Can you believe it's already mid January and 1 month until the sometimes loved and sometimes dreaded Valentine's Day? Whether you are a gushy romantic or a sceptical cynic, I've compiled a list of top 10 unusual, thoughtful, and creative gifts that will inspire you.
Top Ten Unusual, Thoughtful and Creative Valentine’s Day Gifts
For many (me included), February 14th conjures up images of over the top expressions of emotion where it seems that all of society is demanding that you buy a dozen red roses and take your partner out to dinner on one particular day that has no real historical or emotional significance. It’s full of societal pressure to do a certain thing or be a certain way. It can all feel a bit overwhelming, and unnecessary, and frankly pointless. However, what Valentine’s Day does well is to remind us to tell those who we love how we feel. And to show them. And this is where thoughtful, unusual, and creative gifts really come into their own. For most people, it’s the thought behind the gift and the care taken by the gift giver that counts just as much as the gift. And let’s face it, we all want to feel special and we don’t want just a lazy and easy dozen red roses and typical chocolate heart. So for those who are looking for something a bit more special for their loved ones, whether it’s Valentine’s day or another occasion, read on for my gift guide for the top ten unusual, thoughtful, and creative gifts.
1. Flowers - Forget the dozen red roses and get creative – most people have a favourite colour and many have a favourite flower. Think unusual flowers that are beautiful and unique – for example, ranunculus and anemone (both part of the same family) can be spectacular flowers, especially during this time of year, and much more interesting than red roses. They can be rich, seductive, and velvety (think purple or red anemones), or flirty and happy (think pink or mixed ranunculus). If your loved one loves spring, then fabulously shaped parrot tulips could be the way to go. If you absolutely must get roses, go for a more unusual colour than just plain red – these days, there is a huge variety of roses out there to choose from but stay away from the white or yellow, unless you’re sure that your partner likes those colours. Yellow often symbolizes friendship (and is a decidedly unsexy flower colour for most) and white can be associated with sombre occasions.
2. Art – Two advantages that art has above all other gifts is longevity and visibility – most art, good art will last a very long time indeed. And every time you look at your artwork, you will be reminded of a particular event or person. Art also has the advantage of being visible – depending on where in the house you put it (or office?), you will likely see the artwork every single day. So it is unlikely that it will get lost in a dark drawer somewhere only to be used or seen once a year if that. Despite these positives, buying art as a gift is challenging because art is so personal. So how do you get something that you know your partner will love? The answer of course is research. Ask what colours and artists your partner likes. For example, is their favourite Kandinsky or Van Gogh? Ask what style they like. Do they prefer abstract, floral, or landscape artwork? Do they love red, adore blue, can’t get enough of purple, or do they go for neutral monochrome? Do they prefer light and quirky or deep and serious? Do they love modern or do they adore all things vintage? And lastly, make sure that you buy from an artist that you like and trust so that you can exchange an artwork (or even return it) if need be. After all, you don’t want a reminder on your walls of a failed Valentine’s Day present.
3. Jewellery / Jewelry – In the gift giving world, jewellery is king. Or queen. We have been adorning ourselves and our bodies for thousands of years and the instinct to decorate and beautify seems intrinsic to who we are as humans. These days, you have a huge variety of jewellery types and styles to choose from, be it a necklace, bracelet, earrings or cufflinks. And again, it pays to find out what your partner likes and what they wear. But don’t be afraid to go out of their comfort zone. Surprising your partner with a unique piece of jewellery that is not their usual style but actually they fall in love with is a wonderful feeling. And a bit like rabbit’s feet or lucky omens, jewellery not only looks beautiful but reminds the wearer of the love they have in their life and the luck they hope to have.
4. Membership – Whether your partner is a culture vulture, or maybe has a new year’s resolution to take advantage of more cultural events, an annual membership to an arts institution can be a fantastic gift. For many institutions, being a member gives you special invites to exclusive events, discounted tickets / prices in shops, and access to members only rooms and events. In London, some ideas for membership include the V & A Museum, the British Museum, and the Tate galleries (which include the 4 Tates in the UK including the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain).
5. A Day Out - There is something to be said about sharing an experience or day out together rather than exchanging gifts. After all, what could be more romantic than spending the whole day with each other discovering a new city, finding a cozy restaurant, and forgetting your daily worries. Of course, With Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, you don’t even have to take any time off work. In London, we’re lucky to have so many day or one night places to stop over just to have a chance of scenery and explore something new, from the easy Brighton, to the historical Cambridge or Oxford, or relaxed Bath to the more up and coming Folkestone with one of the best placed restaurants on the coast. Or if you’re feeling the sting of the post holiday budget tightening, then why not do a staycation and visit a place you’ve never been, such as the Sir John Soane Museum (http://www.soane.org/) in Holborn or the Estorick Collection (http://www.estorickcollection.com/) in Angel or the little known Dennis Sever’s House near Liverpool Street Station (http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/)?
6. Anti-Valentine’s Day – The logic of the Anti-Valentine’s Day is that Valentine’s Day should not be the only day in the year when you show and tell your partner how you feel about them. That should be every day. Ironically, the Anti-Valentine’s day actually requires more work and planning than most people’s traditional Valentine’s Day, but it can be much more rewarding, especially for those who find Valentine’s Day a bit pointless or lacking in meaning. The way it works is that every day of the week starting February 8th, you give your partner a card and a small gift / gesture. And you throw in a couple of surprises in there – an unplanned nice dinner out. A surprise visit to the movies or theatre. But for the actual Valentine’s Day you do nothing and you stay home. No cards, no gifts, no special treats – just a meal at home and the smug satisfaction that you have showered your partner with affection and attention already while others are struggling to find last minute reservations at overpriced restaurants.
7. The Gift of Music – Even with the ubiquitous Spotify and iTunes, there is still a place for music as a gift. Why not buy a selection of favourite CDs? Or perhaps some concert tickets for a favourite band? Or some merchandise (shirts, hats, stickers) from a favourite band? Or better yet, do the classic mixed tape routine (or Spotify playlist) where you handpick songs that have a special meaning to you.
8. Gift of Renewal – Valentine’s Day is close enough to the New Year, when some are still in full New Year’s Resolutions mode. So why not lend a helping hand? But steer clear of things like gym membership, or the such and think more soul and spirit – think classes or events intended to open your mind to other ideas, to think big about your life and your career, to find some emotional space and calmness (meditation classes / books), and the such. In London, there are a few organisations which do wonderful classes and events which really make you think big and inspire you to be a better version of yourself, including the School of Life. Many offer vouchers for classes or events that you can buy as gifts.
9. Gift of Learning Something New –You are never too old to learn, and for many of us, trying something new can be scary. But trying a new activity can be incredibly rewarding, regardless of whether you ultimately stick with it as the very act of going outside your comfort zone is a gift in itself – to get unstuck from a rut or just to reignite some new ideas or passions. There are so many classes you can take to learn something new, ranging from boat building and furniture making to beer making and artisan baking. The gift of learning something new is a fantastically thoughtful gift, whether you share it with your partner or instead your gift includes the quiet individual space for your partner to experience something new by themselves.
10. Gift of Discovering Hidden Creativity – There are few things that are more fun than discovering hidden creative talents you never knew you had. Or maybe reigniting childhood creative artsy projects as an adult and being in awe of how beautiful (and professional) the end result can look. Particularly with some bad weather months left, it is a particularly good time to get those creative juices flowing and encourage your partner explore their hidden creativity. There’s plenty of choice of classes and locations. Whether you would like to learn about screenprinting, writing, lithography, ceramics, drawing or other mediums, here are some ideas for those of you based in and around London.
If you don’t fancy full out classes, kits for various creative activities including screenprinting are available in store and online at various art stores including: Jackson’s Art https://www.jacksonsart.com/, https://www.cassart.co.uk/ , http://www.cowlingandwilcox.com/ and others