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Good idea!; From storage to seating, some home decor products are simply too cool to ignore

Every now and then a product really grabs your attention. Maybe it's because it's so practical. Maybe it's because it's so cool. Sometimes it's both.

Either way, here are a few products that caught our eye. Some are new; others have been creating buzz for a while now.

>Small Wall

Anyone who collects paint chips or splashes test samples on a wall knows how tricky it can be to choose the right shade for a room.

That's where Small Wall comes in. A Small Wall is an adhesive-back panel that mimics a wall surface and is designed to leave no marks behind. It's ready to paint (no priming necessary) so you can preview a color or practice a faux finish without applying paint directly to the wall.

It adheres temporarily so you can reposition it to see it in different lighting and locations.

Julie Boney, a mother from Tennessee, came up with the idea. Her husband's career has them moving frequently -- and painting new digs. As a do-it-herselfer, she was always looking for a product like this to test colors and faux finishes but to no avail. So she invented it.

"A marketing guy at a trade show told me it's the ultimate 'duh' idea," Boney said.

Small Wall comes in two sizes, 12-by-12 inches and 16-by-24 inches. Expect to pay between $5.99 and $7.99 for two 12-inch-square reusable panels. Visit for information and retailers. (Sherwin-Williams and ACE Hardware are two listed.)

>Drying mat

If you're one to spread kitchen towels across the countertop to dry wine glasses, cookware and such, consider getting a super-absorbent drying mat.

The Original Dish Drying Mat is one option. It folds up and stores easily and is said to hold four times its weight in water. A 16-by-18-inch size costs $4.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

This month, OXO is introducing its OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Drying Mat. The mat's "unique ribbed design maximizes aeration and elevates items, keeping them clean and sanitary," the description reads.

Once items are dry, the mat can be rolled up or hung for storage. Plus, it is heat-resistant, so it doubles as a trivet. The price: $14.99. For information:

>Chic storage

Have you checked out the fashionable photo boxes out there? Photo boxes can be used for many purposes -- not just holding photos. They come in all sorts of colors and designs at office supply stores, craft stores and elsewhere. Some even emulate the look of leather or cork. Some have coordinating document boxes, etc.

If you want a grouping of them -- all matchy-matchy on an open shelf in a home office, for example -- local professional organizer Linda Birkinbine offers this tip: Buy more than you think you may need at first. Stores may sell out of the design and not reorder. Keep your receipt and return the ones you don't need.

Prices vary by design. At Office Depot, one leather-style box sells for $12.99. A cork-style, $16.99.

Birkinbine, who runs a business called Keep It Organized, also recently landed from Office Depot a stylish 13-pocket coupon file, $4.99, and a larger-size check file, $6.99. Their embossed floral design comes in fashionable black, turquoise, pink or beige. The design makes them look more like a chic wallet or clutch.

So much nicer than pulling out your coupons from an old, tattered envelope. Savvy and stylish.


These mats are ergonomically designed to ease the discomfort of being on your feet for a long time stirring things up in your kitchen -- or doing any standing chores, really.

The "anti-fatigue" mats come in various colors, sizes and designs; a 2-foot-by-3-foot mat costs about $120. The reviews on the Williams-Sonoma website, one retailer that sells them, are very positive. You can read all about the cushy, made-in-America mats at

>Outdoor bean bags

You have to love the cylindrical shape and bright colors of the outdoor bean bags we spotted in the Crate & Barrel catalog.

They're covered in Sunbrella acrylic fabric that is fade- and mildew-resistant. Choose from peacock, daffodil or cayenne. The side-carrying handle is useful -- and adorable. The price: $79.95 each.


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