Along 9th Ave in Chelsea are some eclectic little home decor stores that have every right to be called galleries - they sell eye candy you can actually afford - and display in your own gallery at home.
One store I always enjoy popping into is NEST. It's perfectly sited to catch the loft-proud gay neighborhood, selling objets d'art and jewelry that you find yourself gazing for longer than usual, and turning over and over in your hands. It actually feels like a little sparrow's nest, full of treasures plucked from around the traps - not too minimalist, not too maximalist, not too ethnic, new agey, or mass produced, not too self consciously hip. Just plain interesting. You can tell that each and every piece has been selected with thought, then placed in the tiny shop like it was your tiny studio apartment.
It's curated by owners Lana Sexton and Henry Stozek, a refreshingly 'tude free duo who don't hide behind a billboard-sized iMac pretending you aren't Sting or Angelina Jolie like in most galleries, but actually look up and talk to you.
There are some expensive things in here. And there are some really affordable things. Like the above $15 tape measure pebble carved from a piece of wood I bought today. Now who doesn't need a tape measure? I need one to attach the snap closure dead-center on my Traffic Cone Bags, and this beats dragging out the unsexy 100 ft long Stanley. It has great palm-feel.
Then there are these bugs in plastic. Around the same price. Yah, you can buy them online cheaper, after all, they ARE made in China, but why not patronize people who are trying to bring creativity to you doorstep? Otherwise, one day they won't be there. Bed, Bath and Beyond will. Shudder.
Now here's something else I liked - but this is neither cheap nor choosy ...
172A 9th Ave, New York, NY, 10011