Next weekend we are going to stay with some old friends who have just finished renovating their London flat. It's been quite an enterprise spreading out over some eighteen months and it is, by all accounts, absolutely beautiful. I want to find something for the hostess to say thank you that they can keep as a house-warming gift and it's a bit of a tricky one because someone who pays this much attention to her habitat isn't going to want just any old trinkets on display. It can't be too big or over-styled. It doesn't have to match but it mustn't stand out a mile either. When William Morris (respectful pause) said: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful", he might as well have had this lady in mind. So I've gone window shopping and found a few lovely ideas for gifts that I hope will ensure we will be invited back....well, that and my toddler not breaking anything!
OK! I know I said not too stand out but what stylish kitchen wouldn't benefit from this classic little splash of colour. It's quite small anyway at 18cm x 24cm (which is not even as big as an A4 sheet) but there are larger versions available and the prints are designed to fit standard frame sizes. Pop it in a clean white contemporary one and wait for the gasp.
1. Tray of Asparagus Candles from GiftIdeas.co.uk £9.95
A few years ago, a good friend gave me a single, taller version of one of these for my birthday because we had spent some considerable time together working setting up a fruit and vegetable co-op and had legumes coming out of our pores as a result. I may light it one day but I prefer to keep it on the windowsill of my kitchen along with a bit of Sophie Conran and an enamel bucket with herbs in it. I've never seen the like of it until now. In my view, this tray of miniature versions is a domestic goddesses dream. Devine as a shelf display and so perfect for your summer evening table spread. Tealights. Schmeelights!
This is a bit of an old favourite of mine because it pretty much covers all bases for a house-warming gift. Elegant and personal, it can top hand-written notes, stamp labels and finish off envelopes and never once fail to impress.
I'm not generally one for gift baskets...unless they look like this! A simply charming box of delights from Northumberland-based home and vintage emporium RE. Each box contains an extending toasting fork, long matches in a galvanised metal container and a bag of marshmallows for toasting. Original for those blessed with a good old-fashioned open fire, I think this would also make a thoughtful engagement or wedding pressie too.
I recently bought one of these as a birthday gift for my "present desert" of a brother and he actually uses and rather likes it. Choose from several designs also including The Gherkin and The Trellick Tower in a number of different colours. They are un-fussy and look really cool. Be careful though! The cost is for a single bookend which, to be fair, was made perfectly clear in the blurb, but which I completely missed. Maybe I'll get him the pair for Christmas...eek out the value of my find before the whole frustrating process starts up again.
Yes. I know. It's a giant pebble with a ring in it but you've got to admit it's a bloody magnificent thing. There are a couple of other splendid looking ones such as a bowling ball and an oak block on the site but this one has sunday lunch at The Ship in Newton Ferrers written all over it taking me back to whole wealth of happy childhood memories. It would look amazing holding open any door and my guess is, it's probably quite good at its job.