by Raphael Fetta
After years of moving people into apartments, and even more years of moving myself into apartments, I’ve come to realize that no matter how fancy or humble the space, it’s the details that make up the fabric of day-to-day life.
My first New York space was probably, technically, the nicest I’ll ever live in – my 23rd floor NYU dorm. It has since been converted to luxury apartments that rent for over $3,000 for a one-bedroom, but when I first walked in and dropped my duffel that crisp, blue September morning, I had no idea that it was one simple piece of metal that would wind up setting my 8 month stint apart from the rest.
You see, for obvious safety reasons, the windows of the highrise were designed to only open a few inches, but the super could open them all the way, creating a breezy, open (albeit perhaps a bit dangerous) connection with the outside. By some twist of fate (incompetence?), a maintenance person left a key in my window. To my delight, I discovered that the key not only opened my window, but EVERY window in the entire building. Needless to say, as the only person with that key, I became very popular at parties – it was a fun parlor trick to commiserate on the limitations of our sterile, corporate housing, then pull out the key with a subtle flourish and let everyone peek their heads out and taste anarchic freedom. Of course, unless we were on a low floor, I’d close the window back up before anyone accidentally ‘graduated’ themselves early, but it was still cool.
The parties were great, but the real delight for me came on those days when I could sit by myself in my own apartment and open up that big window, letting the city speak to me - in honks, breezes and smells - directly through that massive portal. It was just a little piece of metal, but it made my time there special.
Thinking about that key got me thinking about how my daily life is impacted by the little things, the inexpensive or serendipitous micros that mold into the macro of my domestic life, each doing their part to make it run a little more smoothly, or bring me a little happiness. This is not meant to be an ad for anything, just a brief love note to some of those basics that make me happy, and which I always recommend to everyone who will listen. So listen…
SPEAKMAN ANYSTREAM SHOWER HEAD, $35
Take a shower in almost any hotel in the country, and you’ll see this little beauty. I once moved into an apartment in Astoria that had charm galore, but water pressure? Nope. We experimented with several expensive shower heads before we discovered this beauty. What once was a trickle became an invigorating torrent when we adjusted it right. As opposed to many shower heads designed to optimize low pressure in apartments, this one doesn’t turn the flow into a fine mist (unless of course, you want it to), it gives you a robust, enveloping spray, and doesn’t break the bank. I actually replaced the pricy “Rain Head” that my latest gut renovated apartment came with, and I will probably never go back.
OXO MINI DUSTPAN AND BRUSH, $12
With two kids under 3, my house sees more food on the floor than on the table. I don’t know what I’d do without this. I’ve had other dustpans and brooms, but the rubber lip and well apportioned bristles on this one just work better.
OXO SILICONE DRAIN CATCH, $10
I promise I don’t work for OXO, and I don’t know anyone who does, but these people just know good design. This was actually recommended to me by a friend who consistently gives them as housewarming gifts. A quick inside-out flick of the handle will shoot all the crud right into the garbage – no more hands covered with old oatmeal or onion skins. There’s a slight learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s amazing.
VICTOR M2524 ELECTRONIC MOUSETRAP, $20
Mice. It happens. And when it does, I don’t like to cause any more pain or mess than is absolutely necessary. I’ve seen one too many glue trap horrors and conventional trap mishaps, and wouldn’t wish poison on my worst enemy. This mousetrap has never let me down – full kill, every time. I like to think the mouse doesn’t know what hit him…I may be wrong but it’s still the way I’d choose to go if I had to.
IKEA HEMNES 8-DRAWER DRESSER, $299
I’ve had two of these so far (sold the first one when I moved and got another color) – they’re way better looking and well-made than they have any business being. Perfect for couples.
SUNNIGHT SOLAR BOGO LIGHT, $39
When the Water Wars come, and we’re all plunged into darkness, we’ll need something to read our five remaining paper books by. This is it. 6 LED lights give you 6-8 hours of bright, broad light. Knowing that (as long as it’s been in the window) it will be working give me tremendous satisfaction and peace of mind. I use it almost every other day to find something that my kids have hidden or thrown away. BONUS: They’ll also donate one to Haiti relief if you buy one!
BINDER CLIPS, $3
Every time I see those silly ‘bag clips’ at the store for, like, $10 for two, my blood boils. The humble binder clip is the most effective general-use item I have in my kitchen. Buy a bunch and use them liberally - you won’t have a stale bag of cereal or crackers for a long, long time. Also great for clipping wires in place (route the cable through the little metal handles), hanging posters, and even occasionally binding papers!
As you can see, this list is a bit random - I could probably go on for another twenty pages, but will leave it here. Let’s get the conversation started. Let me know the little things make you tick at home – drop me an email at [email protected] I might just make this a regular entry!