Good design is the art (and science) of turning the mundane into the magnificent. Below is an assortment of meticulously designed (and, of course, awesome looking) objects for the friend whose home is a little lacking in the aesthetics department.
1. Dyson City - $400:
A vacuum for those of us residing in closets…er, studio apartments, the diminutive Dyson DC26 "City" is designed for small floor plans. The unit itself weighs in at a scant 12lb but is barely noticeable while being tugged along behind you. And, much like its upright cousins, the City's fully-articulated nozzle head can swivel and twist to reach otherwise inaccessible dust bunnies. While it probably can't handle a shag carpet, the City is more than enough vacuum to tackle most household jobs.
2. Ash Bike Shelf - $270:
Cycling is a great way to get around and stay in shape, but storing a bicycle is a great way to become extremely frustrated maybe have its wheels stolen. So! The Ash Bike Shelf not only keeps your bike stored and secure inside, but it'll make any wall look great. Floating bicycle is cool bicycle.
[Knife & Saw]
3. Z-Bar desk lamp - $215:
My approach to desk stuff is that if I'm going to be forced to stare at it every day, it ought to be something special. The Z-Bar lamp won't make a workday any easier, but it'll at least be a break from the humdrum incandescent routine of friends' offices. It's got a neat, minimalist design (distracting lamps are obnoxious!), runs on 66 energy efficient LEDs, and reaches up to four feet upwards—perfect for anyone who's obsessive about a well-lit workspace (like me).
4. Eames Lounge - $4799:
This one's definitely on the higher end, but for good reason. The Charles and Ray Eames masterpiece is in New York's Museum of Modern Art, but can roll into any living room too, if you've got a chunk of change to give up for it. It'll be money well spent though—the plywood and leather chair and ottoman set have more attention to detail than most electronics do, and because this is the genuine article (beware crappy counterfeits), it'll be comfortable as hell. Which, after all, is what you really want from a chair.
5. Nelson Night Desk Clock - $410:
I take the same approach to clocks as I do with lamps—they should be aesthetically special without drawing your attention when you can't afford to give it. The Nelson Night clock is a good pick—compact, minimal, and still pretty. I dig the vaguely nautical look, too.
6. Poster Hanger - $22-26:
The first thing I do when I move into a new place is cover the walls with prints and posters I love—plain white walls are kind of gross. But framing is extremely expensive. Prohibitively so, usually. These brushed-aluminum tubes are a nice way of mounting prints without having to resort to frames—just attach one to the top and bottoms of a favorite poster, and it'll keep them hanging straight and modern.
7. Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Smart Toaster - $180:
If there's anything I love in this world more than fine design, it's toast. Or maybe bagels. Sometimes both. If you have a toast fiend on your shopping list, check this out: the streamlined Breville handles four slices at a time. Which is not the cool part. The cool part? A fantastic "A Bit More" button for toasting your toastables, well, a bit more.
8. Bonsai Redwood Forest Kit - $54:
Do you know someone whose bedroom is horribly drab? Or do you know someone that needs a slow but ultimately rewarding hobby? Are these, ideally, the same person? Either way, a bonsai growing kit will make it (relatively) easy for your in-need-of-zen pal to grow their own tiny redwood forest. Yeah, it'll take several years, but they'll thank you for it…later.
9. LivingColor LED lamp - $200:
Forget repainting—it may be cheaper than the LivingColor lamp, but no brush packs over 16 million color options by mixing intensities of its four LEDs, controlled by an included remote control. The lamp is designed to be tucked in a corner for a localized splash of color, but up to six can be daisy-chained to a single remote and placed around the room for instant mood lighting.
10. IKEA TRONES Shoe Storage - $39.99 (3-pack):
Okay, shoe storage—that does not sound cool at all. But these are the most subtly versatile and kickass storage units found at IKEA. Hang 'em on a wall, and they're instant fold-out storage for anything—cameras, clothes, DVDs (even shoes). Plus, the top serves as a bonus shelf.
11. Voile Spaghetti Measure - $26:
The second most anguishing part of my existence, after not being able to find my keys, is cooking too much spaghetti. The horror! Eyeballing it is an option, but to be exactly sure how much pasta I'm about to cook, your pasta-loving friend can just slide it through one of the three loops of the Voile—there's one for a single serving, dinner for three, or enough for five plates.
12. Revolver Canby sunglasses - $120:
You want your gift getter to have a well-designed interior, yeah—but what happens when they step outside? We're not going to try telling you how to dress your friends, but these badass shades, crafted out of pure zebrawood, will mean that at the very least their faces are well-designed. Carl Zeiss lenses mean they'll be great for eyes too.
13. IDEACO & ASSOCIATES Coin Storage - $32:
I have a lot of flaws, but perhaps the worst is my inability to keep track of my keys. Ever. Each day is a struggle—which is why a simple and attractive tray and piggy bank in one is perfect. Toss your keys (or glasses, or flash drive, or whatever) on top, and store loose change inside.
The burning sensation that comes from holiday shopping isn't from rubbing against the unwashed masses at malls: It's trying to pick out presents for everybody on your list. Gizmodo's daily gift guides and best gadgets list are the all-natural, non-smelly cure.