Smart Solutions: Keeping the home fires burning

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

As many try to adapt to the new normal, which can mean spending more time at home, easing into social situations with added safety measures, or a little of both, some immediate wants and needs begin to shift along the way.

Whether you’re looking to enrich your own surroundings or send a gift to someone you haven’t seen in a while, there are a number of hot categories for the home that have developed alongside the pandemic.

Brigid Beaubien, shopkeeper at Urbanum in Detroit, offering quality provisions for city homes, sent out a survey in June to see what people would be looking for when stores were able to reopen, through the fall season and beyond.

Houseplants and their containers add a lively touch wherever they land.

What she found was that many were seeking unique kitchen tools to elevate their constant cooking duties. “That was across the board, and not necessarily pots and pans,” she says. “They want little things that make it fun, like cute measuring cups, beautiful bowls, butter dishes and neat wooden spoons that upgrade the everyday just slightly and are still reasonably priced. It’s easy to treat yourself to a wooden spoon for $3.99.”

Though her store hours have been reduced to three days a week, curbside pickup, local delivery, shipping, and shopping by appointment are currently available.

Her survey also confirmed that hospitality seems to be having a moment, even if that means a daily happy hour for two. The average concoction has gone up a notch as people spend more time at home with fewer social activities on the calendar.

“There’s an increased level of cocktail; they want the right glasses and the cherries and olives,” says Beaubien who has also seen an upsurge in everything from cocktail-themed books to mixers and bar carts. “Every night, some might have a cocktail now. It’s become the entertainment of the day.”

Cocktail books, mixes and accessories turn a beverage into a work of art.

Comfort has turned out to be another consideration for the home. “People want cozy, even in the summer,” says Beaubien. Candles remain in high demand along with lightweight cotton throws. Other soft goods that add warmth include pillows and poufs.

Houseplants and their containers have been popular along with their counterparts. “Some pots can go outside now and be brought back inside as it gets colder,” she says. Practical accessories like watering cans and plant misters can also make great gifts for avid gardeners.

The present trend for coffee table books with helpful topics that describe how to style a bar cart or arrange a cheese board will likely continue. Going forward, the survey found many would be seeking seasonal items come fall.

Greeting card purchases have grown tremendously since the pandemic prevented so many from seeing family and friends. “People are using them as a means of keeping in touch and just reaching out and being comforting,” says Beaubien.

However you spend your days, home base seems to be the common denominator for now. “Home used to be a place where people slept. Now it’s the place where they’re living their lives, so they really want it to reflect who they are, tell their stories and bring them comfort,” she says.

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Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at