The Best Holiday Gifts for Design Nerds 2020

When someone on your list is difficult to shop for, it’s easy to just buy some inoffensive object they can use or display in their home — a cutting board, coffee-table book, set of playing cards, etc. Obviously this goes double for someone with a new house to decorate, people who geek out over Arch Digest‘s Instagram or, frankly, anyone with bad taste who could use the help.

There are, however, some massive missteps to be made here, so consider some ground rules before you get to browsing.

Don’t make major decisions for them. You may think it’s super generous to buy your nephew and his wife a new area rug or sofa for their home, and it is! But it’s also the kind of purchase that defines a space, and that’s not your job.

Find things that everyone needs but most people don’t own. Everyone has books; not everyone has bookends. Some people have fireplaces; not all of them have a kindling box or log carrier.

Buy things that have multiple uses. Avoid duplicating something they already own by giving them something versatile: A basket that can hold clothes, toys or magazines. A lamp that will work on a desk or a nightstand. Any kind of handsome storage vessel.

And don’t buy them art. Unless they are known admirers of your art or have explicitly invited you to do so.

Now that we’ve established the rules, let’s take a look at 20 great gifts for the home, including — naturally — a few that break them.

the inside cheetah lamp shade

The Inside

These whimsical lampshades come in 83 colorful prints, from animal motifs and forest scenes to stripes and geometrics.

revival throw

Revival

These pillows are literally one of a kind — each one is culled from a vintage kilim rug and shipped direct from Turkey. Be sure to pick up an insert as well.

Diego Cabezas

The one item on this list for which we’ll break our “no art” rule are these unimpeachably cool hand-forged sculptures by Spanish artist Diego Cabezas. Good for indoor or outdoor use; you can request pricing info by reaching out to Cabezas on his website.

faherty adirondack

Faherty

Though they’ve long been proponents of Native American-inspired prints, Faherty is now going a step further by collaborating with Native artists on their designs and donating a portion of their proceeds to organizations that benefit Native populations around the country. This blanket was co-created with Doug Good Feather and benefits Spirit Horse Nation and the Lakota Way Healing Center; it’s a butter-soft cotton throw that’s good for all seasons and also doubles as a great beach or picnic blanket.

seletti wears toiletpaper mirror

Seletti

Part of an ongoing capsule collection from Italian design house Seletti and art magazine Toiletpaper, these vanity mirrors are gold-framed and embossed in brass foil with outré designs. Perfect for quirky aunts, Brooklyn-dwelling daughters and aspiring Evil Queens.

macrame plant hanger the sill

The Sill

Don’t buy people plants, or anything else that’s alive — a gift should never create unsolicited obligations. It is entirely fine, though, to gift someone who already has plants these hangers by Yerbamala, which fit both small and medium planters from The Sill.

cb2 bench

CB2

Avoids being a “major decision” by dint of its adaptability — this bench looks equally good under a dining table, in an entryway or at the foot of a bed. Hand-assembled and finished with brass hardware and veg-tanned leather, it’s also built to last.

citizenry lumbar pillow

The Citizenry

The Citizenry appears a couple times on the list because they’re an exceptional company: they traverse the globe recruiting local craftsmen and women as partners, pay them more than double the fair-trade requirement, and then distribute those wares to a U.S. audience that would otherwise have no access to the goods. In this case those goods are hand-woven sheep’s wool pillows from a village in Oaxaca, Mexico.

ll bean canvas tote

L.L.Bean

The one on my list is intended for storing kindling and firewood, but this rugged canvas tote is equally useful for just about any conveyance you can think up, from dirty clothes to tool storage to recycling.

tiger trinket tray jonathan adler

Jonathan Adler

A valet gives you license to habitually empty out your pockets on a dresser, nightstand or kitchen counter without looking like a sloven. When that valet is porcelain glazed with a tiger and 24K gold accents, all the better.

noho chair white

Noho

Noho is a sustainably built office chair that’s intended to be the last one you’ll ever buy (though the company’s co-founder was quick to point out to me that the chair is not explicitly for the office — a set of four are perfectly suitable for your family’s dining table as well). It’s made entirely from fully recycled ECONYL nylon and features an ingenious flexible design that ensures superlative ergonomics and durability. Think of it as a comfortable, eco-friendly alternative to popular work chairs like the Herman Miller Aeron or Steelcase Series 1 that looks far less out of place in your home.

andy warhol bookends

MoMA Design Store

Art-toy designer Kidrobot brings to life Andy Warhol’s iconic banana — as seen on the cover of The Velvet Underground and Nico — with a pair of 8-lb. bookends. The banana is even “peelable” (just as it was on early generations of the album release), with the remnant peel doubling as a paperweight.

anglepoise 1227 lamp

Design Within Reach

The lamp that spawned 1,000 imitators and one of the most important objects in the modernist canon, George Cawardine’s Original 1227 remains the standard bearer for articulating desk lights some 85 years later. There isn’t a man alive who would turn up his nose at having one on his desk, which makes this an excellent choice in what’s sure be to be a big year for workspace gifts.

barbican trolley dims

Dims

It’s a bar cart, it’s a serving trolley, it’s a ’60s-style TV-dinner stand. Made from powder-coated steel and available in four colors, this Wallpaper Design Award winner is perfect for apartment dwellers thanks to its svelte profile and endless utility.

saved ny vesuvius

Saved NY

What do you get the man who has everything when you also have everything? How about a $1,500 cashmere throw blanket depicting the most infamous volcano eruption in human history? Saved NY has long been at the top of our “If I won the lottery” shopping list; their blankets are hand-made in Mongolia from rare materials like yak down and camel hair, and feature outrageous designs like this.

taschen dali tarot card set

Taschen

This card set was originally designed by the surrealist master to be featured in the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Though the film scrapped plans to use it, Dalí finished the project anyway, and it was released in extremely limited numbers in 1984. The set you see here is a reissue from art-book publisher Taschen that was released last year, complete with a guidebook from German tarot reader Johannes Fiebig.

concrete coasters areaware

Areaware/Gessato

These concrete coasters can be tessellated into different shapes on your dining or coffee table for use as a trivet or decor. Available in four colors, you can buy each in a set of six or “bundle” all four — that’s 24 total coasters — for a discount.

heidi tarver ceramics

Heidi Tarver

Heidi Tarver is a California ceramics artist who draws inspiration from traditional Islamic designs for her dazzling mugs, plates, vases and more. Think of her work less as dining ware and more as functional objets d’art.

citizenry woven baskets

The Citizenry

Hand-woven from palm leaves and embellished with leather handles, these traditional Mexican baskets also make handsome planters. They come in three sizes, with discounts when you purchase in multiples.

magnetic poetry kit

Magnetic Poetry Kit

No matter how sophisticated a person grows with age, they are never above a refrigerator covered in incongruous stanzas of obscene poetry.

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits.

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