Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

May 15, 2015

Uncommon Goods - Stylish Fireside Storage

Have you heard about UncommonGoods?  They are a really interesting company because they're hyper-aware of the world around them and strive to offer unusual finds and beautiful handcrafted goods, while trying to respect the world in which they are created and the people who produce them.  Much of what they sell is made in the USA, where even the lowest paid, seasonal employees earn 50% above minimum wage.  About a third of what they sell is made from recycled/upcycled materials.  As a feminist, what excites me most is that they work with not-for-profits - donating $1,000,000 to date and raising awareness - including RAINN (the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the States), Women for Women International (which provides tools for self-sufficiency to refugee women and survivors of war), and Reach Out & Read (a network of doctors and nurses working to promote literacy and language skills in the States).  I try to support socially conscious businesses, who sell goods manufactured in North America - or at least under livable/ethical conditions that don't exploit workers overseas - but I'm far (far!) from perfect.  The Siren Song of something cheap and cheerful sometimes beckons me, even though I know what factors drive prices down.  I know I should make more of an effort to learn where and how the things I buy are made, and I've been working on that as a personal goal, so I appreciate when a company makes it their policy to try their best to make a positive impact on the world.  If we each do a little...

I was given the opportunity to hand select items to review from UncommonGoods, and this gave me a chance to not only peruse the website but also test out the services.  The first item that I chose is a handmade lidded basket (click here to get the full scoop), which I actually really needed (okay, wanted).  After our paper shredder gave up the ghost, we started using all of our sensitive documents and receipts as fire starter instead of shredding and recycling them.  We needed a place to store this paper (which amasses so quickly).  We'd been searching for something with a lid to hide the mess, to no avail.  No local shops had what we were after so we were using a weird, tiny, orange pail that we had received some beer in.  This handmade basket caught my eye because it's aqua, but the lid and handles made it perfect for our intended use.

Turquoise Woven Storage Basket with Lid
Uncommon Goods Review - Turquoise Woven Storage Bin

The basket is handmade in Senegal.  You can read more about the designer and her desire to bring independence to rural African communities right here.  (Click here to see the matching pink knitting basket - it's just as cute.)

Woven Baskets

Right now, the basket is sitting beside the firewood cubby but if I want to stash it in the office, the handles make it easy to maneuver - even when it's full.  It would look cute anywhere in the house (the bonus of a limited whole home colour palette).

Woven Basket, Aqua and Natural
Hide Kindling and Fire Starter Material in Style

Apologies for the horribly ugly wood in the cubby.  I mentioned on Instagram that because I carefully selected the prettiest rounds all winter, now I'm saddled with some real uggos.  We are going to call them organic and rustic.  Every room needs a rustic touch, right? 

Rab Labs Agate Slice Coasters 
Once I had a "practical" item chosen, I decided to pick something fun and decadent.  I really contemplated an agate cheese plate (click here to see) because the hunk of teal agate was calling my name, but I decided that a set of agate coasters (this set, to be precise) would be more practical for me.  Remember how I regretted not buying that second set of agate coasters when I made my DIY Framed Agate art?  Even though I have my solid wood DIY hex coasters, I can always make room for more.  I'm actually keeping this agate set in my office, to protect the solid wood top Hubby made for my treadle sewing machine desk.  I always have a mug of piping hot tea close at hand (it's getting chilly again and snowed a few days ago!).

Agate Slice Coasters

You can buy these agate slice coasters gilded (click here), but I happen to prefer the raw look of the stone.  It's dyed agate so it's not completely "natural," but I like the organic quality.  It complements my rustic log pile ;)

Raw Edge Agate Slice Coasters
Rab Labs New York Product Review
Agate Slice Coasters

Everything was shipped carefully and beautifully.  The agate coasters, for example, had some neatly trimmed foam between each slice for protection, but it looked nice enough to gift as-is, so you could easily order something from UncommonGoods and have it shipped directly to a recipient.  Both items were shipped separately, so there was no chance of them damaging each other in transit.  One thing that really impressed me about UncommonGoods is how nicely they handle customer reviews.  When they first contacted me, I perused their website and read reviews on many of the products I liked.  All of the reviews are uncensored - some products have hundreds - and any negative reviews (which are few and far between) have been dealt with politely and thoroughly - I love that!  You can shop with confidence thanks to that transparency.  And, if you're in a hurry or looking for something specific, you can shop by theme, like "Personalized Jewelry" (click here if you're curious), or "Housewarming Gifts" (which you'll find right here).  It's perfect if you have a specific occasion, person (like a recent grad!), or price range in mind.

Perhaps the most important thing to know, which you'll discover if you click over, is that UncommonGoods has a really beautifully curated collection of pretty and practical items that are perfect for gift-giving - or making your own space more special.  You don't need to sift through a million items but you're certain to find something special - from the comfort of your living room!

Dark Grey Fireplace with Aqua Accents

Disclosure: I partnered with UncommonGoods for this post but was not prompted to provide a positive review of their goods or service.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I will definitely purchase from UncommonGoods the next time I'm searching for a gift for that hard-to-shop for person.  

A note to my fellow Canadians: some items do not ship to Canada, unfortunately - but you'll know immediately which ones do and don't, which makes shopping easier.  I had my items shipped to a shipping depot across the border.  I might live in a small city, but proximity to the States makes it pretty sweet!  They do try to make it easy by immediately recognizing your location as Canadian, so all prices show up in our dollar and the shipping quotes include duties and taxtes, with guaranteed landing fees - which is a big deal for International shipments.  As a Canadian, I feel very proud when I can support Canadian businesses, which I try to do as often as I can, but supporting American businesses is important to me too.  I feel a close connection to the US (partly because I'm so close I could probably lob a rock onto American soil with a good quality trebuchet), but also because I think that keeping jobs in North America - and supporting ethical overseas manufacturing - benefits us all.


  1. Oh my gosh, how gorgeous are those coasters!? Of course I love everything that looks like gems! Thanks so much for sharing this, I'm definitely going to check out their stuff!

    1. I'm happy to help a fellow gem + mineral lover feed the obsession, haha! They have a good selection of agate accessories, including really sweet picture frames. I like the little rubber feet on the coasters because they are way more stable than just a plain slice.

  2. Hi there! Where is your stool.side table from?

    1. Hi! I'm so sorry but I'm going to seriously disappoint you. Not only is that little stool from a flea market, but it was handmade. I feel like such a total hipster typing that last sentence :) Surprisingly, the table/stool was made in the 80s - although it looks more 60s/70s to me.

      I am certain that if you approached someone taking high school or college level welding/shop classes, they could easily duplicate this table for a little cash. It's a simple weld job, with a solid wood top but you could even use really nice veneer (like walnut!)

      If you're feeling adventurous, I found a copper DIY table tutorial and an easier Ikea hack that produced similar looking tables:

  3. I love Uncommon Goods. I had no idea they were also a socially conscious company too. I just like seeing all the unique things they sell. Thanks.

    1. I had honestly not heard of them before they contacted me, so I've been really curious how many readers will have already known/not known about them. It's so nice to hear you love them!

  4. OH. Em. Gee!!! The fire escape shelf!! I saw this a long ago and loved it the moment I saw it. And to see it on the site and know where I can get it if I ever have an extra $125 laying around is awesome! I have to say I think I have a love/hate relationship with this website! I love the stuff but it's dang me anyways. Maybe I'm just super cheap...and broke lol.

    I love the coasters, but not a fan of the multicolor set...more so the pink one I'm not a fan of. I have been wanting to get a set since I saw what you did with the blue ones. I'd definitely go for the ones with the gilded edge, I like a little glimmer and sparkle. I always seems to be telling you stories of when I was a kid, so get ready, here comes another one. lol.When I was a kid I used to go with my dad all the time to this market on the water front. A kind of place tourists go, with like a farmers market type thing on the bottom and a bunch of artsy little shops through out the upstairs. There used to be this store that sold huge chunks of agate (I'm talking like 10 inches tall) as book ends and what not. I ALWAYS wanted some because they were so pretty, rough and rock like on the outside and like diamonds on the insides and the colors so bright. I never got any though :(. Whenever I see agate I think of that store and those times.

    On another note, you speaking about the ethics of this company made me think that you might be interested in this monthly subscription box I saw on youtube. This is the description I have of it "The GlobeIn Artisan Box is a monthly subscription box. Each month, GlobeIn delivers “the globe in a box” - a themed collection of artisan-made products from around the world. GlobeIn introduces you to products that you can feel good about - they are often organic, fair-trade, and support artisans and farmers from around the world." Not sure if I can post links here but this is one video and here is another at 11:19 and then again at 12:28 (thought there was one just for this box too but I can't seem to find it, but you see a peak of what is in it in this video). Not sure if it's something you'd be interested in, but thought I'd share. I guess you might end up with a bunch of things you might not use or nick nacks and you don't seem like a nick nacky person to me lol. But I love the idea behind it.

    Anyways, I love the basket too, I'd totally use it for laundry. Boring i know.

    1. I am not going to lie, I find some of their stuff expensive too, but it's partly a result of their paying good wages (and also because our CAD stinks right now). I struggle with this as a consumer: I want to keep supporting local business, or companies whose products are made in Canada/USA or ethically produced abroad. But it can cost more, and I also want to be thrifty and save a buck. And not everyone has the luxury to make those kinds of consumer choices. But then, in turn, Canadian and US economies and individuals would be better off financially if we all supported the companies who protect those employees. My uncle works the assembly line for Chrysler and while we all want a car for as cheap as possible, that desire for a low price constantly threatens his job because to meet that lower price, production needs to move elsewhere, like Mexico.

      I have been buying Szuka's ear cleaning solution on amazon. Giant bottle for $20. I decided I should be supporting local pet stores, so I found a similar ear cleaner locally but the bottle is a third of the size, for the same price. Argh! What to do?

      Sometimes I give myself a headache thinking about this kind of stuff.

      That waterfront market sounds like the stuff of dreams. I'd probably pine over those chunks of agate too! I hope you find some agate some day - either coasters or a glorious big hunk. If I ever spot a bargain, I'll let you know!

      That box sounds like such a fun idea! I agree, you might end up with stuff you don't want/need but I can see it being easy to re-gift some treasures, lol. Or if a bunch of friends went in on a monthly subscription together. You'd need to find people with different tastes, though, or that could end in tragedy.

  5. I have loved Uncommon Goods for so long and love their catalog. I have bought many-a-pregnant friend the plush veggies, and they are so well received. I have always been happy with them. I love give unique gifts, and am never without inspiration perusing their site!

    1. SO happy to hear you've had great experiences with UncommonGoods.

  6. Wow, that basket is gorgeous! Will have to check out UncommonGoods. :)


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