The proper use for a

tea towel

is for drying dishes. But

Third Drawer Down

creates these artful,

limited-edition linen versions
($40, Olio United, 1028 SE Water Ave., Suite 120, 542-5000

) that are too fanciful for cleaning up. These are frame-worthy—especially

Boy in Interior

by Australian artist David Bromley. And with a whole host of various international and national artists to choose from, it's a worldly gift on the chic and cheap.

Friends no longer let you pet-sit after that unfortunate incident, but still need to nurture your love for animals and plants alike? Present yourself with the



$128, Anthropologie, 1125 NW Couch St, 274-0293

): a win-win situation. Bright-red shrimp and free-floating algae exist symbiotically in this self-contained and self-sustaining sphere of natural curiosities, originally developed by scientists at NASA's jet propulsion lab. The only instructions? Display in front of a significant light source (natural or artificial). Read: minimal care with maximum decorative capabilities!

No doubt it's a little oddly shaped, but this decorative felt

Egg Crate
($55, M&B Design, 2417 NE Broadway, 481-3843)

makes for a sculptural, modernized version of the everyday catchall. Holds anything from an apple-on-the-go to spare keys, and it solves the annoyance of rummaging around for MAX fare any day. Case in point: "Have any quarters, honey bunny?" "Right there in that egg thingy, sweet tits." Problem solved.

Nabbing chicks may have never been your strong point, but attracting feathered creatures is a different story with

J Schatz’s glossy, candy-colored birdhouses
($125, Canoe, 1136 SW Alder St., 889-8545)

. Top picks: orange peel, aqua and fire-engine red. Chickadees and wrens will flock to these functional modern art pieces. And what lady could deny a sweet little bird lover?

Scared of things that go bump in the night? Michigan-made

K Studio’s plush pillows
($105-$125, Olio United)

, playfully embroidered with birds, woodland creatures and quirky stick figures with whimsical expressions, will promise to keep you company during the wee hours of the night, and better yet, they won't steal the covers. Thumbs up all around.

Revert back to the magical times of childhood with


graphic take on a

treasure box
($26, Tilde, 7919 SE 13th Ave., 234-9600)

. This personal accessory is perfect for loose change, jewelry and anything else that's small enough to fit this 3-by-3-inch origami fabric box. Also, check out


version of decorative tabletop

place mats
($20, Relish, 433 NW 10th Ave., 227-3779)

. Local rising-star designer Amy Ruppel has garnered international and national praise for her birds-'n'-trees motifs (hand silk-screened on nontoxic silicone), adding her own simplistic twist to an otherwise overlooked dining-room detail.

Holiday cards are hard—as in, hard to throw away. Sometimes you feel like you're chucking a family member. And that sucks. But photos of distant cousins frolicking on the snowy slopes of Aspen, Colo., in '96 can't sit on the fireplace mantle forever. Enter

Russell and Hazel’s


photo-storage boxes
($40, Ecru, 1215 NW 11th Ave., 227-2611)

. Perfect for organizing and archiving those dated snapshots that you just can't bear to send to the bins.

The 12 days of Christmas meet the dinner table with this

whimsical set of appetizer plates
($120, Noun, 3300 SE Belmont St., 235-0078)

. Each little dish is peppered with ornate illustrations—from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming. Crafted with eclectic fonts, asymmetrical graphics and bright holiday cheer, these will be sure to garner a whole host of "oohs" when you plop them down in front of even your most formidable family member.

Internationally recognized NYC-based artist Hunt Slonem is known for his eccentric, travel-inspired paintings and sculptures. In

Pleasure Palaces: The Art and Homes of Hunt Slonem
($60, Barnes&Noble, 1317 Lloyd Center, 249-0800, and other locations)

, readers are thrown down the rabbit hole of his private universe with this photo essay documenting various studios and homes he's decorated with his works.

Contemporary and colorful,

dVider decals
($24-$44, Polliwog, 2900 SE Belmont St., 236-3903)

represent the future of wallpaper graphics without any hint of Granny florals. Recreational silhouettes (sailboats and rocking horses), organic, nature-inspired themes (birds of paradise) and abstract illustrations (skulls with bunny ears) are perfect for walls, windows, ceilings or even floors.

Local artist Jill Torberson's Valentines series

($65-$100, Random Order Coffeehouse, 1800 NE Alberta St., 331-1420)

are one-of-a-kind thumpers, made from recycled steel, that just might break your heart.

Make your the house smell like Hansel and Gretel's favorite joint with Seattle's own

Petal sugar-scented candles

, or go for a little flower power with a Fleur flamer

($6-$28, Twigs, 305 Oak St., Hood River, 541-386-6188,


Before it closes its doors at the end of December, Bernadette Breu has over 500 vintage ornaments

($2-$15, 1134 NW Everett St., 226-6565)

representing every style from the pragmatic striped bulbs of the '40s to the do-it-yourself sequined balls of the '60s.