"There's not a person on the planet who hasn't been frustrated with a cheap umbrella," says David Kahng, CEO of Davek Accessories. Seven years ago, the mechanical engineer reinvented the wet-weather standby with his 200-piece metal-frame model. The Solo's clean design points to a long-standing trend: The stronger the umbrella, the more spartan the look. But the industry is lightening up, thanks to new interest in spunky prints — or, in the case of London Undercover, alphabet soup. "We show traditional heritage patterns, but we also have to serve the eccentric," says CEO Jamie Milestone. Ironclad or ironic, they've got you covered. — margaret rhodes
The asterisk: not just for dissertations. Deck the walls with a dose of über-modern grammar with the George Nelson Asterisk Clock, originally designed by the architect-artist in 1950 after a lively doodle session with Isamu Noguchi and Bucky Fuller. ($300, momastore.org)
A version of this article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.