As a great poet once said, are you too good for your home?
No matter how good (or otherwise) you and your home are, everyone’s probably a bit sick of being stuck inside after a 2020 of self-isolation, quarantine, general exhaustion, and existential dread. And as the weather cools down in the Northern Hemisphere, with no sign of the pandemic abating in the U.S. and UK, there’s a lot more time at home to come. But we all deserve to feel comfortable and inspired in our personal palaces, and that definitely goes for the people you’re buying gifts for these holidays.
So here are some ideas — some a little luxe, most cheap and cheerful — that will help brighten up anyone’s space and make it feel fresher, cosier, and a nicer place to be.
Heading into a socially distanced, cautious winter, you can never have enough blankets. One for styling your bed! One for throwing casually over the arm of the couch! One for actually wrapping up on the couch in a delicious fuzzy human burrito of snack crumbs and sneaky farts! And come the summer, we’ll all be having a lot of picnics in the great, well-ventilated outdoors, and you’ve just gotta have a rug for that.
I personally covet Seljak’s heirloom-quality recycled-wool blankets, but an affordable, soft chenille throw from a homewares chain (just take it out of the packaging and wrap it in a nice ribbon to make it look homey!) or a vintage mohair Etsy find will feel like a warm (and safe) hug when they’re snuggled up with it on the couch.
Price: Seljak Lune blanket, AU$329.
Take iso cocktail king Stanley Tucci as your inspiration and shout a loved one a proper metal cocktail shaker for whipping up whiskey sours and Penicillins in the comfort of their own homes. Nothing makes you feel quite as luxe as casually mixing up some martinis before dinner in something that’s not a protein shaker bottle.
A note: Tools like stirrers, jiggers, muddlers and the like often come in a smart set with a classic Cobbler shaker (the kind with a domed lid and little metal cap), but especially if you’re on a budget, they’re not all necessary for good basic drinks. A strainer and a solid two-sided jigger is all you really need. (And a Boston tin-on-tin shaker is the best choice for beginners, as anyone who’s accidentally smashed a pint glass trying to get it out of a shaker base will attest.)
Price: Cresimo Boston shaker 4-piece set, $23.95.
And if budget allows, pair it with…
Another thing people often don’t buy for themselves, but is (almost) always welcome. Local distillers who specialise in beautiful botanical gins or artisanal ryes are a nice choice, but something classic like a bottle of good sipping mezcal (like Ilegal) will also give a special someone a luxe alternative to the various wallet-friendly bottles of 2020-go-away-juice that got many of us through the year.
And if your recipient isn’t a drinker, these days there are plenty of lovely non-alcoholic “spirits” that have the same energy without the booze: Kin Euphorics, Seedlip’s “distilled botanicals”, the vermouth-like Proteau. Earlier this year I tried a “nogroni” using Lyre’s zero-proof amaro-, gin-, and vermouth-style drinks, and it still totally hit the spot.
Price: Deepwell’s Botanical Dry Gin, $36 from New York Craft Spirits; Lyre’s Italian Orange, $35.99 from Lyre’s.
Don’t underestimate the power of a bright, comfy throw pillow to spruce up the look of a couch, bed, or chair as well as making it cosier. Scour Etsy or online boutiques for vintage and handmade finds if you’re after something unique, look for velvet or corduroy covers in bright, warm tones of rust and mustard that will go with just about any interior style, or just buy them one of those Nicolas Cage face pillows — truly a classic design.
Price: Round velvet pillow, $28 at West Elm.
New linen, bamboo, or cotton bedsheets are the next best thing to… no, actually there’s nothing better than new bedsheets.
If you’re on a smaller budget, a set of new pillowcases is a lovely option. Go for soothing shades of linen, a cute novelty pair, or even face-soothing silk for the skincare nerd in your life.
Price: Oasis Fine Linens Bamboo full sheet set, $79.99 from Amazon.
Whether it’s sprinkling shichimi togarashi over instant ramen or heating up disappointing delivery with an array of hot sauces, nothing has helped elevate my many, many meals at home this year like my growing collection of spicy condiments. A local hot sauce, some lao gan ma (aka chili crisp), or milder savoury sprinkles like togarashi and aleppo pepper can add a new oomph to eating in, whether your recipient is more into sourdough starters or Seamless.
If they’re really into their Scovilles, a hot sauce subscription box service in your area is only a quick Bing away — or hit up your favourite Asian supermarket and make a cute little DIY hamper.
Price: Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp, $16.95, from Milk Street.
The kids you have when you can’t afford to have kids! Seriously, though, many indoor plants help purify the air and all are simply soothing to look at.
For beginners or those stuck in tiny apartments without much in the way of natural light, pick something simple and near-unkillable like a pothos, snake plant, peace lily, or a succulent. For someone with a thriving indoor jungle, a variegated calathea, a bathroom-loving fern, or an orchid will fit right in. Throw it in a cute pot for an extra nice touch.
Price: Phalaenopsis orchid, $14.99, from IKEA.
You can’t go wrong with a pretty abstract print, vintage movie poster, or even something you create yourself, and your loved one will think of you. Combine a couple of their interests to find something that feels even more them — like this elevated meme-inspired print set, perfect for the Extremely Online, keen decorator, and Real Housewives fans alike.
Price: Ukiyo-e style ‘Woman yelling at cat meme’ prints, from $49.98 for set of 2, from Society6.
This is a bit of a wildcard, but if your recipient lives somewhere they’re allowed to repaint, it’s both a fun* project and an amazing refresh for those walls they’ve been staring at since March. For some reason loads of trendy house-paint startups have sprung up recently, like Clare (a Black-owned business), Backdrop, and Australian company that won’t stop advertising to me on Instagram Tint. These companies offer an ~aesthetically pleasing~ experience, with a leaner, more “curated” colour selection than your average hardware chain. (And if they can’t paint walls, this is still perfect for that one friend who loves a project and is always “rescuing” random furniture items off the street insisting “it just needs a coat of paint!”)
*Mashable takes no responsibility for any fights over masking tape placement.
Price: Backdrop starts at $59 per gallon can; Clare at $54.
Or Disney+, or Mubi, or anything. Doesn’t even matter if they already have it — there is always more to watch somewhere, and treating someone to a year (or even just a month or two) of delicious, delicious content is one of the simplest ways to say “I love you so please stay home there’s a pandemic on OK??”
Price: Netflix gift card from $25 on Amazon.