HMR Inspiration Report: Unique Gifting // November, 2021

As we get closer to the holiday season, this month’s HMR Inspiration Report has us thinking about our most coveted gifting-go-tos. From Marie Condo to the stay-at-home mandates of 2020 – combined with minimalist interior design, things are seemingly becoming less and less important. Read on for our team’s favorite options to assist in thoughtful, curated gifting this holiday season.

Creative Director Bill Heffernan errs on the artistic side – his favorite thing to gift is a big, beautiful book. 

“My favorite place to buy gifts is Rizzoli in NYC. They’re a book store/publisher that covers everything from Art and Fashion to History and Celebrities. I love their diverse selection of publications, as it makes it incredibly easy to personalize gifts for just about anyone. 

Annie Leibovitz is another fabulous artist whom I love to gift to others. The span of her career is something to marvel at… and her books and photography are unparalleled! There is even one that is 3ft. x 4ft. It requires a special table just to hold it.” 


Natalie Walsh, Event Designer, encounters fave finds at Ten Thousand Villages in Oak Park. 

“Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit Maker-to-Market store that is working to break the cycle of generational poverty and ignite social change. They provide a way to shop with intention for ethically-sourced items — and to share in the joy of empowering makers in ten thousand villages. I find the global inspirations in their gifts to be colorful, joyous and beautiful. The eccentric mix of jewelry, home decor, and kitchen wares makes it easy for me to get all my holiday needs in one place!” 

Bari Singh, Event Designer, believes one of the best gifts is to commission a personal portrait or piece of art. 

“For years I’ve loved the work of the artists of Project Onward, Don’t Fret, Goons, and Wonder City Studio. These artists do an eclectic assortment of pet, family and architectural portraits for commission. I think the quirkiness of these paintings makes a truly wonderful and personalized gift. They’ll never get anything else like it!”  


For out-of-the-box gifting, Event Designer David Epstein loves local boutique, The Fig Tree

I love shopping in stores that offer up surprises each time I visit. In our increasingly  homogenized world, I gravitate towards independent shops that make their own rules. One of my favorite go-to’s is The Fig Tree in Chicago’s West Loop. It’s independently owned and has a fun, quirky vibe reflected in their selection of gifts ranging from the hilarious to the fascinating. Books and games you’ll never see anywhere else. Creative baby gifts galore. Hats, socks, candles and knick-knacks for anyone with a twisted sense of humor (like me). Every time I visit I walk out with a smile, and something I never knew I needed!”

Event Designer Brittanie Ahrens loves supporting Peach Fuzz for fun kids gifts and Uncommon James for gifts for her girlfriends. 

“I love that Peach Fuzz carries beautiful, handmade toys and playful art objects in addition to thoughtful, progressive books. With a mix between kids’ level activism and Chicago-based adorable gifts, how could you go wrong? 

I’m also obsessed with Uncommon James. They’re a collection of timeless, effortless and sophisticated jewelry for women on-the-go. They also partner with Mother to Mother, a non-profit organization that aims to help low‑income mothers get what they need for the health, safety, and wellness of their children. I love that when I buy something beautiful for someone beautiful in my life, I’m also doing something beautiful for someone I don’t know.” 

Event Designer Nick Watts has a strong sense that Diptyque candles never fail.  

“Their candles are intoxicatingly beautiful in scent. Each year I get my mom the annual advent calendar, which is full of all kinds of goodies from candles to spritz’ to adorable charms, room atomizers and more. I always have thought that if your space feels (and smells) festive, it’s hard not to be in the holiday spirit.”

Event Designer Burt Rubenstein has a special place in his heart for Lester Lampert when procuring meaningful gifts based on a personal family connection.  

“This world renowned family jeweler used to have a show at Navy Pier. I’ll never forget one year when my nephew and his fiancé walked through the Art Institute of Chicago and, in the final room, where there were many displays, my nephew had arranged to showcase his future wife’s Lester Lampert engagement ring as a surprise. Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan of his work — I find it elegant and unique. His flair for the dramatic in a sophisticated fashion make his pieces timeless works of art.” 


Marketing Producer Emma Kuske is partial to a little store in Grand Rapids, Michigan called Reinspired Treasures

“While I was growing up in Grand Rapids, I became obsessed with Reinspired Treasures. It’s a homegoods store that mixes thrifted decor items as well as creations made by some amazing local artisans and vintage dealers. Shopping there simply brings me joy. The store is always full of an eclectic mix of vintage, unique gifts and other handmade goods that help fill my gift box with a little bit of quirky beauty.” 


Also thinking of kids, Event Designer Staci Miller’s go-to shop for baby gifts is Cuddle + Kind

“Recently, I’ve been buying a lot of gifts for the little ones in my family. Cuddle + Kind’s hand-made, fair-trade dolls are both a gift to the newborn and to a good cause. I try to support businesses that pass along their good fortune – this one definitely does. Their dolls are made by female artisans in Peru with natural and high quality cotton (good for the baby!) and each purchase donates ten meals for children in need (good for the world!). It doesn’t hurt that their stuff is absolutely adorable, too!” 


Director of Brand Strategy + Partnerships Marley Finnegan prefers to go green with gifting. Her go-to-gift is a long-lasting, monogrammed Leather Travel Set by Cuyana.

“Cuyana’s motto is ‘Fewer, Better’ – and they have been designing sustainably since before it was a focus of mainstream consumerism.  They have been 95% sustainable since 2020 and have plans to be fully sustainable by 2022.

So many of my beloved have received these – from my mom to my best girlfriends – my mom even gifted it to me, eventually! The leather is superior and the colors and detailing are fantastic. It’s an easy go-to gift for the quintessential stylish traveler in your life.”


Thanks again for your interest in HMR’s perspectives. Join us next month for a personal deep dive on how our team prefers to unwind + reflect as we move into the New Year.