As I pack up for Thanksgiving this week I’m including a few favorite kitchen tools in my overnight bag — totally normal, right? You see, I’m really quite particular about the tools that I use – which makes my family really laugh when I pull my own tongs out of my purse — but the right pieces can make all of the difference when making a meal. And after years of living in apartments with teeny-tiny kitchens, combined with a real love of cooking, I feel like I’ve honed a pretty well-curated collection of just-the-essentials kitchen tools.Best Basic Kitchen Tools 1 It hit me that maybe this list of  kitchen items (that I so passionately feel the need to pack in my suitcase) is something worth sharing with my readers as you prepare for the holiday cooking season. Check out the list below for my top 10 basic kitchen tools: Best Basic Kitchen Tools 2

  • I have tons of knives, but I always keep going back to this simple 8″ Calphalon chef knife; it works for most tasks, has a good grip, and bonus: this knife isn’t going to break the bank.
  • The Ikea Tekla dish towels are maybe the greatest deal on earth — at less than a dollar a piece I don’t ever worry about them getting stained or ruined. They’re also a staple ‘prop’ and tend to end up in a lot of my blog posts! I’m also a big fan of Williams-Sonoma classic dish towels for bigger clean-ups, they’re super absorbent and come in a really nice range of colors — shown here in the background.
  • We registered for our wedding at Pottery Barn and were gifted tons of their Great White dishes — the dipping bowls are probably my favorite item from the collection because in addition to being great serveware, they also make the perfect prep bowls to mix up spices, portion out ingredients, and bring things like butter up to room temperature; I grab these all the time when I’m prepping a recipe.
  • The Oxo y-shaped peeler is one of those items that makes you realize how terrible your old cheap kitchen tool was before you replaced it. I tossed several broken peelers before finding this great version; the shape of the handle and the grips on each side make it so much easier and faster to peel veggies.
  • My Kuhn Rikon garlic press is probably the biggest splurge on this list, but I can not stress enough how amazing this thing is — it just works so well. You’ll get much more garlic out of a single clove with this tool, and the way that the press pieces separate make for a really easy clean up (something that was so annoying with my previous garlic press!). I can’t recommend this model enough, as someone who cooks with a lot of garlic, this has changed my life in the kitchen!

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  • If I could choose just one item in my kitchen to work with everyday, it would probably be my Oxo 9″ tongs; I use them pretty much every time I cook. They snap open and closed really easily and they’re the perfect length — not too big!
  • I don’t love using too many silicon kitchen tools when I’m cooking with heat, but I did need a solution for avoiding scratched pans. So a few years back I purchased Pampered Chef bamboo spatulas that I use all the time for moving things around the pan. Bamboo doesn’t transfer much heat so I always find that these are a good tool for forgetful folks like me that leave them sitting on the edge of the hot pan.
  • The Kuhn Rikon fish spatula is designed for flipping fish but I actually use it for a ton of other cooking purposes. The spatula is just flexible enough that gives you some great leverage and maneuverability for flipping delicate foods like pancakes, but is sturdy enough to handle something as substantial as burgers. I’ve had this one for years, it might be one of the oldest items in my kitchen from this list!
  • Similar to my notes above about using bamboo spatulas in lieu of silicon, I always grab my Williams-Sonoma Olive wood spoons – they’re perfect for stirring up a pot of sauce and sneaking a little taste test. Olive wood is really dense so it doesn’t absorb flavors or smells from the food, and they’re pretty darn good-looking.
  • On the rare occasion that I’m putting on my baking hat versus cooking something, I grab my Williams-Sonoma spoonula – it’s got all of the functionality of a great spatula for scraping the sides of the bowl, but the slight curve gives it utility as a spoon too (and I’m all about multi-purpose tools in a small kitchen like mine).

This listen isn’t completely comprehensive, but these are my go-to items that I use every week when cooking. A few other favorites include a good cast iron skillet, an all-clad stainless steel fry pan, a quality whisk, an olive oil drizzle bottle, my marble pastry board, and glass tupperware. Okay now spill, what are you essential kitchen tools?

This weekend we had big Saturday plans to go to Ikea and buy a new couch, but right before we left we checked the inventory online and saw that it was out of stock — bummer! So I was faced with a rare treat: a weekend day with zero plans. I decided to take advantage of our surprise day of freedom and threw a little impromptu dinner for friends. Since it was super last minute, I worked with what I had and re-purposed our table topper from our wedding, and some bright pink napkins from our rehearsal dinner, and then I finally broke out a few of our wedding shower presents, like my sea urchin salt and pepper shakers (I love them!), some Kate Spade candles, and a bunch of farmer’s market blooms — I was so happy with how it came out! ADSC_0033 ADSC_0037 ADSC_0040ADSC_0039

A few weeks back I got an email from a reader, Nikki, who needed some help pulling together a look for her law school studio dorm room. It came with the challenges of many dorm rooms — block wood furniture, inability to paint, and of course, limited budget! Here is what I pulled together for Nikki, a black, white, and dusty lilac palette:

(click on image to enlarge)

The pieces in the “dining” nook include fabric from Ikea, a few yards to use as table cloth, some Ikea sheepskin throws to drape over the dorm chairs, and a poster above the table in a thin black frame. I think the MOST important thing you can do to de-dormify a dorm is to get a big rug to put down. Dorm tiles are so cold, and a big rug will really soften the space. I picked a black and white one from Ikea, one of my favorites!

The bedroom area needs a focal point. The challenge: can’t paint, and probably don’t want to lug a heavy bed into the space — so I a headboard wall decal, coupled with the girly touch of a ruffled duvet from Urban Outfitters is perfect. Black and white Ikea pillows give a graphic pop to the girly bed.

Finally, the accessories! Matching black lamps add symmetry on either side of the bed, and give off some much-needed lighting to study with. The ottomans I’ve included add a layer of richness to the room – and can double as nightstands or moveable extra-seating; and the curtains will add another dose of softness and color to the room.

Hope you enjoy your room Nikki!

Have a design dilemma you need help with? Send me an email at [email protected]

I’ve finally had some time to really delve into the Ikea 2010 catalog, after it sat, staring me in the face on my coffee table for the past two weeks, begging for attention. While the selection of new products didn’t turn on any light bulbs over my head, I was impressed by the styling. Several of the room spreads were a big departure from their usual stark-sweedish-modern aesthetic, and seemed to be pulling inspiration from designers and shelter mags. I played a little game of memory and matched up a few of my favorite pictures from the catalog with similar counterparts…

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This Ikea room is a ringer for the masculine library featured below (via this is glamorous), as well the eclectic mix featured in a Domino spread.

via this is glamourous - carter smiths home

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And in a brighter, more playfully styled room, this Ikea room seems to draw in the inspiration of  Nick Olson and Miles Redd (both from features in Domino).

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Nick Olsen Domino

Miles Redd Domino

Oh boy, I’ve really been slacking here due to some overwhelming days at the office and very full weekends!

After much debate, I’ve decide to stay in my apartment for another year, so now the ‘apartment fund’ has been switched to the ‘new couch fund’ with a couch-search that kicked off this past weekend.

After ruling out all of Ikea’s options which are scaled too small for my other bulky pieces of furniture, I browsed the sample-sale room at Boston Interiors. I found a few with good shapes, but poor color-choices, and some with great character, but unreasonable prices! I’m liking the idea of a floating-chaise because it adds a little bit more seating (and would be great for lounging!) So the search continues for the perfect couch in the perfect color at the perfect price!

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More later on my other ‘adventures in decorating’ that came to be from some other stops this weekend:

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I finally finished my upholstered headboard project this weekend (with only a few minor speedbumps along the way). At the last minute I changed my mind and switched from the grey ikea fabric to a velvety golden yellow color; I decided that since I haven’t yet fallen in love with a new bedspread that  I would choose an upholstery fabric that would match with both my old and new color schemes.

I decided that using a big piece of plywood like I had originally planned was going to be too cumbersome with my 1. lack of car and 2. possible moving at the end of the summer… so I substituted the heavy wood idea with a frame made out of stretcher strips used for stretching canvases:

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In another attempt to substitute, instead of using an expensive piece of decorators foam, I bought an egg crate foam pad from target and cut it to fit the frame, which I then attached with staples:

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Then I laid out the fabric and stretched and stapled it just like assembling a canvas:

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And after attaching some picture hangers to the back of the canvas and nailing it up to the wall, voila! my upholstered headboard is complete:

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Now onto the next project… pillows?

Eventful weekend;I was in New York celebrating my mom’s 50th birthday (she would die if she knew I was broadcasting that number across the Internet)… and what better a way to celebrate than with a trip to Ikea!

I was very restrained, and only purchased a small ribba frame for a drawing I want to hang in my kitchen, and some great fabric to hopefully be used for my upholstered headboard idea! The photos look totally different on the ikea website, it’s much lighter in real life:stockholm-fabricstockholm-fabric2