In a year like no other, we're looking forward to the connection that comes with holiday gift-giving. Here we offer some elegant, simple, design-forward gift ideas that will become indispensable parts of your loved one's life, no matter how much you plan to spend.
City guides by Monocle ($20)
If your pal is anything like us, they're salivating over the thought of traveling wild and free next summer, once the world starts its long journey back to normal. To that end, Monocle produces 39 travel guides for cities diverse as Seoul, Antwerp and Marrakech. (Closer to home? Chicago and Miami sound equally nice right now.)
The series "reveals our favourite places in each city we cover, from the ideal route for an early-morning run to the best spots for independent retail. Full of surprises and quirks, they also feature detailed design and architecture pages, neighbourhood walks to get you away from the crowds and our favourite places to eat everything from tasty fast food to something truly celebratory."
The Backpack by Day Owl ($149)
Photo: Day Owl
The Manual says "Day Owl is a new eco-conscious brand that probably makes the most thoughtful backpacks ever created." Every bag they make is made out of post-consumer recycled bottles that result in a waxed canvas that’s more durable, weather-resistant, and sustainable than traditional cotton.
Day Owl is a brand you want to support, and The Backpack is their flagship product. Available in 8 colors (I'll take the Maple Brown, please) these bags will keep you organized and looking sharp no matter what kind of owl you are.
The Barisieur by Joy Resolve ($445)
We admit, it's a splurge. But after a year like this one, we all need the help we can get.
The Barisieur is an alarm-clock-plus-coffee-brewer designed to look beautiful on the bedside so you can greet a new day with a fresh cup of something hot.
Every detail's been considered: there's even a tiny fridge for a vial of milk, so it's always fresh for early-morning tea or coffee.
National Parks posters by Fifty-Nine Parks ($40)
Photo: Fifty-Nine Parks
If your giftee is an outdoorsy person (or would like to be), they'll love any print from Fifty-Nine Parks. Shown above is an example from a new series featuring iconic wildlife from select parks, but a variety of other styles and sizes are available to suit any aesthetic.
The best part? 5% of your purchase is donated to the National Park Service, to protect America's greatest treasure for the next generation.
Canvas zipper tote by Artifact ($198)
Since their founding during the Great Recession, our friends/heroes at Artifact have made beautiful, BIFL-quality bags and leather goods. Their aprons and lunch sacks have earned the attention of the New York Times, among others, but it's the humble tote that we recommend for your giftee.
This bag is surprisingly inexpensive considering it'll last for life. We've lusted after Artifact's work for quite a while — so will anyone who sees your friend's new bag.
We like the zipper tote in Rust.
Evergreen candle by Wax Buffalo ($22+)
Photo: Wax Buffalo
There was a time when candles were the default meme gift for people you didn't know well. Coworkers, unlikely secret-santa pairings, and the like.
Banish that idea from your mind and consider a candle from Wax Buffalo for your lucky giftee. These candles are carefully, thoughtfully sourced to create beautifully safe, sustainable products that are vegan, cruelty-free, phthalate-free, petroleum free, and never tested on animals.
Sure, it's not a handmade forest-wood coffee-making alarm clock, but these are the best-smelling, best-looking in the candle game. We'll stand by that. Although you can't sniff and sample online, trust us: for the holidays you can't go wrong with Evergreen. Other times, Red Ferne is our ultra-favorite.
Monthly Artist Box subscription by Juno ($14.99/mo)
This year you can give the gift of friendship — your gift can help strengthen authentic connections between friends. And we all need those now more than ever.
If your giftee is a thoughtful person with good taste and an appreciation for design, they'll love a subscription to the Juno artist box. They'll get 3 cards/month in the mail (plus stamps!), designed and produced by a new independent artist each month. Cards are curated based on the season and upcoming holidays.
Hometown banners by Oxford Pennant ($100)
Photo: Oxford Pennant
Once we met a designer we admire via Zoom, and he immediately called out the Oxford Pennant banner in our background. "OP is kind of a design-community flex," he explained.
Oxford Pennant calls itself "a designer & manufacturer of vintage wool & cotton pennants that are inspired by American sports traditions." It's an astonishingly bland way to describe an iconic, authentic brand that launches campaigns to "keep Buffalo a secret."
New in 2020 are Hometown Banners. These hand-stitched 28"x6" wool banners would look great anywhere, no matter which "anywhere" you choose. 19 are pre-made; there's a "Your City Here" option for all the rest of us (max 12 characters).
Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval ($34)
Filmmaker Wes Anderson needs little introduction. Say what you want about his movies but the man now practically owns the concept of symmetry, which is rad. For a cinephile giftee, consider this hardcover photo compilation of scenes around the globe that mimic Anderson's signature visual style.
What started as a crowdsourced Instagram page has now become a book that compiles all the lovely, unexpected, and, well, symmetrical ways that a particular setting — no matter where in the world — could look as if it’s straight out of a movie by Wes Anderson. What’s more impressive is that the director himself has given his blessing to the project, even writing the book’s foreword.
PS: If you're digging the Oxford Pennant aesthetic above but your chum will like something more literary, you'll love the "Read More Books" pennant collab between OP and Counter-Print Books.
The Sampler Kit by Haus ($40)
We all know someone who doesn't need more stuff. And we all know someone — maybe you — who could use a little boost during winter's short days and long nights.
Haus is a new liquor brand led by a third generation winemaking family based in Sonoma County, California. As they explain on an unusually meaningful "Our Story" page, the brand crafts session apéritifs made on organic farms and fermented with natural flavours.
The customizable Sampler Kit includes 200ml of 4 flavors, enough for 8-12 drinks total. You can choose the bestsellers or select from all 7 flavors that are fresh, complex, and easy to drink.l
Custom print by Ideal Bookshelf ($105+)
Photo: Ideal Bookshelf
Has your life ever been changed by a story? Illustrator Jane Mount started Ideal Bookshelf in 2008 to paint the books that do just that.
Now you can honor your giftee's favorite works of literature with a custom print. Choose from the impressive list of 4,000+ titles, or add a brand-new title for just $40. On the inexpensive end, you can pay homage to the classics with enamel "book pins" ($11).
Pigeon Light by Ed Carpenter and verygoodandproper ($127)
Would your giftee appreciate "a reaction to the poor-quality products on offer in most tourist shops?" What about "a celebration of the wildlife of London?"
If you answered "yes" or "I...don't know" to either question, they'll love the Pigeon Light, designed by Ed Carpenter 20 years ago. Its understated irony and surprising elegance are the antidote for modern times.
Looking for something less spendy but just as whimsical? Here's a frog holding some salt and pepper shakers, because 🤷♀️.
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below!