Men dressed as beefeaters open doors to the Heathman Hotel. Most are 6 feet tall and require tips. At a mere 7.5 inches and with a body of stainless steel, James the Doorman ($24, Relish 433 NW 10th Ave., 227-3779) is a stylish little doorstop and works for free. When he doesn't have door duties, he'll gladly work overtime as a bookend.
Rural Oregon World War II vets make aluminum-can airplanes. Their work blows chunks in comparison with the work of artists from the African nation of Mali. These folks create intricate, miniature bicycles, dancers, drummers and Volkswagens out of tin cans ($14-$84, Cargo, 380 NW 13th Ave., 209-8349). Experience the miracle that is tin.
Minneapolis has many things to be proud of—Lutherans, Garrison Keillor and the Mall of America, to name a few. But the larger of the twin cities needs to add Blu Dot Design to the list. They produce funky foldout desk accessories like the 2D:3D Letter Holder ($15, Office, 2204 NE Alberta St., 334-1401), which comes flat, forms on the fly and is powdercoated to please.
Eastside swank spot clarklewis buys local—from the cows they slaughter to the lights that shine down upon their patrons. P-town designer Joe Futschik is the creator of the restaurant's pendant lamps. The wood-and-translucent-plastic construction produces intriguing illumination. The similarly constructed small Legna table lamp ($230, jefdesigns.com) is perfect for nights of reading Harlequin romances or Hebberoy blog gossip.
Take the sides of a piece of paper and pinch them together to form a loosely constructed tube. Peer down at it from above and see the shape of a tear. Replace the paper with veneered plywood, add a resin base, seal it together with opaque colored resin and you have a small resin-filled teardrop vase ($60, Tilde, 7919 SE 13th Ave., 234-9600) like those designed by model Derek Chen.
For those who feel DIY is best done by somebody else, there's ReFind Furniture, a recent venture by the ReBuilding Center. One of their salvaged gems is a coat rack made from hot and cold sink knobs and wooden house molding ($35, 3625 N Mississippi Ave., 331-1877). Get crafty and recycle at the same time, all without lifting a finger.
Swigg Designs creates environmentally sustainable products. Swigg Shrooms ($80, thisisswigg.com), "pillows" in plain English, are eco-friendly and made from organic cotton and eco-intelligent polyester. Their goose down filling is all-natural (what could be unnatural about a feather?), and they use a "closed-loop" no-waste manufacturing process. Swigg Shrooms, in other words, are for the TREE HUGGERS on your holiday list.
Got parents on that list of yours? Those with fussy offspring will appreciate Monster Plates ($8.50 each, Hello, Portland, 525 NW 23rd Ave, 274-0771) from French Bull designs. Push away that broccoliflower and there might be a weird-looking monster staring back at you. Turnips might be better than going face-to-face with a four-toed creature. Even vegetable-adoring tykes (and adults) will like the lightweight material, bright colors, cool designs and freaky-looking monsters that adorn each plate.
Melamine is a plasticlike material used to make the lightweight, trendy dinnerware sets ($6-$12, shopscadonline.com) you'll see in many stores around town this year. Turns out melamine can also be used for soundproofing, as a fire retardant, and—due to its interlocking, microporous makeup—to clean stains off hard surfaces. And it looks cool! Students at Savannah College of Art and Design have mined the wonders of melamine to create—you guessed it—lightweight dinner plates in cool designs and bright colors. Also check out online gallery-store ShopScad's unique placemats ($24 each). They're not made from melamine, but we love 'em anyways.
A Zig Zag calendar ($38, poketo.com) is a contraption made from two interlocking wooden pieces that fit together like teeth in an alligator's mouth. Simple but smart, the Zig Zag is a perpetual calendar that keeps track of the date no matter the year when you slide the top piece over one notch each month. The Zig Zag is also an interactive, functional sculpture that can hang on the wall, making a snazzy present for dorks and art aficionados alike.
Nickel Floats Do something different by the bed with the C Side Table, a tray that seems to levitate on polished-nickel legs ($139, West Elm, 1201 NW Couch St., 224-4480).
¿Vino? ¿Por Qué No? Buy a fair-trade wine vessel made by Guatemalan artisans. They're called Transglass Carafes ($32, branchhome.com), and they're muy caliente.
Dish Dish Boom Sarah Cihat reincarnates dinner plates with the help of a stencil, some glaze and a knack for kitsch—check out her Rehabilitated Dishware ($44, The English Dept., 724 NW 23rd Ave., 224-0724), which makes the unwanted wanted once again.