Is there anyone who hasn’t faced the discomfort of receiving an unwanted gift amid the enthusiasm of the giver who insists you try it on or use it there and then, right in front of them?
For some reason the gift is almost never accompanied by a gift receipt, or even the suggestion of exchanging it for something preferable.
This minefield of giving and receiving has been eased somewhat by the growing custom of re-gifting and the more noble option of donating to charity shops in January, although the latter tend not to take electrics.
Which means you’d be hard pressed as to whom you ought to pass on the noisy, rattling foot spa Santa left under the tree. Same goes for suspect food items — with an expiry date two years from now!
No matter how much we might throw our eyes up and shake our heads at what a waste of money it was, we’re equally mindful that someone took the time and spent the cash to give us a gift they thought we would enjoy, while stressing themselves through the hoards of shoppers in the process.
By avoiding personal gifts altogether and opting for something for the home, it’s much more likely to be a success, especially when it comes to practical items.
Giving furniture might seem a little extravagant, but an elegant occasional piece, like a drinks’ trolley, provides a combination of practical storage for your bottles and ease of access as it can be wheeled into whichever room requires it when entertaining.
It also has an old world, glamorous feel, harking back to days of cocktails and cigarette holders. A modern take on this newly revived item is the Industrial Oval version from Interiosity which could double up as an interesting occasional table (€265).
For a touch of fun and practicality, especially if the recipient has just moved house and is short of seating, the Ikea rocking chair is a contemporary version of one of the most traditional pieces of furniture.
If it looks familiar, you probably saw it recently on RTÉ’s Desperate Houses as part of one of their home makeovers (€295).
Tableware is always an acceptable gift, especially when it taps into the trend for vintage style china. Ranges have been coming onto the market in the last couple of years which have made a virtue of mix and match.
Pip Studio’s Floral Renewed consists of cups, saucers, plates, bowls and platters in various patterns, featuring delicate detailing, but all in a pink-based colourway. This means they not only work together, but can be interspersed with white china to bring life and interest to a table on special occasions (from €9.56 at Arnotts).
Italian design house Kartell does interesting things with plastic, often taking elaborate design features like gilt Baroque styling and diamond cut finishes, and recreating these looks in plastic.
The Bourgie lamp is among its most famous products in this theme, to which they’ve now added Jellies, a range of tableware which looks like tinted glass but is —you’ve guessed it — plastic, and comes in a choice of transparent, pink, blue and green.
Admittedly, plastic wares are more acceptable in summer when much entertaining is done out of doors, but there’s something so stylish, yet sturdy, about this range which would make them perfect for hot chocolate dispensed from a flask during a chilly woodland walk over the Christmas holidays (€56 for cup and saucer).
If you’d like to be a bit more inventive, the Irish Design Shop offers some lovely rustic espresso cups (€32 for two) by Stephen Pearce, with a bag of Root & Branch coffee (€15).
Of course, you could make up your own version with your, or the gift recipient’s, favourite brand of coffee, and put it in a gift box with mugs or cups and saucers.
Kitchen bin guru Brabantia, has brought out the Bo Touch model (€189.95) which looks almost like a piece of furniture and can be positioned in the kitchen accordingly.
Admittedly, to suggest a bin as a Christmas gift is rather like threatening a child with a bag of coal from Santa if they don’t behave, but if you know someone who hates the cylindrical versions that never seem to have sufficient capacity and are constantly in the way, this beauty might play beautifully to their practical needs all year round.