Home Decor

The Best Things We Bought for Our Homes This Year

From bigger buys to littler luxuries, here's what made our lives at home more fulfilling, convenient, and fun.

December 17, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

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

Note from Sarah: "Throw pillows to come." Photo by Sarah Yaffa

“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

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Top Comment:
“My home sometimes feels like & sounds like a “Pre-School” class! I Love It!”
— KariFrex
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“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

"It's upping my pizza game." Photo by Wonbo Woo

"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

Bunk bed in fort mode Photo by Laura Fenton

“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


A few of our favorite things

What is the best thing you bought for your home this year? Tell us in the comments below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns a commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Davinica Nemtzow
    Davinica Nemtzow
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    MariaCHatch
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    KariFrex
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    KLHess
Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.

26 Comments

Davinica N. January 2, 2021
My partner and I moved in together in the middle of the pandemic and the best thing we bought (excluding all of our Five Two Kitchen necessities) was a sustainably and locally made bed frame from Hurricane Woodwork! It now feels like we’re in a sanctuary instead of solitary.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. January 2, 2021
My bedroom has also been my sanctuary during the pandemic (sleeping, reading, working, even eating...ssshhh), so I totally get that! And we are thrilled that you’re happy with your Five Two purchases. Happy new year to you, Davinica.
 
Davinica N. January 2, 2021
My partner and I moved in together in the middle of the pandemic and the best thing we bought (excluding all of our Five Two Kitchen necessities) was a sustainably and locally made bed frame from Hurricane Woodwork! It now feels like we’re in a sanctuary instead of solitary.
 
jantiques December 27, 2020
I bought an Eye Vac a few months ago, and hubby thought it was a bit unnecessary (now, of course, he loves it). It's a small, stationary pod kind of thing that sucks up anything you can sweep with a broom. So it basically replaces a dust pan, but is so much more efficient: just sweep everything towards the bottom of the pod, and whoosh. It disappears into the unit. If I don't have time to vacuum, I can do a quick sweep; really kind of fun. Had to turn the "auto" function off, though, because it scared the dog if she got too close and it went off. Poor thing!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. January 2, 2021
I need one of these!!
 
MariaCHatch December 27, 2020
I don't see that cute wicker tray from the headline photo linked in the article anywhere. Is that available on the site?
 
KariFrex December 27, 2020
I bought a fluffy, huggable & affectionate Maltese Chizu Puppy. Her name is Sissy. Right now she is pulling one of my cats by means of a “Pee Pad”!I have 2 cats, Wendy & Monica. They “let her” live with them.( Their is mutual respect in this Abode.) She is endlessly entertaining. If I lay down to take a nap, she wants to also.She is a walking dust mop! My home sometimes feels like & sounds like a “Pre-School” class! I Love It!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. January 2, 2021
As a fellow animal lover, I’m a little bit jealous! Your four-legged brood sounds lovely.
 
KLHess December 27, 2020
I love the rug in Sarah Yaffa’s living room, not to mention the dog. Could you share what and where?
 
Merry December 27, 2020
So happy to see the oriental rug info (Etsy). I've purchased a few things from Etsy in the past, but never thought to look there for rugs. Just placed an order for one and it was difficult making a decision with so many beautiful options.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 27, 2020
Yay! Let us know how it goes. I’ve bought three rugs/kilims on Etsy this year—and love them dearly. It’s amazing how specific you can get with what you’re looking for, and still find inventory.
 
Merry December 27, 2020
Definitely - can't wait to receive it.
 
Merry January 4, 2021
Our rug just arrived (ordered through Etsy) and it is perfect! Customer service was wonderful and the rug is happily living in our space now. Again, so glad I saw this article.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. January 4, 2021
Yay! It makes me so very happy to hear this.
 
Caroline M. January 4, 2021
Merry I am so very happy & excited for you!! Living my rug more every day :)
 
eluu December 26, 2020
My husband somehow found these gorgeous vintage Japanese tonsu chests (from the 1930s!) in our little surf city and we are using them as our drawers now. Mine has a harmonica "alarm" built into two drawers that were once used to safeguard small valuables from small children peeking into their momma and dadda's drawers..
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 26, 2020
That alarm is a brilliant idea!!! (Also, love tonsu chests and all their beautiful ironwork!)
 
Diane V. December 26, 2020
Where did Sarah Yaffa get that couch.... we are looking for one just like that!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 26, 2020
Will get back to you on that Diane!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 27, 2020
So, Diane, the couch is from Natuzzi. Hope that helps!
 
cayenne December 22, 2020
Two Ikea dressers. They were the biggest pain to assemble, but I had the time, and they're awesome.
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 26, 2020
Full points for that IKEA dresser assembly! I usually give up after an hour...
 
Patti P. December 20, 2020
Recliners! 😂 ... a Lazy-girl and Lazy-boy...we have spent so much more time bingeing shows during Pandemic!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 20, 2020
I never imagined the comfort of one until I settled into my father’s recliner. Now we fight for that spot! Happy holidays to you.
 
tia December 18, 2020
Best thing I bought this year was a Roomba. The litterbox is, by necessity, in the living room and now I just don't have to worry about the mess. Plus it lead to the sort of hilarious realization that my cat stopped shedding pretty much completely when the weather got cold. I wasn't imagining how much fur there was this spring!
 
Author Comment
Arati M. December 19, 2020
As someone who cleans for fun, I support your cause! Friends with hairy, sheddy pets (and sheddy babies haha) swear by their Roombas. I would, too.