You’re shopping in New York City for the holidays. So, it seems, is everybody else. After a highbrow saunter down Madison Avenue and a few obligatory snaps at tourist-thronged Rock Center, head to the edges of Manhattan, where whole worlds of intrigue, inspiration and curiosity are hidden in plain sight. This is what New York City does best — offers a little something very special for every kind of person.
Here is a list of stores filled with specialty items sure to elicit the response “Where’d you get this?” from whoever opens your gift.
This incredibly fragrant bijou boutique is situated on what happens to be one of the most charming, quiet stretches of the West Village. It’s all burgundy carpets, crystal chandeliers, candelabras, quail feathers and rows of meticulously curated fragrances — perfumes, candles, incense for the home. The gift wrap alone is worth the splurge: Items are wrapped in black and gold and tied off with mini floral bouquets.
This antiquarian bookstore, the city’s oldest independent bookshop (once part of its lauded Book Row), is run by 3 sisters with a nose for what is special, unique and hard to come by. Tomes are organized in an elegantly decorated, 6-story brownstone building, so give yourself plenty of time to browse in the stacks. Besides old treasures (which the knowledgeable staff will help you locate), there are modern first editions, a neat floor of maps, used books, bargain books and autographs, which have been perused (and purchased!) by the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Patti Smith.
One of the many things that makes shopping a joy in NYC is that the city is inhabited by the world’s foremost collectors, experts and enthusiasts in all matters curious and esoteric. There’s room for everyone — and the best always rise to the top. Such is the case with the gents who run this stunning Upper East Side town-house-cum-treasure-shop, a veritable jewel box of rare decorative objects. Exotic shells, taxidermy and gemstones mix and mingle with porcelain, books and fresh flowers.
There are remnants of East Village punk life at this easy-on-the-eyes Nolita boutique, where the tattooed staff talks about energy crystals and dream catchers as boho shoppers move about the space, sniffing fancy bath products, testing out utility knives, and eyeing rugs, vintage jewelry, and artisan crafts displayed in curio cases and hung on suspended tree branches. As you shop for others, you won’t be able to help but also shop for yourself.
Wonder what the next trend in design is going to look like? Then step right into this soaring Soho shop filled with furniture, small gifts, jewelry and hostess presents. Proprietor Michele Varian consistently has her finger on the pulse; she has the uncanny ability to determine just how much Victorian Goth, artisan woodsiness or boundary-pushing ’60s California vibe we need in our lives and homes. She also understands customers’ needs and wants, offering a wide range of price points on everything from embroidered pillows to vintage compasses to wooden mobiles to brass candleholders to crystal pendants.
It’s an institution in its own right — an incredible place to wander around when you’re looking to get inspired (or warm up from the cold). There are several floors (rugs, bohemian furniture, lighting) for heavy hitters and several shops-within-a-shop with a global flare: Southeast Asian fabrics and Buddha statues, Danish tabletop items, Italian blown glass, and avant-garde clothing. Attached are 2 Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants that warrant more looking and touching (and tasting): the vegetable-driven ABC Kitchen and the margarita-driven ABC Cocina.
Just about every 6 weeks — the attention span of a New Yorker? — this loft space on Chelsea’s west side reinvents itself as a new kind of shop and gallery of items (fitting, as it’s in the gallery district). Its new story: Home for the Holidays, a kind of live, editorialized space featuring an interior designed by Jason Bell, a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Target, installations by local artists, and digital displays that give context to the items for sale.