By Caitlin Kelly
This is my favorite post every year!
I seek out a wide range of lovely gifts, from this year’s lowest price — $15.00 for a quirky deck of playing cards– to the highest, $1,150 for a stunning hand-made ring.
I don’t choose tech, music, books or things for teens/children/seniors.
I’ve carefully chosen almost all of this year’s recommendations from independent makers and retailers, with a very few from larger companies. The list includes two Black makers, one of them British.
I also offer the backstory for each item when I’ve found one. I love knowing more about whose skills and hard work I’m supporting and sharing.
There’s no income for me in this — just the pleasure of curating.
In a year where so many of us can’t safely or legally travel, I’ve also deliberately made this list pretty global and with some specific nods to travel and maps.
Gifts could arrive from places as far-flung as Los Angeles, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Cheltenham, England, Toronto, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Manhattan. When I ordered my two gorgeous throw pillows from Svensk Tenn, a divine Stockholm department store, they arrived within days, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper with a note. Presentation matters!
I’ve converted all foreign currencies into U.S. dollars.
From Pippa Small, a Canadian jewelry designer in London, whose rings go up to an eye-watering $26,000.
Every year I find something fun from this American homegoods website, Mothology.
This year it’s a whale — who also serves as a handy bottle-opener. $16.95
I discovered this retailer, Alex Mill, when it popped up in my Instagram feed. I really like the witty simplicity of their goods. The company is eight years old, based in Manhattan, run by a son of the American retail legend Mickey Drexler (who used to run J. Crew), Alex Drexler.
A unisex bandana-print wool scarf in navy/white or red/black/white. $95
Nothing beats light, warm soft cashmere on a bitterly cold day — take it from me, a Canadian!
These neck gaiters are also beautifully unisex in navy, black, red and gray. $65
I love this boiled wool hoodie, which comes in yellow, dark green and black. $160
Farrow & Ball’s brilliant yellow is called Babouche, of course! They’re actually backless unisex leather slippers worn in Morocco and these come in two delicious colors — pale coral and pale blue. $45
Poor New York City! It has been so hard hit by the pandemic, losing millions of tourists who helped sustain Broadway, hotels, restaurants and other attractions. Since you’re unlikely to get here for a long time, enjoy some edible icons in delicious chocolate, from a New York company in business since 1923, Li-Lac Chocolates.
This package includes a train car, a Statue of Liberty and an edible Empire State Building. $160
This six-year-old business, Meeka Fine Jewelry, owned and run by Philadelphia businesswoman Monika Krol, offers the kind of jewelry I really love: minimal, unusual and using lots of semi-precious stones. This isn’t a site for rubies, diamonds, emeralds or bling-y settings, but understated elegance. Here are just a few of her many, many offerings. Roam around!
Oxidized silver and prehnite stud earrings (the pale green of seawater) $150
Lilac chalcedony, oxidized silver stud earrings $125
A ring of Montana agate (clear with black speckles) set in 18k gold. I’ve asked Jose for this! $1150
John Derian is a much admired retail shop owner whose quirky style is terrific — he’s best known for glass decoupage dishes and platters. His East Village NYC store is crammed with lovely discoveries. In a time when the world feels so so distant, when even going to the grocery store feels scary, here’s a soft, sensuous way to experience the globe
A silk scarf with the globe printed on it. $175
I love everything offered by Stockholm design store Svenskt Tenn. There’s fantastic-but-spendy printed linen, sold by the meter, home goods, furniture. I’ve chosen to highlight only two item, but look around. So much beauty! The placemats are of the same linen print of the two sofa throw pillows we bought from them.
Linen print placemat, magnolia print $41.00
I defy you not to be charmed by this elephant print tea cosy. (Also, possibly, a hat?) $70
This Paris site is also swoon-worthy, if you love textiles and an 18th c aesthetic as much as I do, from Antoinette Poisson.
Throw cushion in black and cream $112
I hate most of the phone cases I see. But these, by Stringberry, come in a really wide array of designs. I bought one and love its design and its rugged, smooth-but-matte finish.
Phone case, $33.
Phone case, moon and stars design $33
I’m a huge fan of adding candlelight whenever possible, especially for those long, cold dark winter nights. I love the gleaming reflective brass of this two-taper design. I’d put it bedside or even in a small bathroom: 11 inches wide, 22 inches high. From a small-town British indie retailer.
Brass wall-mounted candleholder $121.96
OKA is a homewares company owned by three women with classic English style. I love their colors and scale. As a big tea drinker and collector of early ceramics, this cup and saucer caught my eye.
Blue and white cup and gorgeous saucer, 18th c style $60
Who among us is sick to death of Staples? To really spruce up your WFH desk, how about these?
Three pale turquoise faux-shagreen binders, also from OKA $65
LOVE this one! Warm, hand-knit, colorful, unique.
Rainbow-hued massive wool cowl/hood, made by a Black woman creator, Chasten Harmon, in L.A. $265
Kingsley Thompson is another Black designer, working in small leather goods, Cheltenham, England.
Leather bookmark $27.59
Is there anything as tedious as ALL THAT hand-washing? Make it a sensual pleasure with Caswell-Massey soap. Fantastic quality, American made. The sandalwood is so nice!
A full year of soap, in three woody scents $98
OK, wait….Monet and VANS sneakers? Only from my favorite Canadian retailer with the weirdest damn name ever, Gravity Pope. I make sure to drop in every time I’m back in Toronto and always leave with a great pair of shoes or boots.
Yes, for guys, Monet paintings for your kicks. $90
And I really want these simple pale gray suede boots. $475
We met the creator of Effin Birds, Aaron Reynolds, in Ontario at an annual conference up north and even shared an unheated cabin with him. His merch is very swear-y — but so much fun! There are pins and stickers and hockey jerseys and T-shirts, too.
Effin’ Birds pack of Playing cards $15
There’s nothing nicer for the most basic table than a pretty print tablecloth (add a padded liner beneath.) Like this one, from Paris shop Simrane.
How can you resist? All the way from Piggott’s Store in Sydney, Australia!
Along the same lines, there’s nothing nicer than a fragrant neck to kiss. Here’s a crisp option.
Lime cologne. $50
OK, I caved — here’s an amazing blanket from one of my favorite major retailers, Anthropologie. It fits my 2020 theme of, if we can’t visit a place in person, we can still dream and enjoy some version of it!
I am oddly mesmerized by this dress, which also comes as a T-shirt and mock turtleneck. I love a stretchy dress I can throw a sweater on top of. I like a bold print. I really enjoy being stylish and comfortable. And this NYC site, Wray.com, has a wild range of sizes and prints, all the way to 3XL. It’s never easy to find stylish, fashion-forward clothing for larger women — and this site offers plenty of it; check out their Neighborhood dress and Quinn dress.
Print dress $228.
Regular readers of my blog, and this list, know I loooove a well-dressed man. And I love elegant touches like a great pocket square. I really like this indie American website, Sid Mashburn (and the partner site for women, a 10-year-old Atlanta store with some great stuff, Ann Mashburn) — classic but not boring menswear and womenswear.
Walk like an Egyptian! with this hand-rolled wool and silk pocket square, complete with hieroglyphics and Anubis. $80
You’ll either love or hate these chocolate leather lace-up boots, from Ann Mashburn. They’re pricey but I have no doubt you’d get a decade’s stylish wear out of them. $650