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Jess’ Gift Guide: “I Just Want Useful (But Pretty) Things This Year”

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it’s 2020 and “things” feel less and less important or if it’s that I’m in my 30s and get more excited over a cordless Dyson vacuum than a pretty pair of new heels. Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE a beautiful shoe but I’m just going to get waaaaayyyyy more use out of that vacuum (FYI I have and love that vacuum and highly recommend to anyone who is thinking about making the purchase). So that’s the idea driving this gift guide. Now as we go into the first section you might be confused as to why it’s home decor… “Jess, you JUST SAID this was a ‘practical’ gift guide” here’s my explanation…

Beautiful home decor fills my soul and likely a lot of you too since you are reading a design site. I also think we can look at something being practical and something being an investment as the same thing. I know that they are different at first glance but isn’t it practical to invest in something you love (or know your loved one will love) due to its higher quality??? Ok, justification time is over so let’s talk about these special decor items:)

1. Not Work Related Wing Vase | 2. Vase Wall Charm | 3. Landscape Collage 40 | 4. Moroccan Checkered Rug

1. Not Work Related Wing Vase: A sculptural vase will ALWAYS be an amazing gift and last you forever. I love the bold yet simple angles and while I’m not a traditionally “purple person” I love the unexpected softness of the lavender (but it also comes in black and white). Plus it’s handmade by ceramicist, Sarah Hussaini. I know this may sound a little “out there” to some of you, but I am telling you that there is a different and special energy that you can feel from a piece that’s handmade.
2. Vase Wall Charm: I saw these a few months ago and have been obsessing over them ever since. They are 9″ wall charms. How cute is that name?? Plus for those of you who have design living friends, these are the perfect “3D” element to a gallery wall or would look awesome framed. Oh, they are also handpainted:)
3. Landscape Collage 40: I have been eyeing Jordan Sullivan’s work for a while now. I love how calm it makes me feel when I look at it. This one in particular is a collage so it has texture too! Art is one of those things that I think a lot people don’t think they need. Gifting art is such a personal and beautiful way to make someone feel loved and makes their space better.
4. Moroccan Checkered Rug: Did you think I would go without recommending at least one checkered item?? Ha, no way! Y’all this rug is so freaking cool and comes in a bunch of different colors and sizes. The reviews are amazing and say that it’s super soft. Basically, if I got this as a gift I would be over the freaking moon.

1. Standing Knots | 2. Line Drawing Series | 3. Metal Wire Basket | 4. Loren Pillow

1. Standing Knots: These are the mini (and more affordable) versions of my beloved squiggle by Kaite Gong. This is another REALLY special, handmade piece that would make an incredible gift. I really love the braid but you really can’t go wrong with any of the options. So go give a beautiful piece of art to a special person in your life AND support a female-owned small business. Win-win!
2. Line Drawing Series: Another reeeeealllly special piece of “non framed” wall art by the extremely talented Cindy Hsu Zell. There has yet to be a time when I’m scrolling through Instagram to not stop and stare and one of her pieces. They are textured, elegant and so unique. I would probably scream, cry and then jump up and down for longer than socially acceptable if I unboxed one of her pieces on Christmas morning (or any morning for that matter).
3. Metal Wire Basket: Baskets are also ALWAYS useful. And this one from H&M is so cute, it’s under $20 and could be used a ton of different ways. And if you wanted to up the ante, you could fill it with something else that’s fun (like compliments:))
4. Loren Pillow: As I’ve been pinning for my new apartment (!), I’ve been really into vintage (or vintage-looking) florals. This pillow is colorful without shouting at you, gives a very romantic vibe, and just looks like I want to cozy up to it by the fire. I just think it’s beautiful and if you have a friend or family member that has similar taste, this would be a great gift.

Now let’s move onto my promised “practical” gifts…

1. Bubble Umbrella | 2. A5 Softcover Notebook | 3. Black Step Ladder | 4. Secateurs

1. Bubble Umbrella: Last week, my brother called me and told me that his fiancée wanted a clear dome umbrella for the holidays. They live in Portland so an umbrella is likely the most practical gift I could give. So I went searching and found this cutie. It’s simple, protective, and super affordable. Sam, if you are reading this I hope you like it!!
2. A5 Softcover Notebook: This notebook is made out of recycled STONE!!!!!! Like the pages are stone. WILD. I think we should all be writing down our thoughts and feelings about this time. I mean we are living in a very historical moment. But back to the notebook. How cute would it be to write little notes on random pages as an unexpected surprise for your giftee. I did that once in a cookbook I gave my best friend for her bridal shower and she loved it.
3. Black Step Ladder: I’m not a tall person and have yet to live in an apartment that didn’t require me to own a step stool. I doubt I’m the only one. So as I was searching, this one popped up and I have to say that it’s one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen. It’s black, sleek and if I ever have had a hope in looking cool on a step ladder, it would be on this one hands down. So do your friend or family member a favor and replace that old one they have that’s falling apart. They will thank you AND feel super cool doing it:)
4. Secateurs: Everyone should have a good pair of secateurs. I’m not in any way a gardener but every time I buy a bouquet of flowers I wish I had a pair. These are beautiful and classic and anyone would love them.

1. The Trio of Knives | 2. Silpat Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat | 3. Plissé Electric Kettle | 4. Bamboo Mixing Bowls | 5. Ninja 4qt Air Fryer | 6. Handmade Distressed Blue Ceramic Plates

1. The Trio of Knives: This is a gift that I never thought I would love so much. But they are AMAZING! I actually own them and not only are they beautiful but they have made cooking more enjoyable. I’ve heard that good knives are a game-changer but as a non-chef, I didn’t understand until now. These also come in a black and dark gray-blue (which would have been my second choice:)) If you want to really knock this gift up a notch, they sell cutting boards in very pretty colors. Also if my dad is reading this (he’s definitely not) I would like this copper core stainless steel pan.
2. Silpat Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat: I own these and love them. Mainly because they create less waste for the environment but also because to me, they just look chic. Plus they also sell these storage bands that are nearly identical to a slap bracelet. Man the 90s were a time:)
3. Plissé Electric Kettle: My god is this a beautiful electric kettle! I haven’t owned one in a long time but since I now have a human-sized kitchen I think it’s time to reinvest. This is for sure a “leave out on the counter” kettle and would be a great gift for anyone who loves tea, Cup Noddles, hot chocolate… so everyone. But actually how funny would it be to give this beautiful kettle paired with a box of Cup Noddles??
4. Bamboo Mixing Bowls: So I had big plans to show you how I made my old kitchen functional for real cooking because apparently until quarantine I wasn’t doing that. Unfortunately, my move happened so it didn’t make sense to shoot it. But these mixing bowls were a part of the design and I love them. Full disclosure though, I bought the black ones (same maker) only after seeing the colorful ones which I might have opted for had I known. Either way they are great, sustainably-made, and dishwasher safe.
5. Ninja 4qt Air Fryer: I just want one so bad. I have heard so many great things and this one is highly reviewed. Think how easy making sweet potato croutons could be! If you have any thoughts let me know in the comments.
6. Handmade Distressed Blue Ceramic Plates: I know Emily already recommended these in her post, but I guess that just makes these VERY EHD approved. They are so freaking beautiful and special. If I still had open shelving they would have been my first purchase easy.

1. Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash | 2. Compostable Sponge Cloths | 3. Farmhouse Pottery Salt & Cellar Gift Set

1. Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash: Ok, hear me out. $42 for handsoap feels like an actual crime and I only purchased it initially because the guy working at the shop was SO helpful and I was the only customer in the store so I felt like I couldn’t back out after hearing the price. BUT with that said, it was one of the best purchases. It feels like a treat every time you wash your hands because it smells incredible and is a mini exfoliant, making them so soft. Oh and it lasts a very long time so again, an investment initially but ultimately pretty practical. Plus we need to keep washing our hands!
2. Compostable Sponge Cloths: Sustainable and beautiful. After Caitlin sang their praises I have wanted them ever since. I am a paper towel person and realllllly want to kick that bad habit in 2021 for good. So these are a great gift for anyone because we all wash dishes and make messes.
3. Farmhouse Pottery Salt & Cellar Gift Set: I can’t remember if I got this for Christmas last year or the year before but it has been an unexpected kitchen MVP. I remember opening it thinking “o wow beautiful but am I really going to use it??” And boy do I! The easy salt access is a dream and it is indeed beautiful. Such a great gift.

1. Black Fig + Rose Candle | 2. Tatine Forest Floor Glass Candle | 3. Redoux Candle “529

1. Black Fig + Rose Candle: Ok, this is going to sound weird but this candle smells like Brady circa 2016 which means it smells like the EHD office when I first started. My dad gave it to me for my birthday this year and after a couple of hours of trying to place the scent, I was like, “It’s the old office!” First off, Brady is one of those people that always smells awesome (something I’ve never been able to achieve. Does anyone else feel like perfume only lasts like an hour on them?). Because of this the office always smelled really nice. So it’s a very nostalgic scent for me personally but is also just a great smelling candle.
2. Tatine Forest Floor Glass Candle: Sara introduced me to this candle brand and it’s easily one of my all-time favorites. Luxury at its finest and comes in the prettiest glass container. I would have them in every room if I could… they aren’t cheap but they are worth it and a crazy wonderful gift.
3. Redoux Candle “529”: In case you missed my love letter to this candle a few months ago (was there wine involved when I wrote it? I’ll never tell), this candle smells like pure joy. Plus it’s more on the affordable side for a luxury candle so it’s a great one to buy for a few people or stock up yourself.

1. Portable Ceramic Space Tower Heater | 2. Kodak Luma 150 Pocket Projector | 3. Lexon OBLIO UV Sanitizing Wireless Charging Station

1. Portable Ceramic Space Tower Heater: No fireplace? No problem! Space heaters (while should be used carefully) can be a godsend. In case you’ve never lived in New York before they turn the heating pipes on or lived in LA and forgot it actually does get pretty cold, space heaters are everything. I love that this one also looks like a mini fireplace.
2. Kodak Luma 150 Pocket Projector: I think I’ve decided that until I can afford The Frame tv, I’m going to either use my computers (what I’ve been doing for years, except when my ex and I moved in together and that was his non-negotiable) or get a projector. And look at how cute and small this little guy is! Perfect for storing away until it’s showtime. It also looks super easy to use which I need when it comes to anything tech-related.
3. Lexon OBLIO UV Sanitizing Wireless Charging Station: I am the quintessential “sorry, my phone is dying” friend. I have also now turned into the “all I do is stare at a screen and now need a stronger glasses prescription” person during this pandemic. So with that said this little gadget could be THE answer. I mean it chargers, sanitizes, AND prohibits you from looking at your phone while working its magic. It also comes in white!
4. 2-Port Wall Charger: Like I said, my phone is somehow always dying but for some reason I have yet to buy more than one charger. It’s so dumb. So if I got a charger for Christmas I would be pumped. Likely someone in your life would feel the same.

1. Offline Activities | 2. Actually Curious – Happy Hour Edition | 3. HOOD CENTURY: 16 Modern Architecture Style Flashcards | 4. John Derian Playing Cards

1. Offline Activities: Ok maybe these shouldn’t be categorized as practical but they are necessary. Now that we are month 2893475343453945 into this pandemic, it can feel hard to think of fun random things to do that aren’t tech-related. We all need a break! So this fun (and also pretty) book is such a great gift.
2. Actually Curious – Happy Hour Edition: There are few things I love more than having deep conversations with friends. What’s more special than getting to know the people in your life even better. These cards are such a great way to bust out of the “well, how is your quarantine today?” routine. And what a fun way to continue to connect with your long-distance friends!
3. HOOD CENTURY: 16 Modern Architecture Style Flashcards: First off follow this Instagram account now. Then if you have any architecture or design-loving friends in your life, these flashcards are for them. It’s easy to drive past old buildings in neighborhoods that have been historically disenfranchised and not understand/fully appreciate their history and architectural significance. Jerald “Coop” Cooper decided to change that by making education and fun (and really cool) flashcards.
4. John Derian Playing Cards: There is something so nice about playing cards and these are BEAUTIFUL. So beautiful the giftee will probably leave them out all year.

1. C.E.O Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil | 2. Deluxe Microneedle Dermal Roller | 3. The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm | 4. Texture Reform | 5. Supergoop! Jet Set SPF Travel Kit | 6. Mesh Body Exfoliator

1. C.E.O Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil: I’ve already recommended this in a link-up but it’s back because that is how much I love it. It just makes me and my skin feel glowy and for some reason putting on an oil makes me stop and take a deep breath in a way none of my other skin products do. That might just be me. But if you have someone in your life that wants to take care of their skin or loves skincare, this is a GREAT product.
2. Deluxe Microneedle Dermal Roller: The first time I heard about this roller was on Whitney Cummings’ podcast because people ask her about her skin all. the. time. This little roller apparently makes teeny tiny holes in your skin so all of that expensive product you put on your skin can actually get through and do its job. In case you didn’t know, neither Whitney or I are dermatologists so keep that in mind but I REALLY want to try it!
3. The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm: This is THE lip balm. It has lanolin in it (which is used in nipple creams, fun fact) but will actually hydrate your lips in the most real way. I swear by it. A great small gift for anyone in your life.
4. Texture Reform: I consider this my “I’m a grown-up” skincare item and I love it. Retinol is apparently THE thing you want to be putting on your face to help make it look and feel awesome. This one, in particular, was created by celebrity esthetician Shani Darden whose clients include Jessica Alba and Shay Mitchell. All I want is awesome skincare/skin and if I got this I would be SO happy.
5. Supergoop! Jet Set SPF Travel Kit: Speaking of taking care of your skin, sunscreen is actually the most important. Especially if you are using retinol! Don’t use retinol if you aren’t dedicated to wearing sunscreen. Anyway, Supergoop is an EHD favorite, and for good reason. It goes on so light and is reef safe. So while no one is really jetting off anywhere this is a great gift for honestly anyone and is such a great price.
6. Mesh Body Exfoliator: I don’t know why I have yet to purchase this because it’s been on my list for a year (?). My body needs some exfoliation asap. So no need for a loofa anymore because this is apparently SO much better and also affordable!

1. Quip Smart Starter Set | 2. AquaHomeGroup Luxury Filtered Shower Head | 3. Olaplex Hair Repair Trial Kit

1. Quip Smart Starter Set: It took me a long time to get on the “Quip train” but now I never want to go back. The timed brush vibration made me realize I was not brushing long enough (sorry that’s a little TMI) and getting a new head every few months makes me not have to ask… Should I replace my toothbrush? Also, the holder also acts as a travel carrier!
2. AquaHomeGroup Luxury Filtered Shower Head: I am all about a filtered showerhead and with just over 7,000 rave reviews this one will likely be my next (I’m leaving my old one in the apartment. No need for the new tenant to have the gross old one). It’s crazy what a difference it makes on my hair!
3. Olaplex Hair Repair Trial Kit: I love love love this brand and this trial kit is only $25!! So if someone you know loves hair products or has been wanting to try Olaplex, I can’t recommend it enough.

1. The Mani System | 2. Boy Brow + Generation G Duo | 3. Skywash – Sheer Matte Lid Tint

1. The Mani System: I got this for my birthday this year (with these colors) and I am VERY happy to report that the hype is true. I love it so much and has made my at-home manicures so much better/easier. I now want all of their products… like the brand new Pedi System. Practical, a money saver in the long run, and a way to make you feel a little prettier.
2. Boy Brow + Generation G Duo: I have now tried a couple of brow gels and this one is still my favorite because it goes on light which I prefer. I also LOVE this lipstick. It says on the website that it gives the perfect “blotted lip” and that is 100% true. This is really an awesome and not too over the top but nice gift.
3. Skywash – Sheer Matte Lid Tint: I honestly just want to try this. Not the most practical but I really love a matte makeup look.

1. Eclair Card | 2. Windowpane Elmcourt Coat | 3. Ditsy Floral Sheer Ankle Sock | 4. Embroidered Button Up Scallop Midi Dress

1. Eclair Cardi: I have this sweater in cream and I wear almost every day. It makes me feel like I look cool but very cozy and it has the perfect amount of slouch. But man that green is GOOD.
2. Windowpane Elmcourt Coat: A good coat is never not a GREAT gift and this one is good. I love the color, the bold pattern, and the length. I feel like most everyone would feel amazing in this coat.
3. Ditsy Floral Sheer Ankle Sock: Socks are my next fashion accessory. Emily, Julie, and Bowser love to rock their cute striped socks with their slightly cropped pants and I want in. It feels like a very low but impactful lift and these floral ones are the first on my list.
4. Embroidered Button Up Scallop Midi Dress: I love that this dress is both neutral but special and very versatile. Perfect for work (if you are going into an office), family dinners (safely) and even grabbing a coffee (masked, of course).

1. Dylan Rancher Hat | 2. Reusable Loop Mask Set | 3. Sunglasses | 4. Women’s Striped Cuffed Beanie

1. Dylan Rancher Hat: This hat is beautiful (do you see that suede band??) and its light tan color makes it perfect for any season. AND it protects your face from the sun:)
2. Reusable Loop Mask Set: It wasn’t until I saw Yaminah Mayo and Erika Hart sport these that I knew I had to get them. They are happy, cool, and PROTECTS YOU AND THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU FROM GETTING SICK.
3. Sunglasses: I’ve tried to stray from my Ray-Ban aviators but always go back. BUT these are aviators with a twist and I am down!
4. Women’s Striped Cuffed Beanie: So while a rancher hat is very cute, when the temperatures drop and you need to cover your ears, a beanie is what you want. This one is only $15 and adorable.

1. Sweatsuit Set (Top & Bottom) | 2. High Rise Undies | 3. Rec Room Sweatshirt | 4. Compressive High-Rise Leggings

1. Sweatsuit Set (Top & Bottom): My friend Emily (yes I am blessed with many Emilys in my life) recently bought this set and can’t stop talking about it. I also saw it on her in person and it’s so flattering and very soft.
2. High Rise Undies: More checks! These have been all over Instagram and I need a good pair of undies. I know these would make me feel really good (and cool). These are also 100% dance around in your house undies and THAT is a necessity if you ask me.
3. Rec Room Sweatshirt: I’m typically not one for a graphic tee or sweatshirt but this one is so cool and looks so comfortable. I’m also pretty positive I heard about them on Armchair Expert so thanks Monica!
4. Compressive High-Rise Leggings: I have talked about these MANY times before but it’s because they are that good!! So soft, so comfortable yet flattering AND, sustainably made. I am about to order my 4th pair.

1. Boots | 2. Ankle Socks | 3. Checkered Slides | 4. Fuzzy Slippers

1. Boots: I mean just look at these! They are beautiful and the perfect balance of city meets mountains. As someone who needs some boots, I only want these.
2. Ankle Socks: So I don’t own these but my cousin swears they are the best ankle socks. You know, one’s that don’t show but actually stay on properly. Who doesn’t need these?
3. Checkered Slides: I think in 2020 it’s almost mandatory to have at least one color of these slides. They are easy, make any outfit more fun and lastly… the checkered obsession is real.
4. Fuzzy Slippers: I want to be a slipper person in my new apartment and these are ridiculous but awesome and will keep my feet very happy and will provide endless laughter every time I will look down. Can you put a price on that? Yes, it’s $10. SOLD.

WHEW! This post might be one of my longest but as Emily said earlier, we all want and should make more conscious purchases this year (and all the ones after). So I hope that this loooong gift guide helped you in your search for some perfect holiday gifts. Thanks for making this far and happy Monday!

Love you, mean it.

Want more gift guides? We’ve got you covered: 82 Of Our TOP Picks From Etsy (Everything From Fashion To Furniture) | My Favorite Things Ever Gift Guide: (Home and Tech Edition) | Ryann’s Gift Guide: Gifts For Promoting Joy, Easing Anxiety, and Overall Self Care | Malcolm’s Gift Guide: The “Quality Over Quantity” Gift Ideas For Everyone On Your List (Especially Those Hard To Shop For Hims) | Mallory’s Gift Guide: The Actually Awesome “Trendy Gifts” For The 20 Something In Your Life

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Jess’ Bold Berry-Infused, Cozy Modern Holiday Apartment

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3 years ago

That beautiful kettle does not ship to the US 🙁

3 years ago

I know you need to put some adds to support this awesome blog :), but could you please reconsider the layout? It is impossible to scroll without having adds on every square inch, it makes the page very 90s’ looking. Thank you 🙂

3 years ago

You guys, sponge cloths are honestly the best thing about 2020. Ordered mine a few months ago and they have changed my cleaning routine completely. I haven’t purchased paper towels since August and I am 🙂 🙂 :). This is not an ad! Haha

3 years ago

Hey Jess I saw your insta stories and have a question about the salt cave (I believe also called salt pigs). I like the look of them and the convenience seems great but does the salt just stay out all the time? The fact that it isn’t sealed/closed at all really freaks me out. Maybe it’s because where I live (QLD Australia) cockroaches and other bugs are rampant.. I am just totally freaked out by the idea of food being left out for anything to crawl over all night. Am I just paranoid?

Loveley of
3 years ago
Reply to  Jessa

I think it would be okay. Salt would probably dry out and kill any bugs/germs/etc anyway, so I imagine they would avoid it just out of instincts.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jessa

I keep my salt in an open bowl and it’s fine. I keep it on a shelf off the counter, where I also store my butter keeper. Salt doesn’t seem to attract bugs and since it’s a smallish bowl I use up all the salt and refill it about once a week, so it’s always relatively fresh.

3 years ago

Ah, to be rich.

3 years ago

I LOVED this roundup! But I have a feeling it will end up more of a “gift for me!” situation…So many new-to-me recommendations.

Jess Day
3 years ago

From one Jess to another, thanks for posting the checkered Moroccan rug! I’ve been eyeing it for my upstairs hallway for a month or so…in green and white! Maybe Merry Christmas to me?!? 😂😂😂

3 years ago

Please, please forgive me for saying this. These things are beautiful, but seem mostly frivolous and not so useful. Useful is sponges, certainly, but many if not most of these things are extras. They are things that areot needed but wanted… maybe I am misunderstanding the title! Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe starting with a squiggle near the top after saying things are useful was what put me on alert. I love the style and looks of a lot of this, but the title put me off. Ugh, I feel like the grinch!

Cici Haus
3 years ago

I have never been interested in so many things on a gift guide before! I have like 200 tabs open – ha. Excellent list Jess! THANKS!

3 years ago

Self-proclaimed skincare nerd here… highly recommend you do NOT try microneedling at home!! Microneedling in a professional spa environment is a wonderful, highly-effective treatment. At-home microneedling devices like the one you list is likely to damage your skin because they dull over time. Microneedling should be making tiny punctures with very sharp and sterile needles, whereas a dull tool at home will create larger tears and could introduce bacteria. Opt for the real deal in a proper spa!

As for your other beauty picks, totally agree! It doesn’t get better than Shani Darden’s retinol.

3 years ago

The Queen uses a similar umbrella, but matches the colored trim to her outfits 🙂

3 years ago

Awesome list!

3 years ago

Those flashcards are so cool!!