Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gift ideas from a designer on a budget

Shopping for people, whether it be for the holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions, can be a challenging task. Not only do we want to feel as though it shows that we've put some thought into choosing the right present, but most of us also have to respect a limited budget. Plus, it's always nice if we manage to give something unique - there's nothing worse than learning that the recipient of our gift already has enough of the same item to start selling them in bulk.

Not long ago I rambled on about how all items are designed whether they are considered "designer" items or not. Now I have managed to compile a list of 10 incredibly designed items that make unique and fun gifts and won't put your bank balance into the red, with price tags ranging from only $15 to $120.

1. Clocky by Nanda. Guaranteed to get you out of bed in the morning! And it's adorable, available in different colours. $50 Also available at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art's boutique.

2. Hearty Cup & Saucer by Wgokoro-Ya. With every coffee or tea you are reminded that somebody loves you. Drinking glasses and tea set also available. $20

3. The Come In Go Away Doormat is both practical and unusual. Suits almost any sense of humor. $30

4. Foot in the Door Doorstop. This doorstop speaks for itself and saves your own shoes from damage from misuse. Available in black too. $15

5. Mansion Planter by Pull + Push Products. What a neat idea! A planter that looks like a building, complete with stairs and balconies. $120

6. Rock Vase. A practical vase for one or two flowers and matches any decor. Under $50 from

7. Skyline Memo. Perfect for home or office use, for adults or kids. Put your mark on the city. $30.

8. Time is Money Clock. Unique gift for a professional, and so true... Time is Money. (The clock doesn't have to be broken to get hard-earned money out - there is a removable plug.) $120

9. Original art. There are countless sources for reasonably priced original artwork, Idealspace Design's mini art gallery being one of them. Galleries are easy to find, and you can also contact art schools to enquire about students' art for sale, or browse the Internet. Whatever you are buying, make sure you are informed if it is an original, a hand-painted reproduction, and so on.

10. Gift certificates from Idealspace Design start at only $60 and are definitely a unique gift. I have never heard of other interior designers giving gift certificates for interior design or decor services, but if you're not in or around Montreal, you could ask designers from your area if they would be interested in selling you gift certificates.

There are countless items out there that are unique and affordable, and often it only requires that we step off the beaten path to find them. Happy shopping, and happy holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sympathizing with the Shoe-maker

We all know the story about the shoe maker whose kids had no shoes. Sounds stupid until you give it some thought. If the guy can make shoes why would he have his kids running around with ill-fitting or torn shoes? But then there is the cabinet-maker whose own kitchen dates back nearly 40 years. There is the psychologist who has major issues in her personal life. The chef often serves store-bought frozen foods to his own family...

And this interior designer refers to her own home as a "project-in-progress" to keep it sounding reasonable. The truth is, it is a series of things put together "for now" with ideas for what to do with varying degrees of thought put into them, varying levels of complexity, budgetary requirements, and some "what-ifs" thrown in for good measure.

From my point of view, there are three possible explanations for this:

A) we don't want to do for ourselves what we do (for pay) for others because either we can be making money doing the same for someone else or because we do it all day long and don't want to continue once we're on our own time;

B) we've gotten so used to working for a client that we cannot properly put ourselves into the position of client;

C) the grass is just always greener on the other side - our clients' projects are somehow more worthy and deserving.

People working in a creative industry have other traps that we fall into also. Attempting perfection is one of them, and another is that we don't necessarily want to have to look at our work (or perceived imperfections in our work) daily at home too. There have been numerous famous artists who have refused to hang their own art in their own homes. Or, as in the situation in my own kitchen, I see now that there are a few little things I should have done differently -- would never have done them this way had it been for someone else's kitchen (my house is, to some extent, my experimenting space) -- and changing it now would involve dismantling the whole kitchen. Who in their right mind would take apart a 2 year old kitchen and spend a few thousand dollars to correct a minor annoyance??

People hire accountants, interior designers, fashion designers (even if just by purchasing ready-made clothing), house painters, real estate agents, and countless others not because we cannot do our own taxes, plan our own renovations projects, determine our style preferences for clothing, paint our walls, or even sell our own homes. We hire people to do these things so that we don't have to assume the responsibility of doing it ourselves, so that our time can be spent doing other things, and so that hopeful these things will get done with fewer hitches and glitches.

As an interior designer, would I ever consider hiring another designer to do my own home? No way! I would be overly demanding, inhumanely critical, and a general nuisance of a client. That's why the shoe-maker couldn't take his children to his competition, why the cabinet-maker didn't call in another company for his own kitchen, and why my own home is still very much in a state of chaos. Oops, I meant to say a "project-in-progress."