With more than three thousand vendors hawking more than a quarter of a million new items, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by choice, texture and design at the annual National Hardware Show, held in August at Chicago’s McCormick Place

In fact, you might well wonder what you’ve been buying every time you walk into your local home improvement store.

In addition to the usual items, such as outdoor furniture in this year’s exciting palate of floral prints, and travel coolers in colors such as grape, raspberry and watermelon, the 1999 show featured a few gadgets and gizmos you might find interesting and useful:

Bemis, based in Sheboygan Falls, WI., displayed the Majestic, a wood-molded toilet seat that is three-quarters of an inch wider than standard toilet seats. The hole in the center of the seat is the same size as a standard size toilet, so there is no need to replace the entire fixture. The Majestic will be priced around $25. (www.bemismfg.com)

If you have visions of repainting your rooms beautiful faux finishes, but blanche at the prices you’ve been quoted, you may want to invest $40 in the Faux-Fresco Pad Brush Painting Kit. Made by Minneapolis-based Padco, Inc., the specialized kit allows you to apply three different colors of water-based paint or glaze to apply your own faux finishes. Also included is a 15-minute video that demonstrates how to create some of the more popular designs. (email: padco@uswest.net)

If you’re building a new screened-in porch, check out a product that will allow you to have vistas as wide as 40 square feet. Screen Tight, is a porch-screening system that rolls large sheets of fiberglass mesh into place, then tightens and covers them with a top that snaps into the base component. If the screen should tear, you can easily and cheaply replace one entire section without replacing it all. The Screen Tight system, made in Georgetown, South Carolina, costs approximately $1 per square foot for materials and works with regular “x 4″ or 4″x 4” construction. (www.screentight.com”>www.screentight.com)

Doing odd jobs around the house usually means wearing a heavy tool belt or lugging around a large tool box. This year, Plymouth, Mass.-based Prazi introduced the “Bigg Lugg,” a large, fully flexible aluminum hook that attaches onto any toolbelt or waist belt. Once attached, you can mold the hook easily around your drill, nail gun, or hammer. The nice thing about the Bigg Lugg, other than it costs just a couple of dollars, is that if you’re climbing up a ladder, it’s easy to turn it sideways, so the tool you’re carrying doesn’t get caught on the steps. (www.praziusa.com)

Feel like you need to get a grip? OXO International, makers of the kitchen utensils with a wide, black rubber grip, has turned its attention to hand tools. At this year’s show, the New York-based company introduced a 25-item line that includes hammers, screwdrivers, tape measures, pliers, and a utility knife. Based on the philosophy of Universal Design, OXO’s Good Grips Hand Tools are expected to be available this fall at prices ranging from $3 to $30. (www.oxo.com)

Cleaning your gutter is an essential job, especially if you live in the northern half of the U.S., when falling leaves can decay inside the gutter and cause ice damming in winter. With more than 2 million Gutter Getters sold, the Portland, Oregaon-based company has introduced the Gutter Getter Ultra Reach. This uniquely-shaped tool screws onto an extendable steel pole and enables homeowners to clean up to 18 feet of gutter without moving the ladder. Prices range from $3.50 to $15. (www.guttergetter.com)

If you like to garden, and don’t either have your own conservatory or potting shed, you may like the new Table-Top Gardener, a portable potting tray that keeps the dirt and mess from spilling out over your clean countertops. The potting tray looks like a green plastic kitchen sink, with a deep bowl and a shelf in back. The front is cut away to give you a comfortable working angle, and the sides have easy-grip handles, allowing you to carry the tray outdoors for transplanting. Manufactured by the Argee Corporation, Santee, Ca., the Table-Top Gardener runs around $13. (800-449-3030).

If you want to shed a little light, but don’t have a window nearby, try a Solatube. This cylindrical skylight uses a patented tube to bring light into windowless spaces from as far away as 25 feet. Because the top of the tube has been designed to fit in between your roof joists, you’ll pay far less to install a Solatube than a regular skylight. Available in three sizes, from 10 to 16-inches wide, the Solatube costs around $400. (>www.solatube.com)