Since the day our homes became de facto offices and schools, we’ve asked much from them. The year's best home products helped us make the best of it. No more working from your sofa thanks to a convertible work desk. A budget air purifier that eats 99.97 percent of airborne baddies, and looks good doing it. A famous designer's take on an affordable (and planet-friendly) lawn chair. What to take away from a year indoors? Function, thoughtfulness and beauty are needed in equal measure. These products embody that spirit.
Buffy Soft Hemp
Thread count: 102 single-ply
Sizes: Full–California King
Colors: White, natural, natural contrast
In the past five years, the hemp industry has boomed, with industrial hemp farming in the U.S. growing exponentially, but its applications are still being uncovered. Buffy, a young direct-to-consumer company, wants you to sleep with it.
“In the U.S., we know hemp still feels like a really new and weird material to show up inside the home, but we want to be part of building the demand for the broader hemp market," Matt Breuer, Buffy’s vice president of marketing says.
The bedding brand’s Soft Hemp line of sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers fully realizes hemp as a better bedding material. The plant is environmentally friendly — it grows without herbicides and is nontoxic and biodegradable — and its growth is environmentally friendly in and of itself, as the plant naturally reinvigorates the soil and cleans the air. Plus, it grows, well, like a weed.
When it comes to sleeping with the stuff, its closest relative is flax linen, a bedding material most famous for breeziness and eye-watering price tags. Imagine the same breathable structure as flax linen, the same antibacterial qualities, the same durability, but a softer feel and a far superior sustainability record. That'd be Buffy's hemp bedding.
The company's design team sought to make its hemp bedding as natural as possible. It’s 100 percent hemp, washed for softness (sans chemicals) and either left uncolored or bleached with hydrogen peroxide.
“We’re thrilled to expand our work with hemp and will welcome the competition,” Breuer says. “At the end of the day, it’s a win for the planet.”
Hemp won’t get you high, but it makes for a pretty wicked bedding fabric.
Magis Bell Chair
Colors: Sunrise (orange), Highnoon (white), Midnight (black)
Material: Recycled polypropylene
Designer: Konstantin Grcic
Earlier this year, Vitra released a $3,245 lounge chair that, because of subtle metal wire connections between the back and the seat, appears to float in midair. Imagined by the high-profile designer Konstantic Grcic, its destiny is to live as a statement piece for the wealthy and well connected.
The Bell Chair — also a Grcic design — couldn't be more different.
Effectively a cheap, plastic lawn chair, albeit one made by one of the most notable designers in the world, the Bell Chair began as a thought experiment: Could Grcic and his partner company Magis design and sell a chair for or less? Simple enough. Make it out of plastic.
A breakthrough came when the design team figured out a way to make a mass-produced plastic chair less reprehensible — 100 percent of the chair is made of recycled polypropylene thermoplastic, which is comprised of waste from Magis's other furniture production (and the surrounding region's auto industry). The entire chair is recyclable post-production, forming a near-closed material cycle.
To keep the price low, Grcic and his team had to be judicious with the amount of plastic used for each chair. They sliced weight off and designed it as a shell-like bowl with slightly splayed legs to do more with less material. The final iteration weighs less than six pounds — roughly the weight of a comparable plastic chair. And it's stackable, up to 12 chairs. The design team even built a custom, smaller shipping pallet (made with the same custom plastic the chair is made with), to fit more chairs in shipping spaces.
In Europe, the chair sells for the targeted . Mission accomplished. But because of international taxes and tariffs, expect to pay a little north of $100 in the U.S.
Gantri x Ammunition
Colors: Sedona, snow, carbon, stone, forest
Lighting Styles: Accent, task, area
If a brand wants a well-designed product, it turns to design firm Ammunition. Founded by Robert Brunner, the man who hired Jonny Ive at Apple, Ammunition has worked with Beats by Dre, Nook e-readers, Polaroid, Square, Adobe and more. Then Brunner bought a lamp from Gantri, a small San Francisco-based design company.
Gantri’s founder, Ian Yang, says its 3D-printed lamps are for those who want high-design homeware that isn’t in your face — items that are “elegant, but also fresh.” Brunner’s introduction to Gantri led the way for the two brands’ collaboration.
In a year, the 10-piece collection went from idea to launch; something Yang describes as an “insane feat," considering design firms release maybe a couple products a year altogether. And it’s all thanks to Gantri’s 3D printing. The technology shrinks the time between idea and final product, and prices are kept down relative to other designer lighting, too. And rather than using toxic and environmentally unfriendly oil-based plastics, Gantri developed the world’s first plant-derived polylactic acid, or PLA, to make its lamps.
“We let Ammunition have full control of the process and go all out,” Yang says. “Like what would an Ammunition designer want in their own home without worrying about this one SKU selling in the millions. Ammunition could push the boundaries with this process.”
The result is three core shapes — called Gio, Signal and Carve — that span across table, wall and floor lamps categories. Each piece combines Gantri’s signature rounded, smoothed- surface aesthetic with Ammunition’s penchant for sharply honed minimalism.
For Ammunition, working with Gantri let its designers flex their creative muscles. For Gantri, the collaboration furthers its thesis that high design can be made accessible through 3D printing, a process once reserved for hobbyists but that now sits at the cutting edge of manufacturing capabilities. For the rest of us, there's a fairly priced collection of kickass lamps — a win on all accounts.
New Airweave Mattress
Sizes: Twin–California King
Warranty: 10-year warranty
Thickness: 7.9 inches
Motokuni Takaoka thinks outside the box. The Stanford School of Engineering graduate took over his uncle’s floundering fishing-line company and turned it into one of the largest mattress brands in Japan.
Airweave mattresses are constructed of airfiber, a network of interwoven plastic — like a bundle of fishing line — which aids in temperature regulation, body support and the reduction of motion transfer. In 2016, it was the official mattress supplier of the United States Olympic Committee; it’s also the official bedding partner of the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Despite entering the U.S. market in 2015, it was met with little fanfare. “Too firm,” Americans criticized. The Japanese are accustomed to firmer mattresses because of traditional Japanese futons, Takaoka says. And he hopes to get Americans on the same page.
People can turn up to 30 times during a night’s sleep. On a soft mattress, that means exerting a significant amount of energy to move. A 2018 report found that people who sleep on airweave mattresses produce 60 percent less muscle activity than when sleeping on memory foam.
To cater to American consumers, Airweave launched its New Airweave Mattress (yes, that is the official name), which reduced the density of its airfiber, making the mattress softer without compromising support. It also added a pillow topper to further soften the mattress.
“We found that [American sleepers] prefer a softer mattress, as there is a belief that ‘the softer, the better,'” Takaoka says. “That is understandable because it feels comfortable when you lie on something soft. However, you must remember that it’s not what you feel when you get into bed — it’s how you feel when you wake up.”
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
Installation time: 15 minutes
Compatible Smart Home Ecosystems: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings
Finishes: Silver, matte black
In 2013, August released its first smart lock; seven years later, it perfected it. The Wi-Fi Smart Lock is smaller than its predecessors, and because it attaches to your existing deadbolt, you can continue to use your physical key if you want. While the price tag is marginally higher than other smart locks, the updated August lock's WiFi bridge is integrated into the device, so there’s no need to spend extra on an external device. As long as you have your phone, you have a key to your home.
Revival Rugs Aide-De-Camp Chair
Country of Origin: Vietnam
Reclined Angle: 105°
Assembly Required: None
This is not your typical tailgate camp chair. The Aide-De-Camp Chair is all luxe materials — solid oak frame, liquid-resistant coated leather. Who makes it? A rug company. Revival Rugs’ inaugural furniture collection came unexpectedly, but it sure as hell made an impression. For the chair, the brand tapped Turkish designer Gizem Yuce, whose simple, elegant design was inspired by outdoor furniture (we still wouldn't use it outdoors).
Coway Airmega 150
Eliminates: 99.97 percent of airborne particulates
Covers: 215 square feet
Available Colors: Green, white or pink
There's a fine line between lifestyle and performance gear, and the products that strive to straddle it often find themselves compromising to the point of mediocrity. Coway's Airmega 150 is not one of those products. The lauded manufacturer's latest is an air purifier that walks the walk — it's equipped with a True HEPA filter and a washable pre-filter — and it doesn't need hiding in a corner. Plus, at $190, it's a steal compared to its pricey peers.
Cooling coverage: 350 square feet
Noise: Starts at 50 dB
Warranty: One year
Windmill makes window A/C units for the 2020s. The brand successfully marries the dull (but important) – it's equipped with a 8,500 BTU engine with a dual-air filter – with the new and increasingly necessary. The unit uses a refrigerant called R32, which has lower global-warming potential than the refrigerant used most commonly by what came before. And like any modern home appliance, Windmill is WiFi- and voice-enabled for absolute remote control, and it actually works, unlike the A/C old guard.
Made by Choice Fem Work Desk
Finishes: Untreated birch or matte-lacquered ash
Height: 41” upper tabletop; 29” lower tabletop
Weight: 66 pounds
Price: $335 for untreated birch; $618 for matte-lacquered ash
Because of COVID-19, people are asking more of their homes than ever before. Designed by Fyra for Made by Choice, the Fem Work Desk is a workspace for the times we live in and then some. The sitting desk transforms into a standing desk by converting the back panel into a second tabletop. Headed back to the office? It can be a shelf, side table or bookcase, too. All without any screws, minimal assembly and for a reasonable price.
Nutrition Facts: Protein (min) 35%, fat (min) 20%, fiber (max) 2%, moisture (max) 15%
Calories: 550 kcal/cup
Purchasing: Available via subscription or one-time purchase
Sundays is an air-dried dog food that combines the ease of kibble with the freshness and nutrients of homemade dog food. Designed by husband-and-wife duo Tory Waxman, a veterinarian, and Michael Waxman, an engineer, the dog food's ingredients list reads like a shopping list for a lunch bowl — beef, quinoa, pumpkin, zucchini, flaxseed and shitake mushrooms are all included. Its ingredients and processing methods set such a high standard that they pass FDA safety standards for human consumption, so you could literally eat Sundays yourself.