Style at Home: Great home gifts in a jiffy

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

From the beloved bronze figurine that stands proudly on my mantel year-round to several silver serving pieces I use when I entertain, some of the most precious treasures in my home were gifts from friends and family. These pieces are special to me not just because they are lovely, but also because they reflect the love of the gift givers, who took time to study what kinds of things I like and hunt for just the right thing. Want to pick out special holiday gifts for those you hold dear? Here’s how.

To pick a spot-on gift, you need to spend a few minutes studying the recipient. What is this person passionate about? What does he love to do? What are the kinds of things she surrounds herself with and showcases in her home? Once you have a crystal-clear understanding of what brings your loved one joy, zero in on one of her hobbies, activities or interests. Brainstorm the type of gifts that might be useful in her pursuit of this passion. Here are a few things I’d recommend for…

The cook

■ After spending decades with Dan, who does all the cooking in our house, I know that cooks need things to hold all their gadgets and gizmos and sauces and spices. Why not give your favorite chef a beautiful tray, bowl or canister to hold all their stuff with style?

■ Once the delicious dishes are prepared, it’s fun to display them beautifully. My favorite food stages are tiered servers, cake plates, footed bowls and compotes. Perhaps the cook in your life could use a new serving piece to make their creations look as wonderful as they taste.

The reader

■ I’ve found that the older I get, the more important it is to have great lighting when I read. And, it also helps to remember where you put all those spare pairs of reading glasses! If your favorite reader is trying to squint their way through their favorite books, get them a great reading lamp they can place next to their favorite reading chair.

■ Dan never met a book he didn’t want to buy and display in our home. So I’m always looking for clever ways to include books in my decor. One of my favorites is to place a large tray on a coffee table, then fill it with books. Scout for a tray that your book lover could use to hold the books and magazines they are enjoying.

■ Another great gift idea for the reader in your life is a set of bookends that would work well with their decor. Want to be unorthodox? You can use just about anything for a bookend, from pottery to architectural elements to lamps.

The gardener

■ My friends who are gardeners love to bring the look of their gardens into their home decor. This presents a rich opportunity for gift giving. We created a dramatic table at Nell Hill’s to celebrate the garden, using trellises for centerpieces. When the weather warms up, the trellises can go outside, inserted in a big iron urn or in the garden bed to hold a flowering vine.

■ There is nothing more rewarding that snipping a fresh bloom from your own garden to add fresh beauty to your home. How about a lovely vase?

■ I’m crazy about garden statues and use them year-round in my interior decorating. Give the gardener in your life a statue to work into an interior display or to serve as a focal point in a bed outside.

■ Garden cachepots are perfect building blocks for lovely centerpieces. This English footbath replica looks gorgeous filled with potted plants, a great way to give your gardener a bit of green in her home during the cold winter months.

Wine enthusiast

■ Picking wine for enthusiasts can be hard — it’s so difficult to know their tastes. So I like to give gifts my wine aficionados can use to serve their favorite bottle in style, like a pretty decanter and glasses. Or a great tray to hold their wine service. You can find trays, bottles and glasses different styles and price points.

■ Another great gift idea is an unusual ice bucket to keep the bottle cool.

The pet lover

■ Are your friends gaga about their cat or dog? Scout for a fun animal accent they can use in their decor.

■ My dog and cats eat in our kitchen, so I long ago decided to make their dinner bowls as attractive as possible since they are a fixture in our most-used room.

The romantic

■ I’m a bit of a romantic at heart, and I love to get gifts that fill my everyday life with beauty. How about giving your friend a tray filled with the fixings for breakfast in bed?

■ I have a weakness for vintage dishes. Does your friend? Find some old plates (or replicas) for them to use on their table or to hang on their wall as artwork.

—■ Everything looks lovely under a cloche! Give cloches to romance lovers, and they will find a million ways to use it in their decor to pay tribute to the things they love. I put cloches over small potted plants, old bird’s nests, pretty dishes, figurines, you name it.

■ Tea, anyone? Give your loved ones an excuse to slow down and enjoy a steaming cup of tea by giving them a tea set for the holidays. Who knows, you may get an invite to come join them!

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at