Though opened nearly four years ago, the VitraHaus remains a pilgrimage-worthy menagerie of design. Located in the German town of Weil-am-Rhein and built by famed builders Herzog & de Meuron, the VitraHaus is series of stacked longhouses filled with an assemblage of classic and contemporary design goods for the home. Visitors are encouraged to not just gaze in the standard museum sense, but to touch and interact with everything. A walk-through had us rethinking our own homes.
From Delphi to Your Kitchen
Every once in a while, a product so revolutionizes your day that you feel compelled to brag to your friends about it. You fantasize about it throughout the day, and when you go to sleep, you can’t wait to get up, just so you can jump out of bed and use it. That good. Such is the case with the Breville Oracle, which promises — and delivers — high-quality, easily made espresso at home.
In the Kitchen with Chef Hervé Malivert
We’ve come to the ICC in New York specifically to meet with Malivert, a native of the Rhône region of France and the man who oversees anything having to do with centrifuges and liquid nitrogen. His knowledge of food and cooking is apparent. He’s both professor and craftsman, dressed in a crisp white uniform and tall chef’s toque, presenting eloquently about sous vide cooking while simultaneously demonstrating.
Cooking under pressure
Cooking sous vide, French for “under vacuum” allows us to bypass this obstacle by cooking at a low and very precise temperature; it’s the equivalent of walking up to the dartboard and pushing the dart into the bullseye. While it’s a technique that’s been around for professional chefs, Iron Chefs and DIYers for ages, the technology has only been available to the average home cook since 2009. As more machines hit the market, we decided to test the one that started the home sous vide revolution, the Sous Vide Supreme ($500).
Remedy that horrible mistake you just made, or just unclog your sink
You just drilled a three pointer like Kobe. Unfortunately, the hoop was the sink drain and the ball was your wedding ring/contact/paper boat (dear lord, don’t go down after that thing!). All is not lost. In fact, you’re about to both embark on a rescue mission and take a simple opportunity to check on an oft leaky, clogged or corroded piece of plumbing that’s an easy DIY fix: the P-Trap.
Up the Sitting Game
Not all desk chairs are created equal. Some — the best — have particularly heightened ergonomic benefits. These include the usual lumbar supports and breathable mesh seats, but as the prices get bigger so do the benefits: think customized size and suspension, extra supports, aesthetics for any office. These 10 great desk chairs might not be the cure for sitting down all day, but they’re a pretty good start.
Changing the landscape of home lawn care
The Kobalt 40V Max Outdoor Power Equipment ($149-$399) lineup is Lowe’s new family of cordless yard care products. With two lawnmowers, a string trimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower, pole saw and chainsaw available at launch at affordable price points, their comprehensive collection seems aimed at homeowners who are ready to wholeheartedly embrace the cordless revolution. With a full selection charged, ready and waiting just outside of Jacksonville, we ditched our parkas and went to work.
Nowadays media streaming devices offer dramatically improved user experiences, access to a wide range of content at 1080p, and price tags easily within anyone’s budget, making it easier than ever to cut the cable company’s iron umbilical cord. We’ve selected the top five that should satiate any media user, aficionado to amateur.
Here's your soda, jerk
Given new life by the advent of SodaStream, the do-it-yourself home soda stand is becoming increasingly popular. With the ability to tailor CO2-infused drinks to individual tastes (and control sugar content), pop-aficionados and mixologists alike can don Dr. Pepper’s lab coat to keep themselves awash in bubbly. These are the best soda makers for doing just that.
Eureka is closer than you think
Science continues to prove that lighting affects our energy level, mood and sleep patterns more than we think — not to mention playing a tremendous role in altering the look and feel of interior spaces. Swapping out a traditional on/off switch for a dimmer is a fast home upgrade that provides immediate impact in any lighting scenario. We show you how it’s done.
Low Hanging Fruit
For anyone uncomfortable with pills, powders, shots and gels, Mother Nature offers an alternative way to stay healthy this winter. We’re talking berries, those tart little packets of juicy goodness. But beware: not all berries are created equal, and some go together better than others. Our resident fruitarian breaks down some of the most popular options.
Go Forth and Multiply
The Iris Smart Kit ($299) does a fantastic job of keeping our home in check, but a quick survey of the complementary products available for the Iris Home Management System, by Lowe’s, had us feeling like a pot-bellied biker with a bone-stock Harley at home. Accordingly, we tested out an Iris Kit army of great add-ons.
What is thy bidding, master
In the past, controlling the various aspects of your home meant micro-managing at individual stations: temperature meant adjustments at the thermometer; lights mean hitting the switch; and setting the alarm, well, that usually gets forgotten (sorry sweetie!). Sure, there are some damn fine products out there to streamline home base operations, but, like your niece’s Christmas choir recital, they lack the cohesion of a singular voice. The Iris Home Management System by Lowe’s puts you in the executive office of macro-management by instantly offering control of your home, from anywhere you please, through a single application.
Portable, with Power to Spare
We tackled a variety of chores, from the simplest deck demolition to re-framing the interior of a house, to help you choose the right path for your cordless cash. Here are our picks for the cordless power tool kits — including a drill/driver of some sort, a circular saw and a reciprocating saw — that do it best, along with notes on each individual tool.
The Start of a Smarter Home
Much of what simplifies our lives has become effortless. Typing with our thumbs in swipes and stabs while our car parks itself in front of the restaurant that serves those Instagram-worthy dishes can be learned and perfected before the next status update hits our social media feeds. It truly is a brave new world — and it doesn’t have to begin outside your doorstep. The same levels of remote control can now just as easily be had for your home thanks to the Iris Home Management System ($179+) from Lowe’s.
Protein shortage, averted
Some people hear the phrase “beef alternatives” and think tofu, seitan and bean burgers. We think local goat, French-style chicken, grass-fed lamb, name-brand pigs, roast duck, double-smoked Danish salmon, whole lobes of foie gras, elk — and then sometimes beef again, because beef from here is technically an alternative to beef from there. Ready to for a feast of all of the above? Here are our 10 favorite online purveyors of high-quality meat.
Because it's too cold to go out alone
Whether it’s a morning stroll through the local park or a multi-day trek down the Pacific Crest Trail, there are plenty of adventures that we want to share with our four-legged buddies. Winter weather presents challenges, but the right gear makes all the difference. We’re not talking about the latest matching sweater set your great aunt and her little Yorkie were sporting at Thanksgiving dinner. No, cold weather gear for your canine buddy is as high-tech as anything you might find for yourself. We round up the best products to keep your furry friend on the trail all winter long.
Pay attention to more than just your man cave
A living space should be comfortable, functional, attractive — in a word, livable. Herein lie a multitude of smaller gifts that’ll come in handy, really tie a room together and/or keep a home’s occupants content. Hell, you might as well not even wrap these stocking stuffers at all; they’ll be put to immediate use, whether…
When his dogs are barking...
Governor Baxter — named after the famous 1920s governor of Maine who purchased Mount Katahdin as a gift for the state — is the retail arm for James Phinney Baxter White, a Maine craftsman dedicated to producing high-quality goods from classic and proven materials. His Mackworth Dog Bed ($395) is the most ambitious project for the brand to date and a dream solution for both dogs and their magnanimous owners.
Though it was a “must-have” item when it hit the market decades ago, the cordless screwdriver’s charms wound down faster than the AA batteries stacked in its tail. To maintain shelf space on impulse item peg-boards, tool manufacturers did what they do best: they added power, shed weight and extended run times. While noble in effort, their improvements just weren’t reason enough for tradesmen to sacrifice space in their tool bags…until now. To see if the DeWalt 8V Max Gyroscopic Screwdriver ($89) delivers the right balance of intuitive tech and commonplace comfort, we took it out for an involved spin.
Nothing facet-ious about it
The current iteration of the Waterford Crystal company has been making exquisite, traditional crystal products for a good portion of history. But now Waterford has decided to reimagine their product; indeed, they’ve decided to revolutionize the way a man might feel about crystal, and as part of that effort heralded designer Jo Sampson fashioned the new decidedly male-centric London Collection. Apropos, then, that we hopped over to foggy London town to meet with Sampson, chat with Waterford CEO Pierre de Villemejane and check out the new collection.
Robotics engineers and industrial designers, rapid prototyping and 3D printing, adroit methodology and open workflow — sounds like a Silicon Valley tech startup, right? But things aren’t always as they seem. In the case of Pittsburgh-based company 4Moms, this business model is being applied to baby products that leave the status quo in the dust. We went to their headquarters to get a behind-the-scenes look at a few products poised to change things up in the baby world once again.
Almost as appreciated as a full night's sleep
Being a new parent carries many worries, but it’s also the perfect entry point into a new world of gear: strollers, car seats, bags and all kinds of other gadgets, apps and convenience products await. You now have a reason to buy that Eames highchair and test drive that stroller bike. Been looking for a reason to get a wipes warmer, bottle steamer or little super hero tights? Perfect. So for the guy who has it all and now has good reason to get some more, may we present: the holiday gift guide for the New Dad.
The right tools for any of his many jobs
Handyman, craftsman, mister-fix-it, Dad. Call him what you like, but the Do-It-Yourselfer on your list gives his all for you, no matter the task. Be honest: that beautiful new deck that causes envy in the eyes of all your friends would’ve been a creaking pile of splinters were it not for him, and you’d probably be sharing space with Fido out in the yard — in the K9 condo he designed and built no less — had he not stepped in to save your recent en suite experiment. Like most men of his ilk, your handyman rarely receives anything more than a hot coffee to start his day and a cold brew to finish it, which is fine by him. Isn’t it about time you gave him something more? Here are a few gift ideas that should ensure your calls for help continue to get answered.
Good Gifts, Whichever Way You Slice 'Em
We get it — everyone is a foodie now. From your buddy excitedly fawning over the new Santoku he just picked up to your dad calling to inform you about the super authentic Ethiopian place he wants to try next time he and mom come to visit, the chances of having a cookie on your holiday shopping list are greater than ever.
But what do you buy them? Your food-focused gift-getter obviously already has the basics — the knives, pans and culinary detritus that make up his obsession — and nothing says, “hey, I’m too lazy to make an effort, but I think I remember you’re into food” like a gift card that ends up only covering half the bill at the restaurant-du-now. Thank Bourdain, we’ve got you covered with a dozen of the best gastronomic gifts for the season.
Gifts He'll Actually Remember in the Morning
What to call a man who obsesses over alcohol? A connoisseur? A fanatic? A drunk? We call him The Mixologist, and you know him well. He’s the man whose cupboards are stocked with more bitters than spices, whose basement is reeking of homebrew, whose glass is always half-full — at least. And yours too, for the Mixologist prides himself in the cocktails he makes and the beer he serves. He’s an enabler of fun, an anti-Scrooge, a Holiday MVP. He’s every character in Billy Joel’s Piano Man — in fact, he does a mean Billy Joel if the night goes late enough. So cheers to The Mixologist. Here are a few gifts he’ll cheers to.
Entry Level, Mid-Range, High-End
During my senior year of college, I went on a health kick and decided I needed a blender. After a good deal of research, I settled on the Vitamix 5200. At $449, the entry-level 5200 was expensive, but I’d seen that baby in action at Whole Foods demonstration, and I was hooked. You can use it to make ice cream, for goodness sake. Ice cream. From a blender. Because I was vocal about my intentions, my grandmother promised to buy me one for graduation. It never happened. Although still Vitamix-less, my travails blessed me with knowledge of the best blenders at the entry level, mid-range, and high-end price ranges.
A Bright Idea
Economically, it’s tough to be an environmentalist, especially when your life starts sounding like an expensive Mastercard commercial: organic strawberries ($4.99), Envirocycle Composter ($179.99), Camry hybrid ($26,140). But LED chip-maker Cree’s excursion into the lightbulb market aims to make living the green life a little easier (priceless). Their 40-watt and 60-watt Cree LED Bulbs ($10) — positioned to offer consumers quality lighting at a low price — last 25,000 hours, or 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Let's Clear the Air
According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately one in every twelve Americans has asthma. Throw airborne allergies into the mix and we’re talking about 20% of the populace suffering from a breathing condition. Though most people turn to aerosols and sprays in an effort to “clean” the air at home, those products only mask the problem, and in some cases, make it worse. Screaming aside, apparently people can hear you sneeze in space, so, lucky for us, NASA went to work. The Airocide Air Purifier ($799) is the beautiful end result of a dozen years of “up there” field testing, and it’s now available for purchase by us mere mortals.
Nest has innovated before — their smart thermostat brought the home heating arena into the modern age — and they’ve gone and done it again, this time to save lives rather than make us a little more comfortable. The Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm ($129) features a two-stage alert process: if levels of smoke or CO are on the rise but not at lethal levels, a verbal warning (e.g. “heads up: there’s smoke in the kids’ bedroom”) is sounded and a yellow light comes on. If levels get truly dangerous you’ll know — a red warning light flashes along with a full-scale alarm. It’s all integrated with the Nest Protect app for ultimate customization and safety.