If there’s one thing we like better than receiving a thoughtful gift, it’s giving one—and with the fall and winter season full of invitations, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. But when celebratory scenarios are as varied as the spreads, there’s not an easy, one-size-fits-all solution to finding that perfect host or hostess gift. So, we asked seven of our favorite design experts—Miles Redd, Aerin Lauder, Kelly Wearstler, Michael Aram, Bronson Van Wyck, Jean-Louis Denoit and Anouska Hempel—to share their go-to gifts for four different, but equally festive, occasions: a small intimate party among friends and family, a large cocktail party, an overnight or weekend-long stay and that special occasion when only the most personal of gestures can suffice. From the coziest cashmere throw to custom, hand-painted heraldry, read on for some expert gift-giving advice.
For A Small Intimate Party
Aerin Lauder, founder and creative director of beauty, accessories and lifestyle brand, Aerin: “In a technological world, there is something even more special about illustrated books. I love giving a great coffee table book that’s tailored to the interests of my hosts. Whether they are passionate about design, fashion, travel, food or art, there are so many wonderful books to choose from.” Hamptons Gardens by Jack deLashmet; $135; amazon.com.
Kelly Wearstler, fashion and interior designer: “A silk scarf or pocket square makes an elegant gift for a close friend. They will be reminded of your friendship every time they wear it.” Kelly Wearstler scarf; from $295; kellywearstler.com.
Michael Aram, artist and designer: “For a small gathering, where I know the host, I like to bring something homemade. But, sometimes I don’t have the time to bake. Luckily, I live near Dean and Deluca and their prepared desserts are fantastic. I would purchase a cake and bring it on a cake stand—after all, a cake is symbolic for a celebration, a momentous occasion, big or small. Your hosts can use the stand over and over again—and the cake will be a definite hit.” Dean & Deluca Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake; $75; deandeluca.com.
Miles Redd, New York–based interior designer: “I like to bring something delicious that one can nibble at the end of the meal. I love homemade cookies, but in a pinch, the chocolate flourless cookies from Financier Patisserie are delicious. It’s nice to be thoughtful—and who doesn’t like a cookie?” Financier Patisserie Chocolate Flourless Cookies; $7; financierpatisserie.com.
Bronson Van Wyck, event designer: “My bathtub doubles as a mixing barrel this time of year and something homemade always feels a bit more personal. Whip up a batch of brandy-mulled cider and package it in large oversize sun tea jars. You can personalize the recipe for the host and swap bourbon for brandy if the recipient is a whiskey aficionado.”
Jean-Louis Deniot, architect and interior designer: “The look of the The Marshall Stanmore Speaker is fabulous and the sound is out of this world. Friends and family can bring groovy music selections and these will be shared instantly with the Stanmore. It will help shake things up a bit.” Marshall Stanmore Speaker; $400; marshallheadphones.com.
For A Large Cocktail Party
Aerin Lauder: “Candles are a great gift. aerin.com now offers gift sets and the Tapered Cone Match Striker & Holiday Candle Gift Set is perfect for the holiday season. The Fireside & Fir scent smells amazing with the warmth of white birch.” Aerin Tapered Cone Match Striker; $330; aerin.com.
Kelly Wearstler: “A set of Compartés gourmet chocolates is a chic sweet treat for any host. Both the chocolate and the packaging are like mini works of art.” Compartés Chocolatier; from $10; compartes.com.
Michael Aram: “For a large cocktail party where I may not be familiar with the host, I recommend artisanal chocolates. I personally enjoy those from La Maison du Chocolat—especially the Coffret Maison Dark and Milk gift set. It’s a delicious smattering of the company’s best offerings.” La Maison du Chocolat Coffret Maison Dark and Milk Gift Set; from $60; lamaisonduchocolat.us.
Miles Redd: “Flowers always work and it’s easy to send them either before or after the party—it’s a nice way to say thank you. I love something that lasts, like a tree peony in an old, handmade Terracotta pot. L. Becker’s arrangements are always a hit.” L. Becker Flowers Tree Peony; $360; lbeckerflowers.com.
Bronson Van Wyck: “Whether or not you personally know the host, it’s hard not to love The Morning After Set from Arrowhead Farms. Pick your poison, Bellini or Bloody, for the dreaded post-holiday bash wake-up call.” Arrowhead Farms Morning After Cocktail Mix Gift Set; $56; arrowheadfarms.com.
Jean-Louis Deniot: “The Cire Trudon Abd El Kader scented candle smells exquisite and is a beautiful and stately object. It leaves a long lasting impression.” Cire Trudon Abd El Kader Candle; $95; ciretrudon.com.
Anouska Hempel: “I like to send a bunch of flowers the next day. Phalaenopsis orchids are always my most favorite, since they represent my Japanese design style.”
For An Overnight or Weekend-Long Stay
Aerin Lauder: “Tate’s Bake Shop treats are my go-to. Their pies are delicious and, paired with ice cream, make for the perfect dessert. If I’m invited for a cozy overnight visit, I’ll bring a pecan pie or two. Or, I love to give an Aerin wine stopper and a great bottle of wine. There is nothing like being surrounded by friends while drinking a lovely Pinot Noir.” Tates Bake Shop Pecan Pie; $25; tatesbakeshop.com; Aerin; Sphere Wine Stopper; $85; aerin.com.
Kelly Wearstler: “A classic vintage board game, like Monopoly, chess, dominoes or backgammon, provides effortless entertainment and makes for amazing together time.” Metal Domino Set; $465; barneys.com.
Michael Aram: “When you're invited for an overnight or long weekend with friends, you often know your host fairly well. I believe in making your appreciation known right from the start. I would select my host's favorite flowers and have them sent, prior to my arrival, in a Michael Aram Butterfly Gingko vase. I would trust Ovando, my go-to flower shop in New York, to handle the job.” Michael Aram Butterfly Ginkgo Vase; $450; michaelaram.com.
Miles Redd: “It is always nice to bring a meal. In New York, The City Bakery makes delicious food that travels well. I also love to bring a special book. There is an old children’s book called Misery by Suzanne Heller that is a personal favorite of mine.”
Bronson Van Wyck: “A weekend spent with friends is never complete unless you are curled up on the sofa, cocooned in a warm cashmere blanket. You can never have too many of these around. Surprise your host with a plush throw in a jewel toned color of the season.” Sferra Dorsey Throw; $585; sferra.com.
Anouska Hempel: “A weekend stay requires something like a silver plated ice bucket. I love the traditional yet stylishness of Ralph Lauren Home. You can never go wrong.” Ralph Lauren Wentworth Ice Bucket; $350; ralphlaurenhome.com.
Jean-Louis Deniot: “Three bottles of champagne or three magnums, depending on the size of the party, from Billecart-Salmon, my favorite champagne. No acidity or next-day hangover—the ideal choice for a long weekend!” Billecart-Salmon Champagne Rose; $75; klwines.com.
A Gift with a Personal Touch
Aerin Lauder: “Happy Menocal’s custom pet portraits, heraldry and stationary are great gifts for someone you know very well. The designs are created in watercolor, colored pencil or ink, and are of the highest quality. My favorite is the custom heraldry. It is such a great gift to offer a new family.” Happy Menocal Custom Heraldry; From $800; happymenocal.com.
Kelly Wearstler: “I wrap all of my hostess gifts in my signature handcrafted gift wrap—hand-painted matte white kraft paper with a black paint splatter pattern, wrapped in metallic baker’s twine and sealed with a gold wax seal that has been stamped with a graphic of one of my designs. It is such an amazing way to add a unique, personal touch to any gift.”
Michael Aram: “If time warrants, I like to find photographs I've taken with a friend who's hosting the party or weekend. I would have them printed at the local pharmacy or copy store and place them into a beautiful leather photo album—like this one from Florence, Italy based Il Papiro. The album itself is a handmade, lovely gift that will last throughout time. Gifting the album already filled with photos steeped in good memories, is an added bonus. And, of course, the remaining blank pages can be completed as more memories are made.” Il Papiro Leather Photo Album; $220; ilpapirofirenze.it.
Miles Redd: “I always think a great pair of shoes shows you went the extra distance. You have to find the right shoe size, but I always love to give a cool pair of sneakers. I personally like a classic Adidas Samba.” Adidas Samba Classic Shoes; $60; adidas.com.
Bronson Van Wyck: “I love giving vintage and antique books. If the host is an avid cook, perhaps a vintage cookbook from The Plaza Hotel or a set of old comic books for someone who still fancies himself a superhero. Kinsey Marable has the best selection and he can track down just about any title or subject matter.”
Jean-Louis Deniot: “I recently gave a signed copy of my new book Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors to my good friends Ellen and Portia and personalized it with a quick drawing of their living room and a lovely note. Instant success, they loved it! Or, a trip to curiosity-filled shop Creel & Gow in New York to find decorative objects in semi-precious stones. It’s an enchanting spot.” Jean-Louis Deniot: Interiors By Diane Dorrans Saeks; $65; rizzoliusa.com.
Images Credits from Top to Bottom: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler / Marshall Headphones / Lokum Istanbul / Assouline; Courtesy of Cire Trudon / Compartes Chocolatier / AERIN / Van Wyck; Courtesy of Michael Aram / bevmo.com / Ralph Lauren Home / Barneys New York; Courtesy of Happy Menocal / Xavier Béjot