A few weeks into the lockdown in Spring—after the initial feeling of it being an involuntary staycation wore off—everything began to feel wrong about my home. That is to say, little felt right. Not the color of the walls, the material of the countertops, the firmness of the mattress, or the style of the cabinet pulls. As our indoors became our entire worlds, these worlds (like the one on the outside) were showing cracks.
I rushed to buy new hallway ceiling lights (too small). I spent days torn between a cold-press and centrifugal juicer (bought a second blender, instead). Found five different pasta rollers I "most definitely needed" (I didn’t). Bought doormats and pillows and an antique mirror that fell and shattered a week later. I ended up with a drawer-full of cabinet pull samples and a paper folder exploding with wallpaper swatches.
As the days rolled into weeks and months, things settled down. My eye still went to the gaps that were, but I spent more time thinking about what would really enrich our space—and life at home. My purchases got smarter: they made cleaning efficient (hello, teeny table dustpan), organization easier (pantry organizers! Utility cart!), and decorating fun (a second-hand wall unit that made a living room-television more palatable and has tons of shelves to style with books and objects.
Knowing I couldn’t be the only one who lived through this strange but evolutionary period, I decided to ask the Food52 team: What was the best thing they bought for their homes in 2020; the one thing that made being at home more palatable, joyful, or just plain convenient? I got a lot of enthusiastic, and very varied, responses—from long-awaited bigger splurges to the littlest luxuries. Which only goes to prove that our lives at home are never a one-size-fits-all; that we all experience our homes differently; and that our homes wear many, many hats.
“We finally bought a couch! We renovated our house in 2017 and have slowly furnished it, taking our time with purchasing quality products that we hope to have for a lifetime. We’ve been using the couch I grew up in, which is almost 30 years old, so it was time! Now we’re reaping all of the benefits in comfort and style.” —Sarah Yaffa, Senior Data Analyst
“My portable bonfire has allowed us to continue to gather, safely, with our small quarantine pod even as winter approached in the Northeast. It has created so many magical moments with our kids roasting marshmallows, hunting for stars, and simply being together as a family.” —Claire Chambers, Chief Commercial Officer
“Believe it or not: a corn on the cob sculpture—a birthday gift and, arguably, the least practical thing I've ever owned. But the joy it brings! Our living room is pretty minimal and neutral, and I love the bam-pow of playfulness and color that this brings. Plus, it's light enough to move around, and works as a handy footstool or drink stand, too.” —Emma Laperruque, Food Editor
“My home pick for The Year of Staying In is the power duo of a sturdy wick-trimmer and USB candle lighter. Aromatherapy has been an amazing way to relax in a tiny NYC apartment, and now that I know how essential wick-trimming is (I used to wonder why my candles turned so sooty around the edges, and it made me not want to go in there with a match), and how fun rechargeable lighters are, my home scent game is considerably stronger.” —Jess Kapadia, Senior Editor
“Hands down, my Baking Steel! I like to cook much more than I like to bake, and when everyone else went on a bread binge, I decided to try up my pizza game. The Baking Steel was a game-changer for me, and the unexpected bonus was how much it helped with baked goods, too—like galettes, which crisped up so much better, and became a go-to lunch and dessert throughout the summer.” —Wonbo Woo, Executive Producer
"I'm big on nightly rituals, but all that went out the window when I became a new mom this year. My evenings still consist of a relaxing bath, skincare routine, and warm cuppa—only none of them were mine. That is until I treated myself to this electric kettle. Seems like a small swap, I know, but the ease of boiling water in less than 90 seconds was all it took for me to reinvest a bit of my night into myself. Now I try to take 30 minutes before bed for some Sleepytime Tea and a good book." —Alyssa Longobucco, Contributor, Home52
“After eating off my boring set of (matching) plates every single day for four straight months, I was done. I started buying new (and vintage!) colorful plates and bowls from my favorite ceramicists, eBay, and yard sales. They don't match at all and I love each one dearly.” —Rebecca Firkser, Assigning Editor
“My adjustable standing desk has been my greatest purchase this year (and possibly, GOAT!). It was easy to assemble, is electric, and has spared my bad back from more pain! I love it so much I keep dragging my neighbors into my apartment to watch a demo!” —Dina Losito, B2B Business Associate
"We purchased this giant mixing bowl, which I thought too large at first (it’s huge!) but quickly realized we’d use it for everything—it's especially useful for making this genius giant chopped salad. Plus, it's very durable in addition to being quite lightweight for its size." —Mark Linderman, VP of Engineering
“When the pandemic started, I was spending a lot of time watching reruns of The Great British Bake-Off and The Barefoot Contessa—low-stress, soothing shows that always reminded me that I hadn’t been an actual baker as much as just been entertained by them.
I wanted an activity that required patience and taught me a new skill, and I liked the idea of emerging from this year as the type of person who could effortlessly whip up freshly baked goods. I bought a KitchenAid Stand Mixer—in white, just like Ina—and committed to learning how to make blueberry muffins that future guests could wake up to and think, “Wow, she didn’t even look at a recipe.” Nine months in, I can! Next up: scones.” —Kelly Dawson, Home52 contributor
“Bunk beds were inarguably the best thing we bought this year: they have brought so much joy. My son has been begging for bunk beds since my book on small living came out and he saw the cool bunks in a couple of the homes we shot. I'd been hesitating since he is still only five, but when we visited my family this summer, he stayed in his cousins' bunks and proved he was totally ready. We decided to get the same ones because they are a great option for a small space. In addition to sleeping, my son imagines they are a fort, a rocket ship, a rabbit's den, and more. I will also confess that I have taken an afternoon nap on the bottom bunk—there is something so truly cozy about it.” —Laura Fenton, Home52 columnist
“Total splurge, but I bought the Breville Barista Express this year to help with my La Colombe latte withdrawals during quarantine. I’d never considered it before this year because I never thought I'd be home enough to make the most of it. Granted, it's been worth every penny!” —Angie Hanna-Bugueiro, VP Product
“I’ve been wanting to buy an authentic vintage rug for the longest time, but never really thought I was up for the investment. Then, my rug guru (Senior Editor Arati Menon), told me to check Etsy for the most reasonably priced ones. Um, I cannot say enough good things about purchasing rugs like this... I got to watch the live updates of my (1970s!) rug traveling from Turkey to Belgium to France to Tennessee and finally to New York, and when I laid it out in my room for the first time... magic. It’s all the rich colors I was looking for in a pattern that’s not commercially manufactured.” —Caroline Mullen, Assistant Editor
“The best thing I bought this year was actually a door (!) from Wayfair—it allowed me to turn a window in my Brooklyn apartment into a door with stairs so I could get easier access to my patio! A total game-changer this summer!” —Jojo Feld, Former VP of Merchandising & Supply Chain
What is the best thing you bought for your home this year? Tell us in the comments below!
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