Home & Design Trends

The Very Best Things We Added to Our Homes This Year

From affordable art frames to upgraded bookshelves and eco-friendly cleaners—they've made our lives at home 1000x better.

December 20, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

2020, which was either just last year or many lifetimes ago, was a horror—we can all agree on that. This year delivered better news in fits and starts: some things changed, while others solidly didn't. One thing that hasn't changed? Our deepened relationships with our homes, and what we continue to crave from it: security, safety, comfort—even an escape.

When we rounded up our team's best home purchases in 2020, what we saw were efforts to make the shift to being at home all the time more palatable. We finally bought the dream couches that would get a ton of use, housing us, our laptops, our dinners, and our pets ; the adjustable WFH standing desks to spare bad backs; and espresso machines to help with [insert favorite coffee shop] midday latte withdrawals.

While we did enter this year feeling ever-so-slightly hopeful about things getting better, we continued to have big expectations from our homes—and lives indoors. What's changed, though, is that we're trying to make active choices to improve them: We're rejigging and renovating our spaces so they fit better with our shifting lifestyles; we are DIY-ing a whole lot (more both as a creative pursuit and a pragmatic choice); and we're filling them up with happy-making decor (DIY disco balls! Indoor plants!).

So, I did it again: I asked the Food52 team what the best things they bought for their homes this year were (Mine are this IKEA rolling cart that that I promptly turned into a cleaning caddy, and a nifty cable organizer). It's a list that will make you stop and think, laugh, and reach for (or hide!) your wallets. But, more than anything, it will underline our shared human experience—even if our lives at home look a little different from each other's.

"I love my bed but I do not love sharing my bed. I especially do not like sharing a comforter. So when my boyfriend and I moved in together and began sharing my queen-size bed every night, it quickly became apparent that we needed a change in blanket situation. I considered two comforters, but aesthetically, I didn’t want to go down that route. A king-size comforter and linen duvet cover turned out to be the perfect solution.

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“I ordered one for my home too 💚”
— elyze

We also got a puppy this year sort of spontaneously. I mean, we knew we wanted a dog, but we ended up taking the plunge five days after moving into a new apartment. So, that left us (okay, me) scrambling to find dog accessories that coordinated with existing decor. After poring over bowl set after bowl set (and convincing myself I did not need this $119 acrylic beauty, I finally decided on this set of double bowls. I’m so pleased I did, because they are less than a quarter of the price of the acrylic ones, and they blend right in next to our midcentury style table." —Caroline Mullen, Assistant Editor, Home52 and Mama to Oswald

Ozzie also likes king-size comforters. Photo by Caroline Mullen

"Our house was struck by lightning back in June, and we lost a lot of electronics in our home. Come October (supply chain woes FTW), an upgraded oven replacement was the best thing that happened to me." —Sarah Yaffa, Lead Data Analyst and Constant Baker

"We got a Toto washlet toilet bidet seat which has transformed our bathroom experience. It has a heated seat, remote control, heated drying, and tons of water settings. My life will never be the same again (I'm so spoiled)." —Rachel Hong, Senior Manager, Accounting and Plumbing Connoisseur

The Bala bangles that barely leave Molly's side. Photo by Molly Fitzsimons

"I love my Bala Bangles so much—does that count as a thing for my home? I wear them around the house when I'm cooking and cleaning and puttering around. Also when working at my desk. (Sometimes I put them on my ankles, too.) They're light enough that you don't feel the strain, but they do make me feel a little more intentional in my movements, and I've already noticed a difference in my arms!" —Molly Fitzsimons, Prop Stylist and Intentional Mover

"I love holding on to pieces of paper—art, photographs, postcards. Usually they end up stuffed in books or set aside in some obscure place. This year I've realized I want to get those things out of hiding and onto my walls. These frames are affordable and look great. If you're crafty, you could easily sand or stain the frames to suit your situation." —Garrett McDonnell, Digital Designer and Memory Keeper

Secret marriage proposals and other keepsakes—now framed. Photo by Garrett McDonnell

"My fiancé and I are big coffee drinkers so we invested in the Fellow Ode Coffee Grinder at the start of the year. He loves the therapeutic routine of making a Chemex in the morning & I prefer a French press, so with the multiple grind options the this offers, we can both make our perfect cup of coffee to get us ready for the day. We also love the sleek profile of this grinder in our coffee station." —Shareen Singh, Home Buyer and Coffee Perfectionist

"A Ring video doorbell to keep track of all the other stuff I keep buying for my house! It’s great being able to have an app that shows me who rang the doorbell and talk to them if needed—especially if I am upstairs busy with my toddler and can just tell them it’s fine to drop off the package at my door." —Megan Güntaş, Senior Product Designer and Eagle-Eyed Shopper

Photo by Eva Nedzynski

"I found this beauty of a refurbished dresser on Facebook Marketplace and I could not love it more. It acts as a TV stand in my living room and provides so much storage space for all of the bits and bobs that otherwise make a mess of my closet. And that color and drawer-pulls—just so lovely!" —Celeste Scollan, Copywriter and Cool Hunter

"There are two tools I am surprised to have truly fallen for—and continue to take great pleasure in using—in the past year of renovating our home. A respirator mask is one, and this scraper tool is another. It's been the sole tool to get many odd jobs done: scraping the popcorn off the ceiling, orange peel texture off the wall, getting plaster, primer, or even dried microcement off the ground (because I'm awful at prep), and even breaking open a package when the box cutter has gone missing again.

Also, after tripping over our speaker and power strip and projector cables one too many times, we had had it! Enter: this amazing wireless smart projector. It has all your streaming services built in, seamlessly connects to your (also wireless!) bluetooth speakers, and has a built-in battery so you can nestle this between your bowl of popcorn and pup in your still-coffee-table-less living room—or take it to the kitchen while you bake cookies." —Coral Lee, Podcast Producer and Reno Queen

“One of the best things I bought for my home this year was this cozy knit cross throw. It's a mix of wool and lambswool so it's very warm, but somehow not itchy at all!  It's also reversible so I am able to style it with my lighter chair or show the green for a pop of color. Safe to say it will be by my side all winter long.” —Aja Aktay, Senior Merchandiser and Treasure Hunter

For curling up on the couch or crowding around a fire. Photo by Aja Aktay

"Not super glamorous, but I'm obsessed with any (and all) reusable cleaning towels. They're life-changing: I almost never buy paper towels anymore! I love them from both from a sustainability and economical perspective—buying something that's entire purpose is to be thrown away has always made me feel guilty." —Emma Kraus, Assistant Buyer, Kitchen & Cookware and Swiper of Counters

"My KitchenAid stand mixer has gotten a lot of use during the pandemic as I started to bake more. The classic red color is bright and cheerful (two things we can use more of these days), and is always a sign that fresh-baked treats are on their way.

Also, this bench has come in more handy than I’d expected. It sits by the main entrance in our house for a convenient spot to put on shoes before heading out, and has a spot to corral all those daily essentials I’d otherwise forget like keys, hand sanitizer, and masks.

An underrated piece of furniture that's also the most hardworking. Photo by Jada Wong

And finally, my husband and I finally decided to buy an espresso machine after years of wanting one, and we’ve been using it every day for the last two months. He can make his espresso while I make my lattes and cappuccinos—and drink them in my fave mug from Sawyer Ceramics from this year’s Mugs52 collection (sadly, no longer available). It’s an unintentional matching moment that makes for the perfect start to my day." —Jada Wong, Market Editor and Chief Sales Scouter

"I finally broke down and bought a Miele vacuum cleaner for our apartment. This vacuum cleaner has long been my favorite, but it felt wasteful to get rid of our functioning (but awful) vacuum. I regret having waited so long: There's really no vacuum that compares to a Miele. I also found a new home for our old vacuum, so it didn't go to the landfill.

Also, our new bookcases, which are certainly a big improvement to our home! I didn't realize how much our crummy old bookcase was bringing down the vibe in our main living space, and it feels so good to have all the piles of books neatly stowed on the shelves with our additional shelf space." —Laura Fenton, Home52 Columnist and Small-Space Expert

A new home for an ever-expanding library. Photo by Laura Fenton

"This year, I've been hyper-conscious about cutting back on plastic. I bought the Five Two silicone lids and they're so helpful for that—I reach for them all the time. It feels good to know that every day, there's at least one little thing I'm doing to help take care of the environment." —Josephine Yang, Senior Copywriter and Eco Do-Gooder

"I was never a fan of laundry day, and to be honest, I’m still not. However, The Laundress’ heavenly scented 723 Laundry Detergent makes the job so much more enjoyable, and keeps my clothes bright and fresh. The formula combines their best-selling signature detergent with a lush Damask rose-based fragrance for can’t-stop-smelling-it results—one whiff and you’ll want to use it on everything. Luckily, the No. 723 scent even comes in candle and diffuser form, both of which are at the top of my gift wish list (hint, hint)." —Erin Alexander, Brand Partnerships Editor and Scent Hound

The bench that outperforms itself. Photo by Michael Lu

"I bought this extendable wooden bench and love that it does double-duty as my coffee table and acts as overflow seating if I need it. It shrinks down to a very manageable size, which is a must for living (small) in NYC. I'm a big fan of how the solid wood looks and feels, too." —Michael Lu, Senior Manager, Commercial Strategy & Operations and Double-Duty Kinda Guy

"Mine was definitely our little Via Citrus Calamondin Orange Tree! It's just been a joy watching it flower and then fruit, and we are so close to our first little orange harvest!" —Kaleigh Embree, Product Development Coordinator and Plant Nurturer

"Hands-down the best thing I bought for my home this year was this absolutely enormous, high-quality desk. (It's practically the size of a dinner table.) It's the first piece of $$$ furniture I've really invested in in a few years, and it has made 50+ hours of my week way more beautiful and functional." —Amanda Gustafson, Senior Product Manager and Future-Proof Shopper

That desk! That chair! Photo by Amanda Gustafson

Tell us about our favorite home purchases this year—and how they've changed your life at home.

In our carts

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • elyze
  • sharon Korsgaard
    sharon Korsgaard
  • Limely
  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Arati Menon
    Arati Menon
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.


elyze January 9, 2022
That extendable bench is just what I was looking for to prop up my cat bed and some plants.. thanks for the rec! Hadn’t found any solidly made wood pieces close to my vision so far. I ordered one for my home too 💚
sharon K. December 28, 2021
I really like the painted dresser that Celeste S. purchased for her home. Who is the source for the painted items and where may I find the name?
Arati M. January 5, 2022
Ah, I believe it was a one-off that Celeste found on Facebook Marketplace, Sharon! Isn't it lovely?
sharon K. January 6, 2022
It IS lovely. I think I found the painter and source after digging on Facebook! Moataz Ali. He has other pieces and does painting. Love the website!
Arati M. January 9, 2022
So glad you found him!!
Limely December 20, 2021
These are all incredibly lovely, and while I love everything on this list and practically never leave negative leaning comments on articles or posts etc (really!), I have to say that this felt incredibly tone deaf to the thousands of families who lost jobs, homes and more over the last two years. We have given up so much, and even acquiring used furniture is still a big deal all this time later.

THAT bummer being said, I'd love to see an up to date article sharing affordable and imaginative home and storage options... just a thought. I will always be here for the incredible food. 😊❤️
Arati M. December 20, 2021
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts—and for your kindness and empathy. While this article is meant to highlight the things, big and tiny, that bring us joy, make us feel safe etc in our new relationships with our homes, we do have a lot of content on the site (food and home-related) that centers around affordable workarounds, creative solutions, and pragmatic DIYs—for cooking, organizing, decorating, cleaning etc. Thank you though for reading and sharing your thoughts—it's certainly been an inordinately tough year for too many of us. Happy (and safe) holidays to you.
Limely December 20, 2021
Thank you for your kind reply. You guys do run an incredibly tight ship, and are one of my favorite websites. I will always be a fan. Life is so expensive right now, but there are indeed many wonderful workarounds, as you say. Merry Christmas!
chayac December 23, 2021
Ugh, as soon as I saw this article I knew there had to be at least one comment like this. Can’t we just let people enjoy things? I think this pandemic has made it more vital than ever to seize onto the joy you have. These are individual people sharing things that they have enjoyed. Tearing people down for experiencing joy doesn’t do anything to help people who have had a hard time - and for that matter, these people have almost certainly had a hard time themselves too because everyone has. Being able to buy a nice dog bowl doesn’t mean you’ve been unaffected by the pandemic.
Jean December 27, 2021
I agree with what both of you write, and am especially impressed by your acknowledgement of each other's point of view. Thank you. I needed this at the end of this year, as I am sure many others did.
Liz S. December 20, 2021
This is a great list! Some inspiration, some "wish I could" and just a nice variety - thanks to all!

I have worked from home (self-employed computer programmer) for 36 years (yikes!!) and live a hermit-like existence in rural NW Montana so COVID did not impact my day to day routine. BUT, because of reading what others were doing, I was inspired to do some things I hadn't thought of ... or not thought too much about and 1 was a bidet attachment although not near as fancy as the TOTO. But, I have to say thank you to the TOTO link because THAT unit definitely goes on my wish list! I love the bidet and as the person who bought it said: "it transformed my bathroom experience" :) ... holy cow ... never going back to TP.

My other upgrade was to replace the front door of my house. The old door was a solid door that opens into an area in my little house that is combination mudroom, laundry room (closet) and foyer ( ha!). And it was metal and a bit rusty. I replaced it with a barn red (my home exterior is gray) door with a high window. It lets light into a dark little spot inside and outside it brightens and cheers the front porch. It also necessitated an update in front porch chair cushions ... typical "can of worms" home improvement thing ... but what a difference in how my entry looks from outside and inside.
Arati M. December 20, 2021
Now I want a bidet (Toto or bust hahaha)!! Also, love that the door replacement is bringing you so much joy—and light!! Happy holidays, Liz!
Liz S. December 20, 2021
Ha! GET the Toto!!! Happy holidays back at you Arati M.