwise classic-look pulls because they feel right at home with contemporary fixtures, too. Available in 1-inch and 1½-inch sizes.
About $14–$17; schoolhouseelectric.com; Made in the U.S.A.
SnapRays Guidelight, by SnapPower
Looking to add a night-light without robbing yourself of an outlet? This clever receptacle cover snaps onto an existing outlet and has built-in LED night-lights that turn on and off automatically.
About $12–$15; snappower.com
Everly collection Schoolhouse Mercury Glass mini-pendant, by Kichler
Judging by the popularity of these vintage-inspired lights, schoolhouse style will be in session for a long time. That's why we love this glam makeover, which incorporates the look of mercury glass in a curvier silhouette.
About $215; kichler.com
Deco Tribeca, by Porcelanosa
We're suckers for the look of hand-poured concrete, but it can be laborious and not that inexpensive. This large-format through-color porcelain tile offers a similar look with the nice touch of a floral accent, and it requires no sealer.
About $13 per square foot for 23-by-23-inch tiles; porcelanosa-usa.com
Then and Now Finishing Collections, by Metrie
The mostly original profiles in these five coordinated collections of moldings are impressive enough, but what won us over are the designed-to-match doors—taking the confounding guesswork out of finishing off a room remodel.
Shown: Fashion Forward poplar chair rail, panel molding, and Ikon rosette, from about $2.26 per linear foot; metrie.com
V&A Collection wallpaper, by Graham & Brown
Patterns from the early 1800s through the 1950s housed at London's Victoria and Albert Museum get respectfully reinterpreted, including this riff on a graphic print by Arts and Crafts legend C.F.A. Voysey and a bold architectural motif.
About $85 for a double roll; grahambrown.com
BR30 LED with Dimmable Warm Glow, by Philips
Getting LEDs to work with dimmers was Step 1. We're thrilled to see a bulb that has moved on to Step 2: fading to a warmer color temperature as you dial down its 730 lumens, creating a cozy, incandescent-like glow for recessed fixtures.
About $17; usa.philips.com
Bunny Williams collection, by Dash & Albert
Decor from high-society designers is beyond the budget of most of the homeowners we know. Hats off to this tasteful collection of indoor/outdoor area rugs for making owning a piece of American interior design history imaginable.
Starting at About $59; dashandalbert.com
Cork globe, by Suck UK
Show off your peripatetic exploits by sticking pins into this 10-inch cork globe—it's imprinted with a simplified world map—to mark all the places you've been. Pins included; you supply the bragging rights.
About $200; suck.uk.com