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Mundane Yet Magical...

Upgraded Utilitarian: Beautiful Tools for Your Garden & Garage

Emily Henderson Roundup Upgraded Utilitarian Pic 2

You know you’ve reached a new level of design obsession when you start fangirling over an “artisanal” toolbox…or garden gloves…or BROOMS. The amount of times we ooohed and ahhhed over “beautiful,” well-designed home essentials while working on this new series would make anyone wonder about our stability (except not really, because if you’re here reading this design blog, you probably get it). We’re all design nerds around these parts, after all.

So, as I mentioned, we’re embarking on a new (short-ish) series for the next several weeks on what we’re calling “Upgraded Utilitarian.” We’re talking the aforementioned brooms, sponges, laundry racks, closet organizers, alarm clocks, toilet brushes, hangers…anything that might normally feel like an afterthought in your home, but BEA-U-TI-FUL (even if in an unassuming way). We’re digging DEEEEEP into the internet to find the most stunning, simple, artisanal versions of utility items. Chic compost bins. Yup. Attractive dish brushes? You betcha.

Today, since summer is winding down in a few months, we thought we’d start with gardening basics and workbench picks like tools and whatever you need to tinker around your home. And if you think for a second that you’re not going to be SUPER PUMPED about a brass hammer…your tune will change as soon as you scroll down and see what we found. You WILL be itching to seriously upgrade your toolset, we promise. And for any of you out there that are all like “wait, why would I spend money on a ‘pretty’ utility knife when a basic one will do?” Well, here’s what I have to say about that…because you CAN (you by no means need to, but if your hose is braided black nylon with brass hardware, it might spark just enough joy that hosing off your back patio is all of a sudden a treat for the eyes instead of drudgery…and THAT should always be celebrated). Annoying chore + pretty thing to do said chore = maybe not so painful chore.

If you’ve never gasped over the beauty of a brass fire extinguisher, then you haven’t lived…welcome to the other side of your life.

MY LATEST VIDEOS

1. 6 pc Screwdriver Set | 2. Leather Toolbox | 3. Black Retractable Knife | 4. Wood Tape Measure | 5. Brass Fire Extinguisher | 6. Powder Coated Drawer Bin Cabinet | 7. Brass Hammer | 8. Leather Nail Bag | 9. Adjustable Wrench | 10. Aluminum LED Flashlight | 11. Ballpoint L-Wrench Set | 12. Wood Step Ladder | 13. Blue Toolbox | 14. 24 inch Level | 15. Waterproof Solar & USB Chargeable Travel Light | 16. WOHNGEIST 7-Piece Tool Kit In Wood Case | 17. Brass Padlocks | 18. Birch Plywood Pegboard | 19. Wooden Mallet | 20. Wood Handle Folding Utility Knife | 21. White Pegboard | 22. Canvas Oval Bucket Tool Bag | 23. Travel Tools Keychain | 24. Wood Tool Set | 25. Ultralight Slimline Ladder | 26. Leather Tool Tote | 27. Two in One Hammer & Screwdriver Multi-Tool | 28. Brass Nails | 29. Brass Flashlight | 30. Snap Tool Roll | 31. Carpenter Apron | 32. Screwdriver Set | 33. Mini Wood Hammer All-In-One Tool Set | 34. Wood Step Stool | 35. Smoothed Face Brass Dead Blow Hammer | 36. Folding Hex Key Set

You know all those times you’ve stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, staring up at the ceiling, stressed that your tool bench/garage/utility cabinet was full of such ugly things? So much black plastic and safety orange. The horror. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. You can sleep soundly now that we’ve found you the most beautiful step stools, a leather tool tote, a brass flashlight and MORE. But for real, how pretty is that tape measurer at #4?!? We love our heavy-duty Stanleys around the office and on job sites, but are you kidding with that wood face?? And okay, for anyone eye-rolling at the $1,700 toolset at #16, we debated back and forth about how ridiculous this was but in the name of “upgraded utilitarian,” we just went for it.

Emily Henderson Roundup Upgraded Utilitarian Pic 5

1. Jute Garden Bag | 2. Modern Watering Can | 3. Walnut Garden Square Hoe | 4. Green Garden Fork | 5. Black Hose | 6. Hardwood Timber Tool Stand | 7. Garden Scissor Set | 8. Brass Coarse Spray | 9. Barn Brooms | 10. Market Backpack | 11. Ultimate Garden Tool Set | 12. Brass Mister | 13. Green Rake | 14. Heritage Watering Can | 15. Leather Pruner Holster | 16. Suede Garden Kneeler | 17. 6 in Utility Shears | 18. Plant Marker Set | 19. Sun Hat | 20. Canvas Wall Organizer | 21. Copper Gardening Tool Set | 22. Pocket Snips | 23. Second Skin Gloves | 24. Bamboo Plant Stand | 25. Garden Hose | 26. Suede Waist Apron | 27. Copper Scoop | 28. Canvas Apron | 29. Ceramic Watering Vessel | 30. Garden Clogs | 31. Forged Hand Tool Set | 32. Gathering & Foraging Canvas Bag | 33. Garden Scissors

On to the garden…we’ve got you covered head to toe (literally…there’s a cute little raffia hat and the best Hunter garden clogs). If you’re a certified plant whisperer, the 9-piece set from Williams Sonoma might just be something you’ll want to add to your wish list/shopping cart because it seems to have every small tool you need to get your hands all kinds of dirty. But if you’ve got a handful of indoor plant babies instead, take a look at the brass mister (#12), the long-spouted watering can (#2…these are great for getting deep into foliage without too much of a fight), and the blue pocket snips for pruning (#22).

Stay tuned for next week’s laundry/org/kitchen Upgraded Utilitarian post. We have a few more categories in the works, but let us know what else you might want us to source that could fall into this category of mundane yet magical.

  1. Oh this was such fun to read and complete eye candy! Don’t worry about your stability. We get it, and are right there too!

    I think the second item photo is missing and looks like your beautiful backyard – or am I scrolling incorrectly?

  2. Lovely for sure; although if I’m paying a premium price for something that looks good it better function as good if not better than the normal version and I’ve found that general of the “upgraded utilitarian” stuff doesn’t. You know what’s worse than doing a chore you don’t love? Doing that chore with a tool that doesn’t work well.

    I’ll stick to my Stanley heavy duty tape measure, because it works.

    I recently got in a fight with my “pretty” garden hose, it was heavy, it kinked everywhere, it didn’t coil nicely and sprung for a Eley hose reel and new hose from them, now those things are brilliantly functional and not ugly, but their first design goal was function. Now watering the flowers is 100% better, because the tools work.

  3. I want it all!! You know what else would help to find… a chic hose holder! haha All the hose holders we see (for the ground) are so cheap and ugly looking!

    1. Second this one! I cannot find one that I don’t hate!

    2. I too would love to find a pretty hose holder as mine is visible on front porch.

    3. I agree! The best option I have seen around my neighborhood is just a galvanized bucket from the hardware store. Cheap and will do the job until something better comes along!

  4. I kinda rolled my eyes when I first saw the headline… but then you solved my problem on what to get my mom for her birthday/Christmas/Mother’s Day for the next few years and I love you forever.

  5. I LOVE this. Oh, to dream.
    Has anyone run into a broom that looks nice for inside the home? I have a small space and need to keep my broom out next to my litter boxes (thanks, cats!) for easy sweeping. I despise the one I have now, but keep it out as a necessity. I feel like there’s no amount too large to have this be something that I don’t have to hate every time I see it!

    1. I totally get this; I bought a broom from The Laundress a few years ago; no place to store it but in plain sight so it had to be good-looking! It’s a RIDICULOUS price for a broom, but it’s pretty and it works great!

      https://www.thelaundress.com/horse-hair-broom.html?gclid=CjwKCAjw7vraBRBbEiwA4WBOn95EOQg4O88qPEm8vyDLcqvoplSWcMgZFQdzYONM3p19FCf4XmtaghoCoEwQAvD_BwE

    2. I have this one!!! https://www.containerstore.com/s/full-circle-clean-sweep-broom/d?productId=11000944&q=full%20circle
      I have the hand broom/dustpan, the wet/dry mop, and the duster from the same line. love them all!!

      1. I’m always searching for a chic broom! Haha so has anyone tried the MUJI cleaning system? I’ve been considering. Small & very inexpensive but I no longer can find the handle attachments http://www.muji.us/store/special-theme/muji-vacation-2018/clean-up/desk-broom-set-with-dustpan.html

  6. I seriously did not care about the garage stuff (totally happy for my tools to look like they were used by a dude to build a house), but when I scrolled along and suddenly saw the garden tools… oooh!! My tiny decor budget is definitely allocated elsewhere, but it sure was pretty to look at. I am def looking forward to other installments of the series since some of those around the house items you mentioned are real eyesores yet I don’t have hours to spend scouring the internet to find pretty and affordable versions.

  7. You got me with the gardening tools. Super cute! Could you please, please, pretty please do some more posts on design rules/mistakes, though? It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve seen one. Especially bathroom rules!!!

  8. I am so needing and loving this series! Hooray for nerding out on design 🤓

  9. All things bathroom like loofas, toothbrush holders, and toilet brushes, please!

  10. Gorgeous items! When you start sharing brooms be sure to check out https://www.haydenvillebroomworks.com/

    I have a couple brooms from their predecessor (Justamere Tree Farm) and I love them after years.

    And my favorite throwback item you shared is the brass mister from Food52; makes me wish I had kept my mom’s, I’ll have to pick it up 🙂

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I bought one of their whisk brooms, because the ones I can still find usually aren’t all that well made. That it’s attractive is a bonus, AND I like to support artisans.

  11. I’ve never been so in love with a tape measure. Why must you do this to me EHD, why oh why?!

  12. I love this post – not for myself but because there’s some great gift ideas for people who are hard to buy for in my life.
    That said, be careful with dark hoses if your hose will live in a very sunny spot. Most regular, non-chic hoses are lighter in color than the black and navy ones shown here, but the water that sits inside them between uses can get really hot. Remember that mom in Arizona who gave her kid 3rd degree burns because she thought it would be funny to shoot him with the hose right when she turned it on? 🙁 I’m not saying it’s wrong to have designer-y hose or that it’s wrong for them to be manufactured, just to keep in mind that unless they are the new kind that collapses as it’s rolled up and squeezes out the water there is a risk of hot water burns for people or plants.

  13. You can find that same brass mister for about half the price other places. Plus be aware that these misters are more pretty than functional. They tend to last a fairly short time.

  14. YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!
    This is a fantastic series and I am so excited for the next ones! I love that a lot of them are from amazon, which is accessible to us out of country-ers. 😀

  15. I can’t help but giggle at the frivolity of it, but it’s a good giggle. If I had all the money in the world, I *might* be tempted to pick up a few of these items–at least from the gardening section. It’s a fun post!

  16. I had to giggle at the inclusion of brass hammers, like it’s simply a hammer somebody made pretty, because those are actually a pretty specialized tool for delicate work when you need a non sparking hammer….but sure spend the extra money to use it around the house 🙂

  17. Reminds me of EVERYTHING from http://www.murlifestyle.com. At the end of a browsing session on their site I’m like why do I want a pretty toilet brush? or a beautiful broom?

  18. I love this so much! I found Mur Lifestyle and I want one of everything that they sell… too bad my wallet says no! https://www.murlifestyle.com/

  19. Snort! The Neiman Marcus version of the garden center! I actually DO have a brass fire extinguisher; mine is vintage British and has been converted into a lamp. It looks fabulous (see, it kinda does make sense to spend $119 on it knowing it has upcycle potential).

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