The 10 Holiday Gifts Cool Designers Always Buy on Repeat

updated Dec 14, 2020
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Imagine: You’re going about your day, minding your own business, when you receive an unexpected package. It’s a holiday present from an acquaintance, colleague, or that cousin you only see during family reunions. Sure, it’s a kind gesture, but it can be a little awkward if you don’t have a present ready for them in return.

Whether you were invited to a last-minute (and socially-distanced!) party or are doing a present swap via snail mail, it’s always a good idea to have some extra presents on hand. You know the type we’re talking about: presents that feel special but can be given to just about anyone. To help you spread the holiday cheer—and make your shopping as stress-free as possible—I asked 10 designers to share the gifts they buy on repeat. From affordable finds to splurge-worthy selects, these ideas will make you the MVP of your surprise gift exchange. One quick note: Make sure to note shipping deadlines and potential delays when you order anything off this list; in many cases, I’ve also suggested some local places where you can curbside order or store pickup similar items, too.

Credit: Danish Design Store

1. A sculptural vase

Why buy them a bouquet of flowers that will die a week later when you can pick up a vase that lasts forever? “We love Studio Kaksikko for Muuto’s Ridge Vase as a go-to,” says designers Laura Flam and Carrie Dessertine, principals of REUNION Goods & Services. “Its simple fluted pattern and clean, modern lines fit into any style of decor.”

In fact, the REUNION ladies used this very vase in one of their latest projects, The Wayfinder Hotel. Not only does its built-in dent make it easy to carry, but this vase is also available in two different sizes. If you miss the deadline for ordering, you can pick up a cool terracotta vase at your closest Target or West Elm.

Buy: Muuto Ridge Vase by Studio Kaksikko, Starting at $125.00 from the Danish Design Store

Credit: Santa Maria Novella

2. Wax tablets

As far as many designers are concerned, a great scent is literally the gift that keeps on giving. If a candle feels like something your giftee already has, spring for scented wax tablets instead. “They make for such a beautiful gift; they are floral and soft with flowers pressed into the wax,” designer Jessica Schuster explains. “Freesia is my personal favorite.”

A gift that appeals to all the senses? Consider me sold. While Schuster loves this luxe look from Santa Maria Novella, you can find scented wax tablets all over Etsy, and they’re a fairly easy DIY if you have an hour or so to spare. They’re great for adding a subtle hint of scent in places like drawers, linen cabinets, and closets.

Buy: Santa Maria Novella Fresia Scented Wax Tablets, $38.00 from Santa Maria Novella

Credit: Amazon

3. Pretty cookbooks

It’s no secret many of us have been spending more time in the kitchen these days. To that end, many of the people on your list would probably get a lot of use out of a brand new cookbook they can add into their rotation. “Even if folks don’t necessarily cook, books are beautiful decor objects and divine sources of visual inspiration,” says Karina Lameraner, creative stylist at Modsy. “To make it more personal, I leave little notes tucked into pages that I think they might particularly enjoy. ‘Cook Beautiful,’, ‘Old World Italian,’ and ‘Ottolenghi Simple are a few of my favorites with approachable and elevated recipes.”

Buy: “Cook Beautiful” by Athena Calderone, $35.00 $21.94 from Amazon.

Credit: The Citizenry

4. A cozy throw

Winter is all about being cozy, so your recipients will find much to love about a new throw blanket. “This throw is luxuriously soft, warm, and elegant—it’s an essential layering piece and perfect for cozying up to,” explains Shelby Girard, vice president of creative and design at Havenly. “With a craftsman quality and in timeless tones, I’ve discovered this to be a crowd favorite.” Order ASAP for holiday delivery, or pick up a pretty throw in a similar shade locally at a store like HomeGoods or Anthropologie.

Buy: The Citizenry La Calle Alpaca Throw, $155.00 from the Citizenry.

Credit: CB2

5. A fancy wine cooler

Make their virtual happy hours feel like a fancy affair with some new wine accoutrements. “Wine is definitely a staple for me, and I love to buy beautifully made wine bottle holders and give them as gifts,” shares designer Joy Williams. Not only is this marble holder ridiculously chic, but it’ll also keep your vino nice and chilly. While Crate & Barrel’s standard shipping cutoff for Christmas has passed, you can still explore curbside and store pickup options or find similar wine coolers elsewhere, too.

Buy: CB2 French Kitchen Marble Wine Cooler, $29.95 from Crate & Barrel

Credit: Amanda Reynal

6. Cocktail napkins

Speaking of happy hour, a nice set of cocktail napkins will be a pleasant (and practical!) present, too. “I love to gift embroidered cocktail napkins with cheeky sayings that we sell in our shop,” designer Amanda Reynal says. Snag a set from Reynal or check out your closest Williams-Sonoma or other kitchen store if you feel safe shopping in person. You’re sure to find something similar there.

Buy: Amanda Reynal Aperol Blitzen Cocktail Napkins, $35.00 for a Set of 4 from Amanda Reynal

Credit: Panier Des Sens

7. Panier Des Sens Liquid Marseille Soap

Before 2020, soap might’ve seemed like a lame gift, but now it’s a practical present. Several designers I spoke to said this is their go-to present. If you want to wow your recipient, spring for a fancy scent. This fruity, orange blossom soap will turn even the most mundane task into a soothing, spa-like experience.

Buy: Panier Des Sens Liquid Marseille Soap in Orange Blossom, $18 from Amazon

Credit: Parachute

8. Parachute Cloud Cotton Robe

Parachute’s Cloud Cotton Robe is a bit of a splurge, but it also tends to be a crowd-pleaser. “It’s hands-down the favorite and most talked about gift I’ve given friends and family,” founder Ariel Kaye explains. “It’s lightweight, stylish, and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Everyone deserves a little extra comfort—especially this year—and the Cloud Cotton Robe always delivers on the coziness.”

Buy: Parachute Cloud Cotton Robe, $99.00 from Parachute

Credit: Pendleton

9. Pendleton Chess and Checkers Set

When it comes to board games, there’s a good chance your recipient has all the classics. If you’re looking for a creative way to bring out their competitive spirit though, check out this adorable set from Pendleton. “I always keep a stash of little gifts around the house for the unexpected pop-over to a friend’s house—or nowadays—to a friend’s backyard,” says designer Jenny Dina Kirschner, principal of JDK Interiors. “I keep a few of these roll-up game sets on hand at all times.” While your friend or family member might already own a chessboard, this roll-up option is the perfect thing to bring to a socially-distanced hang or on a trip, when traveling becomes a thing again. There’s no mention of a shipping cut-off at Pendleton, but the sooner you can order, the better for holiday arrival.

Buy: Pendleton Chess and Checkers Set, $35.00 from Urban Outfitters

Credit: Liz Clayman

10. Anything vintage

As the saying goes, one design lover’s trash is another’s treasure. While Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell doesn’t necessarily buy gifts on repeat, but she does have an at-home supply of giftable antiques that she likes to pull from around the holidays. “Vintage China with some special tea or soaps, a silver candle holder with pretty tapers and matches, or picture frames with relevant photos placed [in them] are impactful, thoughtful, and unique,” she explains. “As important as the gift is, I keep a stash of pretty ribbons and wrapping paper to use as needed as well as vintage cards I have collected along the way.”