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Emily’s Most “Universally” Loved Gift Guide Yet (Great Stuff Almost Everyone Loves, We Hope)

Ah… gift guide season. Y’all, I think gifts are pretty personal to the receiver, and I don’t know all of your friends and family well enough to know what they would like 🙂 So I look at this as a hopeful service (that is, of course, part of our business) to either help foster ideas OR recommend stuff I truly love. For this year, I put each piece through a specific test – would one of my 30 to 40-year-old friends AND one of my boomer moms like this? If the answer is yes or even a strong maybe then that’s a pretty darn solid gift option (mostly for women, Brian’s guide is coming next week). Many of these things I have personally and love, and more importantly have used FOR YEARS. Some are elevated basics, others are decor pieces that I think work so well in many houses (and immediately make a room look more stylish). I’m a terrible gift receiver because I buy myself the fun stuff that I want, but what I don’t buy myself often are things I don’t know I need, or something that solves a problem that I didn’t realize bothered me (or maybe I didn’t want to spend money on the solution). I truly hope this list helps spark some ideas if nothing else.

  1. The Perfect Weekend Tote | 2. Multi-Pocket Canvas Market Tote | 3. Boat and Tote®

I have all three of these and they are EXCELLENT and I use them frequently. The large striped one is so good for holding a ton (snaps at the top, two different length handles for different uses) and looks the most stylish (I use this for kids’ sports on the weekend and design materials during the week). The farmers market bag is so good for making sure that your delicate fruits and veggies don’t get smooshed in a huge bag (each veggie gets a compartment). And if you want a bag that will hold up for DECADES, the classic L.L. Bean one is so strong and durable (and cool/strangely nostalgic). You can monogram that one, of course. We also use this one for sports, the boat, swimming, the beach – anything really. They are indestructible.

  1. New Balance 327 Sneakers | 2. Saucony Shadow 6000 Sneakers

For better or worse, name brands are back, and having logo’d sneakers is what we are all wearing. I’m into it and love these two above. I hold a lot of loyalty to Nike of course, so don’t forget these two:

  1. Nike Waffle One Vintage | 2. Nike Waffle Debut

Yes, the exposed waffle is in (a la ’70s vibes). None of these are “workout” shoes per se, just cool-looking shoes (and no offense to all of you who love the clunky cross trainers, but I find these far more flattering and elongating than chunky, heavier sneaker, FYI).

  1. Marley Jacket | 2. Roselle Half-Zip Fleece | 3. Women’s Bean’s Sherpa Fleece Jacket

I’ve dove straight into fleece culture up here (Did anybody else where them in the early 2000s to go out? Like with jeans and heels or was that just PNW culture?). I have/love #2 and it’s a great shape and so soft. I want #1 (that collar is so cute) and #3 is a classic (just size up – this brand can be too fitted for my preference).

  1. Classic Mini II | 2. UGG Tasman Slippers

Cheap slippers don’t last, but expensive slippers suck to buy for yourself – thus making them a great gift. And a fresh pair of Uggs is just WONDERFUL on Christmas morning. As an almost exclusive WFH person, I live in my Uggs and have the “mules” version for easy on and off, and the taller ones when it’s really cold and I want my ankles and calves to be as warm as possible.

  1. Women’s Wicked Good Shearling-Lined Slides | 2. Women’s Wicked Good Slippers

I’m sure there are other excellent slipper brands, but these have great arch support, have a sole, are slip-resistant (and can be “shoe” enough to go get the mail or grab something from your car on non-rainy days), and yet they aren’t heavy. I’ve really bought into this brand and am always open to others, but kinda WHY? Also, I can wear them without socks and the fur hasn’t gotten disgusting with over a year of consistent use (I realize that’s gross, but I also appreciate that they make the fur durable to sweat).

  1. Clean Elevation Legging

Vuori has got me. Not all their products look good on me, but these buttery soft leggings are what I prefer to live in most days (as you know by now). They are so incredibly soft and are not too thin (thick enough to hide bumps) nor too thick (not hot, constricted, and stuffy). And most importantly they have a wide waistband that doesn’t cut in even on my most bloated days. I’m between a 4-6 and I wear a medium, btw. I have them in patterns but the fabric feels slightly different (less heathered) so I prefer my black and navy blue versions.

  1. Madison Varsity Pom Hat | 2. Cresta Rib Beanie

Cheap hats can be cute, but also pill or don’t hold their shape. I don’t have the Evereve one (but it has that perfect playful + classic vibe). I DO have that Varley one that I love and probably wouldn’t have thought to buy it had it not been for a partnership. But now that I own it, I find myself looking for it and only it every time I want to wear one. I have big hair and sometimes slimmer beanies just look a little dumb, but this is chunky enough and I think looks good on my noggin.

  1. Unscented Totem Pillar Candle | 2. Bubble Cube Shaped Candle | 3. Unscented Totem Taper Candles (Set of 2)

What we all love about candles is that they are consumable, so even IF they aren’t their perfect style, they can melt down and the gift receiver doesn’t have to store them or find a place for them. These more sculptural candles are becoming more and more affordable. Love all of these and are way cooler than typical tapers or pillars.

  1. Sway Candelabra | 2. Handmade Beech Wood Stack Candle Holders | 3. Balance Candle Holder

#1 is both extremely on-trend and totally classic. I literally don’t know a house that it wouldn’t work in (modern, traditional, contemporary, classic – it’s all the things). #2 are so pretty, hand-painted wood, and come in many colors (I love the natural and green personally). #3 might be more specific (comes in black too) but it’s very cool for how affordable it is so it could/might impress someone with good style.

  1. Garden Mint | 2. No. 06 Neige de Printemps Candle

Admittedly I’m not as picky as many people with my scented candles (I usually have a gifting closet from brands and just light and use whatever I reach for first). But Sara treated it like her job/science so I asked her for the BEST smelling picks (which are also so pretty). She wrote a whole post about it years ago, too. So for the picky candle lover, I feel confident recommending these two.

  1. Cast Iron Match Striker | 2. Candle Snuffer

I never knew I needed a tall candle snuffer til last year when I blew one out, getting the wax all over the art behind the candle. Now I use a snuffer and it’s not only kinda fun but obviously way less dangerous than blowing on them OR trying to pull down a candle from a mantel with liquid wax dripping everywhere. Oh, and having matches handy is ALWAYS nice, especially when they come in a cute striker🙂

  1. Bon Wooden Tray | 2. Nonslip Rectangular Wood Tray

These might look boring, but y’all trays are a household NECESSITY. #1 is by Skagerak and they come in different sizes and stains. I have probably four of them total. Some are in bathrooms (on the toilet, on the vanity) the other larger ones are on the dining table (to. hold office stuff). The key to a good tray is SOME sort of design detail – #1 has it – the foot, the joinery, the high-quality grain. Just really good. #2 is a total classic and I think is best on almost all ottoman or coffee tables. It can lean more casual, less fancy – and can also be a bread server.

  1. KHEM Studios Circle Serving Board | 2. Murphy Cutting Board | 3. Walnut Cutting Board

I don’t know one person who doesn’t like a pretty cutting board for cheese or function and one with a small design detail makes it feel special (and therefore giftable). All three of these are classic, pretty, look high-end, and can be both serving ware and used for chopping (I personally just keep my pretty boards for serving). I have had #3 for years and I’m very interested in buying #2.

  1. Flores Ceramic Bowl | 2. Pearl Ceramic Serving Bowl

I don’t know one person who cooks who doesn’t like a nice classic, pretty salad or serving bowl (especially for guests). Both of these feel like they could mix with a lot of different decor/styles and occasions (and all seasons). I tend to not buy themed serving ware (fine I have one big pink for Easter and one red for Christmas), and instead just love having a lot of pretty things that work together. I endorse these two.

  1. Food52 x Dansk Købenstyle Butter Warmer

I saw this on a gift guide last year “FOR SOUP LOVERS” and I immediately clicked on it and have since bought it. The case for this is as follows: When you need to heat up your extra soup and you don’t want to wait for the whole pot to warm up, but the microwave can be annoying. So just scoop a large cup into this little pot on the stove (induction, too!), and then since it’s so darn cute you don’t feel like a college student eating out of the pot at the table. I LOVE THIS. It would also be a great boxed gift with a soup cookbook and a cutting board/knife.

  1. Hansa Vase | 2. Joaquin Bud Vase

Think nightstand, bathroom, next to the sink – anywhere want a little bit of color and life you can add a small bud vase with a foraged leaf or flower. These are great because the shape is interesting and the narrow mouth makes one flower good enough. Again – we have a bud vase in every bathroom and it’s just nice (we have dried flowers in ours).

  1. Simple Oil & Vinegar Cruets | 2. Porcelain Butter Dish | 3. Scallop Edge Pinch Bowls (Set of 3)

Pretty oil/vinegar glass sets make me soooo happy, even these which are more affordable. If you want to up your game think about adding a nice bottle of oil and vinegar with them. #2 – As I’m writing this I’m realizing that a covered butter dish is in fact VERY specific and random. An average butter dish would be a legit bad gift, but a pretty one like this is such a lovely thing to display on your counter (if they like warm counter butter). Maybe gift this with a package of your favorite fancy butter?? And then #3 – tiny salt or appetizer bowls (think charcuterie plate where you need bowls for olives, fig butter, etc). I LOVE a pretty small bowl probably more than is normal.

  1. Danish Grinder | 2. Peugeot Paris 7″ Natural Pepper Mill

I haven’t used #1 but I’ve had my eye on it forever. It’s such a pretty shape, could go with any style, and please note that there is both light wood and dark wood options. I truly wish I had purchased #2 for my kitchen because it’s so classic and WORKS very well. No one wants to buy themselves a $60 pepper mill, but yes, please I’ll take that as a gift (especially if you put it with some Jacobson salt and a pretty salt dish and spoon).

  1. Maldon Salt | 2. Jacobsen Salt Co. Salt Sourced 8 Vial Set | 3. Flamingo Estate Heritage Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I love a gourmet cooking consumable. Listen, as a Portlander I love Jacobson salt (made here), but I ALSO really love Maldon so much. I think this is an excellent hostess gift for someone you might not know super well. No one hates delicious salt and olive oil (just give olive oil in a really pretty bottle like that one from Flamingo Estate:)).

  1. Madera White Coffee Mug | 2. Handmade Fluted Ceramic Mug | 3. White Cloud Mug

While I have, and use these Target mugs for years every day, giving just one feels like an odd gift because it’s not super special. But these three all feel gift-worthy (homemade or design-forward) and I searched for a long time on Etsy to find them. Also no offense, but don’t give me a low wide mug – I like my coffee to stay HOT.

  1. Laguiole ® Oak Steak Knives (Set of 6) | 2. Nancy Silverton Knives | 3. French 4-Piece Steak Knife Set

Maybe this is me just shopping, but we don’t have steak knives and haven’t for years (we have two that we share and pass around when people are over which is pretty cool!). I’m buying myself either #1 (classic) or #3. The #2 set was sent as a gift so I don’t have YEARS of experience vouching for it, but I have many Made-In pans and love them (they have induction pans, YAY!). They are the first knives that I’ve ever wanted to care for and not just throw in a drawer because they are so sharp and so pretty. The whole set is obviously a splurge and I think that the chef’s knife is the most universal. Get your winter soup skills ready!!

  1. Rosewood Cheese Knive Set | 2. Shapeshifter Platter

Little things like beautiful cheese knives or a stunning platter aren’t also top priority when buying things for the home which is why it’s a great gift! I like to ere on the side of “simple but special” (DRINK!) and both of these absolutely make the cut. No cheese pun intended:)

  1. Faux Fur 70″x55″ Throw Blanket | 2. Lanai

I have both of these and LOVE them. The faux fur is incredible (it’s so soft and luxe). I may be gifting these to family because I don’t know anyone in the PNW (or northern, high-altitude areas) that would not love the softest blanket ever. #2 is by Happy Habitat – a small company I’ve loved FOREVER and has a million different colors and styles of throws. So while that one up there might be style-specific, there are so many to choose from and it’s truly a maker I love. These types of throws will absolutely add to the design/style of your room (especially if you have a more basic sofa that you want to jazz up).

  1. Italian Velvet Pillow Cover | 2. Lumbar Faux Leather Channel Stitch Decorative Throw Pillow | 3. JH x Tensira Kendall Diamond Pillow

I also have both of these and love them for different reasons. The Rejuvenation velvet pillows are extremely soft, luxe, smooshy, and cozy. If you like a firm pillow their inserts aren’t for you (you can always buy the cover and have a stiffer insert), but I love their inserts as well. As you know I’ve used #2 on many a bed (one single pillow FTW), and recently put one each on our matching sofas which looks GREAT. So affordable, stylish, and timeless (I’ve loved these for five years now since we revealed the primary bedroom of the mountain house). If you want to splurge on a patterned pillow I love #3 (the whole collaboration is awesome).

  1. Merrick Tasseled Cotton and Wool Area Rug | 2. Citra Grey Hand Knotted Wool Rug

As you’ve probably heard by now we just launched our first-ever EHD collection with Rugs USA! The first time I got this rug, The Merrick, into my home I fell in love with it and it reminded me for the millionth time how awesome and versatile a soft neutral rug is. So while this type of gift is more of a splurge, for someone looking for a truly great rug I can’t recommend these two more. The other rug (#2) is one we’ve used in SOOO MANY projects in all different styles. It’s more expensive than ours but definitely at 10/10 too.

  1. Linen Duvet Cover Set | 2. Classic Percale Hardcore Sheet Bundle

It seems very controversial to love both Brooklinen AND Parachute, but I really, really do (for different reasons). I am a percale sheet lover through and through (tight weave, crisp) and both of these brands nail these. They are extremely soft (way softer than other low-end or high-end competitors if you ask me). I love Parachute’s soft colors so much (we have both the blue and rose on our bed) and I love Brooklinen’s very simple and subtle stripe and grid patterns so much (I don’t do all bright white sheets anymore, but don’t love dark sheets so a slight pattern or a soft pastel is my preference). We put the linen duvet up there (and it’s super popular) and I really love it visually, but being a linen sheet sleeper is very specific (Brian Henderson will change the sheets in the middle of the night if someone accidentally puts linen on ours – it’s a real thing). So if you don’t know that they love linen then go for a percale. But a luxe sheet set or duvet cover is an EXTREMELY good gift (not something you want to spend your own money on). I also really love the linen bedspread from Parachute – so pretty, heavy, and never needs steaming.

  1. Mercado Floor Baskets | 2. Woven Maple Storage Basket

Know someone who cares about home style and design but might be on a budget? No one wants to buy themselves a beautiful laundry or blanket basket, but I get such joy out of both of these, visually. I have #1 (the low one) that holds our magazines and has for YEARS. Then #2 you can see versions of this wooden shaker basket all over my house (they aren’t good for toys or heavy things, more clothes/blankets).

  1. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter

Once a year a product that comes highly recommended changes my routine permanently. I have worn the same seven makeup items for over a decade (NARS Orgasm blush, Armani Lunimous Silk foundation, MAC Eye Brow Styler in taupe, Clinique Chubby Stick lip gloss – I have lash extensions so I don’t put on eyeliner or mascara). I just don’t have the love (or need) to experiment on my face probably because I’m not skilled at self-application and I like a more natural look. Anyway, this highlighter is so good, year-round, especially on my cheeks. It sold out a ton the first year and I panicked and bought two backup bottles.

  1. Caribou X Boot Chelsea | 2. Anaelle Thigh High Boots | 3. The Dimes Kitten-Heel Boot

I chose these three for very different reasons/functions/occasions. #1 is super stylish and yet totally waterproof (specifically great for wetter climates). I wear these every wet day when I still want to look cool. #2 is so beautiful – far over the knee which is the current “boot du jour,” but I think these will be “in” for decades. I feel very sexy and pretty in these (and they come in blue which I kinda regret not getting). #3 I have found myself wearing so frequently because they go with every length and width of pant (skinny, wide, boy, flare – all of them) and give a lift without being uncomfortable heels. They are also elongating and flattering.

  1. Classic Chelsea Boot | 2. Heeled Chelsea Boot | 3. Hillary Croc Heeled Boot

I also want to always put Nisolo on this list because their boots are so well made, classic, comfortable long-lasting, and sustainable. I love their Chelsea and their heeled Chelsea a lot. Intentionally Blank is also another very cool more trendy boot brand (and they are long-time readers here and say that my early promotion helped their business take off, which made me feel so good and I love how they’ve blown up.

  1. The Basketweave Mini Crossbody Tote | 2. Grande Fanny

I read in the news how the younger generations aren’t into large handbags, which I totally get. I obviously couldn’t have lived in New York without a big one, but I certainly opt for smaller if I don’t need a lot. I’m a huge Clare V. enthusiast (yes, they are still an “IT LA girl brand” and YES, they are splurgy), but the attention to detail and how long they last is so impressive and stylish. I was also really impressed with #1 that I recently got for a Madewell partnership (I got it in black, but meant to order that beautiful blue) and feel it’s a solid alternative that is still timeless. Just realized they are both woven leather, which I guess is a thing 🙂

  1. The Transport Bucket Bag | 2. Eden Carryall

For those of us who have to bring our laptop on every errand/meeting, I need a larger more structured bag. The green bag is beautiful, understated but that color is so pretty and stylish. I have that black Parker Clay one (#2) for eight years and still use it (it’s not big enough for the largest laptops FYI). They are also a great company that I love to support.

  1. Poche | 2. Kimberly

I recently dove into this trend (for the Taylor Swift concert) and am into it. I have #1 and use it for when I obviously don’t want a bigger bag (fits cell phone, credit card holder, keys, lipstick but that’s it). It makes any outfit look cooler IMHO. Then #2 I’m SO tempted to buy and I hear really good things! For how often I need to find my phone all day every day, inside and out, I think this is such a solid option (note that you don’t have to take it out to take a picture – that is KEY). I’m going to send the link to Brian to buy me for Christmas. It’s one of the few things on this list that I think I really could use/need.

  1. Kindle Paperwhite | 2. Runner 60 Wireless Running Earbuds

I’m always trying to convert y’all from book to Kindle not because I don’t like physical books (I do!) but because the sheer convenience and nighttime reading ability of the digital book is life-changing. I was anti-Kindle too, now I don’t think I could live without it. Then for my headphones (remember I listen to no less than 10 hours of podcasts a week), these stay in my ears while cleaning/walking (I truly don’t understand the Apple earbuds obsession – those things fall out immediately and are so expensive!!) and the battery of these last for 3-4 hours (think a full Sunday clean session without having to recharge – and here’s a hack – I only have one in at a time because I like to hear my surroundings so I can get 6-7 hours out of a full charge). Do they look dorky? Sure! Do I care if I look dorky while I’m walking the dogs at 6 am in the pitch dark wearing a headlamp and a reflector vest? CLEARLY!

  1. Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum Ampoule | 2. ExfoliKate™ Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

This Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum was recommended to me by my MIL who has insanely beautiful skin. It’s amazing for my dry skin too. Also, I’ve been using ExfoliKate for years as an exfoliating mask and it’s a noticeable difference when done with it. I think they call it the “10-minute facial” or something super catchy like that. Plus, it’s bright green so it feels like it MUST be healthy for my face. I even “made” my staff try it I love it so much!

  1. Red Light Face Mask | 2. Dyson Airstrait™ Straightener

The beauty industry has my number but I truly try to pick my indulgences that are actually effective. But I know myself and I won’t use anything daily if I don’t actually see/feel results. The Dyson Airstrait™ Straightener was a game changer for me with curly hair plus PNW humidity. It’s not perfect (I still have to dry my roots) but it smooths my hair LIKE CRAZY. And it claims no heat damage (but common sense tells me it’s still not great). I do not think this is for people with naturally tame or straight hair, but if you have naturally frizzy hair (hi, me) and have to blow it out, this blows it out so smoothly. Then the infrared mask – I’m a huge fan of the sauna blanket as you know (less so in the summer, but come Jan/Feb I HUNKER DOWN), but when I use this mask frequently I notice a difference in tone and clarity of my skin. It just looks happier. It’s not instantly transformative but with consistency, I have found my skin looks brighter and more even (and I’m hoping that it prevents more fine lining).

I feel like I could add to this forever and ever, but with pieces that you’ve heard me talk about for years, which feels redundant. These days I just have a lot of what I need (privileged) and if I add something it’s because it fills a gap (steak knives) or is really special (thigh-high boots, LOL) or something that’s vintage/custom. But I truly hope that some of these beautiful pieces at least spark some good ideas or give you confidence that while these might not be the newest in tech or fashion, they are solid, high-quality pieces that come very vetted by me and my team. I don’t believe a lot on the internet these days and I know you are going to be marketed LIKE CRAZY this next month – to the point of exhaustion (us, too). But I promise on the lives of my team that we will try really hard to recommend things that we truly love and use 🙂

In fact, Caitlin on my team reached out to many of our absolute favorite brands and asked them to be part of a special exclusive coupon code just for EHD readers of some of our favorite things. Some are just for a few days (because the discount is high) while others last the whole month. All VERY GOOD BRANDS. So if you aren’t part of our email list (that we don’t leak or sell, EVER) sign up to get the exclusive EHD discount. They are very very good. Happy gift shopping month 🙂

Opening Image Credits: Photography by Kaitlin Green

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Jess L
5 months ago

From someone who doesn’t enjoy gift guide season… this is a great gift guide. Very thoughtful. Thank you!

Emma
5 months ago

That particular LL Bean sherpa runs quite large – I wear XS P in mine (5’4, 135 lbs, 34C). The S was enormous.

ADL
5 months ago

This list is awesome! Buying many of the items on it now … but just wanted to let you know that the link for Tray #2 is not working. Once it is, I will be buying that too!

Sarah
5 months ago

Awesome!
it’s very helpful when the prude is shown next to the image

Monica
5 months ago

This is my kind of gift guide! Also, it seems like the form for getting on your email list is broken. I’d
love to be on it!

kim
5 months ago

Great ideas in this gift guide. Very helpful. I particularly like the format with max 3 items at a time — it is so easier to use! Thank you.

N.
5 months ago

Please fix the link to the second tray! I’ve been searching for a good ottoman tray!

Timmi
5 months ago

Be sure and send that link to Brian for the Bandolier phone cover ! I have used them for years and absolutely could not live without one! I use one of the slimmer straps so that I can always have it in my tote and actually never take the Bandolier cover off of my phone.

Beth
5 months ago

I so appreciate a gift guide of things you really have/use rather than just “this is out there.” It’s much more fun to read and much more useful. Thanks.

Riman Banik
5 months ago

For a person who finds the gift guide season monotonous, This gift guide is excellent. Very considerate. I’m grateful.

pm
5 months ago

Lovely items on this list. However, everything is sooo expensive! My sisters and I, in an effort to be frugal, set a limit of about $20-30 each. Would be great to have a gift list of items that are under $30.

KL
5 months ago

I’ve been reading you for years and never even knew that you had an email list!

J
5 months ago

Nike waffles are possibly the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn!! Highly recommend them. This is a super helpful guide, now i know what to get myself for xmas LOL