No-Sweat Gift Guide

Botanica Universal Las Mercedes, 376 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, no phone; Bontanica San Miguel, 399 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.369.6051

Can't afford the 19th-century Zairean lion's teeth (promoting strength; $58 to $8,500) or the 18th-century lacquered Thai Buddha (inspires wisdom; $100 to $5,000)? Beads of Paradise houses plenty of inexpensive treasures from Southeast Asia and Africa, many with powerful implications. Thai devotional gold-leaf-wrapped candles or incense in the shapes of elephants and temples ($10 and up) to purify; colorful soaps ($6 and up) in scents ranging from coffee to cucumber-dill to husked rice to cleanse; and Vietnamese silk scarves ($24) and shawls ($48) to add shimmer. But the store's name is drawn from its back-room collection: literally thousands of beads of all sizes, shapes, and materials and origin. There are budget-friendly glass beads from Bali (50 cents and up) and Ghanaian wax-cut brass froi-froi ($48 a strand), as well as pricey Nepalese inlaid bone beads and glittering semiprecious stones for that gem of a girl in your life. Also leather, lace, hemp, and metals on which to string things, and willing experts, whose classes are open to your giftee. LARRY BLUMENFELD

It's a Mod, Mod World gets dolled up for the holidays.
photo: Kate Lacey
It's a Mod, Mod World gets dolled up for the holidays.


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Beads of Paradise, 16 East 17th Street, 212.620.0642

Suspicious shoppers may eye the shiny 20,000-square-foot space of Pearl River's Soho digs with mistrust, but while the clutter of Canal Street has vanished, the Broadway location still teems with chinoiserie stocking stuffers. Coriander and sandalwood soaps in cheerful wrapping retail for a dollar. Crimson Chinese New Year's cards and candles in the shape of sushi are equally inexpensive, as are endless varieties of Pocky cookies and Sanrio sweets. More luxurious gifts, such as silky rayon robes ($20 to $60) would be fine to unwrap. Also worthy of a place beneath the tree are sandals with sparkly decals ($5.50 to $15.50) and purses shaped like cartons of Chinese takeout. Puffy reversible coats ($85)—scarlet on one side, gold on the other—should help keep the winter wind at bay. Big spenders can buy their best friends $108 mounted gongs or a couple of fearsome sculpted guard dogs at $395 per pair. ALEXIS SOLOSKI

Pearl River, 477 Broadway, 212.431.4770

Odds are this curious but well-curated yard sale of a design store in Williamsburg is the only boutique trying to make a buck on decades—old New Mexico road maps, geography jigsaw puzzles, and change purses fashioned from laminated yen notes. Despite an apparent identity crisis, M Space has stayed consistent by focusing on Brooklyn paraphernalia for robustly proud residents and wannabes, such as L- and G-train shirts ($20), and extending from there into Americana terrain. Kitschy souvenirs like magnets ($1.50 each) and aluminum West Virginia plates ($15)—relics of 1960s road trips to Niagara Falls or the Wisconsin Dells—sit beside the human anatomy floor puzzle ($15), a different take on the map theme and a fun way to learn about your vital organs. Globes old and new dot the towering shelves ($10 to $40). But the most ingenious specimens of the map/decor genetic splice are the homemade coffee tables; although the tabletops are just state or New York City borough maps mounted to wooden planks, cut down to silhouettes and covered with Plexiglass, the spectacky-ular charm of a neon-green New Jersey ($225 to $300) knows no bounds. EMILY WEINSTEIN

M Space, 548 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.486.2825

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