holiday gift guide 2019

130 People With Particular, Exacting, Exceptional Taste on the Most Perfect Gift Under $104

(We set a $100 limit but couldn’t leave out Rita Konig’s trug.)

Illustration: Pete Gamlen
Illustration: Pete Gamlen
Illustration: Pete Gamlen

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Here at the Strategist, we spend a lot of time chatting with folks known for having personal taste so finely tuned that it has often become synonymous with their public personae. Whether they are cool people, experts in their fields, or bona fide celebrities, these individuals are recognized for their shared obsession over details. In talking to people like this day in and day out, we hear over and over how their obsessiveness informs what they buy for themselves. But what do people with such strong opinions get the people they love, whose taste might differ from theirs?

To find out, we asked 130 people whom we think have particular, exacting, and exceptional taste about the gifts they’re most excited to give someone else, setting a limit of $100 (which, of course, was exceeded — but not by more than $3). Their suggestions really do include something for every taste and should go a long way toward checking off any still-unchecked-off people on your list. (And if for whatever reason they do not, we have hundreds more gift ideas right here.)

John Waters


Hell’s Gates: Notre Damned, An Act of God, by Tim Coghlan

“A shocking little book that seems to celebrate the ‘destruction of a house of lies,’ with page after page of photographs of the fires burning in Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral.”

Stephanie Danler

Workaday Handmade Medium Casserole

“It’s the most versatile and beautiful countertop item. Use it to store fruit, or as a serving dish. It can go on the stove, in the oven, and even in the dishwasher.”

Bevy Smith

Lelo Sona Cruise

“Holidays are always tense. So give your overworked bestie a gift that keeps on giving … multiple orgasms.”

Amy Sedaris

Actress, comedian, and writer

Alexa Leigh 3mm Gold Ball Bracelet

“I have given this to a 13-year-old boy, a 24-year-old girl, and a senior citizen. You can also get the bracelets in silver, and you can stack them as well (they come in 4mm and 5mm, too).”

Isaac Mizrahi

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote, Open-Top

“Everyone should have one of these bags, if not more than one. It’s been a mainstay in my world for as long as I can remember.”

Emma Straub

Author and owner, Books Are Magic

Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser

“When my husband bought this diffuser at the Muji store at JFK, I openly mocked it. But now, I really love it. Buy it with nice smelly oils, and you are a dream friend.”

Karla Welch

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Bath Salts

“These are my absolute fave. I travel with them, because honestly, hotels are the only place I ever have the time to take a bath.”

Jazzi McGilbert

Creative director, LOOM, and founder, Reparations Club

Phillips Hue White and Color Ambiance Smart Lightbulbs

“Weird, but hear me out: After I got these as a wedding gift, they quickly became the best things in my home, hands down. Not only can you change the color, brightness, and temperature of the lighting — you can do it all from your phone.”

Erica Chidi Cohen

Co-founder and CEO, LOOM

Nourish by The Now Classic Body Oil

Smells like sandalwood and neroli and makes you automatically chill out after a long shower.”

Adam Rapoport

Editor-in-chief, Bon Appetit

Cygolite Hotrod Front Light and Hotrod 50 Tail Light

“Navigating bike lanes, especially at night, can feel like a roller-derby match. These are super-bright, easily rechargeable, and quick for the cyclist in your life to get on and off.”

Vanessa Lavorato

Co-host, Bong Appetit

Snakeroot Apothecary Good Luck Charm

“The spray smells of fresh rosemary and cedar — it always boosts my mood when I spritz it around the house.”

Judy Collins

Tiffany & Co. Modern Bamboo Lead Crystal Votive

“To brighten up life all year round. Such a treasure for your home.”


Chris Habana Spear Septum Cuff

“No need for needles and freaking out your mom — this sterling-silver-plated piece pops in and out easily and is super-comfortable. Trust me, this gift will make you the coolest aunt or uncle this year.”

Lady Bunny

Tea & Sympathy Scone Mix

“Slather on raspberry jam and clotted cream for an English treat that’s so rich it will also clot your arteries if you have it too often.”

Susan Alexandra

Janie Korn Poodle Candle

“Janie Korn (a.k.a. my sister) hand sculpts her pieces with so much care and panache. My current fav is the Pink Poodle. I recommend never burning it.”

Ina Garten

Author and Barefoot Contessa

Photo: Hasselblad H5D
Poilâne Bakery Tin of Punitions Cookies

“From my favorite bakery in Paris. They jokingly call these shortbread cookies punitons — or little punishments. They arrive packed in a beautiful hand-painted tin that you can use long after the cookies are gone.”

Editor’s note: The link below will prompt you to enter an address before you can buy the punitons.

Elizabeth Perkins


Breville Duo 1500-Watt Nonstick Panini Press

“You do not realize how much you love all your food toasted until you have this baby on your counter. Heats up quickly, and super-easy to wipe clean.”

Tonne Goodman

Stylist and former Vogue fashion director

Maldon Salt Bucket

“My favorite cookbook is John Pawson’s. If he says Maldon is the best, then it is. The bucket seems a bit extreme, but then again, salt fanatics do exist. I gave it to my brother-in-law, who is a wonderful cook, and he laughed and loved it.”

Aminatou Sow

America The Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass

“At $80, this might sound steep, but hear me out. This pass covers entry for two people into any of the 2,000 federal recreation sites — including the 58 national parks. That’s access to more than 84 million acres, for TWELVE WHOLE MONTHS. (If you know someone who is in the military, they are able to receive a pass for free. If you are giving this as a gift to someone over 62, it is $80 for a lifetime pass. COME ON!)”

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin

Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman
A Life Worth Breathing, by Max Strom

“These two books motivate and inspire on every level. The first spells out how it’s possible to get to a society without poverty, and the second combines comparative religious studies with the principles of yoga, creating a spiritual eye-opener.”

Corky Pollan

Photo: Courtesy retailer
DBO Home Noodle Kashmir Bowl

“Suddenly, bowls have become everyone’s favorite dinnerware. Size matters, and Dana Brandwein’s handmade 7x2 Kashmir bowl is just the right size to accommodate multiple components. Plus, it’s dishwasher- and microwave-safe.”

Rio Viera-Newton

Celestron AstroMaster Telescope

“There are few things more fun than closely observing (okay, spying on) really far-away stuff. If you live somewhere scenic, it’s glorious to look at birds and starry night skies. If you live in Brooklyn, like me, it’s cool to gaze at the Statue of Liberty or watch fancy boats float down the Hudson. Also, I watched a car chase on the FDR the other night and it was totally exhilarating.”

Claire Mazur

Co-founder, Of a Kind

Thompson Street Studio Linen & Cotton Patchwork Coasters, Set of 4

“Thompson Street Studio’s quilts are stunning and utterly unique. While the blankets are ‘investment pieces,’ the quilted coaster set feels similarly heirloomish — and makes owning a piece of the studio’s artistry a lot more accessible.”

Katie Sturino

Founder, Megababe

Anker PowerCore III Sense 10K

“Nobody wants to buy a portable phone charger, but most people would use it every day. I use the red one — I never shy away from color. It’s super-slim and actually gives more than two times the amount of charge your phone needs, so you don’t have to be constantly scoping for your next outlet.”

Heron Preston

Fashion designer

Very Important Puppies VIP Black Dispenser

“Affordable. Super-cute. Useful. It’s a convenient way to keep our city streets clean of dog business or other trash.”

Noura Sakkijha

Founder, Mejuri