ingenious design

Welcome to Ingenious Design Week

Photo: Interim Archives/Getty/Getty Images

Ingenious design has more to do with function than aesthetics. It’s a product that’s well designed and does what it’s designed for well, though in a way that’s more streamlined, and perhaps a little more unexpected, than the regular way of doing things. And we’ve spent a lot of time here at the Strategist surfacing items that meet that definition — like an all-in-one product that actually works better than the four items it’s replacing (like this razor), something reversible that’s nice to use either way (like these clothes), an easy-to-use gadget that fixes that one problem you’ve always had but never known how to address (like these bed clips), or something that maintains itself and lets you walk away, worry-free. Ingenious design is not a hack, and it is not using a product in a way that it was not originally intended by the manufacturer or designer, even if your alternate use is ingenious. Here, we’re rounding up our favorite products that do what they’re supposed to do — exceptionally well. Welcome to Ingenious-Design Week at the Strategist.

This Plug-in Dryer Is Like a Salad Spinner for My Clothes

Although Marisa Carroll is comfortable washing her clothes in the tub, she needed a space-efficient way to dry them at home. So after falling down many an internet rabbit hole, she and her husband discovered the Panda. The size of a garbage can or laundry basket, “it’s essentially a giant salad spinner: It whirls your clothes around for five minutes and barfs the water out through a spigot,” she writes. Read more here.

This Self-Timing Outlet Keeps My Flat Iron From Burning the House Down

This “egg timer for your electronic devices” is a must-have if you’ve ever worried that you left the house without turning off your flat iron, space heater, air conditioner, or anything else that should be off when no one’s around. “You push a button to turn the power on, use your device as you ordinarily would, then walk away when you’re done,” writes Alison Freer. Read more here.

An Accordion-Style Toilet Plunger Will Change Your Life

$14
Photo: Courtesy of the vendor

Back in 2016, a toilet-unclogging expert, who chose to remain anonymous, told us that this accordion-style plunger is a must-have for anyone who’s ready to step up their unclogging game from “amateur hour” old-fashioned plungers. This actually “fits into the toilet drain,” rather than just sitting on top of it, so it’s optimized for “maximum suckage.” It makes a great buy for stubborn toilets — or as a housewarming gift. Read more here.

Is Oura’s $299 ‘Smart Ring’ Just a Fancy Thermometer?

Ahead of NBA players’ return to the court this year, they received a “smart ring” from Oura — and though it has many of the same functions as other activity trackers, all of the experts writer Louis Cheslaw spoke with agreed that they were impressed by the simple, unobtrusive design and the quality of data. Read more here.

Why Didn’t Anyone Think of a Right-Angled iPhone Cable Sooner?

Tired of replacing USB and lightning charging cables that begin to fray as soon as you inevitably need to bend them in any direction, writer Steven John opted for a charger with an “exquisite design detail that eliminates bending period.” That detail is a 90-degree angle where the USB cord plugs into the charger, so the connection never tears. “I’ve replaced all my lightning cables with the Aukey and haven’t looked back. I only wish they came in white,” John writes. Read more here.

This Weird Kneeling Chair Saved My Back

When writer Alice Gregory first saw this weird-looking kneeling chair at a friend’s house, she was skeptical of its ergonomic claims — especially after she had tried so many other ways to improve her posture and limit her time sitting at her desk. But this Norwegian-designed chair actually worked and was comfortable: “Sure, the chair makes you look like an industrious frog, but you’ll never get back pains again.” Read more here.

The Most Ingenious Kitchen Tools, According to Chefs

Though we generally think that kitchen unitaskers are a scam, there are some that are so good that even professional chefs swear by them — like a scallion shredder, a spice grater, and the Grill Daddy. This gadget is like a clothes steamer but for your grill, with stainless-steel bristles that “cleans a grill better than any other tool,” according to chef Jordan Wallace of Pizzeria Locale in Denver. Read more here.

The Only Thing I Need to Make This (Delicious) Cold Brew Is the Bag It Comes In

$25
Photo: retailer

There are lots of things to like about working from home, but Katherine Rotunno misses office perks — like snacks, company, and of course, never-ending access to coffee. But this all-in-one cold-brew kit scratches that itch. All you have to do is add water to the bag, drop in a sachet full of coffee, and let the coffee (about 12 servings’ worth, depending how strong you like your brew) sit in in your fridge overnight. Plus, a built-in spigot means it’s easy to serve. Read more here.

These Little Padded Clips Have Cut My Bed-Making Time in Half

Tired of spending time every morning trying to line up her duvet with the duvet cover, Alyse Whitney discovered these “weird, little $5 life changers.” The small clips have soft teeth to secure your duvet cover’s corners within your duvet, so you’ll never have to wake up under a “thin, duvetless sheet” again. Read more here.

My Megaportable Power Station Can Charge 11 Devices at the Same Time

Writer Steven John, owner of many portable charging devices, calls this “the only thing I’m ever going to need for camping or outdoor parties.” That’s because this battery can charge almost anything — from your cell phone and laptop to a mini-fridge — all at the same time. Plus, it’s solar-powered, and once charged, it doesn’t need to be recharged for up to a year. Read more here.

This Strange, Divoted Pillow Completely Cured My Neck Pain

After consistently waking up with neck pain, Alison Freer purchased this ergonomic neck pillow and found that it “transformed [her] sleeping life.” The recessed pocket in the middle offers “stellar neck support and near-perfect spinal alignment,” she writes, while the padded edges of the pillow gently stretch the neck and spine “the way a good masseuse or chiropractor does.” Read more here.

This Compact, Do-It-All Oven Makes Me Feel Like Julia Child in Quarantine

$190

This do-it-all air fryer is a “sous-chef that more or less does it all at the press of a button,” according to Strategist writer and family cook Lauren Ro. It can bake, broil, toast, fry, even convection cook — and since it doesn’t need to be preheated, it’s fast. It even rivals her microwave when it comes to reheating leftovers; her air-fried, day-old fried chicken wings were ready to eat in ten minutes and were “(almost) as good,” she assures, as the day before. Read more here.

You Don’t Need to Know How to Build a Fire to Use This Firepit

Writer and former campfire-building Boy Scout James Lynch calls this Bluetooth-compatible firepit the “tech-bro version of the classic suburban backyard firepit.” The app-powered rechargeable motor circulates oxygen to allow kindling to catch flame, and the heat can likewise be controlled directly from the app. Plus, it doubles as a grill “with the added flavor of charcoal or wood,” big enough for up to eight hamburgers or three steaks. Read more here.

This Hidden, Behind-the-Door Shelf Is Like a Giant Medicine Cabinet

$223

Writer and self-proclaimed maximalist Or Gotham found this behind-door cabinet to be a small-space storage solution that doesn’t “take up too much valuable square footage or reek of dormitory décor.” The hidden cabinet attaches to the door’s hinges and functions as both a full-length mirror and giant medicine cabinet that can hold everything from spices to face masks. Read more here.

The Plastic Mushroom That’s Saved Me Thousands in Plumbing Fees

While regular drain screens can let hair pass through, leading to clogs (and hundreds of dollars in plumbing fees), this all-silicone hair trap “allows water to drain while catching stray hairs in a (mercifully) out-of-sight place for easy disposal later.” It catches everything from dog fur to beard hair, is remarkably easy to clean, and has saved writer Alison Freer “at least a thousand bucks in emergency plumbing calls.” Read more here.

The Antimicrobial Sponge That Tells Me When It’s Time to Throw It Away

“The funny thing about the sponges is that the more I use them, the more I don’t notice them — in a good way,” says writer Sam Todd of these quick-drying sponges, made from patented silver-infused foam that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew. Todd assures that he’s “never caught a bad smell from one,” and the pattern on the scouring pad disappears with use (typically in two to four weeks), so you’ll know exactly when it’s time to replace them. Read more here.

Ingenious Gadgets That Will Improve Your Life

Anker Nebula Capsule Projector
$300
$300

Well-designed tech gadgets, like truly wireless earbuds, might not be as impressive as a rocket ship, but they can make a meaningful impact on your everyday life. And to figure out which are actually worth the money, our tech writer Jordan Bowman found 14 gadgets that actually make your day-to-day life a little easier or more pleasant, including this soda-can-sized portable projector that quickly transforms your backyard into your own personal drive-in movie theaterRead more here.

This Ingenious Razor Kit Helps Me Shave Missed Spots of Hair on the Fly

This portable three-in-one shaving compact has a refillable water spritzer, a bar of shave lather, and a razor blade (plus an extra two for future use) to fix missed patches and nix stubble while on the go. “Start by misting the area to be shaved, then click over to the all-natural emollient lather bar, to create a smooth surface for the blade to glide over,” explains writer Rachel Jacoby Zoldan. “Then click the dial one more time to get to the razor. And then shave, quickly and anywhere.” Unlike multiblade razors, this one doesn’t need to be tapped into a sink to rid it of hairs, and the lather bar doubles as an after-shaving moisturizer — “a soothing benefit for my supersensitive skin,” she says. Read more here.

I Found an Even Better Butter-Spreading Knife

Unlike other merely serrated butter knives, the little holes along the perimeter of this butter knife “break even straight-from-the-fridge butter into the most delicate little curlicues,” says writer and butter-knife aficionado Collier Meyerson. The dishwasher-safe knife renders even the coldest of butter “sliceable, spreadable, and perfectly meltable on just-crisped toast,” and features a wide blade for optimal butter-to-bread surface area. Read more here.

The Foldable Water Bottle I Can Stow in My Back Pocket

$12

Disposable water bottles are wasteful, but many reusable water bottles are cumbersome. At least, that’s what chronically dehydrated writer Caroline Bankoff was thinking when she bought this foldable water pouch. It’s made of expandable BPA-free plastic, and the size of the bottle adjusts the amount of water that’s in it, meaning it can fit into everything from fanny packs to backpacks. When rolled, “takes up about as much space as an iPhone 5,” she says. Read more here.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Welcome to Ingenious Design Week