Before we get into the sites, just three things I want to note first.
1. Shop early. Especially if you’re shopping online. We live in the future. Do not procrastinate.
2. Consider small businesses first. Surely there are independent stores where you live that sell the same items as big box stores. For an example, in Rice Village in Houston there’s a nice man who runs a kitchen supply shop called ChefMarket with the same exact gadgets and accessories Bed, Bath, and Beyond does. Support small, local business!
3. If you can’t shop local, at least save yourself some money. Coupon codes and deals are so easy to find. …you need two sites: slickdeals.net for deals, retailmenot.com for coupon codes. Also, do not be afraid to google. Type in the item name and brand, shop around. See where you can get a good coupon and maybe buy it there! Okay, on to the good stuff.
Small gifts (coworkers, friend of friend) and stocking stuffers.
Yes, Target does have many small convenient items, but year after year I always find myself looking at two places: The Container Store and Restoration Hardware. Not places you think of when you think gifts, but every year they provide a diverse amount of reasonably priced goods that are unique. It’s nice to give people something that is memorable. …maybe it’s useful, maybe it’s not.
Container Store tends to be more handy like this Tea Bag Buddy (holds in heat, manages the stringy bit, gives you something to squeeze the extra water out when you’re done!) or this re-usable cutlery set.
The holidays are the only time I approach Restoration Hardware for anything. The rest of the year they sell distressed bedroom sets and arctic fox fur BEAN BAGS. Not even kidding a little. But during the holidays they have great gifts. There’s a fair amount of items for ourdoory types like this swedish firesteel and a lot of items for kids like this prank kit or this voice changer. And the packaging is this wonderful retro style I adore.
General gift giving.
–Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store, based in New York, can only be described as every fun thing you could imagine. It is awesome. (If you live there, check it out, they say the website is just a fraction of what they offer. If you live in Houston, check out Candylicious for similar fun times. I used to work there and the owners are good guys.) From Glow In The Dark Stars to this classy metal flask to this beautiful foosball table they seem to have something for everyone.
–Fishs Eddy is a charming shop out of New York City that does dishes and serveware. Their stoneware has fantastic personality and vibrant colors. And, having purchased their wares before, I can assure you they pack items very well for shipping.
-Ohh, if I could, I would just shop at Crate and Barrel. Everything is just fantastic… and while there are some pricey things, a lot of their stock is affordable while not sacrificing design. Their holiday season collection is great (food/decorating/etc.), and they offer just a really solid selection of general home goods. The kitchen section is nice, but it isn’t unique by any stretch. (See my note about shopping local and price hunting!) If you’re looking for something a little younger feeling, check out their trendy sibling shop CB2. I love these tree bookends!
–Uncommon Goods is somewhere between lovely airport gift shop and rampant silliness. There’s jewelry, home decor, books, toys, gifts for new parents, art, and more. Their gift guides are usually pretty spot on, so use them to look around the site. I got this whiskey stone set for my father-in-law last year. This bonsai forest is pretty neat and the idea of an emergency clown nose just makes me laugh.
Etsy, etsy, etsy.
Etsy is this wonderful marketplace of fun and diverse goods. There’s art and jewelry, yes, but there’s a lot of functional items here too… crafted by hand (for the most part) by an independent artist. If you have time, consider looking around etsy to give a truly unique gift. Here’s a round up of shops and items I’m a fan of.
–Kim Westad makes beautiful porcelain pottery. Her pieces often have incredibly detailed dots forming patterns and texture. Her whirl bowl is one of my favorites.
–Lulu Bug Jewelry does silver pendants with colored concrete (!). It makes a neat visual effect. This little leaf necklace is small but cute. Jewelry doesn’t need to be huge to be interesting.
-There’s something very northern about Western Art Glass. It’s fish and leaves and just nice stained glass art. I like these leaf earrings and this fish seems like something my dad would hang up in his office.
–Gnome Sweet Gnome pretty much just makes these kleenex box whales. I mean there’s a couple other things, but… whale!
–Standard Design does quirky prints. I’m a fan of ‘Hello Darkness My Old Friend’. Also a bumper sticker.
–Avril Loreti has modern home goods and accessories. Like these paint chip table runners!
-The Dichroic Fused Glass Jewelry by ccvalenzo is truly art. Mostly nature scenes, they look painted in shadow on top of glass tiles, like little scenes dangling around your neck. There’s a lot of gifty stuff in this shop.
–Pica Pica Press is just quirky nerd jewelry. Weeeell, for the most part. I like these Pacman earrings and these triforce earrings really could pass as cute, normal jewelry to those not-in-the-know.
-Finally TippyThai Bags. I’m not normal one to squee over purses, but I like these bags A LOT. Like this one. And this one.
I hope all these links give you a starting point. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask someone what they want. They’ll appreciate it!