16 September 2020

Buy nice stuff

Want to buy nice consumer products from providers I like? Here are unsolicited endorsements of some of my favorite places to get Stuff.

Other indices of nice things

  • Cool tools is Kevin Kelly's index of reviews of all kinds of things, talking not just about the qualities of the product, but about how and why it's useful, like tongue depressors or those glue sticks made of post-it note glue ... and many tools are just tips and tricks that don't require buying anything.
  • Wirecutter has exceedingly in-depth reviews explaining what the best version is of numerous key products — especially electronics — including why that thing is the best and what difference it makes if you go for the best cheap or best spendy alternative
  • The Future Of Stuff Store identifies particularly resiliently-designed products, especially ones which take advantage of cutting-edge materials; the creator also maintains an open list “some things that are really quite good”: “it’s just amazing how good the quality end of manufactured goods is, particularly compared to the landfill-fodder which is the norm”
  • Better Living Through Design lists cunningly-designed kit; the bags and desk accessories are my particular weaknesses
  • The Strategist is a bit lifestyle-magazine-ish, but I forgive it because it has pretty darned good taste in a range of products
  • Buy Me Once also has a bit of a lifestyle magazine flavor, helpfully indexing solidly-made stuff
  • The Ones is a site maintained by some hip but (mostly) practical industrial designers listing their favorite, rock-solid products
  • The Sweet Setup is a guide to applications for Apple devices, including not just the best solutions but a lot of advice about using them well
  • The Macrumours' buyers guide is useful if you like Apple products, offering help gussing when new versions of products will come out, reducing your chances of getting something and then feeling frustrated to see a spiffy new version released right after you buy it
  • “What life-changing item can you buy for less that $100?” is a wooly but fun and helpful Reddit discussion

Catalogues of Various, Mostly Odd, Things

Stationery & pens

  • Jetpens is a huge catalogue of delicious office supplies from Japan, and has great indices and reviews of various essentials
  • The Pen Type-B in brass is my favorite pen ever
  • Nico Neco Zakkaya sell deliciously twee Japanese stationary and supplies
  • Baum•Kuchen sell deliciously fussy European & Japanese stationary and supplies
  • Chromalabel sell an array of color-coding stickers ... including kraft paper
  • Discount School Supply make tools for schools & homeschoolers which also have applications in a creative office, like groovy storage, cheap little dry erase boards, and
  • Levenger is less reliably my taste than it used to be, and everything is a bit more spendy than it should be, but there is still some good stuff there

Computer-oriented office supplies

  • BlueLounge make well crafted solutions to your cable clutter, and other goodies
  • Elevation Lab make good cables and device stands
  • Twelve South make some unique accessories for computers, phones, and other electronics
  • Grovemade makes preposterously swanky desk accessories for your computer desk
  • Moft make my favorite portable stands for computers, tablets, and phones
  • The Magic Sleeve is a very well-considered laptop or tablet accessory which I love; watch the video to get seduced
  • Ergodriven make the ridged floor mat I use at my standing desk every day
  • Paperlike make a popular iPad screen protector, though I tried the Bellemond which you can find on Amazon and like it even better; if you use the Apple Pencil, you need one, and if you tried the Apple Pencil but did not like it, you really need one
  • Conway Electric make nifty, very spendy extension cords and related gear with an Industrial aesthetic.
  • Mighty Mug makes insulated cups and mugs with a clever suction thing on the bottom which activates if you tilt the cup, preventing spills
  • Fluidstance make balance boards for people who work at standing desks, but the thing that interests me is their nifty, spendy desk whiteboards
  • Keyboario and Ergodox make cool weird ergonomic mechanical computer keyboards; I have a few words which may help you decide if you want one of these


  • Tom Bihn make simple but carefully-crafted soft travel gear; their Aeronaut 30 bag has taken me around the world (and the newer laptop-friendly Techonaut incorporates the improvements I daydreamed about when I did that), while the Synik 22 or 30 laptop / travel backpacks have super organization
  • WaterField Designs are my absolute favorite makers of everyday shoulderbags and backpacks and such: their stuff perfectly straddles being classy enough to look professional without looking fussy in more casual circumstances, the videos explaining how their bags are meant to be used are worth a watch just an example of exploring thoughtful deisgn, I think their Bolt Backpack is the ideal laptop backpack, and their newer Air Travel Backpack is the most professional-feeling one-bag air travel pack I have seen
  • Peak Design make camera gear, including bags; their cunningly-designed Everyday Backpack is my big backpack when I need one, and their travel backpack may be the most clever design of the type
  • Aer make some intriguingly designed travel & EDC bags which I cannot vouch for having seen in the flesh, but reviews are encouraging; their Capsule Pack is another seductive member of the air travel backpack family
  • Babboon To The Moon make bags for people who share my sensibilities about how bags should be structured but want something more colorful
  • Mission Workshop make my favorite fancy bicylists’ bags; they also make some interesting technical clothes
  • Saddleback Leather make gorgeous, heavy, sturdy luggage
  • Away make the most inexpensive sturdy rolling pullman cases (or the sturdiest inexpensive ones) I have found; their Aluminum Carry-On is spendy but satisfied my lifelong lust for an unattainably expensive Zero Haliburton case
  • Notabag is a simple lightweight bag which folds up small and has a simple, beautiful design which makes it graceful to carry things in one hand, over one shoulder, or as a backpack
  • Eagle Creek make an array of well-designed and well-constructed packing cubes; you may prefer to use cubes from the same maker as your bag, but you definitely need packing cubes if you travel
  • Matador make a bunch of interesting travel kit — I have one of their nifty pocket blankets — and even though I am not on the road any more like I used to be, I am very tempted to pick up one of their unique little soap bags


  • Norman & Jules sells toys for actual children with a Montessori sensibility which I find seductive
  • Art Of Play has unreasonably beautiful puzzles, games, and toys for grownups
  • Unemployed Philosophers' Guild sell a range of nifty/cute/clever tchotchkes for intellectuals, if you need something like a Nicola Tesla action figure

Nerd art


  • Outlier is my favorite maker of spendy-but-worth-it technical clothing; there is a part of me that wants to never wear anything else
  • Bluffworks make technical fabric clothes for a traveller who wants to look like a professional rather than a cyberpunk shadowrunner
  • American Giant make exceptionally well-made cotton basic clothes for men, including a “the greatest hoodie ever made”
  • Mack Weldon are like American Giant; my enthusiasm for their One Mile Slipper proves that I am a middle-aged guy
  • Gustin make clothes “like they do not make any more”, especially denim jeans, pre-selling short runs of stuff made interesting fabrics to keep expenses low
  • Voidmerch make T-shirts and such with geeky/gothy words on them which are actually witty, including my Hallowe'en costume
  • Vestige make T-shirts with abstract graphics that are just really nice
  • 2046 Print Shop make T-shirts with crisp, almost-abstract science themes


  • Hairstory make New Wash, which is a no-shampoo shampoo which will change the chemistry of your scalp, plus some other cool stuff, including a really nice scalp brush
  • Acne.org sells a line of good, simple skincare products which are great even if you don't have acne
  • The Tangle Teezer does one thing very well; my hair will start to tangle in five minutes if I just stand still and turn to locs if I let it, but this magic device will set it right in just a few swipes

Everything else

  • Graf Lantz make a bunch of cool things out of wool felt, but their standout item is the best face masks I have found
  • Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups and Portland Syrups are a treat I have taken to now that I have slowed down enough that I am enjoying soda concoctions more often than actual cocktails
  • Garrett Wade sells such beautiful tools that their gardening implements tempt me to take up gardening
  • Kaufmann Mercantile is a bit like Garrett Wade, offering not just tools but a range of well-made housewares and “accessories” and whatnot
  • Oxford Pennant make camp flags that are just cool
  • Skura make really nice sponges and related cleaning stuff
  • Manta sleep masks are by far the best blindfolds I have found
  • Hydro Seal Band-Aids are flexible, comfortable, waterproof, and stay on for several days; if you put one on properly, you can trim the edges as they pull away over several days until the whole thing finally comes off, at which point the wound is usually completely healed
  • TubShroom make bath and sink filters which catch gunk without clogging
  • Upcart is little folding dolly with a wacky triangular wheel design which enables one to use it to carry things up and down stairs
  • U-Haul paper packing tape is so much better than all other box packing tape that it is worth going out of your way to get it — it sticks nicely to cardboard but does not tend to get stuck to other stuff, tears easily by hand, and you can write on it

Of course the real reason I made this list is so I have a place to tuck cool stuff I find so I can go shopping for toys later. Or if you want to get me a present ....

No comments: