Life-Changing Upgrades for Every Room to Look Attractive

The Home Upgrade: A Little Perspective

My wife and I spent roughly 15 years getting our house exactly the way we wanted it, yet as soon as the paint was dry we both thought, hey, let’s move! Home renovation can induce a form of temporary mental illness similar to what happens to people on roller coasters: You think you’re going to die, but the moment the ride is over you want to go again. Luckily, by the time we had finished the house we were too broke to do anything drastic, and in a couple of months we’d both calmed down. Now another 15 years have passed and we’re still here.

Finishing all the big projects hasn’t meant giving up on home improvement, however. I haven’t touched my reciprocating saw since the turn of the millennium, but in recent years I’ve become a practitioner of what I now think of as microrenovation: Approaching “finished” rooms with dispassionate objectivity and finding small ways to make them better. Humans have an extraordinary ability to become inured to minor annoyances, especially if the annoyances accumulate gradually. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s the basis of successful marriages—but it can cause people to ignore inconveniences they could easily correct.

Temperature Control Sheets

Using technology developed for NASA, Outlast sheets (from $150 ) contain tiny capsules that absorb heat when you get hot and release it when you get cold. The Army uses it in combat clothing. You can use it to get through those nights when you forget to close the window. Just as important.

If We May…

Whatever alarm clock you choose—the iHome iDL95  for its unique ability to turn off the display for absolute darkness; the classic and beautiful Tivoli Model Three; or your phone—get two: one for you and one for the person who shares your bed. Otherwise, one of you gets complacent. At bedtime the person closer to the clock will set the alarm. One time for work, one time for gym, one time for weekends—whatever it is, only one of you knows. The other rolls over and falls asleep. And so it continues, until one day the clock operator has a business trip, and the question comes, meekly, from the home front: What time do I wake up? It’s nice to be needed, but don’t make the person you love ask that question. Buy her her own clock.

Lessons From a Kitchen Makeover

I try not to bring my work home with me, but when I renovated my own kitchen recently, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted the space to function as efficiently as the restaurant kitchens I’d been cooking in for the past two decades. Picking the right stuff was easy. Convincing my wife to go along with the plan was the hard part.

Stainless-Steel Countertops

You can’t damage stainless steel. And I’ve tried—with knives, hot pots, blowtorches. Stainless-steel counters are also incredibly easy to clean (I use a squeegee, always fun), and they’re seamless, so gunk can’t get stuck in the corners. The materials turned out to be about the same cost as traditional counter surfaces, and you’d be surprised how good they look in a home setting. Not cold and industrial, just supercool.

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