Every year there is that someone on your gift list who simply cannot be figured out, whom you swear will this year finally get a thoughtful gift instead of chocolates. So you spend hours and hours browsing in stores hoping an appropriate present somehow will appear before your eyes, only to end up with a box of chocolates after all. Personal holiday gifts like jewelry and clothing aren't always appropriate, anyway. And who wants to give another ashtray? No one wants to give the gift that ends up in the basement, or worse, appears at the annual school flea market.
Fortunately, everyone has to live somewhere, and shopping for a home is a lot less personal, and easier, than shopping for a home body. Here are some unusual, well-designed products to get you going. CAPTION: Pictures 1 through 15.
A remote timer from BSR, the System X-10 lets you wake to an alarm, starts the coffee and turns on the TV. It can program eight wall switches and appliances. A remote-control module ($19.95) enables you to switch on the TV as you pull into the garage. The unit is $64.95; modules for appliances and lights are $16 each. At Heathkit Electronic Center, Rockville.
A reproduction cast-iron fireback reflects heat into the room and dresses up the look of a fireplace. It costs $110, from Wood-burners Two, Arlington.
Any front door will have a solid appearance with this fine, all-brass knocker, a reproduction of a Colonial one. It's $45 at Union Hardware Decorator Center in Bethesda. Or choose from among dozens of decorative knockers.
Simple under-the-counter lights are available in almost every hardware store, but this set has a little more class, and a higher price tag. One inch deep and two feet long, this fixture has a quarter-inch band of light and is tailored enough not only for the kitchen but for shelves in a library or den. Made by Alkco, it runs about $49 at The Lighting Designers in Rockville. Other lower priced under-the-counter lights are also available.
Not the sort of toy you find under every tree, but many grown-up space cadets will wish they could wake up and find it there. This reconditioned Space Invaders is $1,695 at Home Amusement Company Inc., in Rockville. Can't afford such outlandishness? Pull the plunger on a reconditioned pinball machine -- for as low as $165.
A bathroom light that provides both heat and venting is neatly fit into this simple fixture made by Nutone. Separate switches control the heating and venting and light; however, one has to have a way of getting the vented air out of the house for this particular fixture to work. It costs about $147, and is available at most Nutone dealers.
Probably the most romantic and exciting jukebox ever made (1946-47), the colorful Wurlitzer Bubbler was designed to play 78 rpm records.This one has been reconditioned and can be playing the best of Glenn Miller in your home for a mere $5,000. It's available from Home Amusement Company Inc., in Rockville. A major New York store is selling the same machine for $2,500 more. Of course, buying the collectors'-item records to play on your Wurlitzer isn't an inexpensive proposition.
A handsome bathroom faucet set is an usual gift that could transform the look of a powder room. This one, the San Franciscan, is available in a gift pack from Union Hardware for $119.95.
Contractor Bailey Adams gave his bathroom a unique character with this reproduction tin ceiling. Materials alone cost about $120. It's available through the Canal Company, 1612 14th St. NW.
Even if you can't spend a small fortune on a home security system right now, try getting a key switch - and then buy the rest of the system later. An electrician can hook the little red light into a nearby outlet and you can buy yourself a warning light for a mere $9.75 plus installation. From Branch Electric.
Anyone who has ever traveled to the British Isles loves the heated towel racks found in many bathrooms. You can have your own, in brass or chrome, installed or, like the one pictured here, free standing. This one is $179, from Union Hardware.
This Crest System phone for $275 is the state of the art in residential phone systems. The two-line circuitry makes it possible for you not only to put someone on hold, but to patch together two callers and yourself in a conference call. Or you can use it in the house as an intercom. The only drawback is its "heartbeat" hold noise, which causes some to complain that waiting on hold is a little like returning go the womb.
With a small investment in crown molding along with this plaster medallion and a period-style chandelier, you can transform an ordinary dining room into an extraordinary room. The medallion pictured here is $52 at Union Hardware, which also sells decorative molding. Simple wooden crown molding is sold at most lumber yards.
When the lights go out, it's comforting to have an emergency set around, particularly near the stairs. This unit, made by Tork, has to be wired into an electrical source, but when the power's off, it stays charged for eight hours. It's $81.60, from Branch Electric Supply Company and other electrical supply houses.
Top, a combination switch and touch-sensitive dimmer lets you control several lights differently. Less obtrusive than an ordinary light switch, it's made by Decor Lite and costs $13.94, at Branch Electric and other electrical supply houses. Bottom, another kind of touch-sensitive dimmer switch remembers where you left the lights the last time they were on. Made by Sensitron, it costs $13.50, from The Lighting Designers and other electrical supply houses.
If those same old door chimes are getting on your nerves, try this medley of melodies from Nutone. You have your choice of a dozen tunes, and with the flick of a switch you can treat guests to a few bars of the "1812" Overture or "A Bicycle Built for Two." Another version plays 24 tunes (but fewer bars of each). The 12-tune doorbell costs around $52 and is available from most electrical supply houses. Photos by James Thresher