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September 22, 2004

World's best paper towel holder


Brendan Koerner wrote about one that's supposed to be it (above), in this past Sunday's New York Times.

It's made by Simplehuman, costs $24.99, and is available at some Bed Bath and Beyond stores, according to the article.

Frank Yang, founder and CEO of Simplehuman, says it's worth the price, ten times the cost of generic paper towel holders.

His company's engineers rigged up cameras in the kitchens of volunteers and logged their daily interaction with the family's paper towel holder, a research technique the company's dubbed "ethnovideography."

They found that three problems most irked paper towel users about their incumbent low-tech holders.

1) It's too difficult to change rolls

2) Rolls unravel at the slightest hint of a breeze

3) Upright holders tip over too easily - especially during one-handed operation

Simplehuman's holder addresses each of these three problems.

The knob at the holder's top, fashioned after an automotive gear shift, has a quick-release mechanism for pop-on, pop-off replacement.

The bottom rim is lined with clingy polypropylene, arranged in what Simplehuman calls a "raised wave pattern" to prevent impromptu unraveling.

The base is heavy enough to withstand powerful tugging, but not so heavy that the holder isn't portable.

Despite its extensive use of ethnovideography, Simplehuman has yet to calculate how much time people can save by using its paper towel holder.

Koerner's informal test found that "the newfangled holder takes about four fewer seconds to load than a traditional, spring-loaded hanging holder. Assuming two roll changes a week, that's about seven minutes a year."


It just so happens that I investigated this subject exhaustively about a decade ago, and have a paper towel holder (just below), purchased after many false starts and discarded failures, that has served me well ever since.


It's upright, deals with all three problems cited above, and is far more elegant in function and design than Simplehuman's.

For one thing, mine has no moving parts, unlike that ridiculous knob at the top of Simplehuman's.

And it's polished stainless steel, not cheesy polypropylene like Simplehuman's.

No contest.

I got mine from some catalog, the name of which I can't recall.

It's made by Gefu K├╝chenboss in Germany.

Amazingly, my crack research team was able with no effort at all to find my wonderful paper towel holder on the company's website.

Click on Produkte, then on Design, and the elegant object is the fourth item down.

I did find


this one, for $17.99;


it's stainless steel, with a spring-loaded arm.

However, it's got that silly knob up top and the spring arm is ugly as all get out.

Then there's


this one, for $19.99; again, stainless steel but once again, that ridiculous, superfluous knob on top has to be unscrewed to change rolls.


In addition, the static short stopper bar won't do a thing to keep the roll from unraveling.

Here's one


from Calphalon, for $23.99, that shows what happens when engineers and designers apply muscle to a problem requiring finesse.

They've employed the spring technique, but this time from the top down.

This thing looks like a miniature NASA cherry-picker. Sheesh.

There's a LOT of stainless steel in that thing.

September 22, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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» The Picky Paper Towel People from Everything And Nothing
Francesca wrote to Joe:I've been trying to access the company you wrote about on your blog, but no such animal emerges. You seem to be about as picky as I am about functional non-yuppie kitchen equipment (a good thing), so [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 28, 2006 4:06:02 PM


"Assuming two roll changes a week, that's about seven minutes a year"

WHAT?! Are you people crazy? Has no one ever heard of reusable CLOTH towels before?

Two roll changes a week indeed...

Posted by: IB | Nov 7, 2005 4:19:35 AM

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