Designer gift picks: 10 NYC creatives share what they’re giving (or hoping to get) this holiday season

December 19, 2023

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: Color block painting by Holly McWhorter; photo courtesy of Casa Dragones Tequila; photo courtesy of; photo by kathryn via Flickr; photo courtesy of Michele Varian shop; photo courtesy of Coming Soon.

6sqft once again questioned New York City designers, architects, and artists on which goodies they’d love to give–or, perhaps, receive. Read on for a covetable mix of unexpected items curated by some of the city’s most talented creatives. We hope you’ll find some inspiring ideas among them if you happen to find yourself scrambling for one last (perfect) gift.

All images courtesy of Michele Varian shop. Clockwise from top left: Michele Varian with Dreamscape pendant; Coupe Glass; Outline Vase; Wheat Pin; Carved Mother of Pearl Owl Pendant; Hand Bottle Opener.

Michele Varian, designer, owner, Michele Varian

I will give the Coupe Glasses, which are the most elegant I have ever seen, in order to cheer in the New Year with the hosts with the mostest!

I am gifting myself and my husband with one of my new Dreamscape Pendants. It is going to completely transform my living room into a more dreamy space.

The Outline Vase is for a friend who is a florist and always looking for the perfect, but distinctive, vessel.

The Wheat Pin is for my Mom, who has a wonderful collection of pins, but nothing like this.

The Carved Mother of Pearl Owl Pendant is for a friend; I hope it helps remind her to make wise decisions!

The Hand Bottle Opener is a stocking stuffer for my husband. Who can say drinking from a bottle isn’t classy when it means you can use this opener?

Clockwise from top left: Photo courtesy of Brent Buck; Storefront of Walter De Maria’s “The Broken Kilometer” installation in Soho, photo via Wiki cc; Vintage Dansk Pepper Mills, photo courtesy of; Speakman shower head via Wayfair.

Brent Buck, principal, Brent Buck Architects

Vintage Dansk teak pepper mill. We have collected Dansk pepper mills for decades. They can be found in the wild, but you can also source them on Etsy or eBay with a search for “Vintage Dansk Pepper Mill.” You can choose a cost and shape that fits. Many are 50+ years old and most still work, which speaks to their quality. NOTE: you may need to clean them (and empty them of old pepper), but they make a thoughtful gift that will be beautiful in any kitchen.

A visit to Dia’s “The Broken Kilometer” and “The Earth Room.” Make your giftee aware of “The Broken Kilometer” and “The Earth Room!” Surprise them by taking them to these installations by Walter De Maria in Soho. Admission is free and their very existence may be a surprise–even to a New Yorker who may have walked by without knowing they are there.

Speakman Shower Head. One head is better than most: For renters and homeowners alike–the perfect shower head at the perfect price. This head is a BBA favorite and delivers a perfectly pressurized bathing experience with minimal fuss.

This Sunny-Side-Up Throw Blanket from Los Angeles brand Bien Mal.

From left to right: Photo by Ty Cole; “Poems of our Climate,” photo courtesy of Dancing Foxes press; Dada candles, photo courtesy of Coming Soon.

Sarah Jacoby, principal, Sarah Jacoby Architect

I love the ceramic works by the New York-based studio Lost Quarry. Their uniquely shaped objects have such a distinctive presence in any sort of interior environment.

It can sometimes be intimidating to try and find an elegant gift basket, but I love the many options provided by Bklyn Larder, and they’ll work with you to make a custom basket that feels personal.

Art books are some of my favorite gifts to receive, and this year, I’m most excited about the book “Poems of Our Climate,” by photographer Matt Saunders (published by Dancing Foxes Press;
text by Anthony Byrt, Mathew Hale, Hannah Klemm, Miranda Lichtenstein, Jennifer L. Roberts, Matt Saunders), who currently has an exhibition at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art in New York.

Candles are a classic holiday gift, but this candle set from DADA provides an opportunity for something a bit more whimsical (humor is underrated!). Coming Soon is a great resource for anyone looking for a unique gift.

Clockwise from top left: Photo courtesy of James and Karla Murray; Russ & Daughters on East Houston Street, photo by Jazz Guy via Flickr; Pete’s Tavern, photo by John Wisniewski via Flickr.

James and Karla Murray, architectural and interior photographers

Our book, “Store Front NYC: Photographs of the City’s Independent Shops, Past and Present.” For over a century, mom-and-pop shops have formed the heart and soul of New York City, transforming a city of eight million into a network of mini-villages. Like the communities they serve, they joyously boast distinctive facades, their names proudly rendered in dazzling signage.

In our latest book, we bring together an extraordinary selection of iconic and never-before-published photographs along with glorious new reproductions of images from our past books, celebrating the institutions that form the bedrock of New York City’s legendary street culture. Chapters are organized by each of the city’s five boroughs and include descriptions and maps with an introduction by Blondie co-founder and photographer Chris Stein.

Russ & Daughters New York Brunch for 6 Box: Russ & Daughters Appetizers, the historic shop on East Houston Street in the Lower East Side, is one of the many family-owned small businesses we featured in our new book. We particularly love their “New York Brunch for 6” box as it includes a delicious spread of their finest Nova, cream cheese, hand-rolled bagels, chocolate babka, private-blend coffee, and a Russ & Daughters mug.

Russ & Daughters is believed to be the first shop to have ever used the words “& Daughters” in its official name, as businesses were usually passed from father to son, and is now co-owned by Niki Russ Federman, the great-granddaughter of its founder and her cousin Joshua Russ Tupper. Russ & Daughters Appetizers also has one of our favorite neon signs in all of NYC as it not only has gorgeous channel letters in two different colors but the store’s name is also flanked by two neon whitefish in a downward dog pose.

Pete’s Tavern Gift Card (Various $ amounts available). Pete’s Tavern on Irving Place at 18th Street is one of NYC’s oldest continuously operating bars/restaurants and is a wonderful place to visit especially during Christmas. It was established in 1864 and became famous because O. Henry is said to have written the classic short Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi” while dining and drinking in a booth inside the pub. We have visited this bar/restaurant many times and encourage everyone to see the gorgeous holiday decorations adorning the historic pub and also sit in the booth where O. Henry sat.

Clockwise from top left: Photo by Marco Van Oel; Pentel Pink Sign Pen via Amazon; Time magazine cover via Wiki cc. Pro3 Series 3D Printer via Amazon.

Matthias Hollwich, founding principal, HWKN Architecture

One-year subscription to ChatGPT. As society has been undergoing a major technological shift, HWKN is at the forefront of how designers can leverage these new tools to conceptualize better buildings and products. For those who are a bit intimidated by the new technological platforms emerging, ChatGPT is a great stepping stone into the new AI world.

Pro3 Series 3D Printer. An endless source of fun, 3D printing allows you to create an array of objects and see your design come to life in a quick and efficient way. The process is also super easy to learn and the Pro3 Series 3D Printer can produce dual color and material models.

Pentel Sign Pen Pink. For those who are constantly jotting down notes or sketching, the Pentel Sign Pen Pink is the perfect gift. The ink is smooth and the lines can be drawn from thin to thick. The vibrancy of the pink ink is also a fun element that makes the pen even more enjoyable to use.

L: Stickbulb co-founders Russell Greenberg and Christopher Beardsley, photo by Will Ellis; R: Citizen Pruner field trip, photo by kathryn via Flickr.

Russell Greenberg and Christopher Beardsley, co-founders of Stickbulb

Take a Citizen Pruner Class with Trees New York. New Yorkers often forget that we live in an active urban forest of over seven million trees. Trees New York is a non-profit that can train you to become a “citizen pruner” empowering you to help care for street trees in your NYC neighborhood.

Gathering Growth Tree Prints. Our friend, photographer Brian Kelley, documents trees of significance around the United States. Through his foundation, Gathering Growth, he visually preserves the legacy of trees and forests, while creating awareness around the importance of preservation. You can support his work by purchasing one of his stunning prints.

Six-pack from Fifth Hammer. Our studio, showroom, and workshop are located all under one roof in Long Island City, NYC. We happen to be next to the best brewery in the city, and potentially the country.

Left to right: Olivera Grk, photo courtesy of Olivera Grk/ODA, Akari light sculpture courtesy of The Noguchi Museum Shop, “The Man Behind the Maps,” courtesy of Amazon

Olivera Grk, principal and project director, ODA, interior design and landscape

Horus Origin Ring from Jovana Djuric. Jovana’s jewelry is unique, sculptural and grounded in the idea that a piece of jewelry created in metal will last forever. I love so many of her designs, but the Horus ring collection is her signature. And while you’re supporting a small business, the recipient of the gift will be making a big statement.

The Man Behind the Maps.” While searching for inspiration for a ski resort we’re designing, I came across this compilation of James Niehues’ beautifully hand-painted ski trail maps. This is the kind of gift that will impress everyone, whether you’re gifting to an avid skier or just someone who appreciates art.

For the architect in your life, this Akari light sculpture has both a Japanese handcrafted feel and a distinct architectural form. The iconic floor lamp is like having your own tower of light in your home.

For the coffee enthusiast: This Aldo Rossi espresso maker combines two of my favorite things, design and caffeine. This contemporary version of Aldo Rossi’s La Conica espresso maker is both functional and beautiful.

Clockwise from top right: Sara Duffy, photo credit: Blaine Davis; “Large Blue Fold Drawing 3 Acrylic on Folded Paper 43 x 36” Copyright 2023 by Jean Wolff; “Suppose All the Lions, Series: “No More Tears, Pierrot” 2019 by Aleya Lehmann; color block painting (on wall) by Holly McWhorter.

Sara Duffy, principal of the Interiors Division at Stonehill Taylor

This holiday season I’m leaning towards the art route. Buying art during the holidays is a great way to support artists and share unique gifts. Here are three artists I love and will be gifting friends and family:

Jean Wolff, Works on Paper, “Fold Series.” I have always been a big fan of Jean’s artwork and even recently purchased one of her folded paper pieces for my husband. Her work stands out as it’s both graphic and has amazing depth to it.

Aleya Lehmann Studio, “No More Tears.” I’ve brought my Stonehill Taylor design team to see Aleya’s photography for inspiration as she incorporates color in such a unique and extraordinary way. Her work is very surreal and super saturated with vibrant tones, making it the perfect gift for someone to hang artwork throughout their home or office space.

Holly McWhorter Art. After becoming familiar with Holly’s work through the Black Artist and Designers Guild, I’m fascinated by her ability to create perspectives with vibrant color blocks. These art pieces would make a statement in any interior space with its interaction of color and shapes.

Clockwise from top left: Will Meyer and Gray Davis, photo courtesy of Meyer Davis; Photo courtesy of Casa Dragones Tequila; Le Labo Santal 26 via Amazon; “Travel by Design,” via Amazon.

Will Meyer and Gray Davis, co-founders, Meyer Davis

Travel By Design.” This book is a perfect gift for any frequent traveler as it’s a unique collection of places to stay or visit pulled from architects and designers from The Design Leadership Network. There are so many fascinating destinations featured in the book but my favorite was an unexpected surprise in Matera Italy, The Sextantio le Grotte Della Civita.

Issimo Pajamas are made with the softest cotton and the best to bring when traveling. The sets are luxurious yet have a comfortable feel to them, making them the perfect gift for family or friends.

Casa Dragones Tequila. A personal favorite, as the brand’s founder, Bertha Gonzáles, is a long-time friend. Casa Dragones makes for a great gift to bring to a holiday party and is something that we both keep around the house for sipping. Meyer Davis has recently completed the restoration of La Casa Dragones, the spiritual home for the tequila brand.

Le Labo Santal 26. This candle is a classic, timeless scent that makes a great first impression on guests. Its glass vessel and personalized label are what make the candle a nice gift for those who often host and entertain.

DXA Studio, photo by Chris Coe, Anni Tea Towel by Citta, photo courtesy of Citta, Heath Ceramics Espresso Set, courtesy of Heath Ceramics

Wayne Norbeck and Jordan Rogove, co-founders of DXA Studio

Heath Ceramics Espresso Set. We love espresso, and always bring some back from Italy for the office when we visit our Venice Biennale exhibitions. What better way to enjoy coffee in these gorgeous minimalist sets?

There’s nothing like a good cocktail to warm up the holidays. We love this matte black Cocktail Kit from Williams Sonoma, accompanied by Kurt Maitland’s “Drink.” Kurt is a great friend to the office, as he runs and hosts the Manhattan Whiskey Club in our main conference room once a month.

The Anni Tea Towel also caught our attention. We love this beautiful and practical nod to Bauhaus textile artist Anni Albers.

This splurge-worthy Avignon Cashmere Throw makes a beautifully cozy gift, perfect for the cold NYC winter months.

Finally, this Brutalist Catchall is both modular and inspired by the architecture of London’s Royal National Theatre. When stacked, these sculptural pieces evoke the massing of a concrete building.


Editor’s note: We may receive a commission for purchases made through these affiliate links. All prices reflect those at the time of publishing.


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