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Pottery from Spain, cookware from France, birds from Finland and an axe from New York
It’s wood-chopping season, or at least it’s the season to fantasize about chopping wood. What you need is a beautiful American Felling Axe of high-carbon steel and Appalachian hickory with a hand-painted handle. In lower Manhattan, visit the Best Made workshop and choose from the Lincoln (dark stain with diagonal black stripe), the Hushabye Baby (white with orange stripe), the Sam McGee (navy with red and white stripes), and others. Although they’ve been exhibited as art at the Saatchi Gallery in London, Best Made Axes can be considered weapons. Ship yours home instead of bringing it back in your carry-on. Axes start at $250 (U.S.). bestmadeco.com/collections/axes
Although I spend a large proportion of my time working with food, I don’t routinely go gaga for cookware shops. Too often there’s far too much nonsense mixed in with the good stuff. But Paris’s E. Dehillerin, just a few blocks from the Louvre, is a 200-year-old institution filled to the rafters with just the good stuff. The wall of whisks, the stacks of French white crockery, the removable-bottom tart pans in every size … it all makes my pulse race as soon as I cross the threshold. I prize the French rolling pin (tapered, sans handles) that I picked up here for about $7, but for more of a splurge, visit the gleaming wall of copper cookware and take home the Cuprinox sauté pan. From about $85 for a 12-centimetre pan. e-dehillerin.fr
There are places in Finland where the sun doesn’t rise at all between December and mid-January, but even in these darkest days, or precisely because of them, Finnish style feels like a bright, clean breath of air. Consider the irresistible collection of mouth-blown glass birds by artist Oiva Toikka. Inspired by nature, as well as the streamlined aesthetic of Nordic design, Toikka fashions avian creatures that are both sophisticated and lovable, with no two quite the same. You can pick up one, but my hunch is they prefer to be adopted in pairs. And really, why not? Cleaning up after them is an absolute snap. Starting at about $250 each. Go to Iittala.com and look under home interior art.
At first, the only thing I wanted to bring home from Barcelona was a giant hunk of Spain’s famous Iberico ham from the Boqueria market. Not so practical, and not very lasting, either. Then I discovered a spectacular array of Spanish porcelain at Sargadelos, a shop in the Eixample neighbourhood. Based in the country’s northwestern region of Galicia, Sargadelos makes both traditional and modern pieces such as tea and coffee sets, dinnerware, even nativity scenes, all in the playful shapes, lively patterns and strong, simple colours that make me think of Spain every time I look at them. Prices start at about $75 for a small teapot. Available in shops throughout Spain or online at sargadelos.com.