Looking for a housewarming gift that will set you apart and actually get used? Or, maybe you’re looking to get started on your holiday shopping before the rest of the world catches up with you? Well, you’ll definitely want to browse this handy guide to the best quirky yet functional home gifts you can buy in Toronto.
There are a lot of gift shops in the city, but the following three stores, all located downtown, deserve special attention for their varied, obscure, and hip product selection. Any one of them will give you all the gift ideas you’d ever need, for things your friends or family didn’t even know they needed. Once you see what they have in store, you’ll definitely want to get them all! What’s even better is that most of the following recommendations cost $20 or less.
Actually, never mind getting the following items as gifts for others…you’ll want them for yourself!
24 Bellair Street, north of Cumberland Street
If you’re looking for a personal, one-on-one shopping experience where the shop owner gives you great product recommendations, I recommend ROLO. Located in Yorkville, the shop isn’t as pricey as you’d expect, and contains merch that’s both high-brow and low-brow, for every kind of humour and taste. The shop owner is also hilarious while giving fun and helpful gift ideas.
While ROLO is the smallest of the three stores detailed here, with knick-knacks and decorations filling every nook and cranny, it’s definitely not lacking in goods, especially obscure and eccentric ones from around the world. The owner also takes environmental responsibility very seriously, from a store renovation several years back to reduce heat and light energy waste; reusing up to 80% of shipping materials; to switching to paper bags.
If all that still doesn’t convince you to go check out the store, you can shop online at the official site.
Lid Sid ($20)
“Does your friend cook?” the owner asks me. For every cook who’s tired of overflowing water and tumbling lids from a boiling pot, this cute and nifty kitchen helper is invaluable. When you have a steaming pot that needs a little air, just fit one of these little silicone guys onto your pot and voilà—your hands are free for other cooking tasks.
RX label cocktail shaker and shot glasses (shaker: $27, set of four glasses: $20)
“Does your friend like to party?” Let’s consult Dr. Al Koholic! For someone with an ironic sense of humour, or someone who parties hard, this gift will bring the laughs and the drinks. What makes this cocktail shaker and set of shot glasses so delightful are the RX label details: “Dr. Koholic, Al” prescribed, with instructions to “take 1 shot orally every few minutes or as needed”. Just what the doctor ordered!
Electric toothbrush sanitizer ($35)
Categorize under “I didn’t know it existed!” A toothbrush keeps your teeth clean, but what keeps a toothbrush clean? Ultraviolet light, apparently. After you brush your teeth, dry your toothbrush and stick it in the battery-operated sanitizer, then press the activation button. Germ-free toothbrush in seven minutes. “Perfect for germophobes,” the owner reminds me.
98 Yorkville Avenue, west of Bellair Street
This is the most traditional home décor store out of the three shops, so if you’re looking for beautiful drinking glasses or soft comforters, hit this place first. It also happens to be the most upscale shop detailed here as well; shop co-founders Shawn Gibson and Michael Pellegrino are both celebrated in their respective fields of interior design and landscape design, appearing frequently in print and television media to give their expert opinions.
From the outside, Teatro Verde seems rather unassuming—it looks like an old gardening store. The atmosphere inside, however, exudes elegance, with themed sections and carefully arranged merchandise on display. There are two floors to browse through: the first floor contains mostly dinnerware, furniture, and decorations, while the nifty stuff is mostly upstairs, where the books, stationery, and kitchen items are found. They also sell flowers arranged in specially designed bouquets and gardening supplies. Finally, there’s a second location in Bayview Village for those north of downtown.
Aphrodite bust USB hub ($45)
The ultimate in juxtaposition—ancient Greek sculpture meets 21st century IT. This four-port USB hub is sure to bring the cool factor and continental class to a home office. And when we say “class”, we mean that the bust is made of ceramic, not plastic.
Pantone stationery set ($15)
Perfect for lovers of visual art, interior design, and people who still write letters, this set is almost too pretty to use. The package includes 16 writing sheets, 16 envelopes, and three sheets of cute colour swatch stickers. You can also use the sheets to make striking origami!
Spoon chopsticks ($8)
Another neat kitchen helper, you can stir your soup and grab food pieces while cooking without hunting for utensils. The spoon end is a bit small to eat with once the cooking’s done, but you’ve still got the chopsticks for that. Also, the food-grade silicone rubber is safe to use on non-stick surfaces.
250 Augusta Avenue, between Oxford Street and Nassau Street
If you only have time to visit one store for your housewarming gift and/or holiday shopping list, make it Blue Banana. That’s because the range and quantity of merchandise available in this Kensington store is truly staggering—the best way to describe the store is probably as a big, alternative department store. They sell everything: gifts, clothes, art, snacks, kitchenware, Canadiana memorabilia, import specialties, toys, makeup, jewelry, decorations, and even honey.
In one corner you have an arcade machine and soft drinks; in another corner you have baby products and ethnic musical instruments. Whether you’re looking for something tongue-in-cheek or purely functional, you can find something for basically every occasion and situation: a tourist friend, a wedding, a baby shower, a thank-you gift, a birthday gift, party decorations…the list goes on. Trust me: you’ll probably want something in every aisle.
Stick N’ Stay mat for cellphones, keys, and remotes ($8)
This little mat works without glue or magnet—its surface is made of polyurethane gel, which is sticky, bendable, and durable. Its uses are endless; basically, any small everyday item you’re bound to misplace, such as keys, cellphones, remotes, or change, can be quickly and painless organized by sticking it to this mat. Get one for the home and the car.
Plastic coloured bottle markers (set of eight markers: $5)
Never again will you and your friends have to wonder which beer bottle belongs to who! Now all you have to keep track of is which colour belongs to who… though that might still be a tall order as the party heads into the wee hours!
A soft, reusable water bottle that folds flat when you’re done with it? Who would’ve thought? A great gift for the eco-conscious, the active, outdoorsy type, it’s also chic enough to serve as a great gift for the fashion-forward—the anti-bottle folds flat to fit inside handbags and comes in a variety of colours and patterns to keep you hydrated and looking good. You can freeze and wash it, and you can even personalize your anti-bottle with stickers. No more excuses for not bringing water to work or school.