Dear Arlene,

When I saw the “Ask Arlene” portion of your interior design blog, I jumped at the chance to receive your advice!

I will be attending two housewarming parties next month. Two! A nice candle or a bottle of wine has always been my go-to gift, but I would love to give something they will enjoy throughout the years. Seeing that you have a well-crafted talent for designing living spaces around people’s needs, I am asking for your insight. Do you have any suggestions?


Gift-less in Leawood

Dear Gift-less,

So you want to give a gift that has a purpose; a gift that will be utilized and enjoyed for years to come? Something thoughtful and beneficial; something that doesn’t say “re-gift me, please?”. When it comes to finding the perfect gift, look no further than your own home.


What Works For You?

The best gifts that I’ve ever given, or received for that matter, have come from first-hand user recommendations. What works for you? Take a look around your home: Is there a kitchen gadget or home accessory that has made your life easier or more comfortable? Was there a gift you’ve received years ago that you still use?

I’ve received the following as gifts and have since purchased them for gifts to friends and family because they work. Because they were the perfect gift.


Even if you have a gourmet kitchen with plenty of counter space, the stovetop can still get crowded when you’ve got a meal in the making. This pot and pan lid holder doubles as a spoon rest and keeps your counter space open and clean of steam or whatever else may drip from your lids. When I spied this gem in a friend’s kitchen, I just I knew I had to have one! Luckily for you, they are now available with the click of a mouse for around ten bucks!

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I used to have the cutest pair of oven mitts. They looked great in my kitchen; they even matched my dish towels! But every time I used them, it was a mad dash to pull the hot dish from the oven and heave it onto the counter before the heat traveled through the gloves. For years I would don those cute potholders and use the matching dish towels as extra padding when handling hot, heavy dishes because my super-cute oven mitts were not super heat resistant.

When I was given these silicone oven gloves, I knew I hit the must-have kitchen accessory jackpot. It wasn’t until I owned this pair that I realized how my old oven mitts, as cute as they were, had been working against me all of those years. It is SO EASY to slide your hand in and out of this oven mitt. The clean-up is a breeze—just rinse! While they are a bit longer than your average oven mitts, they lay flatter and take up less drawer height. Don’t let the bargain price of $11.47 make you think twice or question the quality of this product. Trust me on this one! Unless they already have a pair, these oven mitts are a gift that won’t be re-gifted.


Because you got such a steal with the oven mitts (that they are sure to use for years), you can justify adding a little more to your gift box, am I right?


I love a beautifully set table. Silicone is not what comes to mind when I envision the table-scape of a traditional family dinner. I have some beautiful wrought iron trivets that have been in my family for ages, and I love to use them, but these silicone pot plates are so practical for everyday life.

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They are so flexible and easy to handle hot lids with, and they’re non-slip, so they work great as an easy-clean place mat for babies and little kids. No more plates and bowls whooshing off the table with the flick of a small wrist!

Speaking of silicone, I haven’t used my colander since I got this awesome gadget. This silicone pasta strainer clips on to the side of your pan when you’re ready to strain. A quick rinse in the sink or toss in the dishwasher means one less dish to wash!

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Let’s talk kitchen safety. Having a fire extinguisher on-hand in the kitchen (and knowing where it is) is a must. So why wasn’t my fire extinguisher available when we had a “situation” in our kitchen recently? Because I tucked it away in a drawer, rarely to be seen and eventually forgotten. Fire extinguishers are big, red, eyesores! They are a blemish on the wall distracting from the beauty of your space. Until now!

Fire Design Extinguishers Design Connection Inc Kansas City Interior Design Blog
Photo Source: Fire Design

Designed to be on display (and NOT forgotten in a drawer), these fun fire extinguishers by Fire Design are super cute and come in a rainbow of colors and styles. From Hello Kitty and The Rolling Stones to travel, food and pop culture themes, you are sure to find one that fits your gift recipient’s style.

Fire Design Fire Extinguishers 2 Design Connection Inc Kansas City Interior Design Blog

Solid colors and metallic finishes are available, too! My favorite find is their fun take on a wine bottle, complete with wooden wine box. How cool is that!?

Fire Design Wine Bottle Fire Extinguishers Design Connection Inc Kansas City Interior Design Blog

This next product is my latest and greatest find. At first glance, it looks like an unassuming book. BUT IT’S AWESOME! It is the perfect bedside table accessory! It’s great for late-night reading in bed, and as I’ve recently discovered, is an incredible alternative to candles and flashlights during a power outage.

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Charged via USB, this battery and wire-free light source is a useful gift that can easily be tucked away on a bookshelf or displayed for all to enjoy. This light is also “light” on your wallet with an average price of about $30!

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I consider a houseplant to be a hit-or-miss gift. I really don’t advise giving gifts that require effort and upkeep, like a houseplant, unless the recipient has expressed otherwise. (Check out our informative Houseplants with Health Benefits Guide HERE) But ORCHIDS, though…

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Orchids are one of my favorite flowers—they are by far my favorite plant in my house, partly because they are so beautiful and bloom all year long, but also because they are so incredibly low-maintenance.

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For those of us lucky enough to live in the Kansas City area, we have access to the most amazing Orchid Cave! If you’ve never been to Bird’s Botanicals, I must insist that you visit. Shop local and plan a visit to the caves (open Tuesdays to the public) or catch them at the Overland Park Farmer’s Market or the Kansas City Market on weekends. See their schedule here.

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Another gift idea is something that we all use every day. Towels. One can never have enough hand towels! I know you are searching for a gift that is memorable, useful, and will be treasured for years to come, which is precisely why this necessity has made my list of great gifts for the home. When my husband and I lived in Switzerland, we received a set of hand towels and dish towels as a gift. No big deal, just a few towels, right? Fast forward a few decades, and guess what? We still have those towels and use them often, and fondly remember the friends who gave them to us. Spend the extra few bucks for some high-quality towels and you might just see them in still in use twenty years later!

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The same can be said for bath towels. I love the bamboo and Turkish cotton blend from Cariloha.

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Learn more about their Bamboo textiles here

The trick to giving the perfect gift is to give them something they will use and love but probably wouldn’t consider purchasing for themselves. Like high-quality towels and sheets. After 35+ years as an interior designer, it still boggles my mind that so many people strive for comfort and luxury in their furniture, in their cars, in their homes, yet sleep on scratchy sheets every night! WHY!!!!!!?????

I know, I know, sheets can be expensive… But swaddling yourself in the comfort of high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets should not be reserved for vacations at fancy hotels. Don’t short-sheet yourself when it comes to the comfort level of your linens. If you need an excuse to pamper yourself, look at it this way; your bedding and linens are an investment. You use them every day and they have a long life-expectancy. Just like you might pay a bit more for a pair of shoes that really deliver on comfort, the same should be done for your sheets. Splurge and sleep exquisitely!

Photo Source: Neiman Marcus

I’m not at all suggesting that you drop hundreds of dollars sheets for a bed that you won’t be sleeping in. This 1,800 thread count microfiber sheet set is the #1 selling and highest rated sheet set on Amazon. You can give the gift of a good night’s sleep for UNDER $25! With this level of comfort (Arlene Tested & Approved), and at this crazy low price, you might as well pick up a set for yourself. AND your spare bedroom (trust me, your house guests will thank you).

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Do you have an awesome housewarming gift idea that you’d like to share with us? Let us know on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Houzz!