11.14.11 Gifted Program
You can run but you can't hide. I kind of hate to bring it up, but you'll love me when they're all said and done. The holidays, that is. (Hey, don't shoot the messenger. They're on their way whether I announce it or not.) Which is why I'm posting my collection of online shopping resources even earlier than last year. By the way, I still stand by all the suggestions of 2010, so you may want to have a look. Gwyneth already posted hers, and they're worth a gander, too. Because you really, really, really don't want to leave this until the last moment. If you look up hell in the dictionary, there's a picture of a mall on December 23rd. Don't go there. I do confess to feeling a little guilty about the carbon footprint of mail-order shopping, but then I think about the gas I would use to get to the store, and the karmic goodwill I am preserving by not having to engage with fellow humans in combat-shopping mode at this time of year. So make your list, and don't dwell too long on naughty or nice. Save your energy for finding gifts that will leave them all gob-smacked with glee.
Before we get down to it, a few orders of business. I'm not going to be posting quite as frequently over the next couple of months. I'm doing a big push on my novel, not to mention that soon I'll be up to my ears in caramel-making, which each year threatens increasingly to take over my life. But to assuage you I will be offering another giveaway: 2 lucky winners will receive a bag of said caramels, this year featuring salted vanilla and chocolate chile. Stay tuned for a future post with details on how to win. And, in a personal note to my family and friends, the following resources are not thinly veiled hints.Although there are a couple of gourmet suggestions at the end, this list is composed primarily of fabulous online shopping destinations for gifts and household items. For the most part they are small, independent and eclectic companies, rigorously curated by design fanatics. I will call out some favorite items, but I do recommend you click through and explore the entire inspired inventories of these modern merchants.
My friend and fellow outdoorsman, Peter Buchanan-Smith, has done an incredible job stocking his beautifully designed site, Best Made Company, with the ultimate in function-meets-form. Renowned for his gorgeous axes, this season's must-haves include a brilliant red wool blanket made in collaboration with the venerable Pendleton, and a jumbo 1/2-gallon jug of New Hampshire organic maple syrup that is both a work of art and great on pancakes.
And now for the LA contingent...
A+R Global Design is the creation of British ex-pat Andy Griffith, a former film editor, and Rose Apodaca, a pop culture and style journalist. Their brick-&-mortar store is on Abbot Kinney in Venice (of course it is) but if you can't make it, the online boutique is fully stocked. I love that you can shop by category or by material (rubber, wood, leather, etc.) In addition to the chalkboard sticker wall art, ideal for kids or kids-at-heart, I love this black leather "corner store bag," a very chic riff on the ubiquitous "sustainable" tote.
And who couldn't use this magnetic soap holder to prevent that eternal problem of the icky, sticky bar?
Heath Ceramics is a California institution that keeps reinventing itself, in part with interesting collaborations with talented artisans like Atwater Pottery's Adam Silverman and master woodworker Edward Wohl. They have some unexpected things like this adorable picnic tote that unfolds into a tablecloth/blanket. It's a collaboration with the fabulous Sherry Stein, whose elegantly efficient workbags are designed for real (cool) women leading real (cool) lives.
Another wonderful gift idea, especially for friends who have just moved, are their tile house numbers in styles designed by Eames or Neutra. The beautiful linen napkins from Commune Design produced by local LA producer Matteo would also make a welcome gift.
Or go straight to the source and shop from Commune Design's own online store, put together by some of LA's most discerning tastemakers. The selection is very chic but not especially cheap, though there are some bargains to be had. The Farmshop napkins paired with a great cookbook (my recommendations on those coming this week) would be sweet; or how about a bottle of something interesting (maybe this or one of these) along with Commune's elegant tooled leather coasters? I also love their glass drinking straws in a fab leather case.
Droog is a Dutch design collective that got famous for its provocative work in the 90s but has now settled into a groove of clever, super-functional stuff. I love the whimsically shaped coir doormats (hare and hippo)...
...and this excellent elastic strap that can hold newspapers, accessories, even rolls of toilet paper.I'm a big fan of Areaware's low-key attitude and charm. They have an eye for enduring design that always feels very of the moment. Download their online catalog just to appreciate the gorgeous styling and photography.
I happen to have a real weakness for baskets, and there are plenty of lovely versions to choose from at Medina Baskets. A couple of favorites include the striped jute tote, above, and the classic French market basket, below. These are great as summer purses or for taking to the farmers market, of course!
Something exotic but much more affordable than a vacation in Essouira can be found at Beldi, an online shop full of lovely artisanal wares from Morocco.
You may be familiar with Canvas, but I want to remind you that they're a great online resource for gifts. They have a fun feature on the site, too, where they photograph a gorgeous room and then right below you can click on anything in the photo to buy. Talk about instant gratification.
One of Gwyneth's Goop picks that looked interesting to me was Greenhouse Design Studio. So many places now have a "sustainable" or "eco-friendly" slant, and I'm all for it, especially when the aesthetic remains appealingly sophisticated.
Branch is another of these sites that's worth a look. They're very conscious of where, how and of what their products are made.
Schoolhouse Electric, a great resource for period lighting and hardware, has recently expanded to include a more items for the home.
I stumbled across Animalia and fell in love with its quirky animal-themed products; plus, 10% of all profits go to wildlife conservation.
I'm obsessed with this retrofabulous iPhone dock, ever since my friend Andy tweeted about them...
It's from Freelandstudio's Etsy store and has a fully functional receiver! At the time of writing they were sold out, but more were promised soon.
I'm also in love with the excellent New Zealand merino wool activewear from Icebreaker. They believe that nature is better than plastic (who doesn't?) and you will be astounded at how well these sleek, lustrous pieces effectively wick away moisture, leaving you warm in winter and cool in summer. Perfect for a runner, snowshoer or cozy couch potato. These quantum pants are the shizzle and I will be living in them all winter long.Although, as I said, most of my picks have been from smaller businesses, I do want to give Restoration Hardware a shout-out. I have been quite impressed by the changes at this company and although I understand why some people are disturbed by their "reproduction vintage" aesthetic, I covet quite a lot of their handsome industrial pieces. Their printed catalogs—from the enormous Resource Book to the well-edited holiday gifts piece—are useful and so well done. And they've also done a great job with their Christmas tree ornaments this season...
And because I just can't resist sharing, a few more gastronomic gifts to give and receive...Legendary meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda has teemed with Mario Batali at Eataly to compile a truly impressive butcher case, and they're offering free shipping to select states on orders over $50. Much of the beef is from the Piemontese breed of cattle, known in Italian as “Razza Piemontese” and considered among the best in the world. A Montana farm now raises this iconic Italian breed and the cows' diet follows the guidelines set by Sergio Capaldo, founder of La Granda Razza Piemontese in Italy. For just shy of $115, you can make some carnivore very happy with four enormous Porterhouse steaks (20 oz each).
Frog Hollow Farm is an organic farm In Brentwood, CA, near the Sacramento River Delta. It is renowned for its incomparably beautiful and flavorful fruit (served at Chez Panisse, among other excellent restaurants) which you can order whole in season, or as amazing fruit conserves and chutneys. If you haven't made your own, this will more than cover your shame.
Any cook worth his salt will swoon over the incredible spices crafted by the master himself, Lior Lev Sercarz. I'm going to do a whole post on him soon but, in the meantime, take my word that he is the last gasp in spice sorcery. His buzz-worthy blends, like cocoa powder-orange blossom or sumac-rose-blossom-sesame-seed, are available here, as are his cookies, an epic feat that evolve from season to season. Read about the fall/winter collection, "Human Animal," featuring anise, wild mint, dark chocolate, granola, Szechuan pepper and hibiscus, here.
And with that, my fine friends, you are off and running on your holiday shopping! Remember it's the thought that counts, so carefully consider your choices (and recipients)—and with that, and all the love in your heart, you simply can't go wrong.