It’s tempting to stop by your local Target to stock your home with the basics in one stop. That’s exactly what Target is betting on with Made By Design, its new line of affordable home goods. The line’s sleek style is appealing, but good looks don’t always ensure a functional design.
We spend our days feeling fabrics, flipping pancakes, and drying dishes to find the best of the best, and we wanted to know how Made By Design’s offerings compare with similar items we already recommend. So we chose a cross-section of kitchen tools and bedding essentials to see if they’d survive our real-life tests. Here’s how they fared.
It was a toss-up for us between Target’s Made By Design Bath Towel and our budget recommendation, the Bed Bath & Beyond Dri-Soft Plus Bath Towel. The Target towel is slightly softer and plusher (a great compromise between a small, lightweight towel and a plusher, hotel-style one). Yet we know some people, including a few of our staffers, prefer the thinner, ridged texture of the Dri-Soft. Target offers half as many color options, but they’re subtle and sophisticated and we prefer them to Dri-Soft’s bolder hues. The towels cost almost the same, and both would make a good option for a college dorm room or guest bath.
—Jackie Reeve, bed and bath writer
The Made By Design Silicone Turner is much heavier than the GIR and OXO turners we recommend, so it puts more stress on your wrist, especially with repetitive use, like when flipping pancakes for a crowd. We prefer the lightweight OXO turner for that task, because it has a thin, wide blade that’s still strong enough to lift a hefty stack of pancakes without bending. We like the angled blade on the GIR spatula over the straight-edge Made By Design turner, because it does a better job maneuvering around a crowded skillet. The Made By Design version also isn’t as durable: we could feel its metal frame poking through the thin silicone coating around the blade. The GIR and OXO spatulas are more expensive, but worth the extra cost because they’re better made and easier to use.
—Michael Sullivan, kitchen writer
If you’re looking to boost the comfort and support of your mattress with a memory foam topper, the Made By Design Mattress Topper will likely disappoint. It lacks the typical sinky feel of memory foam—in fact, it feels more like a cheap egg-crate pad you might have found in bedding stores 10 years ago. It won’t do much to revive an uncomfortable mattress. And at only 1½ inches, it’s thinner than our 2-inch DreamFoam pick. Despite these drawbacks, if you dislike the cradling feel of memory foam, and want a thinner topper to soften up a too-firm mattress or to provide just a bit of extra cushion, this could be a nice option. Despite a lack of perforated ventilation or gel for cooling, the Made By Design topper felt cooler than others we’ve tried, although that may be because it’s thinner. We don’t think this topper is worth its current price of $70 to most people, especially when our cushier pick usually costs about the same.
—Alex Arpaia, bed and bath writer
What we tried: Target’s Made By Design Glass Covered Mixing Bowl Set of 3 vs. the Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowl Set (our glass pick in our The Best Mixing Bowls guide).
When it comes to utility and durability, the Target Made By Design Glass Covered Mixing Bowl Set of 3 pales in comparison with the Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowl Set. The three-piece Target set currently costs a few dollars less, but it has one fewer bowl and its generic-looking lids feel cheap and flimsy. The four-piece Pyrex set has more useful sizes (1, 1½, 2 ½, and 4 quarts) compared with Target’s (1, 2, and 3 quarts), the edge of the bowls are easier to grip, and the colorful snap-on lids are more clearly marked with the corresponding bowl’s capacity. The Target set is also inferior in quality; the 3-quart bowl shattered the first time we dropped it from counter height. We’ve yet to see that kind of fragility in a Pyrex bowl.
—Lesley Stockton, kitchen writer
What we tried: Target’s Made By Design Solid Easy Care Sheet Set vs. Target’s Threshold Performance 400 Thread Count Sheet Set (our budget pick in our The Best Cotton Sheets guide)
We tend to like many of Target’s home textiles, and we found the Made By Design sheet set to be okay, but not as impressive as Target’s Threshold Performance sheets. The Made By Design set’s sheets aren’t quite as light or as breathable as the Threshold sheets (probably because the former are a poly/cotton blend), and they come in fewer colors. But they are soft and very smooth, and they’re a little less expensive than the all-cotton Threshold set. If you don’t mind feeling a little warmer, they’re a decent option.
What we tried: Target’s Made By Design Striped Barmop Towels 4pk vs. the Real Simple Antimicrobial Bar Mop Dish Cloths (6-Pack) (our budget pick from our The Best Kitchen Towels guide)
At four bucks for four towels, the Target Made By Design Striped Barmop Towels seem like an incredible deal. But we found them thin like a washcloth, not very absorbent, and too small (their initial dimensions were 18 by 16 inches, but they shrunk down to 12 inches square after laundering). The Real Simple Antimicrobial Bar Mop Dish Cloths, on the other hand, are bigger (15 by 16½ inches after countless washes), thicker, and soak up more liquid, and they actually currently cost 17 cents less per piece than Target’s diminutive rags.
What we tried: Target Made By Design Feather Pillow vs. Premier Down-like Personal Choice Density Pillow (Medium) (our budget pick in our The Best Bed Pillows guide)
I didn’t like anything about the the Made By Design Feather Pillow. The outer fabric is rough and unpleasant, not just compared with the Premier Down-like Personal Choice Density Pillow (Medium), but compared with 30 pillows I tested in 2018. The feather fill feels stiffer, yet also less supportive than the Premier’s soft synthetic fill. Although the Target pillow is marketed for all sleep positions, it left this side-sleeper with a stiff neck. Alone, the pillow didn’t have enough loft, but I found that adding a second pillow created too much height. For the price, the Premier is a far better pillow (keep in mind that we really only recommend it for back-sleepers). Otherwise, I think paying more for one of the other pillows we recommend is worth doing.
We often test and recommend Target’s house lines, but, for the most part, this one isn’t a winner. Despite a couple of standouts, the line is very cheap, and it shows. We think spending a little more (or even less in some cases) for better quality elsewhere will likely save you money on replacement costs down the road. Made By Design tries to catch your eye with super-low prices and modern style, but sacrifices the most important detail: function.
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