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9 Game-Changing Things For Your Home That Are Worth Every Penny

From a cart that maximizes kitchen space to a Nest smoke detector to a quality storage ottoman, here's what BuzzFeed editors and writers are loving this month.

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1. A rolling cart for storage and food prep that'll instantly become any apartment dweller's new BFF if you're living that small-kitchen life.

Living in Manhattan is not always a walk in Central Park. On a daily basis, city dwellers must endure overeager tourists, blaring horns and sirens outside their windows, and the biggest challenge of all, tiny apartments. My boyfriend and I (and our Pomeranian, Leo, who crashed the photo) live in a pretty spacious studio apartment by NYC standards — but still, our kitchen is so tiny that I can touch either end without even fully extending my arms. The lack of storage and counter space is a huge issue, especially for a former suburban girl who’s accustomed to a sprawling eat-in kitchen.I knew we’d need some savvy solutions to remedy the problem, so I bought this kitchen cart from World Market, and it’s been nothing short of a lifesaver. Putting the cart against the wall right outside of the kitchen effectively extends the kitchen into the more spacious living room, making it feel much bigger. We also added a small shelf above ours (you can find a similar one here), which makes it feel more like a built-in piece. The cart gives us a couple extra feet of counter space where we can prep food and display items we frequently use, a wide drawer for utensils and gadgets, a spacious shelf we use as a minibar, and a cabinet that’s perfect for storing little appliances like our toaster and electric tea kettle. I still wish our kitchen was 10 times bigger, but at least with this cart, it’s 10 times more functional.The cart is made of sturdy wood and granite with sleek metal pulls. It manages to be a substantial piece of furniture without being bulky or cumbersome. The wheels make it easy to move around if necessary, but they also lock to keep it in place while we use it. It took my boyfriend about an hour to assemble using the tools provided in the box (with very minimal cursing and complaining involved compared to some other items he’s put together). I definitely recommend this product to anyone living in a small space or just someone looking for a cute bar or coffee cart. —Adrianna LicitraGet it from World Market for $179.99.
Adrianna Licitra / BuzzFeed

Living in Manhattan is not always a walk in Central Park. On a daily basis, city dwellers must endure overeager tourists, blaring horns and sirens outside their windows, and the biggest challenge of all, tiny apartments. My boyfriend and I (and our Pomeranian, Leo, who crashed the photo) live in a pretty spacious studio apartment by NYC standards — but still, our kitchen is so tiny that I can touch either end without even fully extending my arms. The lack of storage and counter space is a huge issue, especially for a former suburban girl who’s accustomed to a sprawling eat-in kitchen.

I knew we’d need some savvy solutions to remedy the problem, so I bought this kitchen cart from World Market, and it’s been nothing short of a lifesaver. Putting the cart against the wall right outside of the kitchen effectively extends the kitchen into the more spacious living room, making it feel much bigger. We also added a small shelf above ours (you can find a similar one here), which makes it feel more like a built-in piece. The cart gives us a couple extra feet of counter space where we can prep food and display items we frequently use, a wide drawer for utensils and gadgets, a spacious shelf we use as a minibar, and a cabinet that’s perfect for storing little appliances like our toaster and electric tea kettle. I still wish our kitchen was 10 times bigger, but at least with this cart, it’s 10 times more functional.

The cart is made of sturdy wood and granite with sleek metal pulls. It manages to be a substantial piece of furniture without being bulky or cumbersome. The wheels make it easy to move around if necessary, but they also lock to keep it in place while we use it. It took my boyfriend about an hour to assemble using the tools provided in the box (with very minimal cursing and complaining involved compared to some other items he’s put together). I definitely recommend this product to anyone living in a small space or just someone looking for a cute bar or coffee cart. —Adrianna Licitra

Get it from World Market for $179.99.

2. An affordable futon so chic and comfortable, everyone will assume you bought it at some fancy boutique.

Mallory Mower / BuzzFeed

When I first moved to New York I had a tiny apartment, an even tinier paycheck, and a desperate need for somewhere to sit, sleep, eat, and entertain (preferably all in one; my studio apartment was the size of a large dog kennel). I bought this futon with all the money from my first paycheck, mostly out of desperation, fully expecting to upgrade the minute my life got some sort of stability. It’s been two years since that original purchase and my life is sliiightly more on track, but I can’t get myself to trade in my futon. I purchased it absolutely planning on donating it to the nearest dumpster the minute I could afford to do so. It was so cheap, and as a piece of furniture from Amazon, I couldn’t imagine it being something I would ever be able to stand long-term, let alone love. But like the ending of every Richard Curtis movie ever, I fell for it.

The sofa itself is genuinely aesthetically pleasing. It manages to perfectly blend the Emeco side chair my husband brought into our marriage with the Ikea bookshelves I’ve had since I was 18. The material is incredibly easy to clean (which, as a pet owner, is a huge priority for me), and it hasn’t lost its brightness in the two years I’ve spent actively crushing Cheetos into its crevices. It’s perfectly comfortable to sit on, and before our bed arrived, I slept on it for a full two months without needing to see a chiropractor once. I love the simplicity in both assembly (it took me maybe an hour to put together, and half of that was spent searching for the instructions I had previously used to write my grocery list on) and the ease with which it folds out. The design of the futon leaves a small space in the back, between the bottom of the couch and the top, an acute angle/cave my cats love to sleep in. So I also give it points because I didn’t have to buy a bed for the cats, which is not included in its features, but it should be.

Since I’ve left my studio, I mostly use the futon for visiting guests. I do prefer to put an air mattress on it for longer stays — it’s just more comfortable than sleeping on a literal couch. But I like it so much more than having visitors sleep on a mattress on the floor. I’m sitting on the couch as I type this and still can’t believe how much use I’ve gotten from an Amazon futon for under $200. It’s ridiculous. What’s also ridiculous is how attached I am to this thing. This couch would have been worth the money had I kept it for two months. After two years it’s still my favorite piece of furniture. I love sitting on it, sleeping on it, looking at it, and I particularly love having people come to my house and ask where I got it. Sometimes I even tell them the truth. —Mallory Mower

Get it from Amazon for $131.46+ (available in eight colors).

3. A Nest smoke detector so you can rest easy that your place is safe and sound even when you're far from home.

Elena Garcia / BuzzFeed

I’m a worrier. I literally worry about everything. Sometimes my nervousness makes me act irrationally (for example, I refuse to park on any hills because I’m worried my car will get tired and roll down). Other times, however, it leads me to make the best purchases of my life! Cue my Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector. It’s legit the best home purchase I’ve ever made; it gives me the kind of peace of mind that actually lets me sleep at night.

Look, if This Is Us has taught us anything, it’s that we should not fuck around with fire safety, so despite the hefty price tag, this thing is totally worth it! This detector is awesome: It has an industrial-grade smoke sensor, works with your phone, connects to your Wi-Fi, will test itself automatically, lasts up to 10 years, alerts your smartphone of any activity it senses, can be programmed based on the room it’s in (and work alongside any additional Nest detectors in the house), and sends you monthly digests of what has occurred. Before any annoying beeping alarms begin to sound a really lovely lady makes herself heard and says, “Heads up! There is smoke in the hallway. The alarm will sound; the alarm is loud.”

If the smoke is just coming from your lack of culinary skills, you can hush it from your phone so that it turns itself off. Meaning YOU NEVER HAVE TO STAND ON A CHAIR FANNING A SMOKE DETECTOR AGAIN!!!! Hallelujah! It’s really great because we have a pup at home who's alone sometimes, and we'd be devastated if a fire broke out and we didn't know about it or weren't able to call for immediate help. It also has a motion-activated night light, so whenever you walk by it a very subtle light will fade on and help guide your path. You can have it wired into your home (so you don’t need batteries) or you can go old school and just plop in six long-life AA Energizer lithium batteries (like we did) and be good to go. This thing is a true game-changer. Seriously, it's the best money I’ve ever spent! —Elena Garcia

Get it from Amazon for $118.99 or Walmart for $99.99+.

4. A sturdy ottoman that moonlights as a linen closet, because you shouldn't have to choose between enough seating for guests and enough space to store all your crap.

Yi Yang / BuzzFeed

Having lived in four different New York City apartments, I've learned that when it comes to choosing furniture, storage is the first priority. Because no matter how pretty your couch is, if you don't have enough storage space, it will be covered in all the stuff that you have nowhere else to put.

When I moved into my current place, I bought a storage ottoman from Amazon to keep extra sheets and towels in, because I didn't have a linen closet and my bathroom was teeny-tiny. It was the best home decor purchase I've ever made (even better than my memory foam mattress, and that's saying a lot!). First of all, it's super attractive. The faux leather and tufted design makes it look and feel more expensive than it is. Secondly, it's very sturdy. I use it for extra seating (because I have no couch), and I've had three people sit on it at once with no issues. It's been more than a year since I got it, and it still looks brand-new. If it gets dirty, I just wipe it down with a damp cloth. Thirdly, it fits SO MUCH stuff. I can put all of my towels (and I have a lot of towels) and several bedding sets in it, which is wonderful. Of course, it would also be a great place to store blankets, throw pillows, clothes, or toys.

I loved it so much that I bought two smaller ones to use as chairs (I store seasonal shoes in them, too). TL;DR: If you lack storage space/have a small apartment/want to add extra seating to your home, get this! 11/10 would buy again (but I wouldn't even have to because this one will last forever). —Yi Yang

Get it from Amazon for $47.99 (available in six colors).

5. A quirky scratch-off map for documenting your world travels that'll soon become your favorite piece of wall decor.

Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed / Via instagram.com, Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed

I adore an interactive decor op, as does my wonderful friend Courtney who gave me this scratch-off world map a few years ago. It hangs in my bedroom at my parents’ house and every time I go somewhere new I look forward to scratching off a representation of that location (preferably with a coin from said place). Since then, I’ve traveled to England and France (in one week), drove to Montreal for a long weekend, and have racked up several more US states. (I know I got carried away scratching off Canada, but it's really fun! And I'll just have to compensate with future travels.)

But the fun doesn’t stop at actual geography! It also has tiny rectangles at the bottom with trivia about destinations you have lined up for your travels, like the number of letters in the Hawaiian alphabet (12) and that France has the highest per-capita cheese consumption. Granted, this might be a little more useful for someone who’s been to 40 countries, like every guy on a dating app says he has. (Sure, dude.) But it’s aspirational and adorable. I’m even thinking about expanding my collection to a US map so I can *clearly* mark off each state I’ve visited (which, as of now, is 29 plus Washington, DC). Perhaps this one? I’ll report back. —Elizabeth Lilly

Get it from Uncommon Goods for $26+ (available in standard and large sizes).

6. The Butter Keeper crock, so you'll never have to worry about the perfect piece of toast falling victim to unspreadable butter ever again.

Mallory Mower / BuzzFeed

This is the best kitchen tool you’ve never heard of. It’s the kind of thing that makes your New Year’s resolution of clean, vegan eating go out the door on January 1…which, yeah, literally happened to me. I was all, “Happy New Year, I don’t eat dairy!” and my husband was all, “Oops, got you this AMAZING butter dish.” And dairy was back in the game. I’m a toast person, and I’ve always hated having cold butter tear up my piece of toast or be so unspreadable that it melts into one small spot. But I can’t even remember those dark days now that my butter bell is on my counter and in my heart.

When you first check this thing out, its design will most certainly make you skeptical. First, you smush an entire golden brick of refrigerated butter into the small dome of the bell. After that, you’re told butter doesn’t believe in gravity and prefers to be flipped upside-down. But here’s the gravity-defying thing: It doesn’t fall out! I can’t tell you why (despite the many personal emails I’ve sent to Bill Nye trying to get an answer), but I suppose there’s some science in the next step. After smushing it good into the bell, you fill the inside of the base with just a tiny titch (my mother’s preferred word of measurement) of water. You then flip the buttered bell into the water. So now you’ve got yourself an upside-down watery butter dish. Have I sold you on this thing yet?? Because that’s it. You are done. And you just made yourself the most delicious butter ever.

Sitting on the counter, your butter will be fresh for up to 30 days (no need to refrigerate) and it’s recommended to change the water at least every three days. What you are given in return for your ounce of effort is effortlessly spreadable butter that I swear tastes better. It does. Picture that one time a Swiss milkmaid hand-churned a vat of butter for you and spread it heartily across a piece of thick, toasted bread. Remember that? This tastes better than that. And it glides across a piece of bread like Tonya Harding on an ice rink. For all you avocado toast connoisseurs out there (which, let’s be real, is most of us at this point), you can once again embrace the delicacy that is a simple piece of bread and butter. Amen. —Mallory Mower

Get it from Amazon for $5.70.

7. A set of brilliant tiered hangers for tops and bottoms that actually make room in your closet.

My fashion sense is somewhat eccentric and my closet space is somewhat nonexistent. But since I can’t store clothes in my kitchen (I wouldn’t mind, but my roommates might), I decided to try some tiered hangers for tops as well as for pants and skirts that are designed to optimize vertical space. And so I bought these "blouse trees" and trouser/skirt hangers to see what they could do for me and my bursting-at-the-seams closet. Each pants hanger holds four bottoms, and each shirt hanger holds six tops.Combining my pieces of clothing onto a single, long hanger drastically reduces the amount of precious horizontal space they take up along my closet rail (by five-sixths and three-quarters, respectively). The results aren't like Extreme Makeover: Closet Edition or anything, but now I can easily push the remaining hangers to the side for a better view of outfit options — not to mention give my clothes some breathing room so they aren't as apt to wrinkle by just hanging out, doin' their thing — and I didn’t even have to use “KonMari” as a verb.The only downside? These hangers don’t have any padding. This won’t affect common fabrics like flannel or denim. To protect fragile fabrics like silk or chiffon, though, pick up a length of foam to cut and place between the hangers and your garments. If at this point you, too, are asking yourself, "Why have I waited so long to buy these?!" you'll be comforted to know that this is a judgment-free space — and that there's still time for you to save your overwhelmed wardrobe! —Nora WhelanGet the hangers for tops from Jet for $11.33 each and a three-pack of the hangers for bottoms from Amazon for $13.99.
Nora Whelan / BuzzFeed

My fashion sense is somewhat eccentric and my closet space is somewhat nonexistent. But since I can’t store clothes in my kitchen (I wouldn’t mind, but my roommates might), I decided to try some tiered hangers for tops as well as for pants and skirts that are designed to optimize vertical space. And so I bought these "blouse trees" and trouser/skirt hangers to see what they could do for me and my bursting-at-the-seams closet. Each pants hanger holds four bottoms, and each shirt hanger holds six tops.

Combining my pieces of clothing onto a single, long hanger drastically reduces the amount of precious horizontal space they take up along my closet rail (by five-sixths and three-quarters, respectively). The results aren't like Extreme Makeover: Closet Edition or anything, but now I can easily push the remaining hangers to the side for a better view of outfit options — not to mention give my clothes some breathing room so they aren't as apt to wrinkle by just hanging out, doin' their thing — and I didn’t even have to use “KonMari” as a verb.

The only downside? These hangers don’t have any padding. This won’t affect common fabrics like flannel or denim. To protect fragile fabrics like silk or chiffon, though, pick up a length of foam to cut and place between the hangers and your garments. If at this point you, too, are asking yourself, "Why have I waited so long to buy these?!" you'll be comforted to know that this is a judgment-free space — and that there's still time for you to save your overwhelmed wardrobe! —Nora Whelan

Get the hangers for tops from Jet for $11.33 each and a three-pack of the hangers for bottoms from Amazon for $13.99.

8. A set of string lights to create a classic, cozy vibe with minimal effort — no interior-design skills necessary.

I'm 24 and still don't know how to decorate, nor do I try very hard — my efforts have extended to a few skillfully taped posters and photos on one wall in my bedroom. Maybe one day that will change and I'll find an apartment I want to stay in for many years, so decorating won't seem like a huge waste of time and money, but for now, I'm okay with being minimal. But string lights? They're a classic. They add late-night ambiance and ~cozy vibes~, which I, as a night owl, am alllll about. I have these super thin but sturdy (and also bendable!) copper wire string lights looped around my bed frame (as seen here), and before my roomie and I hosted a housewarming party, we bought two more sets of them to hang in our living room (after these ones from Amazon broke — they were very cute, but be SUPER careful not to drop them like we did...) with the help of a few medium-sized Command hooks. We just wanted to add a lil' something to make our place look a bit more inviting (besides its two lovely hostesses armed with awesome snacks and libations, of course). And these totally do the trick: cute and not ostentatious, casual-party-mood-inducing, and just the right amount of brightness. At this rate, I'll definitely keep adding on to my (Urban Outfitters–provided) string lights collection as the years go on. Hashtag interior decorator. —Sarah HanPS: The original flamingo light is my roomie's and is sold out on the site she bought it from, but here's a similar one from Amazon in case you're interested!Get them from Urban Outfitters for $24 each.
Sarah Han / BuzzFeed

I'm 24 and still don't know how to decorate, nor do I try very hard — my efforts have extended to a few skillfully taped posters and photos on one wall in my bedroom. Maybe one day that will change and I'll find an apartment I want to stay in for many years, so decorating won't seem like a huge waste of time and money, but for now, I'm okay with being minimal.

But string lights? They're a classic. They add late-night ambiance and ~cozy vibes~, which I, as a night owl, am alllll about. I have these super thin but sturdy (and also bendable!) copper wire string lights looped around my bed frame (as seen here), and before my roomie and I hosted a housewarming party, we bought two more sets of them to hang in our living room (after these ones from Amazon broke — they were very cute, but be SUPER careful not to drop them like we did...) with the help of a few medium-sized Command hooks.

We just wanted to add a lil' something to make our place look a bit more inviting (besides its two lovely hostesses armed with awesome snacks and libations, of course). And these totally do the trick: cute and not ostentatious, casual-party-mood-inducing, and just the right amount of brightness. At this rate, I'll definitely keep adding on to my (Urban Outfitters–provided) string lights collection as the years go on. Hashtag interior decorator. —Sarah Han

PS: The original flamingo light is my roomie's and is sold out on the site she bought it from, but here's a similar one from Amazon in case you're interested!

Get them from Urban Outfitters for $24 each.

9. A minimalist bamboo hamper, because you deserve something to hide your unmentionables that might actually make your room look cuter, too.

I think I was 27 before I finally began to invest any real time or money in beautifying my living space. It’s not that I hadn’t considered home decor before — but rather that I was too poor to do much about these considerations. One day, though, I blinked, found myself in my late twenties, and decided it was now or never.Anyone can get a gorgeous mirror or an intricate bed frame, but as I slowly pieced together a bedroom that made me feel at home, it was the more utilitarian items that were harder to find. Living in New York, it’s no surprise that my bedroom lacked the elusive closet. I easily remedied the problem with a standalone wardrobe, though I was left with other issues. Namely the pile of dirty clothes living in an Ikea bag in the corner of my room. And then I came across this simple bamboo hamper, which I now love more than any piece of Ikea furniture in my room. It’s understated and doesn’t feel mass-produced. Really, what more could you want from your laundry depository?My college years featured a string of flimsy foldable hampers from Target, so as to facilitate the lugging of the laundry to the washing machine in the basement. It hadn’t really occurred to me that the temporary home of my BO-riddled clothing could be anything but an eyesore. But there you go proving me wrong again, Amazon. There are no bells nor whistles, and honestly I don’t have much to say about this hamper other than I think it’s super cute. I’m not a fan of wicker as it can read either granny or beachy, and other basic solutions seemed like just that: too basic. This guy brings a little vintage utilitarian flare to my room while also keeping things neat and tidy. —Rachel EllisonGet it from Amazon for $29.99.
Rachel Ellison / BuzzFeed

I think I was 27 before I finally began to invest any real time or money in beautifying my living space. It’s not that I hadn’t considered home decor before — but rather that I was too poor to do much about these considerations. One day, though, I blinked, found myself in my late twenties, and decided it was now or never.

Anyone can get a gorgeous mirror or an intricate bed frame, but as I slowly pieced together a bedroom that made me feel at home, it was the more utilitarian items that were harder to find. Living in New York, it’s no surprise that my bedroom lacked the elusive closet. I easily remedied the problem with a standalone wardrobe, though I was left with other issues. Namely the pile of dirty clothes living in an Ikea bag in the corner of my room. And then I came across this simple bamboo hamper, which I now love more than any piece of Ikea furniture in my room. It’s understated and doesn’t feel mass-produced. Really, what more could you want from your laundry depository?

My college years featured a string of flimsy foldable hampers from Target, so as to facilitate the lugging of the laundry to the washing machine in the basement. It hadn’t really occurred to me that the temporary home of my BO-riddled clothing could be anything but an eyesore. But there you go proving me wrong again, Amazon. There are no bells nor whistles, and honestly I don’t have much to say about this hamper other than I think it’s super cute. I’m not a fan of wicker as it can read either granny or beachy, and other basic solutions seemed like just that: too basic. This guy brings a little vintage utilitarian flare to my room while also keeping things neat and tidy. —Rachel Ellison

Get it from Amazon for $29.99.

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