12 Things Every Home Should Have

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Every home should be different, expressing the individuality and personality of the owner in its own way, but I believe there are a few things that every home should have. These are essentials, classics and key ingredients that make up the foundation of a good home, and if you are just starting out they make a useful checklist for setting up in a new space. Could you add to this list? You sure could, but 12 is a nice even number for the purposes of this post.

Aluminum push pins: Push pins are super useful throughout the home and work well when trying to attach or hang anything from sheetrock, cork or wood. Aluminum ones are easier on the fingers and don't break (I actually use mine to hang all of the small art on my walls, as they are strong enough and don't require me getting out a hammer).

All-Natural Cleaning Products: At this point in the evolution of our planet, there is no reason why any cleaning product in a home - from dish soap to glass cleaner to tile scrub - shouldn't be natural and earth friendly. Even bleach whiteners for clothes and tubs can now be replaced. I like Seventh Generation and Caldrea.

One Set of Flannel sheets: You don't need them for most of the year, but when it gets this cold they become your best friend. I get mine at The Company Store.

A Landing Strip: I don't consider a home complete unless it has an area near the front door - it can be tiny - that acts as a "landing strip" where you can hang your coat and drop your keys and mail when you walk in. A full landing strip has a landing surface, mirror, pin board, wastepaper basket and coat hooks. Here's a video about it.

Real napkins: I switched to real cloth napkins at home years ago and wash them each week. They're softer on the face, less wasteful and add a really nice splash of style to your kitchen and dining room. Want to do make your own? I've been hemming fat quarters (fabric meant for quilting) to make my own and it's really cheap to do it this way. I get mine from Purl.

3 Lights in Every Room: I find that most homes I visit are underlit. They can be lovely to look at, but they're dark and filled with shadows. I'm convinced that most people don't notice this about their own home as they get used to it. The simple solution is to make sure that you have at least three points of light in EVERY room and that you turn them on when you're home.

Dimmers: This is a simple install whether you own or rent. Dimmers allow you to shift your light and dramatically transform your space with your existing light fixtures. Light control is crucial to making a beautiful space.

A Good Vacuum: Cleaning is essential to a comfortable home and being able to easily, and happily vacuum makes sure that it stays that way - particularly with pets. I love my Dyson vacuum, but others swear by Miele.

Art @ 57": Most people hang their art too high and do different heights in different rooms (or even the same room). When I see this it makes be deeply uncomfortable as it makes it hard to enjoy the art and the wall it's hanging on. The easy rule of thumb is to hang all of your art at 57" on center - meaning the center of every piece is at 57". Here are more instructions on this.

Candles at Meals: While certainly not necessary, I have found it a great and simple ritual to light a candle at meals (even breakfast). There is something very ceremonial and calming about accompanying the meals of the day with a wam and flickering flame. Children really like it and it helps them to stay focused at the table. I use beeswax candles as they burn a lot cleaner and smell like honey.

Mat Knife & Scissors: I find that I need this almost every day from opening packages to cutting off labels to prepping flowers. I like my Tajima utility knife and my Fiskars scissors.

A Plant & Fresh flowers: I've always advocated for having fresh flowers in your home as part of a weekly routine (it's also part of our January Cure) as I find they bring an indescribable liveliness and beauty to an interior, regardless of its chic-ness or fashionability.

Plants, whether indoor or outdoor, are a part of this as well. Right now I have a small lemon tree in my living room that I am taking care of and working on growing big. It's an easy way of keeping me in touch with nature, even with the temperature near zero.

(Image credits: Adrienne Breaux)

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.