Best Furniture Store 2008 | Design Within Reach | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Budgets guide decorating choices. But we've moved up from the "Free Good" line (as in curbside chairs with the "Free Good Chair" sign taped on). These days we need help making our abode look respectable and fashionable without seeming painfully trendoid. Design Within Reach is our fave place to dream-shop. We come here to imagine, ogle...and wish for a good sale. This store's modern wares include furniture, accessories and lighting. Their best items are from their licensed classics. Take Le Corbusier's LC2 collection from 1928. DWR has the three-seat sofa. Eames chairs? They've got the 1956 lounge—a huge coup for modern design. Go mid-century with George Nelson's iconic ball clock. And if you love Eero Saarinen's pedestal tables and trademark Tulip Chair, DWR has those too, and a lot more from 1950s and '60s designers who made their marks on living rooms the world over. DWR has furniture we covet, and while a certain build-it-yourself discount chain may have reasonable knock-offs that are more affordable, we're ready to invest in the best for our nest.

Courtesy of Richardson Bike Mart

After spending hundreds of dollars on gym memberships and home fitness equipment, you get easily disillusioned when you realize you haven't stepped foot in the gym in months. See that Gazelle glider in the corner? Nice coat rack. That's why bicycles are so badass. Not only do two-wheelers save gas money and help the environment, they give you quite a workout. Only thing is, you need the right team to advise you what to wear, how to care for your new bike and how to fix a flat tire, loose chain or wobbly seat. The crew at the three locations of Richardson Bike Mart can do all that plus set you up on group rides organized for every skill level. If you've never pedaled in your life, the staff will help provide a smooth, fun transition into cycling. Now, let's go ride bikes.

How prepared are you for bag-checking hassles and lugging what you'll soon realize is too much crap from home to airport to hostel to train to the Himalayas and back again? If you're still overpacking, you need the help of Whole Earth Provision Co. Choose from JanSport, North Face, Timbuk2 and other travel backpacks or messenger bags to cut down on the suitcase burden. Then wander around a full section of nifty things to pack in your bags. Whole Earth stocks clothing for all climates, plus a wide selection of walking shoes (important for the health of your soon-to-be-tired hooves). Don't forget waterproof space-saver bags to shrink the packing space for your unmentionables (grab an extra to separate the dirties). Then browse for passport holders, airplane-legal toiletry containers and travel books to make short work of eight-hour-plus flights. With Whole Earth's help, you can fit everything you need in one small bag, then spend less time worrying about luggage and more time enjoying the sights on your grand tour.

Let's see, you've got your Turner Hardware in Farmers Branch. Nice, helpful people up there, but kind of small and, besides, this ain't Best of Farmers Branch (as if). There's always Lowe's or Home Depot, with about a gazillion locations, which is good, because if you're lucky enough to know exactly what you need, chances are the location nearest you won't have it. (If you don't know exactly what you need, well, you're just screwed. Good luck getting help.) East Dallas' home rehabbers—that's pretty much everyone who lives there—are fond of Ace Hardware in Lakewood. But for the very best combination of helpful, knowledgeable staff and a broad selection of every bolt, nut and screw imaginable, plus a wide assortment of tools, fancy decorating items and paint, we'll have to go once again with that perennial fave, Elliott's. This is, after all, Best of Dallas, not Pretty Good of Dallas.

Used to be that the health food store was only for earth mothers or people stocking up for their trip to Burning Man. In the era of the Toyota Prius and tainted produce, we've all started to think more about where our food comes from and our ecological footprint. For hippies and hipsters alike, Roy's Natural Market has become the store of choice for earth-friendly staples and supplements. Gluten-free, vegan, fair trade, raw—Roy's hits the buzzwords, but also doesn't miss organic produce, locally raised meats (such as Fran's Fryers) and enough vitamins and herbs to put a pharmacy to shame. Don't go on Saturday (they're closed), but you better go or we'll sic a hippie on ya.

Remember when grandma used to sit around and knit a wool cap or pair of slippers? Remember how you swore to yourself that you would never wear that cap or slippers but felt guilty about not wanting them so you put them on just to please her? Fast-forward 35 years. Remember when you learned that your wife was taking up a new hobby—knitting—and she schlepped you to the Shabby Sheep in the old State/Thomas area and you fell in love with all the rich colors and the fabulous textures? Remember how you decided to take a class with your wife—a Summer of Socks, they called it—and now you can knit your own socks as well as wool caps and wool slippers for your own guilt-ridden children? And the circle of life continues. In an argyle pattern.

Do your Christmas shopping on the banks of White Rock Lake at this annual market of paintings, sculpture, photography, pottery, ceramics, jewelry, candles, fresh soaps, handmade cards and other creations. This is real art, not the bluebonnet paintings and hot-glue collages of other holiday bazaars. Best part: The Art Mart benefits the Bath House Cultural Center's year-round art and theater programs. Our best finds at last year's Art Mart: gorgeous hand-built pottery urns with soft turquoise glaze for $60 and delicately scented, hand-poured candles that lasted longer than pricey boutique brands. Homemade brownies and live music make browsing time even nicer. And try to catch the preview reception the night before the Art Mart opens. That's when you can snag a first look at the wares and make bids at the silent auction that benefits the Bath House. The annual Winter Art Mart is free and open to the public.

Konrad and Elizabeth Bouffard produce true raw wildflower honey and bottle it in real glass to preserve the flavor. Never heated or filtered during processing, Round Rock Honey is said to help seasonal allergies, with varieties labeled to show which area of Texas the hives were in. Sold in a booth at the Dallas Farmers Market, this honey is fragrant and sweet, perfect for drizzling, cooking or adding to coffee or tea. All natural, it's also full of the pollens, trace minerals and complex sugars that often are compromised in commercially mass-produced honeys. Suh-weet.

Make features work from independent artists who do their work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Items include paintings, bracelets, belts, clothing, martini glasses, hats and handmade soap. After spending two years in Uptown, Make has been in Oak Cliff for more than a year, teaching classes to aspiring independent artists. Perhaps the shop's most noteworthy class is Project Make, which is set up similar to Project Runway. For a mere 575 bucks, you can learn sewing and design without the humiliation of getting kicked off national television, and there's even a photo shoot and runway show at the end to determine the big winner. For those without the time or budget for Project Make, the shop also offers a wide variety of other classes, including embroidery, basic sewing, belt making, chair reupholstery, glass etching and several classes designed for kids and teens.

Best Judge When Your Cheap Divorce Gets Expensive

Judge Dennise Garcia

Some divorces just ain't gonna be settled easily. The husband is controlling, the wife too angry. One spouse wants out, and the other spouse says, "Not so fast." For these folks there is only one option—a full court press with all the high-priced legal fees and court costs that go with it. Ouch! Some of that big ticket-lick can be mitigated if the parties are fortunate enough to appear before Family Court Judge Dennise Garcia of the 303rd District Court. Judge Garcia has a gift for controlling confrontational lawyers, warring parties and emotional witnesses without being abusive or condescending. Although she was one of the first Democrats to break the Republican stranglehold on the courthouse, she is anything but partisan from the bench. She understands the economics of divorce cases, while sorting through the emotional merde that often envelopes many family law situations. There are seven Dallas County Family Court judges, some better than others, and cases get assigned on a random basis. So if you get crosswise with your soon-to-be ex, keep your fingers crossed for landing before Judge Garcia.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of