A room-by-room guide to the best gifts you can give
by Emily Kovach
While we don’t subscribe to mainstream notions of “retail therapy,” we do have some holiday advice: give freely. The gifts of your time, your energy and your funds to causes you believe in all count. To give is, unmistakably, to open yourself up, to allow for an exchange with others, and to take a chance on the joy that’s still pulsing through our city, even on the darkest of days.
If you do give gifts for the holidays, do it with passion. Take the time to shop in neighborhood stores, feeling the texture and weight of things, chatting with the shopkeeper or humming along to familiar seasonal songs. Or, if you prefer to stay in and shop online, seek out things that are local, beautiful and handmade, and then share them with the people you love. Support the artists and makers in your community, and give a gift to Philly’s micro-economy. Even if you only have $5 to spend, make it count.
Objects are never a substitute for love or kindness, but they can be tokens of them, a reminder of kinship and closeness. We all have those gifts in our homes that make us feel good when we see or use them. This year, give that gift.
Put back that chintzy potholder! There are so many more beautiful, functional, and exciting gifts for the home chef in your life.
1. Knives from Pellegrino Cutlery: These professional-grade knives are forged from bars of steel. The price is steep but the quality of the blades is unparalleled. $300-$1,000; pellegrinocutlery.com
2. Mugs from This Many Boyfriends Club: You can’t go wrong with any of the funky-yet-elegant mugs from this women’s art collective, but we like the high-femme opalescent gemstone ones best. $55-$60; etsy.com/shop/ThisManyBFsClub
3. Growler Caps from The 50/50 Company: For the friend who never shows up to dinner without a growler of local beer, these reusable growler caps, emblazoned with phrases like “Twist and Shout” and “Love Potion #9” are the perfect gift. $10 for a set of 4; the5050company.com
4. Sponge Holder from Jarmel by Jarmel: Why let a kitchen sponge collect mold in the bottom of the sink when it could be snug and clean in an adorable sponge holder from this up-and-coming ceramicist? $42; available at Field; jarmelbyjarmel.com
5. Tea towels from Ivy House Design: Artfully naked ladies and bananas on 100 percent cotton towels are the perfect combo of modern and quirky. $18; etsy.com/shop/IvyHouseStudio
6. Wooden cutting board from Padouk: Upgrade your favorite local cheese lover’s setup with a cutting/serving board made from wood, shot through with gorgeous grain patterns. $30-$40; available at VIX Emporium; padoukcrafts.com
7. Shrubs from Terra Luna Herbals: Shrubs are an ingredient any cocktail or mocktail enthusiast needs in the fridge. Check out these drinking vinegars in flavors like red raspberry and elderflower. $16-$24; available at Ritual Shoppe; terralunaherbals.com
8. Wooden bowls from Basement Press: Handmade turned bowls come in a variety of sizes and types of wood; each one would make a handsome addition to a kitchen counter. $30-$40; http://www.elivandenberg.com/
9. Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion: Local journalist and food writer Drew Lazor teaches home mixologists how to make grown-up drinks that won’t knock you out after a round or two. $18.99; available at Occasionette
10. Hand-drawn magnet from Woodley White: Celebrate living in the ’Greatest Beer Drinking City in America’ with a cute wooden magnet of a can of Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. $10; squareup.com/store/woodleywhite/
11. Spice blends from Sundry Mornings: Help a foodie friend out with a trio of fresh blends from Sundry Mornings. Choose from Taco Spice, Chili Spice, Cajun Spice, Morning Spice, JHC Spice (a cocoa-based BBQ rub), and Smoky Spice. $6 for a 2-ounce bag; available at Philly Foodworks; sundrymornings.com
Encourage self care — more important than ever in these anxiety-added times — with gifts of locally-made goods that encourage relaxation and tranquility.
1. Soaps from Vellum St. Soap Company: Wildly inventive scents (hello, Salted Lime Hibiscus) made from tallow sourced from local farms and butcher shops. $7 each; available at VIX Emporium; vellumstsoapcompany.com
2. Weekly Face Care Kit from Franklin & Whitman: If its neighborhood-inspired product names don’t immediately win you over (e.g. Spring Garden Body Serum), their all-natural formulas, charitable giving commitment and recycling program will. The Weekly Face Care Kit combines three products: a scrub, a steam and a mask. $59.95; franklinandwhitman.com
3. Beard oil from The Tin Goat: This Fishtown-based personal-care company makes candles, soap and balm, but its real treasure is luxurious beard oil, a must-have for fuzzy fellows during winter’s harsh weather. $12-$20; thetingoat.com
4. Modern Macrame plant hangers from The Mountain & The Sea: Threads of waxed cotton are woven into unfussy shapes that hold houseplants like delicate little hammocks. Suitable for outdoors, too. $22-$29; etsy.com/shop/TheMountainAndTheSea
5. Bath soaks from Mystic Ginger Apothecary: Herbal and Himalayan rock salt-based concoctions come in pretty corked vials, in thoughtful blends like Hops & Blossoms, made with organic hops. $12; mysticgingerapothecary.com
The most personal and intimate space in your home deserves calming and thoughtful objects.
1. Crochet Throw Rug from Brave Hand Textiles: Funky, one-of-a-kind crocheted throw rugs, handmade with recycled fabrics like towels and sheets. $75-$100; available at Cuttalossa; etsy.com/shop/BraveHandTextiles
2. Incense by Palo Santo Wellness Boutique: Leave it to the yogis at this South Philly yoga boutique/wellness sanctuary/creative space to design some of the finest-smelling incense we’ve ever encountered. $7 for 20 sticks; palosantowellnessboutique.com
3. Resin Jewelry Dishes from Bing Bong Ceramics: Help declutter tangles of necklaces and earrings from the dresser with these miniature dishes from Bing Bong Ceramics. $8-$12 each; bingbong.tictail.com
4. Hoop embroidery from Hoop and Wheel: Floral-themed hoop embroideries bring color and life into a space, and last much longer than a bouquet of wildflowers. $38-$125; etsy.com/shop/HoopAndWheel
5. Room spray from dilo: Made with fine fragrance oils and nary a phthalate, scents like Burning Cedar and Coconut + Vetiver are a great alternative to candles, especially late at night (wink, wink). $10; available at Vault + Vine; dilohome.com
6. Houseplant from Field: There’s no such thing as too many houseplants, right? Add a new succulent, air plant, or houseplant to someone special’s indoor forest. Various prices; instagram.com/shop.field
7. Silk Cooling Eye Mask from Damiano: This luxurious silk eye mask holds two small purified water packs in each eye-well, which can be refrigerated for the ultimate de-stressing. $38; damianocollection.com
A little handmade gift can make a living room pop! Resist the urge to grab something off the sale shelf at a multinational home decor store that wants to look indie (you know the one), and go for something truly artisanal instead.
1. Succulent log planters from MasonMade: Constructed from locally-foraged Sycamore and London Plane trees, these planters make a stylish home for cheerful little plant babies. $25-$40; available at Art Star; etsy.com/shop/MasonMade25
2. Ceramic planters from Palmer Planter Company: Palmer Planter Co. crafts an impressive range of ceramic planters in stylish textured terracotta and globally-inspired majolica painted blue and white motifs. $14-$53; palmerplantercompany.com
3. Glass Vase from Remark Glass: Sleek serving ware, glasses and vases out of recycled glass bottles. The charming little bud vase is a stand out, sure to make your backyard blooms look their best. $35; remarkglass.com
4. 36 Views of Philadelphia postcard book: Philly-based architectural historian and artist Ben Leech sketches 36 local landmarks on postcards. The set is a heartfelt tribute to the beauty of this city. $25; available at Omoi Zakka Shop; archivoltpress.com
5. Stool from Marigold Woodworks: Minimalist, dignified stools made from walnut and ash in NextFab’s North 4th Street location. The organic seat shape and perfect 3-legged balance echoes Wharton Esherick at a fraction of the price. $250; marigoldwoodworks.com
6. Tiny Prints by Kimmy Makes Things: For the cost of a greeting card, you could give a tiny print of an original gouache painting by artist Kimmy Scafuro. Subjects include pop culture figures like Lucille Bluth, Barack Obama, Steve Zissou and, everyone’s new favorite icon, Gritty. $5 each; available at Art Star; etsy.com/shop/kimmymakesthings
7. Rustic Candles from Mithras Candles: Made in East Falls by a light researcher with locally-sourced beeswax, U.S.-farmed soy and essential oils, these candles are “everyday luxury.” $14-$66; mithrascandle.com
We’ve never seen a kid’s room that looks like the hyper-stylized photos you see on Instagram, but, a thoughtful, well-designed toy, a snuggly new friend or a fun piece of art are always welcome.
1. Handmade Mobile from Baby Jives: Dreamy heirloom-quality handmade mobiles with gender-neutral designs like clouds and hearts, moons and stars, and leaves and moths. $28-$158; babyjives.com
2. Kids shirts from Print Liberation: Bold statements for your born-woke munchkin. $25; etsy.com/shop/printliberation
3. Buddha Bib from Buddha Babe: Bandana-shaped bibs made with organic cotton, bamboo fleece and natural dyes, featuring hip patterns like The Notorious B.I.G. and the Philadelphia Eagles. $8.50-$15; buddhababe.us
4. Learning Toys from Mama May I: Learning toys from natural materials, like hand-painted wood, recycled felt and habotai silk. $6.50-$65; mamamayishop.com
5. Handmade crocheted stuffed animals from Petit Yarns: Cuddly crocheted creatures with simple, adorable shapes. $40-$75; etsy.com/shop/PetitYarns
Show your closest clotheshorse friend or family member what the burgeoning design scene in Philly has to offer with a garment or accessory from a local designer.
1. Three Herb Earrings on Plantable Card from Nuance Jewelry: Herb-shaped earrings in silver or gold affixed to a card that is infused with seeds. Plant the card in next year’s garden to fully enjoy the gift. $68 for the set; available at Sugar Cube; nuance-jewelry.com
2. Bloom Flower Brooch from Violet and Brooks: Modern baubles in fresh floral shapes. Bonus: Violet and Brooks donates 5 percent of the net profits from every sale to the Covenant House. $28; violetandbrooks.com
3. Hand-dyed tunics and coats from Penrose: One-of-a-kind jackets and tunics carefully constructed out of stunning vintage textiles. The most eye-catching are fashioned from African indigo cloth that is impossibly saturated with intense, vivid hues. $165-395; penrosedesignstudio.com
4. T-shirt from Philadelphia Printworks: You can wear your heart on your sleeve with these T-shirts, emblazoned with radical messages for civil and women’s rights. The studio works with progressive local and national organizations like CinéSPEAK and Philly Trans March to provide financial and resource-based support. $25; philadelphiaprintworks.com
5. Gauze Scarves from Voloshin: Designer Amy Voloshin, who founded Printfresh Studio, now has her own line of clothing, Voloshin. We love the polished, cotton gauze scarves in the collection, featuring urbane block-printed patterns and tidy embroidery. $138-$148; voloshin.us