OK this is probably a little late to come in with some of these holiday gifts, but I've always thought the best gifts are those that are both really cool and yet at the same time, things you would never get for yourself, these three items deserve a special mention. OK - maybe I might get myself a gift this season, and pick up one of these!
Levitating Lamp: Flyte
Well, I guess it is a desk lamp, so it isn't totally useless. This piqued my interest as a combination of a using electromagnet force to levitate (and spin), and electromagnetic induction to power the lamp without wires, packaged beautifully in something that looks nice enough to go on a coffee table or in a nice office.
Admittedly, this is by no means a completely unique product - you may have seen cheap versions with the levitating piece for years on Amazon or in the in-flight Sharper Image catalog. However, in my humble opinion, upgrading it from cheap plastic to a wood (veneer) definitely ups its classiness.
Of course, there are similar beautiful designs available for a levitating planter, bonsai tree, "crystal" lamp, and all sorts of similar products. The prices range from $40 for the globe in the picture below, to $350 for the lamp on top. This is definitely something to consider for the person who already "has it all".
Floating Shelf: RockPaperRobot
If your budget is in the $350 range, and you know the recipient is in the market for a small shelf (and the more affordable shelves like this and this that I build aren't in the running!), check out RockPaperRobot, a Brooklyn firm with a floating shelf, and some other really amazing furniture as well.
RockPaperRobot is an engineering and design company specializing in shape-shifting and connected furniture. ... Celebrating the wonder of physics, our invention ethos draws inspiration from nature to create pieces that are as much experiences as they are objects. Our work redefines traditionally static stuff into dynamic platforms that reflect our appreciation for increased functionality, applied technology, and individual style.
Though just about all their pieces are really novel and worth checking out - such as a full-size kitchen table that stores like a piece of art on the wall, for those who suffer compact living in San Francisco or elsewhere - the one that really caught my attention is their floating shelf.
It is enabled by carefully-positioned rare earth magnets that provide the force to repel the cubes, counterbalanced by the steel rope to keep the cubes in place. (Yes, all these pieces I really admire feature embedded rare earth magnets as a core component of their functionality, including the Sisyphus sand plotter of Bruce Shapiro featured earlier).
And while the engineering alone is pretty cool, of course you want to be able to display it in your home. The one that really caught my eye has a beautifully-done continuous grain walnut veneer - but it's also available in black, chrome, and other finishes.
Time in Words: QlockTwo
This one doesn't feature wood or even wood veneer, but is nonetheless a beautiful watch (or wall or nightstand clock) that looks like a mysterious piece of art when not lit up. It tells the time in words ... but rather than try to explain it in words:
If you look closely, you'll see that the text only get it to the nearest five minute interval, but it has some very intuitive ways to narrow that to the minute, and also to represent seconds, as well as the date.
Credit to my brother for introducing (and gifting me with) one, and to a fellow mentor at the iMentor organization where I volunteer who works at Frog Design and introduced me to the other two.