Every year I like to do a roundup of my favorite tried and tested products (you can see 2018’s list here, and check out my Amazon collection of decor and tools here).Rather than your typical gift guide, these are the items I’ve purchased and used myself this year that I’ve enjoyed the most. Most of these are new discoveries, and they’re all products I can recommend without hesitation!
I’ve grouped them into three different categories: Décor, Life + Home, and Baby. For each item I’ve included a brief explanation about our experience with it and why we love it. I hope you can find something from this list to try for yourself, or use as inspiration for gifts for friends & family (especially those harder to shop for!) We’ll definitely be buying a few of these as Christmas gifts ourselves 🙂
You may have seen me review this tree in my Instagram stories (saved to my Living Room story highlights if you want to check it out) but after searching for many months, I’ve finally found my go-to faux tree. It looks great in our living room and quite natural, but the best part is the insanely low price and the fact that it comes in three different sizes (including 8′ tall for our high ceilings). The downside is that it’s ALWAYS sold out so you have to act fast (you can sign up for email notifications when it comes back). I’m currently waiting on the 84″ to come back in stock for the Riverside Retreat. If you can’t wait that long, this one seems like a decent alternative.
Here’s another one that took me a long time to find, because for some reason these picture lights are insanely expensive. This was the only one I found that was stylish, the right size AND fit my budget (and was available in brass). We have three of these installed on our dining room gallery wall (hardwired), they put out the right amount of light and look much more expensive than they really are. Full disclosure: I bought these when the house was still under construction, and now that the room is almost complete, I don’t think the brass is 100% right for the space. I’ll be giving these an aged brass makeover soon, so stay tuned!
If you read my budget linen sofa roundup post, you’ll recognize this one as the one I bought for our living room! You can see photos of it in action and my review in this post. It’s my favorite piece of furniture in our home but sadly, it’s out of stock at the moment (though expected to be back at some point if you can wait). If you can’t wait, I shared over 20 other similar sofas here so you can find “the one”.
Gone are the days of trying to find and constantly replace your used soap bottles with something pretty and non-plastic. I spotted these when searching for hand soap our guest bathroom earlier this year, and ended up using them in the following three bathroom remodels. I bought a large jug of hand soap and refill each as they’re getting low—super easy! You can fill them with anything (lotion, oil, shampoo, conditioner, washes) and use them in the kitchen and laundry room. Take it a step further and personalize them with labels (find them cheap on Amazon or Etsy, or DIY your own—stocking stuffer idea!) These are perfect for guests, a great way to save on plastic waste, and amber glass will never go out of style.
I get questions about the flooring in our house probably more than anything else, and for good reason—they’re gorgeous! I found these french oak engineered wood planks at Lowe’s and they were installed early this year (one of the most exciting construction days!) The price is very reasonable for the look/quality and after putting them to the test this year, they’ve exceeded our expectations. The matte wire brushed finish hides everything and stands up to plenty of abuse without any signs of wear. They’re pretty much the perfect floors.
Similar to the amber soap bottles, this refillable shampoo, conditioner and body wash set replaces your mismatched bottles and keeps your shower niche looking clean and clutter-free. I bought these for the new master bathroom at our Riverside Retreat vacation rental, and will be buying more for our other bathrooms. It’s another small switch that can make a big impact in guest bathrooms, or even in your own shower if you only use a few products.
This rug is at the top of my list for favorite décor find of 2019. It’s exactly what I envisioned for our living room, and looks/feels even better in person (see my full review in this blog post). I’d get one for every room in our house but that’d be a little weird… though I did get another one for our kitchen in the Riverside Retreat. I can’t get enough of it!
This was a pleasant surprise after scouring the internet for a long (8′) nice quality affordable waffle weave shower curtain (I refuse to buy standard height shower curtains, just say no!) The only other one I know of in existence is this one at BB&B, but it was out of stock when I needed it. I took a chance and found an alternative on Amazon for half the price, and it paid off! It may not be exactly the same quality as the more expensive model, but it fits my needs just fine and I bought one for both the main bathroom and master bathroom at the Riverside Retreat (and wouldn’t hesitate to buy again!)
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram this year, you’ve surely seen the Cloe tile pop up in your feed. It has been all the rage lately and I’m really not surprised. It has a high end, handmade look at a reasonable price point, is available in an array of colors and two different shapes, and is neutral and classic enough to go with any style while adding just the right amount of interest. I used it in baby blue in our recent Blue Lagoon bathroom, and again in white in our kitchen remodel at the Riverside Retreat. It’s my new go-to subway tile!
This is my personal 2019 Color of the Year. I’ve finally found my “perfect greige” and had no hesitation using it on all of the trim in our house, as well as our master bathroom walls. I think it looks great in every room, in every type of lighting, and it’s soft and neutral enough that I don’t have to worry about using other colors that won’t clash with it. Accessible Beige for life.
I started our first family photo album in 2017 after hearing great things about Blurb books. There’s something about a tangible book that makes your memories feel more permanent, more special. It’s now our family tradition to make one book per year, and having the collection on display is a great way to relive those stories with friends and family. We keep ours on the coffee table and find them to be a fun conversation starter, and the fact that I can personalize the covers to look exactly like I want is icing on the cake. I shared a quick video review in my Living Room Instagram story highlights if you want to see how ours turned out. I always wait for a sale to order, and right now they’re 50% off for Black Friday which is their biggest discount of the year!
This isn’t a new find and if you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen me recommend this—and it’s worth repeating! This is the brush that allows me to cut in and get smooth lines without using painter’s tape. I use it for painting furniture too, and really anything else. The best part? It’s under $6! I buy a six pack to have extras on hand. It makes a great stocking stuffer for hard to shop for folks (we’ll be buying some for family this year!)
This is one of those “how did I live so long without it?!” tools. We finally got one this year, and it has solved more problems than we can count. From slicing off old nails and screws to cutting baseboards and sanding grout, it’s such a handy little tool that you can do so much with (and there’s lots of different attachments for any job!) Another great gift for the DIYer in your life. PS—you can see all of the tools we use in my Amazon tool kit.
Once you use self drilling drywall anchors, you’ll never go back to the standard crappy plastic anchors. I’m actually embarrassed it took me so long to start using these—they’re so much better in every way! No more pre-drilling a perfectly sized pilot hole and hammering a plastic anchor in, only to have it bend in half or push through the drywall. With these anchors, you simply screw it into the wall (you don’t even need a power drill, though it would make it easier). No switching bits or other tools, no drywall mess, and they’re strong and secure. Seriously, do yourself a favor and order a box of these now.
Move over, spray paint—Rub ‘n Buff is the new gold in town. I tried these out for the first time this year, using them to create an aged gold finish on wood knobs for our powder bath vanity, wall hooks and dresser pulls in the nursery. They’re labeled as a wax, and have a thick powdery paint consistency that gives any surface a realistic gold metal look (a little goes a long way!) They’re easy and fun to work with, much better than spray paint for smaller projects. I bought a set of five different golds to experiment with, and I’ll be using them on my sconce light makeover next (this time with a blog tutorial).
I dedicated an entire blog post to our smart home features, and Alexa is at the center of it all. We made the switch last Christmas and our lives have been better for it. It’s so convenient to have everything on voice command or controlled with a few phone taps. We’ve streamlined our home (door locks, lights, sound system, video, thermostat, etc) and will continue to do so as more features are added. Our main hub is an Echo Spot in the kitchen, and we also keep an Echo Dot in our bedroom and the nursery. The Dots are a great way to get started if you’re new to smart home technology, especially now during their Black Friday sale when they’re half off! Whether you’re team Alexa or not, voice is the future and it’s here to stay 😉
A few months ago I discovered this marriage research author after hearing him speak on a podcast, and was intrigued enough to check out his latest book. It’s designed to strengthen and deepen your relationship through a series of eight dates, each focused around a key topic with specific questions and exercises to follow. I love the idea of holding ourselves accountable to make each other a priority, especially at this stage in our lives with a new baby, where it’s more important than ever to stay connected. We recently completed the first date and it was the most meaningful quality time we’ve spent together this year. We both look forward to these dates so much now! We plan on gifting a few of these books this year as it’s another great gift/stocking stuffer for couples at any stage in their relationship.
Of all the technology we’ve adapted this year, keyless entry has been the most useful. We took it a step further with smart locks, which we can control from anywhere via our phone, but just the benefit of eliminating keys is worth it. Fumbling through your purse looking for keys every day gets old, am I right ladies?! This problem can be eliminated for under $50, as there’s so many options on the market right now. We use the Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt (above) at the Riverside Retreat and Emtek EmPowered smart locks at the Heights House. Both are great options and essentially do the same thing. Give yourself the gift of convenience and upgrade to keyless entry, you will NOT regret it!
One fun recent discovery are Smart Plugs/switches. We got one from Legrand last month to use with our coffee maker so it could turn on via voice command, and now we’re using it as a timer for our Christmas tree. It connects to Alexa or Google, and you can control the switch via voice or app, and set it on a schedule (along with other lights/accessories in your home). It plugs into any outlet, and you can plug any device into (lamps, fans, curling irons, etc) which gives you the ability to control that device. Pretty cool, right? You can check out my full review of this along with all of our other smart light features in this blog post. Tip: Amazon has their own version for only $25. These make a great and unexpected stocking stuffer for anyone with a smart home (we picked up one for a family member!)
I’ve owned this bad boy for a couple years now, and will never go back to a clunky and time consuming iron + ironing board. I use it to de-wrinkle curtains, bedding and furniture just as much as clothing—it’s lightweight, heats up in seconds and is super convenient to take around the house. I consider it a necessity at this point (especially for $40!) but don’t take my word for it—check out the nearly 3,000 4.5 star ratings on Amazon (it’s also 20% off right now!)
Cranium is our go-to for game night with friends, and we always end up playing into the wee hours of the morning. It’s great for groups (we play with 6+ people) and guarantees hilarious moments as you try to draw, sculpt, hum and act out phrases for teammates to guess (sometimes with your eyes closed, or using players body parts as props!) We laugh until we cry every time. It’s rated for ages 16+, but I also just bought the “Dark” version and can’t wait to try it out for our next game night.
We have a Ring doorbell for each house (regular version for the Riverside Retreat, and Pro for the Heights House) and it’s worth every penny and more. From being able to talk to guests at our front door remotely, to checking on package deliveries, to using it as a video security and monitoring system when you’re away—the benefits are plenty. I shared a review in this blog post if you want to see how we’ve been using it. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales going on, now is the time to buy!
I spent more time searching for the perfect bassinet before Esmé was born than any other baby item. What sold me on this (apart from the minimalist design) was the fact that it was super lightweight and you can rock it. It was a close call between this and the Snoo, but in the end, cost was the deciding factor. I actually did end up purchasing the Snoo when it went on sale while in the throes of one-too-many sleepless nights, but there wasn’t really a noticeable difference in overnight sleep so we went back to the Bjorn. The portability has proven invaluable, as we can pack it up with us when we go visit friends/family for a while. And I can’t imagine not being able to easily rock her back to sleep every time she wakes during the night—that feature has been so helpful! Eventually she’ll outgrow this and transition into her own room and crib, but for now it has worked quite well for us as a bedside sleeper.
“Bouncer, swing or both?” was the big debate, and after reading many reviews, we opted to try out the Baby Bjorn bouncer. It took Esmé a few weeks to grow into it, but now she is perfectly content and happy hanging out here, watching us as we cook, eat and clean around the house. When she’s not sleeping, on her play mat or being held, she spends most of the day in her bouncer. We love that it’s lightweight so we can easily take it from room to room. I give her teethers, toys to play with and bottles while in her bouncer (she can already feed herself!) which keeps her occupied. It has worked out so well that I don’t think we’ll need to get a swing at all, which is a relief because those things are a bulky eye-sore!
It has been a challenge to find form-fitting, cute and affordable clothes for our petite girl. I don’t want to spend a fortune on something she’ll only wear a few times no matter how adorable it is, so Esmé has spent the majority of her life in boring basic onesies. Now that it’s cooler outside, I went on the hunt for long sleeved onesies and thought I’d give these a try. The fabric is soft and stretchy and they fit her perfectly! The size is labeled 0-6m, so she’ll be able to wear them for several more months before she outgrows them (unlike all of her other non-stretchy cotton onesies). You also can’t beat the price—I just wish they came in more colors/patterns!
It’s not the cheapest play gym out there, but I think this one is worth every penny. First, it’s not an eye sore, so I don’t worry about trying to hide or move it into another room when guests come over. It’s sustainably designed by experts and includes several activity sections to promote learning using all of baby’s senses, at every stage of their development. It also includes flash cards and a parent guide book with exercises for babies at different ages. We use it for tummy time each day and Esmé loves staring at herself in the mirror in it. I can easily justify the cost, knowing she uses it daily and will get at least a couple years worth of valuable learning from it.
About a month after she was born, Esmé lost interest in all pacifiers—until I introduced the wubbanub a few weeks ago. I don’t know what it is about this thing, but she’s hooked. It immediately calms her down and soothes her to sleep, and there’s nothing more adorable than watching her hug the bunny tightly to her chest as she dozes off. When she wakes at night, I’m able to quickly settle her back down by popping the wubbanub back in her mouth, and I think the stuffed animal helps it stay in easier than a traditional pacifier. I know every baby is different, but this has become one of our parenting survival must-haves.
Another item where months of searching paid off. You may have seen photos of it in our nursery reveal, and I also shared a video review of it in my Nursery story highlights on Instagram. A few months later and I’m loving it—the smooth glide/rocking motion, the ottoman with storage and of course, the way it looks in the nursery. Still my choice for best glider on the market under $400!
I held off on buying this when she was born because I figured we could just use a phone app or Alexa to play white noise, but NO. Trust me when I say you’ll need one of these everywhere you go… in the car, at the store, walking around the house trying to get your baby to sleep. Honestly if it weren’t for the white noise machine, Esmé would probably never sleep. That’s a little dramatic, but she refuses to fall asleep on her own and this is the only thing that saves us. For every nap and bedtime, we have to turn this on and rock her until she gets sleepy. We charge it up every couple days and it’s good to go for a while. There are several different white noise/sleep sounds to choose from, and it’s also Bluetooth enabled so you can use it as a speaker for your phone (which we never do, but it’s an option). There’s tons of similar white noise speakers on the market and I’m not loyal to any in particular, but this is the one we use and it’s nice because it’s super tiny and portable. Another parenting essential in my book!
I put this diaper bag on my baby shower registry and it’s one of my favorite and most used gifts. It’s stylish, comes with everything you need (including a changing pad) with easy to access pockets, durable/wipeable and it’s just the right size without being too bulky. And it’s only $40! Heck, even without a baby I’d use this as a purse. I take it everywhere I go and plan on using it for years into the toddler/kid stage.
This was a gift from a mom friend who swore by it. It is used to help babies transition out of swaddling, and gives them a cozy secure feeling to help them sleep. The first time we put Esmé in it she fell asleep pretty much instantly, and slept like a dream for the next day. Unfortunately she regressed back into her poor sleep pattern and we went back to swaddling, until we decided to stop for safety reasons. At 10 weeks old we tried the suit again (this time it fit her a little better) and she slept through the night for the first time, 4 nights in a row! It truly was magic. Unfortunately, Esmé entered her third developmental leap shortly after and went back to poor sleep, but she still sleeps better in this suit than being swaddled. It’s also still too big for her and her feet get stuck at the bottom sometimes, but so far this has worked the best so we’re sticking with it. If you read the reviews online you’ll find thousands of parents singing its praises, so it’s something I’d recommend to every parent! Like anything else, not every baby will love it, but at $40 it’s absolutely worth a shot.
A middle of the night essential, this little nightlight is always within arms reach on my night stand. It illuminates with a quick tap and gently dims/illuminates when you hold your touch. It’s baby safe, lightweight and pretty much unbreakable (I’ve dropped it more than once!) and runs for weeks on a single charge. We keep it on the dimmest setting so there’s just enough light for a feeding without waking everyone up, and once she moves to the nursery I’ll keep it near her crib. It’s color changing, too, which we don’t normally use but it’s a fun feature. For only $20 I’d say it’s a must have for the newborn phase. They also have a newer version here (only $15 for Prime members).
Alright friends, that concludes my roundup of my most loved, most used and most recommended finds of 2019. I hope you’ve found at least one new favorite in this list, or at least a few gift and stocking stuffer ideas! Our family is keeping it simple this year and doing a couples gift exchange so we won’t be going crazy trying to shop for everyone. I love this tradition and plan to stick with it—so much less stressful! What about your family? Do you give and receive lots of gifts every year or keep it minimal? I’m sure things will change once Esmé is old enough to know what’s going on, but for now, we’re enjoying the slower paced holidays.
Happy shopping, and happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! I’ll be sharing my Black Friday & Cyber Monday finds over on Instagram so if you’re looking for sales, make sure to follow me there over the next few days!