Winter holidays are fast approaching and with them come seasonal treats, work parties, family dinners and so much more. The holidays are also a time of thanksgiving, during which many of us show gratitude through gift-giving. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented many of us from gathering together during the holidays. While huddled inside celebrating over Zoom, we rediscovered the importance of home. This year, the Laura U Design Collective team has assembled a list of our favorite holiday gifts for the home. From elegant coffee table books to trinket trays and special ceramics, our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is all about cozying up at home. The hardest part of scrolling through our guide is figuring out which pieces to wrap for family and friends and which to keep! Whatever you choose, just be sure to place your holiday orders soon as the transnational shipping crisis and labor shortage will likely impact deliveries. Follow along for our Designer Guide to Holiday Gifts 2021 — and let us know which pieces you love in the comments below!
The LUDC Designer Guide to Holiday Gifts 2021
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Picture Book by John Derian
“Thick, satisfying . . . gloriously oversize. . . . A treasure trove of inspiration, the artist’s first book is an object to covet.” —The Wall Street Journal
Published in 2016, we love this beautiful book by iconic New York designer and artist John Derian. The book has been described as a “feast for the eyes” and an “oversized object of desire.” Lauded by House Beautiful and The Los Angeles Times, Picture Book is an eclectic collection. Each gorgeous image is inspired by Derian’s forays into collage and decoupage. Those who flip through its pages will find everything from botanical illustrations and luscious landscapes to antique letters and unusual portraits.
Curious, delightful and absolutely stunning, John Derian’s Picture Book is the perfect addition to any coffee table. It is especially appropriate for the antiquarian in love with 18th and 19th century art and design. LUDC designers recommend displaying the book flat to entice guests with its cover or open to your favorite page on a Taschen book display. Shop the New York Times bestseller at your local gift store or here through Barnes & Noble.
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Tom Ford Cocktail Table Book
“As a 10-year time capsule of brand fashioning, the book succeeds perfectly.” — Publishers Weekly
Sleek, minimalistic and high contrast, the cover is reason enough to purchase this book by designer and icon Tom Ford and writer Bridget Foley. The text and photos of this book honor Ford’s impressive career — not only of a fashion designer but also of a business titan. Larger than your average coffee table book, Tom Ford is the perfect anchor for any display. Its size makes Tom Ford the ideal support for other books or decorative objects. Laura U Design Collective staff love this piece because it suits both masculine and feminine aesthetics. Shop the book through at your local gift store or Amazon, Pottery Barn or Barnes & Noble.
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AD at 100: A Century of Style by Amy Astley
“[AD at 100] is written in the elevated quality that only the editors of Architectural Digest can master so well. [This book] is the world’s newest guide to the best and brightest designs.” ― The Editorialist
AD at 100 was published in 2019 in honor of the magazine’s hundredth anniversary. The book — written by Amy Astley — peers through the private spaces of artists, designers and politicians. Spaces from the homes of David Hockney, Michael Kors and the Obamas are within. Where Architectural Digest was founded, the book focuses primarily on California estates — honoring architects and interior designers up and down the Golden State. In an article publicizing the publication of AD at 100: A Century of Style, the Architectural Digest editors elaborate. They note that the book pays homage to the “twin pillars of [their] editorial mix.”
These twin pillars are “California-style dolce vita and celebrity lifestyle [which] remain vital components of AD’s DNA to this day.” With its neutral cover, few would suspect that this book’s pages boast vibrancy and glamour. Gift AD at 100: A Century of Style to those who adore the rich interiors, pioneering architecture and fascinating celebrity of California’s Golden Age. Find AD at 100 on Amazon.
Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People by Hamish Bowles
“Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People is an irresistible voyage through some of the world’s most beautiful and private gardens and interiors.” — Knopf
Named one of “12 Books You’ll Find in Every Design Person’s Home” by Lonny.com, Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People was published in 2007. Years later, the beautifully illustrated text remains one of the most popular amongst interior designers and design buffs. With interiors photographed by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Oberto Gili and Annie Leibovitz, the original Vogue Living is a smorgasbord of stunning spaces. According to Lonny.com, Vogue Living offers readers “a sneak peak at the fashion, music and art industry’s most creative homes,” including several never-before-seen spaces. Gift Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People to photofiles and design lovers of any generation. Find Vogue Living at your local book store or here on Amazon.
Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast by Hamish Bowles
“Lavishly illustrated, Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast is an irresistible look at some of the most spectacular houses and gardens. Their owners come from the worlds of fashion, design, art and society to be published as a book for the first time.” — Knopf
Alternatively, the cover of Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast — edited by Hamish Bowles and Chloe Malle — is an explosion of color. However, the cover of Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast is simply a prelude of things to come. In a review of Vogue Living for Vogue, Madeleine Luckel elaborates. She writes that “to open Vogue’s new book, Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast, is to be greeted by unrestrained warmth.” Dozens of interiors featured in Vogue grace the pages of Vogue Living — containing “both classical elements and striking streaks of new guard.”
Described by Luckel as “beautiful, thoughtful and contemporary,” this text is perfect for the friend with an elegant approach to maximalism. Best of all, “even a passing glimpse of the book’s cover” reveals the beauty within. A sequel to Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People, shop this volume from 2017 online through Amazon.
Simplicity by Nancy Braithwaite
“A stunning assemblage of rooms created with extraordinary form, color and shape.” – Papercity
Simplicity honors the work of Nancy Braithwaite, an incredible interior designer who has blessed the industry with exceptionally edited spaces for over forty years. Pure and powerful, the interiors photographed for this book are as inspiring as they are enduring. The photo chosen for Simplicity’s cover alludes to this fact. In this book, Southern designer Braithwaite proves that minimalism can be rich, warm and inviting rather than cold and overly curated. Writing for Atlanta Magazine in 2015, Nancy Braithwaite notes that “designing a room is like accessorizing a little black dress.”
She writes that she found her sweet spot years ago in spaces that are “spare yet luxurious — unique, with forceful identities.” Readers of Simplicity will revel in Braithwaite’s approach to design, each space perfectly balancing “architecture, composition, proportion and scale, color, pattern, texture, and craftsmanship.” Shop Simplicity at your local book store or online through Barnes & Noble here.
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NEST Cedar Leaf & Lavender Candle
“[NEST is] the candle maker with the most evocative fragrances.” — Greg Morago, “NEST Fragrances Fills Up Our Home with the Scent of Spring” for The Houston Chronicle
Founded by celebrated fragrance designer and philanthropist Laura Slatkin, NEST offers some of the most elegant, artful scents available today. One favorite is the Cedar Leaf & Lavender scent, which Houston Chronicle writer Greg Morago reviewed in a 2015 article. Morago described the clean-burning candle as one of several “evocative fragrances” from NEST. This candle combines “combines rosemary, lavender and sage with cedar leaves and a hint of eucalyptus” for a scent that is fresh yet soothing. Shop NEST’s Cedar Leaf & Lavender Candle here on their website.
Diptyque Baies Candle
“The colored scented candles from Diptyque are larger and come in a hand-blown black glass container. The scent is slightly stronger, making it a great choice for special occasions, especially in this Baies (berries) scent. Once lit, enjoy the smell of fresh roses that have been upgraded with sweetening blackcurrant leaves.” — Oscar Hartzog, “Here’s Why This French Candle Brand Is Our Editors’ Go-To for Gifting” for Rolling Stone
For years, “best of” lists have honored Diptyque’s Baies candle. Writing for Elle in 2017, Sally Holmes identified the Diptyque Baies candle as the perfect “gateway expensive candle.” In the same article, Holmes also recommended NEST’s candles — several of which “smell just like Christmas.” Rolling Stone writer Oscar Hartzog agrees with Holmes — calling Diptyque candles the “editors’ go-to for gifting” in a holiday article late last year. According to Hartzog, ”Diptyque has the best candle gifts for two reasons: quality and branding.”
Each Diptyque candle is “simply and unflinchingly luxurious.” Lovingly made in France with only “raw, high-quality materials,” Diptyqe’s Baies candle not only has a gorgeous scent but also looks fantastic. With branding that is “minimal yet instantly recognizable,” this candle is ideal for gifting. Find the Baies candle here on Diptyque’s website.
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Custom Floral Arrangement from FAO Design
“[FAO is] known for designing with best-in-class products, specialized craftsman and award-winning designers. FAO custom compositions range from replica trees and faux botanicals to unexpected high-end accents and sculptural wood and mineral creations.” — FAO Design
Custom floral and succulent arrangements by FAO Design make the perfect gifts for holiday hosts or hostesses. Headquartered in Houston, FAO has been a popular choice for Texas stagers, interior designers and tastemakers for years! Our designers at Laura U Design Collective recommend placing these arrangements on your own coffee table at home. You can also gift one to the friend or family member who has generously offered to host holiday get-togethers this year. FAO Design also offers several stock options. We love their potted cactus and fern pictured above — as well as the lovely arrangement pictured in the lower right. Shop stock and custom arrangements on the FAO Design website here.
For the Collector
Mid-Century Scandinavian Ceramics
“From the mid-20th century, Danish design has defined and influenced design on a global scale.” — Sophie Finney, “The Heyday Of Danish Design, 10 Mid-Century Designers” for Culture Trip
Many LUDC projects have embodied a Mid-Century Modern design aesthetic. Subtle and refined yet warm and inviting, mid-century design balances elegance with livability. For holiday gifting, we love mid-century modern Scandinavian ceramics. We especially love pieces by Lisa Larson, Stig Lindberg and Wilhem Kage. All of these designers were well-known for their work at Sweden’s Gustavsberg ceramics factory. Organic color palettes, quirky characters and folk art features are hallmarks of these mid-century modern designs. As pictured above, pieces by Lisa Larson and Stig Lindberg are particularly charming.
We love the Carnival dish designed by Lindberg in 1958 for Gustavsberg as it includes a fish design often seen in Lindberg’s work. With its sweet face and silly pose, this ceramic cat designed by Larson is another favorite. For those seeking a more minimalist aesthetic, we love the Eldorado Bowl designed by Wilhelm Kage in the late 1930s. The bowl was later produced by Gustavsberg in the 1950s. This glazed, subtly striped oblong bowl in a gorgeous jade shade is the perfect trinket dish for shelf and coffee table displays. Shop Mid-Century Modern Scandinavian ceramics on Etsy and through 1stDibs.
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Aerin Classic Shagreen Serving Tray
“This serving tray…is perfect for a casual gathering, an elegant dinner party or organizing personal objects.” – Aerin
Gift the Aerin Classic Shagreen Serving Tray to the Marie Kondo fan in your family or circle of friends. Lined with imported rough suede — also called “shagreen” — this Classic Shagreen Serving Tray from Aerin boasts delicate brass hardware and a sophisticated shape. This tray is ideal for those who love to keep their shelves, coffee tables, dressers and countertops perfectly organized. If purchasing for oneself, take advice from the designers at LUDC by grouping objects in threes. Shop the Classic Shagreen Serving Tray online through Aerin’s website in one of six subtle shades. Pictured above are the Chocolate, Dove and Blue colorways. Other colorways include Mist, Wheat and Cream.
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Decorative Boxed Matches
“These fun decorative matches make a great hostess gift alone or along with a candle.” – Museum Outlets
The perfect stocking stuffers, these decorative boxed matches from Museum Outlets are perfect to pair with the Diptyque or NEST candles on this list. Each reusable box includes fifty safety matches in neutral tones that would look beautiful displayed in their boxes or in the Aerin Match Holder. Some of our favorite designs include the collaged lemon print and the vintage blue daisies print pictured in the lower right.
Aerin Match Striker
“Re-inventing a classic home object, this solid brass match striker, from AERIN…strikes the balance between form and function.” – Longoria Collection
This match holder from Aerin is a lovely brass sphere with a dotted constellation-like pattern along the lower center. The Aerin Match Striker is a lovely addition to coffee tables, mantles and bar carts. Gift this refined, elegant match holder to friends and family this holiday season alongside the matches and candles outlined above. Shop the Aerin Match Striker here.
West Elm Marble Knot Object
With its elegant arabesque quality and Brutalist design, this marble knot object from West Elm is perfect for both the minimalist and the maximalist. We also love this piece as a paperweight, bookend or decor object for shelves that might make it into your Zoom background. Dark-toned and heavy, West Elm’s Marble Knot Object offers the perfect amount of weight to a display. At the same time, its negative space creates natural contrast. Shop this piece as a holiday gift to yourself or others on West Elm’s website or in stores.
We hope you enjoyed the Designer Guide to Holiday Gifts 2021 our staff at the Laura U Design Collective assembled this year. Let us know which pieces you loved from this list in the comments below and have a happy holiday season!
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For the effortlessly chic, classically current friend or family member, we recommend the four pieces pictured above from Mountain Lane Show House sponsor Alchemy Fine Home. From the basket weave accent pillow to the petrified wood placemats, each was hand-picked for the 2021 gift guide by LUDC founder Laura Umansky. Not only does Laura recommend these for gift-giving, but also plans to outfit her own home with each while hosting holiday festivities. Inspired by both the boundless beauty of nature and the rich history of international design, each piece pictured above is perfect for the worldly yet welcoming interior.
Koff Medium Woven Leather Pillow
“Covered from front to back with buttery-soft pebble leather in breathtakingly rich colors. Woven accents crafted by hand.” – Alchemy Fine Home
First, the Koff Medium Woven Leather Pillow from Alchemy Fine Home texture, style and depth to any space. Designed by Robert Rokoff, this twelve by fifteen inch pillow is the perfect size for propping yourself up on the couch while reading a good book. This pebble leather pillow is available in five rich organic tones including Cognac, Taupe, Bone, Black and White.
Kim Seybert Petrified Wood Placemat Set & Mineral Napkin Ring Set
“A sophisticated take on the uniform and harmony found within naturally occurring minerals, the versatile Mineral Napkin Ring is perfect for year-round entertaining.” – Alchemy Fine Home
Sold in sets of four, the Kim Seybert Petrified Wood Placemat Set and Kim Seybert Mineral Napkin Ring are ideal gifts for friends hosting intimate holiday dinners. The napkin rings serve as especially unique gifts because a naturally occurring malachite stone graces the center of each. As no two stones are exactly alike, no two sets will be the same.
Vietri Regalia Wine Glass
“The ornate emblems of royalty inspired this unique collection of Italian glass cups, handpainted in 14-karat gold.” – Alchemy Fine Home
Lastly, we especially love the Vietri Regalia Wine Glass from Alchemy Fine Home. Handpainted in 14-karate gold, these Italian glass goblets will soothe the wanderlust of anyone refraining from travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.