Humidifiers aren't just for sick kids or the infirm. During the winter months, dry air takes a toll on everyone's skin, mucus membranes, and even makes it feel colder than the actual indoor temperature. Humdifiers can be a quick solution, but they can also be a hassle – and an ugly accoutrement.

Enter Robert, a humidier from Swiss design firm Stadler Form. Known for giving its products first names rather than numeric designations, Stadler has built in some particularly appealing design and engineering touches to its "air washer," which not only humidifies, but also purges the air of particulates and pet flotsam.

Looking more like a subwoofer than a humidifier, Robert has motion- and touch-sensitive controls for setting the humidity level (from 35 percent to 65 percent) and fan speed. It uses as little as 7 watts of power and is an extremely quiet houseguest, running as quietly as 27 decibels. The evaporative design means it won't put minerals from your water into the air and a sensor allows you to automatically maintain the humidity at a comfortable level, shutting Robert on and off as needed.

Inside Robert, a spinning wheel captures larger particles, dust, and dander. The disc never has to be replaced. Just toss it in the dishwasher every once in a while. Humidifiers can become bacteria magnets and actually spread unhealthful germs if they aren't cleaned regularly. To prevent the build up of mold and germs, Robert has a silver ion filter that keeps it clean, although you'll still want to rinse out the tank occasionally.

Robert does not have a filter for eliminating volatile organic compounds, nor does it automatically detect impurities in the air and then filter them out, as do some dedicated air filters. However, it can service about 850 square feet, about the size of a small apartment. In particularly dry environments, you can expect to top off the tank frequently. (When it runs out, the humidifier shuts off automatically.) To refill the water, a detachable 1-gallon tank pops out of the back. The elongated tank is too big to fit in a standard sink, so you'll have to fill it in the tub or with a kitchen sink spray hose (our solution).

Having Robert alongside us in the office proved to be a meliorating experience, without the concomitant hassle of cheap, big-box store humidifiers. And it looks suave as hell. [$650; stadlerform.ch]