Whether you live in a 3-bedroom Cape on the beach or a studio efficiency on the Upper East Side, you need tools to keep your house in ship-shape. A hammer and a level may be all that's standing between you and the gallery wall of your dreams.
Here's what you don't need: Some 102-piece crap set from a big box store. You also don't want to be flummoxed by a "what tools do I need" Google search. The internet will tell you that you need an astonishing number of doohickeys and thingamabobs. Stop right there before you go full-on Pretty Woman shopping spree at the hardware store.
Approach tools how a chic Parisian approaches her wardrobe: fewer items, higher quality. The New York Times has a relatively short list of tools to keep in on hand, and they even recommend specific brands and items for many of them. When in doubt (and when confronted with decision fatigue), you can't go wrong with Craftsman brand tools; they're durable and tough, and their hand tools come with a lifetime warranty.
That'll outlast your IKEA furniture, for sure.
Whether you're hanging a picture or smashing an old cabinet to bits, a hammer comes in handy. Go for the classic 16-ounce hammer with a synthetic handle, rather than traditional wood. Fiberglass is lighter, more shock absorbent, and safer. Keep your eyes peeled for the words "drop forged" — those are better-made.
In this department, you will need an assortment of screwdrivers. The flathead is the classic; the Phillips is the notched, four-point star shape upstart, invented by Henry F. Phillips in 1936. Phillips head screws are more common in projects nowadays, but flathead screwdrivers have other uses, too, helpful for prying, scrapping, and nudging. With one multi-bit screwdriver, you've got the bases covered.
For the love of your Wusthofs, put down the kitchen knives when you're slicing open boxes. A utility knife has a super-sharp blade that will cut and scrape through any project.
This is another category where an assortment will serve you. With slip-joints, needle-nose, etcetera, a set won't, well, set you back much, and you'll find these guys are indispensable for tightening and bending stuff.
It's not just about drilling, of course. Power drills can be used as a screwdriver, buffer, grinder, and sander. It's cheaper to get one with a cord, but you'll be happier with the hassle-free use of a cordless drill.
If you're going to use any power tools, you need safety goggles. Besides, they'll come in handy for your Bill Nye Halloween costume.
Sure, you could use the iPhone level app, but then you wouldn't get the satisfaction of feeling like an architect in a Nora Ephron rom-com as you nudge that yellow bubble into place. Suddenly your whole house will be in line and on the level.
This is another indispensable classic, whether you're picking out a new couch or building a treehouse. Press that thrilling retract button, and remember what it was like to be a kid again. And now look at you! You're an adult making home improvements. You still know how to have fun.