Remember when “clap on, clap off” was the most sophisticated technology for the home?
Now, virtual assistants like Alexa can tell us the weather, order a breakfast sandwich and play a Dua Lipa song before we’ve even gotten out of bed.
Curating a selection of smart home accessories — like a modern electric fireplace that fits a small space and a countertop compost that turns veggie peels into garden fertilizer — is all about finding the balance between technology and tactility.
Not everything on this list needs to pair with a phone or a plug; instead, we selected items for their functionality, ingenuity and helpfulness in day-to-day life.
SUCK IT UP
Reading through vacuum review forums on Reddit (where spirited debate about suction is always welcome), one brand is highly recommended over and over again — and it’s probably not the brand you expect.
Miele is known for its high-end appliances. That includes a range of vacuum cleaners that users (and people who work in the industry, like vacuum salespeople and repairers) rave about for their quality, suction, construction, flexible handling and durability. There’s a cordless stand-up vacuum (detailed more below) as well as a corded canister (which is on sale at Best Buy for a limited time).
Who it's ideal for: Neat freaks who love a good vacuum.
Why we're endorsing it: Brand trust, expert recommendations.
Where it could use improvements: It’s pricier than most of its competitors.
Size/weight/dimensions: 9" L x 11.02" W x 46" H.
NEED ONE MORE SCREEN?
For a simple eight-inch tablet, the Fire HD8 can’t be beaten in price. It has a kindle, plus it can access streaming services like Prime Video (obviously), Netflix and Disney+ (which is currently free for six months with an Amazon Music subscription). It has web access and a 2GHz processor, all for just over $100 right now.
Who it's ideal for: Anyone who needs a basic tablet.
Why we're endorsing it: Price, reviews.
Where it could use improvements: It’s eight inches, on the smaller side for watching TV and movies.
Size/weight/dimensions: Eight-inch screen.
VEGGIE TO FERTILIZER
Sometimes garden composting isn’t possible because of garden building allowances. Even if it is possible, using food waste isn’t advisable because those table scraps are as enticing to a raccoon as a Las Vegas crab leg buffet is to inebriated adults. This Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 breaks down food waste (like eggshells, chicken bones and vegetable peels) and turns it into fertilizer the same day. As it works on drying and breaking down the scraps, there are no smell or fruit flies to contend with. It is dishwasher safe and extra bins, as well as replacement filters, can be purchased. Find the best price directly at Vitamix.
Who it's ideal for: Gardeners and anyone hoping to cut down on household waste.
Why we're endorsing it: Ingenuity, usefulness, eco-friendly.
Where it could use improvements: Uses electricity and upfront cost to get started.
Size/weight/dimensions: 32 x 27.94 x 36.07 cm.
BRINGING THE HEAT
Indoor electric fireplaces can be a little clunky and outdated in design, but this one is slim enough for a minimalist and modern space. It operates with heat (up to 4600BTU, which warms around a 400-square-foot zone) or the flame can run for ambiance and without heat. The unit comes with two interior accessory packs (fire crystals or log set) and in three different shades (black birch, white, or blue).
Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants to warm up an office or den.
Why we're endorsing it: Design, size, ease of use.
Where it could use improvements: No remote and legs need to be assembled.
Size/weight/dimensions: 23.88'' H x 23.63'' W x 8.25'' D.
GET THE BANANA BREAD PAN READY
If pandemic bread-making taught us anything, it’s that measuring dry ingredients by weight (rather than volume) makes cooking and baking much easier. For those who want to use both systems when following a recipe, this handy digital measuring cup has a removable scale and LED display that automatically shuts off after a minute.
Who it's ideal for: Cooks and bakers who like to be precise.
Why we're endorsing it: Ingenuity, multiple uses, technology.
Where it could use improvements: It requires one CR2023 that is included (but will have to be replaced when it runs out).
Size/weight/dimensions: 500 ml cup with handle.
A LID FOR EVERY POT
Missing socks get a lot of attention but lost pot lids are much more frustrating because really, where do they go? It’s a mystery that could come down to a kitchen move (and misplacing it in the shuffle) or a lid being ruined or accidentally given away in a vigorous bout of spring cleaning. A universal lid, which comes in small, medium or large and fits pots from 6.5”-11”, has the situation covered.
Who it's ideal for: A pot looking for a top.
Why we're endorsing it: Smart design, price, usefulness.
Where it could use improvements: Because they are in demand, prices fluctuate.
Size/weight/dimensions: Small (6.5”-8”), medium (8.5”-9.5”), large (10”, 11”).