This story is part of Home Bound, a series that examines Americans’ fraught relationship with their homes—and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the reset button. Read more here.
Over the last year, the shift to remote work forced many people to make adjustments in their day-to-day lives, as bedrooms became home offices and kitchen tables became classrooms.
This transformation also meant that a slew of new products very quickly became essential. Peloton bikes, streaming services, hair dye, and baking yeast boomed during quarantine. And sure, things will change when we go back to the office; there are some items people won’t ever want to see again. But some newly discovered pandemic products are here to stay.
We asked the most design-savvy among us for the purchases that they plan to keep using post-pandemic. From pots and pans to indoor shoes and a Darth Vader wine-bottle opener, here’s what kept them going.
I got really into eBay in quarantine because . . . what else is there to do! I’ll take thrills where I can get them. My favorite find was this Kosta Boda duck pitcher. Water pours out of its beak. It picks up the light really nicely in my kitchen—I’ve been leaving it out on the counter. These float around eBay with some regularity, but what’s fun is that they are hand-blown glass, so each one is slightly different. Price varies, via eBay.
—Ellen Van Dusen, founder of Dusen Dusen
Design holy grail
This isn’t a new product, but it’s something I’ve been wanting for a long time and finally found during quarantine. I’m understandably obsessed with Dieter Rams’s designs, and for the past 10 years I’ve been searching for a Braun T3, the 1958 transistor radio designed by Rams in collaboration with the Ulm School.
For me, the T3 represents a turning point in modern portable technology, and its form and scroll-wheel functionality inspired Apple’s original iPod and countless other products. It’s sort of the holy grail for vintage Braun collectors, and it’s insanely hard to find one, especially in working condition. I finally managed to source a near-mint example in Germany last year, and quarantine be damned, I jumped on it. It blows my mind how modern it looks even after 63 years! It’s a timeless design object that I love to look at, and I can still listen to Mets games on it. Here’s the T3 in MoMA’s collections.
—Gary Hustwit, filmmaker and photographer
My two biggest design-y products that I’ve started to use (and will continue to use) during the pandemic are my iPad and this paper-feel screen protector for it, which makes lettering so much easier! I learned about it on a Twitch lettering stream from Winston Scully, a famous letterer who took to the platform at the beginning of the pandemic. Paper-feel screen protector, $11.19 via Amazon.
—Alex Nassour, art director at Mother
Multicolored smart bulbs for long days
[These smart bulbs have] been great for when myself or my partner are working long days and need all the light we can get to boost our morale and work ethic. You can also program the lights to gently wake you up in the morning, which I’m currently obsessed with, as I am NOT a fan of being awakened by my iPhone’s violent alarm sounds. Philips Hue White and Color LED Smart Button Start Kit, $179.99 via Amazon.
—Jay Davis, brand designer at Blue State
A vase to remind you of simple pleasures
In a year when the world came to a halt and we had to find new markers for what constitutes pleasure in our lives, I was gifted this flower vase. It is only meant for a single flower stem. It served as a constant reminder to appreciate the beauty and details in small things. Seeing one flower this way felt more significant than a bouquet. Luna Vase, $28.80 via Kinto.
—Karishma Sheth, creative director at SY Partners
An Oscar-level webcam
My favorite quarantine product has been the Camo app, which turns your iPhone into a film-quality webcam and a way better alternative to the janky, low-res camera embedded in your laptop. And because it uses your iPhone’s hardware features and functionality, you can switch on Portrait mode to conveniently blur the mountain of dirty laundry behind you or even add your own logo to replace the standard Camo watermark (this feature requires the $39 Pro subscription). Download for free via the App store or upgrade to Camo Pro via Reincubate.
—Steve Vassallo, general partner at Foundation Capital
During the pandemic, I became interested in making cocktails at the end of the day as we needed to unwind at home. I discovered The Epicurian Trader store down the street from us: They had everything I needed for my new hobby. Old Fashioneds are now my signature drink, and I’ve made hundreds of them for friends and family! Will the demand and my new pandemic-acquired skill continue? I sure hope so. Prices vary, via The Epicurian Trader.
—Yves Behar, founder of Fuse Project
A bottle opener that channels the dark side
This was a quarantine birthday gift that now sits proudly on my bar shelves (when you have limited floor space, it forces you to get creative). Not only does it make me smile whenever I look at it, but it also serves as a fun conversation starter on Zoom calls. Star Wars Darth Vader figurine corkscrew via Amazon. (Currently sold out.)
—Lindsay Johnson, designer at Wieden+Kennedy
A bright pot for cold days
I’m a soup-and-sandwich person. While in quarantine, I was looking for something that would let me quickly heat up a bowl of soup to go with my grilled cheese sandwiches. This little enamel pot does the trick while also bringing me joy—something we could all use right now—with its pop of color. It’s now my go-to for heating up broth, making hot chocolate, or starting my “tangzhong” for milk bread. It’s a keeper! Splatter 22-ounce sauce server, $27 via Crow Canyon.
—Dungjai Pungauthaikan, principal at Once-Future Office
A massager for your stiff pandemic bod
Due to COVID-19, my Pilates and yoga classes have been canceled or moved online, with the result that my illustrator body aches in weird places. I invested in the Theragun Mini, hoping it will help me with back and neck pain. I use it every day, every few hours sitting at the computer. $199 via Theragun.
—Olimpa Zagnoli, illustrator
Shoes for a life indoors
We were gifted these Atoms sneakers a few years ago, and I never got around to wearing them. Once lockdown hit, they were my “indoor shoes” to make it feel like I was fully dressed for work each day. I’ll definitely continue wearing them (inside only!). $129 via Atoms.
—Jesse Reed, partner at Order
A better mask
My family and I have tried 10+ prototypes or brands of clear masks this year trying to find the perfect mask that would allow me to view the face of a person speaking or signing. We landed on two brands: ClearMask and BendShape. There are more being designed all the time, and I look forward to trying them all! Box of 24, $67 via ClearMask; pack of three, $21 via BendShape.
—Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft
A couch desk
After a few months of WFH, I purchased an overlap tray made by Offi. I tell people that it is the most thoughtfully designed item in my home. The tray is a supporting desk space that sits over my lap when I’m away from my designated work area—on the couch, bed, or even the floor.
The main tray top is supported by an additional arm that conveniently holds space for my phone or a cup of coffee on the same plane as my machine. However, it’s separated by a trough that allows for any other materials like a notebook or often a pencil to not slide away or get lost. $199 via Offi.
—Logan Emser, senior designer at Hyperakt
We tried to do a lot of outdoor socially distanced dining on our deck with friends this year, and the Tiki Fire Pit came in handy on chilly nights. And when taking walks with friends, Hoka One One shoes were perfect. $350 via Tiki.
—Angie Myung, cofounder, Poketo
A picnic in a ball
I stumbled upon the “Pic Boll” during a (somewhat ongoing) phase where I went *very* deep into midcentury plastic home goods. At first scroll, I mistook it for an ice bucket—Guzzini, the Italian manufacturer, makes an orb-shaped ice bucket as well—but upon further inspection, realized that it was something else entirely. The Pic Boll is a PICNIC in a BALL. (!!) Clever name, clever design—it has brought endless joy to my outdoor excursions. The spherical casing can double as a salad or chip bowl. The built-in handle makes it easy to carry, whether to the park or just the backyard. Simply incredible. Prices vary, via Etsy and eBay.
—Carly Ayres, UX Community & Culture at Google
My pick is a packet of nasturtium “Empress of India” seeds—it’s an old-time-y variety of nasturtium. I’ve grown pots and pots of them indoors, and I’m moving them outside now. They are edible, so my Old English sheepdog, Ozzy, can have at them and no worries. $3 via Select Seeds.
—Kate Orff, founding principal at Scape
A luxe accessory for your sex life
In March 2020, my family moved to a little cabin in rural North Carolina with internet strong enough to open emails but absolutely not stream video. That meant my husband and I got our 3-year-old and 5-year-old out of our bed and into a bunk bed, and, this summer, we started making up for all the sex we hadn’t been having since East Fork and children co-opted our every waking moment. With nowhere to wear the nice clothes in my closet, I—like many, I’m sure—started buying lingerie and other bedroom accoutrements, but my real splurge was this braided whip from Kiki de Montparnasse.
I probably could have found a cheaper, less luxe object to perform the same function, but this was worth it for the butter-soft, supple leather and what was truly the most special unboxing experience. I really hate spending money on things that are gadgety, have batteries, or require an instruction manual, so I love this because you really don’t have to try that hard to figure out how to use it once you get it in hand. I think it’s really, really beautiful. I love it. $295 via Kiki de Montparnasse.
—Connie Matisse, CEO, East Fork Pottery
The COVID-19 classic: a puppy
As I would imagine many people did, my wife and I got a dog during the pandemic. When we were on a visit to her parents’ farm in Pennsylvania, one of their neighbors had had a litter of puppies, and we ended up taking one back to New York with us. He’s a sweet big boy who’s got us walking around the city every day, even in the rain, and who reminds us to stop and smell the garbage every once in a while. Priceless.
—Andrew Herzog, partner at School