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Product Pitch Spotlight: Storytime Toys Combines the Old and New in Product Design

Posted by Caroline Fong February 28, 2014 05:00 PM

When mechanical engineer and mom Kara Dyer starting looking at dollhouses for her daughter, she felt like Goldilocks as she examined the existing dollhouses on the market -- they were either too expensive and elaborate or cheap and uninteresting. There was no “just right.”

Combining her product design skills and her friend Sara Argue’s artistic talents, Kara founded Storytime Toys, whose line of classic fairy tale toy houses have enjoyed a successful initial production run on Kickstarter and a product launch on The Grommet.

We are excited to invite Storytime Toys as a speaker at the 2014 Product Pitch at Fenway Park. Dollhouse-making sounds classic and quaint, but their Maker story is one of the coming together of traditional skills and new technology in software and hardware for design innovation.


Move Over, Wrap Dress: 3 Fresh Fashion Pieces

Posted by Caroline Fong January 20, 2014 12:00 PM

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress, the fashion phenomenon that took the fashion world by storm and established fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg as one of the biggest names in fashion.

Everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to your grandma has worn one. I wouldn't be surprised if you have a version of it in your closet right now. If you already own a wrap dress as well as a little black dress (designed by Coco Chanel, another fashion pioneer) and you're looking for a few more wardrobe staples, look no further.


Getting Organized: Dos, Don'ts, and Crochet Bowls

Posted by Caroline Fong January 6, 2014 12:00 PM

It's a new year and new year's resolutions abound. 'Tis the time to plan your life. But before you do so, I believe that decluttering your physical environment first will help you naturally feel freer and lighter.

I love reading on different ways to declutter and organize -- from BuzzFeed and Huffington Post Home to The Happiness Project, these are a mix of my favorite lessons and how-tos.


Save Space with Collapsible, Contemporary Homeware

Posted by Caroline Fong January 1, 2014 08:30 PM

Two months ago, my friend and I attended TEDxBeaconStreet. During lunch, we sat in a barnhouse-turned-cafeteria at The Lincoln School in Brookline, contemplating what we wanted to eat. Meanwhile, the last talk before lunch was being projected onto the lunchroom screen.

Looking around, we noticed the dinosaur of a projector against a wall. Along with its stand, the projector took up a lot of space in that room packed with tables. Distracted by its size, my friend and I briefly chatted about how big things can be if outdated or poorly designed. It got me thinking about the (efficient) use of space, a neverending quest of mine.

And I think this is a good time to put extra thought into it as we’re all making our new year’s resolutions; I bet that most people have a home or apartment makeover--or decluttering at the minimum--somewhere on their list of goals this year.

While many of us probably don’t have old projectors taking up valuable space at home, we probably own many things that could be much leaner. Or, we’re ready to throw out the plastic dinner plates and makeshift vases to bring in some nicer things for the new year--and new you.

PUSH Bowl; €16.00/~$20

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I love poking around the web; I read about these really interesting PUSH bowls by Berlin-based The Fundamental Group. Made of copper, stainless steel, or brass, they’re part modern interior decor and part homeware. They come as flat metal sheets, which can be “pushed” to form a bowl to store oranges or to hold other items, like jewelry and knick knacks. When they’re not in use, flatten them out and store away in your kitchen cabinets.


Wanderlust: Things That Will Bring Back Your Travels

Posted by Caroline Fong November 21, 2013 05:30 PM

Every time I go somewhere, I pick up a keychain for my little sister. Like most people, we love souvenirs and memorabilia that remind us of any wonderful places we’ve been or awesome experiences we’ve had.

But I suppose a lot of people have already figured out what I just realized -- that keychains and shot glasses aren’t exactly useful. There are only so many keychains I can use, and my apartment is hardly a fraternity house to make use of a growing collection of shot glasses.

In a prior post, I wrote about decorating with maps-inspired products. In a similar vein, I’ve put together a roundup of some new Grommets that I absolutely adore. They’ll pull back memories from fun travels. And the best part? They all have a purpose.

1. Dune Jewelry Sandrop Earrings ($42)


If you’re a beach bum with a flair for fashion -- or just a lover of the beach -- these custom silver earrings are handcrafted with your choice of beach sand. You have the choice to send in your own beach sand, too.

2. DIY State-Shaped Memo Board by Brit + Co ($24.99)


This kit includes all the tools you need to create your own state-shaped cork memo board. So if you’re a Texan belle or a Mass girl at heart, this is the DIY project for you.


Maps: Bring the Whole World into Decorating

Posted by Caroline Fong October 23, 2013 12:00 PM

Home is where the heart is, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't share your worldly travels there. Your house is your homebase, and from there, you roam the world and come back to document your travels.

For some, their love of travel manifests as an assortment of beloved postcards. For most, it manifests as a collection of photographs. I, for one, collect keychains for my sister and ticket stubs for my scrapbook. And for many, a map of their travels is displayed proudly in the living room or library.

If you’re an aspiring map enthusiast, try not to buy just a poster-like piece of paper map. Why not go for something different? Here is a roundup of unique maps and fun pieces of home decor for the home. They're all American-made, but made for tracking your intercontinental adventures.

1. Neighborwoods Coasters; $36

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Educate your guests about your favorite city with these delightfully distinct coasters. Made of aromatic cedar, each piece is inspired by the beauty of vintage maps. The coasters have an old-fashion and handcrafted look, helped also by the custom font created from the creator’s own hand lettering.


Love the Sea? 4 Fish Items for the Home

Posted by Caroline Fong October 4, 2013 11:30 AM

When one of my little sisters was a toddler, she had the adorable habit of excitedly gasping out “seaaaaaaaaaa!” every time she caught a glimpse of the water while my family drove around on outings. At the time, we lived on a Pacific island and there were plenty of chances for her to enjoy the sea.

We are now far from those waters, and my little sister is a bubbly girl in college. But because of our family’s inherent love for the ocean, my mother has gotten into the habit of decorating the house with sea-themed items.


Feng Shui for the Dorm

Posted by Caroline Fong September 6, 2013 12:00 PM

Feng Shui is an ancient art developed over 3,000 years ago in China for balancing the energies in a space to promote good fortune and health. Feng means wind and Shui means water, both elements associated with good health.

With the hectic schedules and pressures of college, creating a calming sleep space where you can re-center yourself is a must. The dorm room just happens to be the focal living space during those days of learning and exploration.

Dorm Room Basics

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Let’s cover the basics of what you can do to feng shui a bedroom, or in this case, your dorm room. The placement of the bed is the first thing you should consider. Make sure it’s not aligned directly with the door (across from it). If you’re in a single room, you may have the luxury of repositioning it. But if you have a roommate, see if you can choose the bed that’s furthest away from the door.

Secondly, if your bed is directly under or in front of a window, invest in good curtains or drapes to create a solid wall behind you at night. Thirdly, most students hang up a mirror in the door. Be sure it isn’t facing the bed so as not to deplete your personal energy while you slumber.

With those dorm room feng shui basics down, there are additional steps you can take to create balance in your room. Pick and choose from the roundup of items below according to what you need most in your room.


Clutter-free living is the minimum of Feng Shui basics. This involves organization and cleaning. For the latter, this mainly constitutes your room and laundry. To keep your room clean, the school housing office usually has brooms and vacuum cleaners to lend out. Or, you may buy your own portable one for use.

For laundry, use natural laundry detergents to avoid irritants and harsh artificial scents. Berryplus is an American-made natural laundry detergent with a mild, pleasant scent as well as hypoallergenic and gentle on all fabrics.

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Fresh Air

A clean room should also have good light and clean air. If you can’t open your dorm window, you may remedy this by getting a good lamp and a hardy, potted plant. Consider getting a Voos Furniture Dino Felt Lamp; it uses LED bulbs and has a built-in cast iron base where you may place a plant. Handmade in Brooklyn and made of 100% German wool felt, it comes in eye-catching pops of color. An English Ivy is a good choice for a dorm room since they’re easy to grow and removes pollutants from the air.

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If you go for a regular lamp (without a plant bucket) and would rather a smaller plant, get a pair of Bird and Feather air plant pots. They don’t take up much space, are easy to maintain, and come in colorful hand dipped pots.


Lastly, as with any dorm room, organization is crucial. Put up a WallPops to quickly make to-do lists, reminders, or capture ideas. On your desk, keep your cords organized with a Cord Buddy to avoid a tangled mass of wires for your laptop, or use a Recoil to rewind all your other wires.

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What are some of your Feng Shui must-dos? Let me know in the comments if you noticed a difference after Feng Shui-ing your dorm room.

How To Turn Your Home Into a Greenhouse

Posted by Caroline Fong August 16, 2013 10:30 AM

When I was younger, I read Robinson Crusoe and dreamt of having my own tree house. Of course, recognizing the difficulty of building a fully functional house perched in a tree, I redirected my dreams to making my current ground level house leafy and green instead.

Tree House.jpg

I began this endeavor by planting and transplanting pots and pots of plants. I lined at least five outside the front door and tried to leave a potted plant in each corner of the living room. Soon, dead leaves accumulated on our floors and water seeped into the floorboards.

Being fond of plants, I recently revisited this idea and wondered how I would replicate this “rainforest” or greenhouse without turning the house into a watery swamp. I’ve rounded up a selection of items to help build your very own leafy Robinson Crusoe house.

1. Urbio Vertical Garden; $75

This minimalist system of wall plates and planters allows you to create a landscape on your wall. The pots come in various sizes for easy grouping and reconfiguring. For a truly interesting-looking wall, customize the use of each container by deciding which ones keep your plants and which keep your magazines, papers, and other items.

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2. BOSKKE Hanging Upside Down Modern Planters; $75

Mess-free and requiring little water, these organic decorations will definitely bring the outside into your home. The ceramic Sky Planters let you suspend either ferns, ivy, orchids, herbs or vegetables from your ceiling, creating a horizon of green in your house.

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3. rootcup Plant Starter Set; $50

Nurse your cuttings inside these BPA and phthalate free rootcups. They easily capture water through the design of its lid and ensure the roots grow by protecting them from light. Keep your rootcup on your desk or windowsill until your rose, avocado, or green onion cutting is ready to be transplanted into a larger pot.

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4. Twig Ready-made Terrarium; $75

To bring a little green to your desk or living room table, place a moss terrarium centerpiece there. The plant life and rocks in the glass bottles (along with a tiny figurine) require little attention and captures the wonder of a near self-sufficient green world in a bottle.

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5. Bird and Feather Air Plant Pots (Set of 2); $26

In nature, air plants grow on other plants for support. Bring them home in naturalistically designed pots. They thrive in bright sunny rooms and will freshen up your space.

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6. Cult Design Evergreen Herb Pot Plant; $59.95

Keep these self-watering pots in your kitchen to always have fresh herbs on hand. Top up with water only once a week and your herb will absorb the water it needs. What’s better than your personal herb garden right in your kitchen?

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7. Annabelle Noel Designs Flower Arrangers (Pack of 3); $12

Finally, if you’d rather have the plant life stay outside until they’re ready for display, consider investing in these flower arrangers. Expertly put together roses, hydrangeas, or tulips for beautiful arrangements around the house.

Annabelle flower arrangers collage.jpg

What kind of potted plants do you have in your house? Share in the comments.

6 Ways To Add Color To Your Office

Posted by Caroline Fong August 14, 2013 10:00 AM

Last month, we packed up the company and moved into a beautiful renovated 1921 former sash window factory in Davis Square. Our new space sits on the ground floor, lit up by floating orbs of hanging lights against red brick walls and an exposed ceiling.

Our founder and CEO, Jules Pieri, is an industrial designer by training. From the custom-designed desk dividers, and the mason-jar-turned-office mugs to the tree branch coat rack, she -- with some help -- curated the whole look of The Grommet office.

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Moving house is not always an option, but adding a personal touch to your office is as simple as picking the right pieces to bring the space to life. Here are 6 Grommets that will instantly give your office a lift:

1. Collected Edition Laser Cut NYC Map; $65

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Cartography receives a graphic and modern update. These laser cut maps of cities encased in a minimal black birch framed shadow box feature the iconic streets and rivers of your favorite city. This Grommet will pop against your office wall while your office mates admire your subtle style.

2. Anelace Binary Clock; $24.95

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Apart from being a great conversation piece, it’ll give you a chance to learn to calculate the time in binary code -- or just stare at the mesmerizing LED lights. A bit of futuristic crystal blue may just do good for your desk.

3. Moss Rocks!; Starting at $14.99

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The last thing you need is to take care of a fussy plant in your office. Cue these stone and moss gardens. They’re ultra low maintenance and need only water. The rock is handcrafted and comes in four different colors.

4. On The Hook Crochet Lace Bowl; $28.95

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Looking for more than a boring old pencil holder to keep your keys and other miscellaneous items? This Grommet is hand crocheted in six different colors from 100% cotton thread and stiffened with a natural mixture. If you’re a huge fruit fan, they’re sturdy enough to be used even for holding apples and oranges.

5. Fab Habitat Mat (Orange Lhasa); Starting at $48

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This indoor and outdoor mat really ties the room together -- in a bold way. Make this the centerpiece of your office and you’ll probably get away with not putting up any other decorations.

6. Plumen Energy Saving Light Bulb; $29.95

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Fancy some hanging lights? Give these colorful compact fluorescent light bulbs a spin. Designed by product design firm Hulger and British designer Samuel Wilkinson, they’ll add color and character to your office while using 80% less energy. Say hello to style and functionality.

Did your office just go through a makeover? Tell us about your favorite design renovations in the comments.

About The Grommet

We launch undiscovered products and help them succeed; we call them Grommets. Grommets aren't just things. Grommets are products with a purpose invented by people with stories. More »
Buy Differently is a sponsored blog powered by The Grommet, and part of Finds, a site you can count on to bring you the best discoveries around Boston and beyond. This blog is not written or edited by or Finds. The author is solely responsible for the content.
Caroline Fong
Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.