painless shopping

The Best Birthday Gifts for Friends

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

There’s no one who knows you quite like a friend does. But even if you know their Yellowjackets-level secret or all about their fondness for fiddle-leaf figs, it can still be a challenge to find them a gift. You want something that seems like they’d own (but don’t) and somehow manages to be genuinely (and delightfully) surprising. We did the work for you — all of the picks below are from our archives, either written by or recommended to us. Read on for gifts for friends with all sorts of interests, including something for the one who’s the photographer of the group chat and the one who always knows whether Mercury’s in retrograde.

For the friend who fantasizes about owning a full matching Le Creuset set

If their pepper mill and cast-iron pan have to be the same color, this set comes in shades of “cassis,” “cerise,” and “Caribbean.” Chef Shimi Aaron tipped us to them, explaining that the “happy-looking shakers” will go with colorful Staub cocottes just as well as ones from Le Creuset.

For the friend who’s a World of Interiors subscriber

If Architectural Digest just doesn’t do it for them anymore, this might be the interior-design fix they’re looking for. The Atlas of Interior Design is one of our favorite recent releases in the coffee-table book sphere. “From minimalist Axel Vervoordt–designed mansions to maximalist, heavily wallpapered Bavarian dachas, there’s inspiration here for anyone whose love for interiors extends beyond Instagram,” writes Strategist writer Kat Gillespie.

For the friend who shares their green brownies (but not the recipe)

This looks just like any stove-top percolator at first glance. But it’s actually the most affordable cannabis infuser recommended to us by experts. Jeronimo De Miguel of gourmet cannabis restaurant Gusto Green uses it to make his ultra-low-dose cannabis oil (which he puts in his daily smoothie, too). The easy-to-clean infuser helps make a mean green compound butter, too.

For the friend who has a more-is-more approach to makeup

For their Euphoria-esque experiments, this drag-queen-approved cleansing balm will melt away their foundation, concealer, and all that glitter. Farrah Moan, who competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race twice (including All Stars), explains that there’s almost no way to get off all a drag queen’s makeup in one step, so she’s a double-cleanse devotee. The balm “annihilates makeup,” making the second wash so much easier.

For the friend who always knows whether Mercury’s in retrograde

This centennial version of classic Rider cards is the most popular deck by far, according to author and tarot-card reader Jerico Mandybur. It pays tribute to the original illustrator Pamela Colman Smith (who wasn’t credited for her work) and is especially useful for beginners, Mandybur adds.

For the friend who preordered To Paradise (and is almost finished)

To get through the last 100 pages of the latest 720-page novel from Hanya Yanagihara (of A Little Life fame), a few nocturnal reading sessions might be necessary. Writer Molly McGhee likes to do all her reading in bed — and this nightlight has been a “true game changer.” McGhee adds, “The amber hue keeps the blue-light blues at bay.” In our Strategist Secret Santa, senior editor Simone Kitchens gifted it to me — it’s now a nightstand essential for its sunsetish glow.

For the friend who’s outgrown Le Labo Santal 33

Photo: retailer

This Nemat oil has a much subtler scent compared to the woodsy muskiness of Santal 33. And there’s somewhat of a cult surrounding it, explains Strategist contributor Natalie Toren. Scent educator Tracy Wan tipped Toren to it, describing the roll-on as “pure sorcery” (it’s the smell that earns Wan the most compliments) with “a laundry scent” thanks to the white musk notes.

For the friend who’s a sweaty sleeper