Anyone can go to the mall and swoop up some generic gifts. But no, not you. You’re a researcher, a hunter, a savvy shopper of the coolest, quirkiest, finest presents around. Maybe you’re a bit crunched for time this year, though, so we’re here to help with some unexpected present ideas:
Hostess gifts and stocking stuffers
Shopper tip: If you’re mall-averse and want to find something unusual, don’t overlook your local museum’s gift shop.
Kate Spade’s black-and-white mug with its sassy green lid will please latte lovers of all stripes. Pair it with a bag of local, fresh-roasted coffee beans (or loose-leaf tea or hot cocoa). A spill-free top keeps a generous 16 ounces of liquid piping hot ($18 each, www.katespade.com).
What politico could resist the towels we found at Washington’s Home Rule? One design features a border of elephants and donkeys (color scheme: “Politically Correct”), along with some fun D.C. trivia (state bird: the wood thrush). The other shows iconic national landmarks in snowglobes. Go online to www.vestigesinc.com to hunt down towels from any state in the union ($14.99, www.homerule.com).
There are a ton of stylish new calendars out there, but for the cook or foodie, the clear winner is Florida-based Rifle Paper with its 6-by-9-inch Herbs and Spices calendar. Each month features an illustration of an herb or spice — such as cloves, ginger root and peppercorn — in its botanic form ($16, www.riflepaperco.com).
For modernists, those in creative fields and all who have fun with fonts, Pentagram’s 2014 Typography Calendar, from Seattle bookstore Peter Miller, comes in first. Each month features a different typeface nominated by members of the Alliance Graphique Internationale ($30-$48, www.petermiller.com).
Glitzy and glam, plated-glass ornaments from Serena & Lily would be gorgeous on and off a tree — pile them in a pretty bowl for a gifted centerpiece or string them across your own living room as a decorative present to yourself ($38 for three, www.serenaandlily.com).
Forget the orchid; smart gift givers look to the unexpected, such as a Red Velvet echeveria. Terrain’s red-tinged succulent comes in a gray, lace-pressed pot ($28, www.terrain.com).
In 2013, Italian designer Paola Navone turned her designer’s eye to the United States, first with bedroom textiles for Anthropologie, and then with tableware for Crate & Barrel. Our pick is her hammered-aluminum Como pitcher. Fill it with flowers for an extra-special presentation ($49.95. www.crateandbarrel.com).
Everyday containers — tin cans, plastic bottles, milk cartons — are cleverly preserved in porcelain form by Seletti. Our favorites are canisters that recall aluminum cans, which we found at Washington’s Salt & Sundry. The largest (the “biscuits” jar) would make a striking gift on its own — or buy one of each size to make a set. ($14-$48, www.shopsaltandsundry.com).
Forget wine, it’s craft beer that’s having a moment right now: Sales grew 14.1 percent in 2012 and are still rocketing through 2013. Provide your nephew, favorite bachelor or any other brews aficionado with a set of tasting tumblers. The Libbey Craft Brew set has two each of six glasses: a classic pilsner, an English pub glass, a Belgian ale glass, a craft pub glass, a porter/stout glass and a wheat beer glass ($39.99, www.target.com).
Splurges and special finds
What’s under your evergreen? A tree skirt from Terrain shows unexpected form, being that it’s a basket and not a traditional cloth. Handwoven from natural fibers, the rustic basket skirt is perfect for a new couple’s first Christmas ($58, available in four color options, www.terrain.com).
A bit of welcome extravagance comes in the form of a set of four linen napkins from Alder & Co. in Portland, Ore. The French-made napkins, in blush, green-gray, dark gray, white or chalk, will make your loved one’s dinner guests (maybe even you!) feel like they’re sitting in the lap of luxury ($70, www.alderandcoshop.com).
What these dainty dot-, swirl- and stripe-studded champagne flutes lack in stems they make up in panache. Each holds 8 ounces, and a set of six comes in a ribbon-tied, hand-crafted wood crate. Bonus: When not being used for celebrating, the flutes can double as bud vases ($78 for set of six, www.oliveandcocoa.com).
Pile up some gourmet brie and bleu with this gift, and you’ll be the big cheese of any present-giving extravaganza. The bamboo cheese board has rims on the sides for crackers and a hidden drawer with bamboo-and-stainless spreaders for a picnic on the go, or just on the coffee table. ($64.29. www.casa.com.)
Even the worst baker is sure to impress with cookies from Anthropologie’s ceramic White Rabbit jar. We imagine filling it with bunny-shaped sugar cookies. ($68, www.anthropologie.com).