Design

Good Looking Ugly Stuff: Dish Drying Racks, Plungers and Toilet Brushes

April 17, 2018  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Every Wednesday night, on Instagram Stories, Chris and I hop on and answer a bunch of questions for about 10-20 minutes. We call it CLJ Q&A. (Psst, it’s saved to my highlights until the next one!) This past week, someone asked “What do you do about plungers and other horrible things that are necessary but you don’t want displayed?” 

We joked for a minute how we don’t have those things, too ugly! But the truth is, everyone has those things! And they don’t have to be terribly ugly. If I just spent thousands of dollars (or any amount of money updating my bathroom), I’m not going to ruin it by placing an ugly plunger next to the toilet. So in the spirit of ugly, necessary things, here are a few good looking versions:

First up, dish drying racks. (Personal favorites being 4, 5, 6, and 10) We have one, we just keep it stored under the sink when it’s not in use, but I think if I had one of these I wouldn’t be so quick to. I know that’s an extra step, but I’m the same girl that puts 5 throw pillows on my bed every morning. The things we touch and use every day should be beautiful.

1. White (Also available in Black) Plastic Dish Drainer Rack  $29
2. Modern White Tower Dish Rack $35
3. Over-the-sink, Multi-purpose Roll-Up Dish Drying Rack (so cool!) $39
4. Minimalist Compact Dish Rack $19
5. Modern Black Tower Dish Rack $42
6. Bamboo Dish Rack and Drainer $49
7. Stainless and Acrylic Dish rack $31
8. Umbra Sinkin Dish Rack $20
9. All-natural, foldable Bamboo dish rack $25
10. Over-the-sink, adjustable dish rack $76
11. White Dish rack with wood handles $69

Next up are plungers and toilet brushes (it’s a fun day on CLJ, haha). (The header image includes this concrete holder and brush from Schoolhouse Electric.)Do you have multiple plungers? One in every bathroom? What about toilet brushes? I like to keep a toilet brush in every bathroom but we just keep one plunger around. A lot of people messaged and said they keep their plunger in the garage! Here are a few you might not mind keeping handy:

1. Simplehuman Toilet Plunger and Caddy (has a cool magnetic closure so there’s no drips!) $29
2. Marble Toilet Brush. $29
3. Menu Toilet Brush, Black. $99
4. OXO Good Grips Plunger  $22
5. Brass Toilet Brush and Holder $74
6. Stainless Steel Plunger Set $22
7. Toilet Brush and Holder with Bamboo Top $28
8. Menu Toilet Brush, White $99
9. Plunger with Cover $14
10. Mercer Toilet Brush $39
11. Umbra Toilet Brush and Holder $25
12. Marble Toilet Brush, Black $29
13. Hexagonal Toilet Brush and Holder  $39
14. OXO Toilet Brush and Plunger Combo $39
15. Ceramic toilet brush $38

In the original question, she said, “and other horrible things…” and to me that meant toilet brushes and dish racks. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some other necessary evils around the house that are often eyesores?

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What do you think?

  1. Emily says:

    Thought of another one for this list – non-ugly ways to store your hose! You can tell the warm weather has kicked in ;)

  2. Ali says:

    Do you have a link to the toilet brush in the top picture of your post? The one with the cement base.

  3. Kath says:

    I like Ikea’s Fintorp dish drainer. It has a low profile, & it’s black, so it blends in with my black granite counter top. I keep two out & in use full-time. Caveat: Don’t clean the metal drain pan in the dishwasher. I did, & it reacted badly, changing to an unsightly mottled gray finish. Hand wash only.

  4. Stephanie Reiner says:

    Leather and wood fly swatters, Wood horse hair brooms, and amber glass bottles for cleaners are a few things I’ve gotten that I don’t mind leaving out because they’re so pretty! All on amazon

  5. Naomi says:

    My question is though – in the UK we seem to match our loo brush with our soap dispenser and toothbrush cup. Should we??

    • Julia says:

      I don’t think that’s necessary. A lot of times in the us, there’s a matching soap dispenser, toothbrush cup and trash can–but even that’s overboard.

  6. Kelly says:

    I’ve found myself spending way too much time looking for basic household necessities that are both functional but also aesthetically pleasing and ideally affordable. For example, chips clips (omg I’m insane…but I’m imagining a beautiful matte black metal/wood combo instead of those neon plastic ones plaguing the aisles of Homegoods), fridge magnets, spatulas (does an all silicone gray spatula/scraper exist!?!), drawer organizers, bins for closet storage (always all white IKEA!), laundry baskets/hampers, dish soap bottles, allll electronics, phone chargers (Native Union for the win!), Kleenex boxes, travel sized toiletries to set out in my guest room, hangers (black velvet!!!), kitchen appliances, and garbage cans/bins for both kitchen and bathroom. I’m sure I could add about 100 things to this list and would love to see more lists like in the post!

  7. Susie says:

    I have a beautiful new kitchen but don’t know what to do about paper towels. Right now the roll is just sitting on the counter. Would love something beautiful yet handy. I ciuldnt bear to take up cabinet space to put them in a cabinet front below the counter. Thats what most beautufuk kitchens seem to opt for. What’s plan b??

    • Jessica says:

      Maybe mount them horizontally underneath the upper cabinets? That’s what I did and I barely notice them. I got a one-handed paper towel holder that makes it easy to grab just one section.

  8. Alex says:

    I would love to see a round up of good looking garbage or recycling bins for around the home! (Besides the utilitarian under the kitchen sink one)

  9. Paula Poer says:

    What about good looking ventilation fans for the bathroom? Please share if you know of any!! Thanks Julia.

  10. Jamey says:

    Non ugly alarm clock round up please! I’m trying to get my phone out of the bed room but functional alarms are ugly and pretty ones are nonfunctional.

  11. Jody says:

    Mur Lifestyle has a beautiful selection of products to upgrade those historically ugly utilitarian items, including two toilet brush options :) https://www.murlifestyle.com

  12. Elyse says:

    This is actually a great post. It’s amazing how simple things can ruin your eye-line. I do want to shout out the $9 KVOT dish drainer from IKEA, it is just big enough for dinner pots and pans, utensils and non-dishwashable things, without taking up your whole kitchen, and folds flat super quickly and easily if we’re having a party or guests over. (We leave it up 90% of time). Had it over 3 years, still going strong.

  13. Thank you for the suggestions. I have a short handled plunger that I keep in a used cool whip container in the cupboard under the bathroom sink. Not very fancy but it is out of sight. Ha

  14. JG says:

    Hi! Wasn’t there a roof post yesterday? I went back to read it just now and am not seeing it anymore.

    • Julia says:

      There was! There were some serious claims made against us, that weren’t true, but it wasn’t worth keeping the post up. Sorry.

  15. Julie S says:

    Oooh yes. We had a sort of mesh basket with extendable sides forever as our dish drainer and while it was nice for not taking up a lot of counter space it wasn’t my favorite to look at. I found exactly that X shaped bamboo dishrack new at the thrift store for $5 recently and snapped it up. It adds a lot of warmth and some sculpture to our white kitchen, and ties in to the bamboo roller shade. I have a lasting image imprinted in my memory of someone’s kitchen I was visiting, a potter, with a few hand-thrown mugs and plates resting in an X shaped dishrack, backlit in a dim and peaceful room… and i have wanted one ever since. My kitchen is light and bright and my dishes are Corelle but I still love the dishrack!

  16. Rebekah says:

    I cannot find a non-ugly digital clock. We recently ditched cable, and I never realized how much I used the clock on the cable box.

  17. Kaylee says:

    I’ve recently been on the hunt for a “spark joy” brush/dust pan, and hello Menu Sweeper & Funnel. (aside: when did I get so old that a dust pan is on my birthday wish list??)

  18. Laura says:

    I’ve been planning to get that marble toilet brush from CB2 for my bathroom refresh for ages, so I was hoping that this post would have more attractive plunger options to go with it…so I just did a quick search, and it is DIRE out there! Designers, here’s your million-dollar idea: make a beautiful plunger!! ????

    • Julia says:

      Plungers were definitely hard to find

      • Rachel says:

        My 2 cents are: get a really good plunger without caring what it looks like, and then store it in a closet or the garage or somewhere hidden. You don’t want to have a clogged toilet that you can’t unclog because you have a dinky little plunger (spoken from experience – when I lived in a 1 BA apartment!!)
        Here’s a pretty good lineup of plungers that should work and also look ok:
        https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-toilet-plunger/

      • Kate says:

        I try to keep the plunger in the bathroom as a mercy to guests who might clog the toilet. Nothing more mortifying than having to go ask the host for a plunger!

      • Rebecca says:

        Agree, 100%! How awful to have to ask for a plunger when you plug a toilet in someone else’s house!?

      • Laura says:

        Thanks, Rachel! That’s definitely the plan for my main bathroom, but I also have a tiiiiiny bathroom with no cabinets or storage, so the plunger will have to be somewhat on display – so I’ll admit to being a bit shallow when it comes to finding a plunger for that bathroom! That list seems to have some good options, so thanks for sharing :)

  19. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for this post!! I love that you do all the legwork for us to have “good looking ugly stuff” in our houses :)
    Also. I just realized last night that I don’t think we even have a plunger at our house. It’s a wonder it’s not been an issue lol!! Need to get one of these nicer ones!

  20. Kate says:

    I love how you listed the prices right next to the item. It makes them so much easier to compare!!!

  21. Emily says:

    Bedside alarm clocks – I need a digital readout for my bleary eyed middle of the night checks but gosh it’s hard to find one I don’t mind sitting on my nightstand!

  22. Lindsey F. says:

    Have you ever been in someone’s home during a party and the toilet clogs just from toilet paper? Because I have, and having to walk out and tell the host that you couldn’t flush your business is VERY EMBARRASSING. When a guest needs one, they won’t care how ugly your plunger is, or how gross the concept is, they’ll only care that they can find it and handle it without announcing it to the party. But if it can be accessible and pretty, it’s a double win!

  23. Monica says:

    The people who are stating that they have never used a plunger must not have small people living in their home. If you have children then a plunger is a must! Kids love putting half the roll in after they wee or poo. We have instilled a 4 square rule around here. One child must flush b/f she even wipes. TMI?

    • Megan says:

      My dad had a similar rule when I was growing up but it wasn’t because we were clogging the toilets with toilet paper. He was trying to save money and thought we were going through toilet paper too quickly.

  24. h says:

    I quite like the Ikea Enudden toilet brush — it’s a nice clean minimal design but it’s really cheap and you can swap out the brush head when/if it gets grotty (they sell replacements in two-packs that fit a couple of their brush canister options). I was just in Amsterdam and it seems to be true that lots of non-US places don’t habitually provide plungers — idk if our toilets are less efficient or what, but I was mildly anxious the whole time I was there that I would clog the toilet and be in a super embarrassing situation! I also noticed that almost every toilet I saw was wall-mounted, though, so I wonder if the piping setup is just typically a bit different than ours.

    • Ella says:

      Haha, I think they are definitely an American thing! In New Zealand no one has a plunger in their house, you probably couldn’t find one to buy in a shop even if you wanted to. And it’s not an issue ;)

  25. Mara says:

    Oh, and for our drying rack, I just use one of those drying mats. I have several and wash them as I need them and store them with our kitchen towels. Not bulky and super easy to hide.

  26. Mara says:

    We have three bathrooms and all of them have their own toilet bowl cleaner brushes in a nice polished nickel caddy and I STILL put them under the sink. Our one plunger is under the half bath sink too. If they didn’t fit under the sink, I’d probably put them on the linen closet floor.

  27. Libby says:

    Toilet plunger. This is a bit of a foreign concept. To toilets get blocked often in America? Never seen one in a house in Australia.

    • Julia says:

      That’s blowing my mind. Your toilets never get clogged?!

    • Kristi says:

      We live in America but we have never owned a toilet plunger. I can’t remember the last time I had to use one, if ever! Our apartment was built in 1902 and it was always something that worried us but we never got around to buying – Plus we didn’t have much storage space and it would have been one of those “ugly” things that had to sit out in the open. Since we bought our first house its always been on my list of necessities to buy “just in case” but we STILL haven’t bought one – We haven’t needed it yet (but responding to this comment feels like I might be jinxing myself).

    • Laura says:

      Does this have to do with water pressure or something?? I’m amazed by this!

    • Megan says:

      I am in America and have only had to use a plunger once in my entire life. I threw my plunger away when I was packing for my last move, because I never used it, and haven’t had to buy a replacement. I’m pretty surprised by all the comments here about making sure your guests have access to a plunger. That just seems weird to me.

      • Julia says:

        I think it’s just kind of everyone’s greatest fear when they are at someone else’s house. You hear horror stories about clogging the toilet or it starts overflowing, it’s in a lot of movies, too. And it’s true, it RARELY happens but it’s just a nice safety net.

  28. Kelly says:

    To the people who keep the plunger in the garage: Don’t do that to your guests! Can you imagine how horrifying it is already to clog the toilet at someone else’s house? But then, to add insult to injury, you actually have to go request the plunger?! If you only have one plunger, keep it in the bathroom your guests use!

  29. Sally says:

    I agree – if you are going to have these unglamorous things, then at least go for the best versions possible. This holds for the drainers, but I truly don’t understand why anyone would want to have any version of the deeply unpleasant germ repositories that are loo brushes. Even those that come with some of reservoir for a cleaning/soaking solution are stomach-churning. In addition, I have quite literally never had to use a plunger for a loo – are American ones so much less efficient that this a normal requirement?

    • Julia says:

      That’s fascinating. I mean, it’s rare at our current house but it’s also a must because you never know when someone is going to clog the toilet.

      • mary says:

        This is going to sound weird but here goes: the toilet paper in England/Europe is very different from the stuff in America (at least it was a few years back). It’s very thin, close to translucent, almost like what we call tissue paper. We silly Americans are big on super fluffy, bulky, “soft” toilet paper. I think that’s the problem.

        A friend told me years ago that her plumber says to buy the cheapest TP you can find. The fluffy stuff is bad for toilets despite what the cute little bear says ; )

      • Sally says:

        Um, no, unless you are referring to how things were in the 60s and 70s! We have definitely had the 3- and 4-ply quilted and air-puffed etc stuff here for many, many years!

      • mary says:

        lol guess I’m dating myself!

      • Christina says:

        Mary, I would have thought the same. I studied abroad (Austria) in 1994 and traveled to 20 countries. Not a single one had thick toilet paper at the time. Tissue paper is exactly how I would describe it. Except that we were giving slightly thicker in the 13th century Carthusian Monastery where we lived. Maybe that was the norm there or maybe they thought we would complain and act like snobby American kids. Anyhow, my experience was the same as yours.

      • Shenleyonthames says:

        I travel for my job and find that toilet paper is pretty much the same in the US and UK.
        Your plumbing is different. Those wierd wax rings we’re on DIY bathroom installs for a start., but I think it’s mainly the waste pipe diameter, in UK it’s 100mm or 4” all the way.

  30. Meredith says:

    Love this post! Speaking of ugly stuff, I have a 5 month old baby and while she is my world and want to provide her with lots of fun toys kids love… I want to keep my house looking… you know… nice. For example we have an exersaucer which she loves but I just couldn’t keep that big blue plastic jungle thing in her beautiful nursery. (It’s in the hallway which is actually better). Any suggestions or specific toys or brands you buy from? I bought a little nomad foam mat for our living room and love it. Thanks!

    • Stacey says:

      Wow, I can’t believe this comment! You have a baby that has a big toy that you don’t want seen except in her *beautiful* nursery. I don’t know but I think your priorities are in the wrong places, I’m sorry. Nothing wrong with homes with big toys and exersaucers, IMO, esp if you have young kids. They will eventually outgrow them, so just take your time and focus on the more important things. Trust me, there will be more clutter to worry about as they grow up.

      • Julia says:

        Let’s keep the conversation kind and respectful. I think there are beautiful toys out there and I also think there is nothing wrong with a home embracing the loud toys that sometimes come with kids. But I don’t think prioritizing one over the other is more right. If you want to spend more money on beautiful toys–do it! If you don’t want to–don’t! In my experience, kids actually don’t care either way and would rather play with a cardboard box.

      • Meredith says:

        Thanks, Julia. I have been reading your blog for a while and enjoy it very much. I agree with you 100%!

      • Meredith says:

        Respectfully, you know nothing about me or my priorities. I don’t think anyone can or should judge someone by a comment they leave on a blog or attack someone’s integrity and priorities as a mother. Even though I don’t know you, I found your words to be hurtful because it went at the most important thing to me… being a mother. My child is my world, and I do everything I can to be a good mom to her. I make no judgment of anyone else’s house or how they choose to fill it. It’s just my personal preference.

      • Beret says:

        I actually second Meredith’s request, please. I am in the same boat- beautiful nursery so I keep the extra colorful toys in the living room. But I always love seeing suggestions for beautiful baby and kid toys. (As an aside, don’t worry Meredith, I am sure most of the readers took your comment for what it was – A mom doing her best to raise a happy kid in a happy home!)

    • adina says:

      I’m with you on the attractive toys! I have found a lot of great ideas for storage and display by looking up Montessori playrooms. If you store toys in an attractive basket, it also helps your living room stay adultish. My favorite toy brands are Hape, Grimms, and Melissa & Doug — the wooden toys are awesome!

      • Rachelle says:

        I second looking into Montessori spaces for inspiration. Having a space that is calm and organized is something that’s important to me and a priority to provide for my child/family. I understand wanting a home that is visually peaceful!

      • Elisa says:

        Yes! I am all about letting the living room be adultish. We live in an appartment so the toys stay in the kids’ rooms or in a small basket in the living room.

        Wood toys as well as good quality plastic toys are nice, pretty and much more durable. That poor quality stuff – made in China – can be so problematic. Nobody knows what is in the material (plastic and paints can hide so much bad substances) and how it is produced (working conditions, water treatment, etc.).

        While we general try to avoid plastic, they are oft convenient (lighter, smaller, cheaper) and the kids usually love those colorfull shiny pieces. I myself have a strong weak for Playmobil and my kids also have Brio Railways (well it is mostly wood) and Lego/Duplo. I buy a lot second hand because, well, we just have this planet and good quality toys do survive more then a couple children.

        Montessori Approach about childhood, toys and so on are fantastic and I wish I could put it more in practice at home.

        Our families and friends use to ask about presents typs and/or give them books and money for the savings and that is fantatics. We end up with very few junky-toys at home.

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