Travel

The Best Gift Shops

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In the age of Amazon, it’s completely feasible to cross everyone off your list from the comfort of your desk. That said, so long as you don’t find yourself somewhere too overcrowded, there’s really nothing that inspires holiday spirit more than a day spent picking up special, unique pieces for loved ones in person. Here, our favorite shops for perusing with an armful of shopping bags in tow and Christmas music playing in the background (plus a few online favorites for emergencies).

Brimfield

5219 N. Clark St., Andersonville | 773.271.3501

With its fireplace, piles of wool blankets, tartan flasks, plus vintage camping equipment and furniture, this log cabin-like shop (named after owner Julie Fernstrom’s favorite plaid) is heavy on prep, in the best possible way. If the wall of tartan and flannel fabric inspires, re-upholstery services are readily available. And don’t miss the fully refurbished, 1970s airstream parked in back (kids go nuts for it…as do adults).

Broadway Antique Market

6130 N. Broadway St., Edgewater | 773.743.5444

Chicago antique malls are the stuff of mid-century modern legend, and BAM is the crème de la crème. At 75-vendors strong (most with a focus on Art Deco, Mission, and Mid Century modern design), it’s got something for everyone. Furniture, clothing, accessories, costume jewelry—all of it blessedly organized so there’s little need to dig. And as locals will tell you (or more likely, not tell you) the semi-annual sales are epic.

Eskell

1509 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park | 773.486.0830

Kelly Whitesell and Elizabeth Del Castillo, the founders of this Wicker Park standby, are known for their trend-driven, yet somehow totally timeless sensibility, which is perfectly reflected in the boutique’s easy-to-navigate layout and eclectic buy (Judi Rosen denim, knits from Barcelona-based Yerse, and In God We Trust charm necklaces). And while the eponymous house line might skew a little young for some, for the right girl, the racks of retro-tinged dresses and printed separates are a sartorial goldmine. The apothecary, however, is a sure bet for just about everyone—think, D.S. & Durga fragrances and Qualitas candles.

Greer

1013 West Webster Ave., Lincoln Park | 312.337.8000

After years of putting her MBA to good use as an ad exec, Chandra Greer left it all behind for more creative pastures and never looked back. Greer is the kind of stationery-slash-gift shop you can pop into in a hurry and emerge with the perfect present (say, a Xenia Taler trivet or Lucia candle) or time permitting, pass an afternoon perusing the artfully cluttered displays. All the usual suspects—Rifle Paper Co., Delfonics, Ferme a Papier—are well represented, as are less-known indie makers like Antiquaria and Tiselle. Don’t miss the house line of miniature just-because cards, aptly called Civilettes.

Humboldt House

1045 N. California Ave., West Town | 312.785.1442

Owner Claire Tibbs puts a lot of love into staging the beautiful range of vintage modern furniture, ceramics, textiles, and jewelry as a series of vignettes, making this sprawling space that much easier to navigate. It also means you get a pretty convincing preview of what, say, a retro brass bar cart or Hans Olsen leather chair might look like in your own home. On a smaller scale, the selection of local-designed jewelry, home goods, and apothecary items is as easy on the eyes as it is on the wallet.

Jayson Home

1885 N. Clybourn Ave., Lincoln Park | 773.248.8180

This beloved vintage furniture/décor/botany mecca was a major contributor to making the Chicago goop Pop the experience it was. Even if you’re not in the market for say, a crushed velvet fainting sofa or crystal chandelier, perusing the bright space is an inspiring experience. Can’t do in-person? The online shop is the next best thing.

Madison Hall

71 E. Madison St., The Loop | 312.683.9586

Though it's nestled within the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Madison Hall is so much more than a hotel gift shop. The space itself, housed in a historic storefront, is beautifully turned out and is stocked with everything from stationery to men's basics to women's accessories. Also worth noting is the extensive beauty product selection, which includes Jin Soon nail polish, Santa Maria Novella lotions and potions, and goop's own line of organic skincare.

Merz Apothecary

17 E. Monroe St., The Loop | 312.781.6900

Stepping in here is the closest thing to time travel. Peter Merz opened this North Side institution in 1875 to resemble the European apothecaries his customers were missing, and other than moving to a bigger space in the 80s, it really hasn’t changed much: Holistic remedies and herbal tinctures (rounded out by a massive selection of vitamins and supplements) are displayed in their original antique jars, while natural skincare and beauty products from modern day favorites like Dr. Hauschka, Klorane, and Jao line the shelves. There’s also an equally well-stocked Lincoln Square location.

P.O.S.H.

613 N. State St., River North | 312.280.1602

Come to this deliberately cluttered mom-and-pop (located in the historic Tree Studio building) for all the benefits of antique shopping, without having to deep dive for the good stuff—here, piles of vintage hotel silver salvaged from European estate sales sit next to 1950s maps found at local flea markets. And while everything on display is good, it’s the tiny kids corner—packed with books, serving sets, and vintage toys—that’s arguably the main attraction. Fair warning: Serious collectors have to be quick on the draw as much of the offering is one-of-a-kind.

RR #1 Apothecary

814 N. Ashland Ave., West Town | 312.421.9079

Housed in what used to be a 1930s apothecary (thankfully, the original wood paneling was left untouched), RR#1 Apothecary is one of those stores that you’ll have a hard time leaving empty-handed. On offer: a dizzying array of candles, teas, and soaps, as well as kitschy prank gifts, tea towels, and novelty books. It’s pretty ideal for picking up a last minute something for the hostess, they'll even gift-wrap your selection right at the counter.

Salvage One

1840 W. Hubbard St., West Town | 312.733.0098

Navigating this colossal salvaged furniture and décor warehouse is actually surprisingly easy, especially if mid-century modern is your design sweet spot. Inventory is updated pretty much daily so no two trips are alike. Conveniently, they also offer carpentry services at the on-site workshop, making this an excellent resource for decorators and designers. Plus, the lush courtyard is an easy sell as a popular special event and wedding venue.

Space 519

900 N. Michigan Shops, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Magnificent Mile | 312.751.1519

In just a few years, owners Lance and Jim have made a name for themselves for their impeccable taste, and for bringing otherwise-unknown designers and brands to their shop on North Michigan. Their tastes run the gamut from post-pop ceramics by Seletti, to tongue-in-cheek stationery, to Building Block tassel bags, Rachel Comey trousers, and Markus Lupfer sweatshirts: In their words, “it’s a general store that’s anything but general.” In the beauty department, find everything from Binchotan charcoal masks, to the full range of goop clean skincare.

Wright

1440 W. Hubbard St., West Town | 312.563.0020

This fabled auction house’s claim to fame is organizing modern and contemporary design shows that have the power to bring seasoned collectors to their knees and inspire novices to start investing. In addition to a gallery and consignment department, the Chicago location is home to the Wright Now showroom, which houses globally-sourced décor, furniture, and fine art that can be viewed by appointment.