Gifts: 12 ideas for your kitchen that are useful and beautiful


Most of the tools we use in the kitchen have at best a kind of prosaic beauty. It takes a subtle eye to appreciate the flex and curve of a well-made whisk, for example. And those kitchen towels you use for mopping up spills and filtering stock? Do they even have a color?

But there are some kitchen items that deserve closer inspection. Here are a dozen gifts that, although perfectly functional, have been elevated to something closer to art.

La Chamba black clay soup pot
Handmade in Colombia, this black clay soup pot is natural and unglazed. Use it on the stove top or in the oven, or even the microwave. The pot keeps such an even heat that it cooks beans to a velvety texture. Soups seem to gain flavor too. And it is handsome enough to bring straight from the stove or oven to the table. From $49.95, at


Watts Tower tea towels
Stylish flour-sack towels from the atelier of Miss Fruitfly are silkscreened by hand. Your dishes will gleam with Los Angeles pride. Sold at various artisan fairs and for $14 from — search for Watts tea towels.

Cutting board by the Wooden Palate
These boards made in Los Angeles by woodworkers Ryan Silverman and Eileen O’Dea will stop you in your tracks. End grain, in walnut or fumed oak, they’re eminently useful but beautiful enough that you’ll want to keep them out on the counter. Note too: Made of reclaimed and repurposed wood or else sustainably harvested North American hardwoods. From $395, at various retail outlets and at

Jose Regueiro black walnut cutting board
This large cutting board made of edge-grain American black walnut is a thing of beauty, handmade by artist and designer Jose Regueiro in his Michigan studio. It’s 14 by 22 inches and 2½ inches thick, and it lies flat and won’t shift. An heirloom cutting board. $195, at

Stoneware coasters
Glassell Park artist Bari Ziperstein said she’s inspired by Finnish patterns and the California desert in creating her Bzippy & Co. collection. The mash-up of influences can be seen in her heavy stoneware coasters, hand-painted circles or hexagons that can be stacked on a table. $45 for a set of four at Individual Medley in Atwater Village,; ReForm School in Silver Lake,; Fifth Floor in Chinatown,; Platform in Highland Park,; the O.C. Museum of Art Museum Shop in Newport Beach,; and BKB Ceramics in Joshua Tree,

Mini weavings
Survey Heather Taylor’s vibrant embroidered linen table runners, place mats and napkins, and you won’t be surprised that the Los Angeles designer would move on to something more tactile: weavings. Her new small weavings, roughly 5 by 8 inches, are offbeat artworks made in Los Angeles. $250, at

Compost box
For the devoted composter in your life -- or the person who should be -- there is the Tigger Countertop Compost Bin. The 13-inch-long wooden box is made with off-cuts, remnant pieces recycled by the workshop of Marina del Rey furniture craftsman Cliff Spencer. Keep it on the counter and stow eggshells, coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps until you’re ready to toss it all in the composter outside. Each box has a lidded stainless steel pan that lifts out for easy cleaning. $125, at

Painted ceramics
Painter Kat Hutter and ceramist Roger Lee maintain separate artistic careers, but lately they also have been blending their talents for an interesting collection of graphic pottery that ranges from coffee drippers to large vases, designed with striking forms and a modern palette. $38 to $400, (click on “Retailers” for a list that includes General Store in Venice and Platform in Highland Park).

Vintage cocktail ware
For the avid collector, nothing makes a classic cocktail taste better than a vintage receptacle. Whether you’re looking for themed glass or Bakelite shakers, vintage Tepco skull tiki mugs or a set of Señor Pico ceramic (“honi honi“-style) glasses, almost anything can be found on the Internet. Even Holt Howard winking Santa Mugs, perfect for hot chocolate or something a little stronger. Prices vary. Widely available at websites such as eBay,, and

Japanese bartending tools
Mixologist Garbriella Mlynarczik of Ink is a big fan of the Japanese bar tools at Culver City’s eclectic wine and spirits purveyor Bar & Garden. They’ve got something for every budget. Check out the funnel and bell-shaped jiggers in different sizes, either stainless steel or, for some real bling, gold-plated ($13 to $32). And for the bartender who already has everything, glass bitters bottles ($38 to $44) might be just the ticket. 6142 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 876-0759.

“Mad Men” glasses from Bar Keeper
Every home bar geek needs a set or two of quality vintage cocktail glasses to use when company is over. Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is the go-to place to find these little beauties. Gold and silver trimmed rocks glasses with very “Mad Men” designs are kept on special “vintage” shelves in the store alongside other glassware of equal value and age. Sets range from $40 to $200, at

Produce prints
For the gardener or cook in your life, Rhode Island School of Design grad Jennifer Kindell creates abstractions of a foodie’s harvest using an unconventional printing technique. The result: small batches of Albion strawberry, purple artichoke, treviso and other artworks that reflect what the California artist is seeing at farmers markets. $25 to $200, at


Here’s where to find good goose in LA.

Shopping for gifts at Torrance’s Hitachiya

Gifts: 11 delicious things to eat and drink