The New Basics: Amy’s 10 Essentials

by Amy Azzarito


Last, but not least (one can hope), it’s my turn to outline my home basics (both Max and Grace have already detailed theirs). For me, these are the things that I use on a regular basis. Things that make me happy every single time I use them. A couple of years ago, I read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and the chapter about material things stuck with me. Gretchen wrote that while it’s true that material things can not make us happy, it can contribute to our happiness when we invest in things that we use on a daily basis. So if you’re an avid runner, she explains, investing in great running shoes will make you happy every time you put them on. By the same token, if you never run but spend a lot of money on running shoes, you won’t derive the same pleasure as the runner. Using the things we have and love, can actually make us happy. I try to apply that same logic to the things in my home. They don’t have to be expensive. The only thing on my list over a $100 is the Dutch oven and that’s something you’ll have forever. Everything else is under $50. These are all things in my house, that make me a little happier each time, I use them.  –Amy

Image above: 1.  penguin’s drop cap series | 2.  robert blue mug $28 | 3.  elly dish towels $3.99 |4.  knife magnet $22.99 | 5.  ultrathin velvet hangers $29.90| 6.  mortar & pestle $9.99 | 7. dansk white casserole $125.95 (on sale!) | 8.  Chemex coffee maker $42.70 | 9. black heart bowl $18

Image above: crates $24.90

Details on my favorite things after the jump!

Perhaps it’s a result of my background as a Librarian, but I find books to be an essential part of any home. My coffee table is filled with the books, I’m currently reading. I don’t hold back when it comes to buying books. (I am a pretty ruthless weeder though – also the Librarian curse – if I don’t think I’m going to read it again, I give it away.) Currently, my obsession is books about Peruvian textiles as I’m planning a trip to Peru this spring. (I’m just about to begin reading Weaving a Future.)

Coffee Maker
There was a sad moment where I gave up coffee. Luckily, that moment is past. I want coffee as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. Although, I prefer my coffee when it is made for me, by the folks at Gimme Coffee, I don’t always want to get dressed and go outside for my caffeine.  I drink my coffee black so I can be a little picky about the taste. I was given this Chemex as a birthday present one year and with the addition of a variable temperature kettle (thanks, Mom!), I can get pretty close to a coffee shop taste.

Big Mug
I need a mug handle that fits my entire hand. I’m not a dainty flower so I need a sizeable mug. This one does the trick and it looks pretty doing it.

Dutch Oven or Casserole
I make soups all winter long. I love a dutch oven that heats evenly. If you’re a meat eater, they can go straight from the stove top to the oven – great for a long, slow braise.

Mortar & Pestle
I bought this because it’s pretty but then ended up using it nearly every time I cook. It’s little so it doesn’t take up too much space – an important consideration in my kitchen!

Knife Magnet Rack
I wrote about my kitchen struggles here. In summation, I have a tiny, ugly kitchen that I am constantly trying to make less ugly. The knife rack seems to help. (An added plus is that knife racks keep your knives sharper than knife blocks)

Ikea Dish Towels
I think there is a universal love for these Ikea towels. They look great as napkins as well as towels, and I’ve personally used them in more photo shoots than I can count.

Velvet Hangers
These are a recent discovery, but these velvet hangers seriously maximize closet space and they are amazing at actually keeping the clothes on the hanger. A huge improvement over the white plastic ones that I had before.

Little Bowls
I don’t have this exact bowl, but I do have little bowls and trays all over my apartment to keep all of my small things – bobby pins, earrings, keys, change – organized. For some reason, I feel a little more relaxed knowing that everything has a place and these little bowls help that.

I used to tease Grace about her wooden box obsession. But I think it’s rubbed off on me. I have four in my kitchen and one in the bedroom. But I think I could use more. I like finding old boxes at antique stores, but you can also go for these American-made crates. This is sort of an extension of the one above. I just feel a little more relaxed when all of my things are corralled.


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  • Great read, so true. Quality things that bring you joy or comfort, ditch the rest. I think I wan to get a Chemex, thing is I bought one for a friend but it is something I actually would enjoy myselft :)

  • I’m the same way about everything needing a place — My apartment is full of little jars to hold change, hair ties, pens, whisks, everything!

  • Price note: I’ve become a fan of those no-slip ultra-thin hangers, but I get double the value, or more, in multipacks from TJ Maxx–bundles of 8-10 for less than $10, and even $4.99 recently.

  • I was just in the MoMA store yesterday and reminded of how stunning that Dansk Kobenstyle casserole really is (they show it in the equally stunning red). And the fact that the lid becomes the trivet, well… just perfection.

  • oh I could have wrote this! Awake up = Coffee! and your basics are exactly the same of mine, the only one I would change is the knife magnet (I find them scary :)!), maybe exchange it for some pillows or good wool blanket. Oh books, is it really a house without books?

  • I am obsessed with Robert Blue Pottery or Blue Eagle Pottery. I just bought some tumblers a few vases and I turned the utensil crock into a planter. If I didn’t have such a huge Heath Ceramics collection I would start over and start collecting this entire line.

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