Curated & Coveted Hostess Gifts

The winter holiday season is when most Canadians entertain family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Which means we guests are plagued with an all too familiar dilemma: what to gift the host. Many of us resort to bringing the standard stand-bys, whether that’s a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a corner store bouquet of flowers. This year, be thoughtful, unique, and show your gratitude by gifting something special!

Take note: the gifts that are memorable typically have presence, utility and/or comfort, so keep this essential lesson in mind so you don’t fall prey to Holiday Gift Anxiety.

Allow to come to the rescue! 

As an interior decorator, a lot of my time is spent sourcing great pieces, so I know where to find the best domestic items. Here are my top 6 curated “slam dunk” gift ideas – from budget to luxury – that will take some of the guesswork out of gifting every host or hostess on your list.

1. Baskets: If there is one item that everyone loves (and didn’t know they needed until you brought it), it’s a basket. Great for holding fruit, nuts, napkins, cutlery, ornaments, plants, keys or whatever. Anything goes with this multi-purpose décor item. Triple the love by bringing a set of 3 handwoven baskets, shown below, made in Portugal from palm leaves. Available from Tonic Living, $20 each. Located in the east end of Toronto, Tonic is a one-stop shop for designers, decorators, and home stagers and it’s open to the public, also. If you don’t live in Toronto, no problem: Tonic will ship anywhere in the world. Hint: Fill with a selection of glass bottles of jams, mini cheeses and small boxes of crackers or loose nuts, acorns or chestnuts. Before filling, line the basket with a colourful tea towel or tissue paper. Use your imagination!

Image courtesy of Tonic Living.

2. Serving Boards: With all the platters being preparing during the holidays, a serving board is a most useful and welcome gift. Why not give a gorgeous wooden serving board from Tonic Living, $60 each, that more than fulfills its purpose as a chopping surface and is glamorous enough to be used as a tray for cheese or charcuterie. Let one of these beauties, below, take pride of place on a marble island or coffee table. Made from Canadian wood, these boards are handcrafted in Canada. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and woods. Hint: Add a cheese knife with a wooden handle for an extra special touch.

Image courtesy of Tonic Living.

3. Glassware: Somehow, there are always fewer glasses on the shelf when the new year comes around. While it’s a mystery what happens to these vessels, it’s clear (pun intended) that everyone could use some extra glassware during the holiday season when it’s easy to never have enough. Why not choose to support emerging and established Canadian artisans who supply their wares through Craft Ontario. Available in-store or online, the Moonwake Cups, $30 each, handmade by glassmaker Brad Copping, are a favourite of mine this year for their colour and interesting texture, Perfect for festive eggnog, fruit punch, or wine. Hint: If gifting glassware, buy at least 4 and mix up the colours.

Image courtesy of Craft Ontario.

4. Kitchen Linens: If this sounds a little odd as a gift idea, think again. Cocooning is a trend that never really went away and it has segued into a highly specific obsession of upping the cachet of the kitchen and its wares. Holt Renfrew, Canada’s iconic upmarket department store, always nails its selection of host gifts at this time of year and 2018 is no exception. I found a delightful array of luxe linen tea towels, dinner napkins and cocktail napkins from Coral & Tusk. The holiday cocktail napkins, shown below, are delightful and priced at $115 for a set of 4. All the linens in this range are very Canadiana in their inspiration with assorted embroidered bears, coyotes, red foxes, rabbits, reindeer, feathers, thistles, and blackberries. You’ll be the star guest if you bring a set (or two) of these linens and nothing screams chic like bringing them wrapped in a Holt Renfrew holiday box!

Image courtesy of Holt Renfrew.

5. Cookbooks: Anyone who cooks invariably needs new ideas (or new takes on old ideas). Recently, I was introduced to FEAST: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip by Lindsay Anderson and Dana Vanveller and published by Random House. This cookbook is a must-have in any Canadian kitchen. Released in 2017, it is a clever compilation of 100 Canadian recipes and heartwarming tales written by two friends who travelled by car coast-to-coast and in the Arctic. I don’t know which is the more remarkable takeaway: the incredible number of recipes they collected or the fact that these two ladies are still friends after such a long roadtrip together! In any case, this makes a fantastic host gift and is a great way to support Canadian artists and the Canadian publishing industry.  Available at another Canadian mainstay, Indigo, online and in stores for $31. Hint: Always choose a hardcover over a softcover book. It’s more expensive but will last longer and make for a sleeker display on an open shelf.

Image courtesy of Indigo.

6. Throws: Warning, this category of host gift is pricey and reserved for when you’re on the receiving end of a hospitality overload (a.k.a the overnight guest). You’ll be upping your gifting game when you splurge $310 on a 100% baby alpaca throw (a smaller blanket that can be used for extra warmth and decoration on a bed, chair or sofa) made by Blacksaw, a Canadian company founded by Steph and Kyle Taylor. Available in many colours and patterns, these throws are swoon-worthy and represent total respect for the host. When you give one, it’s a forever piece meant to remain with the lucky recipient for a lifetime. For the more adventurous, check out the Cali Reversible Throw in Flaming Lip and Rucksack. Now, that’s style with a pop of colour! My advice is to stick with a more neutral statement, like the ivory and black Rattlesnake Reversible Throw, below, which is a safer choice. Shop the entire Blacksaw blankets and throws collection online. Throws can be used for warmth while curled up watching a movie and also make a wonderful décor accessory when folded and draped over the back or arm of a chair or a sofa. Hint: The throw can even be mounted on the wall and displayed like art with Blacksaw’s Art Series Wall Mount, made by hand in Canada from solid mahogany wood.

Image courtesy of Blacksaw.

Sure to be prized by any recipient this holiday, gifts like these are timeless.

To learn more about the products featured in this article, visit Tonic LivingCraft OntarioHolt RenfrewIndigo, and Blacksaw.

Interested in reading about more holiday décor ideas and gifts for the home? Check out these past articles:

– 5 Decorating Tips To Bring Home The Holiday Season

– Pewter Picture Holders By Amos Pewter, Nova Scotia

– The Botanical Art Of Pressed Wishes, From Mabel Lake, BC

Researched and written by Namrita Kohli, an artist, interior decorator and cultural curator in Toronto.

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