office accessories

What’s the Best Stationery?

A Letter From Ava
Photo: Clarence Sinclair Bull/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Whether you’re a thank-you note loyalist or haven’t touched a note card since the first time you heard your desktop intone “You’ve got mail,” now is an especially good moment to consider sending a letter. With so much time now spent communicating with friends via Zoom calls and Slack, there is something especially gratifying about receiving handwritten mail from a friend or loved one. Since a letter is something the recipient often keeps, you’ll want to choose your stationery wisely. To find the loveliest-looking, sturdiest stationery available now, we reached out to several note-writers with impeccable taste to hear about the letter papers, note cards, and postcards they’re currently using to keep in touch.

Both Araks Yeramyan, founder of the namesake lingerie line, and Nell Diamond, founder of Hill House Home, told us their favorite stationery comes from luxury British leather- and paper-goods brand Smythson. While the price of $39 for ten cards might seem steep, file this one under “relatively inexpensive goods from otherwise expensive brands”: “Using them makes me feel special,” says Yeramyan. “And when I send a note on their stationery, the note is imbued with that feeling too.” Diamond feels similarly about the stationery: “My dad has been gifting me Smythson correspondence cards and notebooks on my birthday since I could write, so these have a special place in my heart,” she says. “The card stock feels sturdy and soft all at once, and I always feel very proper writing my thank-yous on them.” The cards come in an elegant blue box (“I always save and use to store things,” says Diamond) and feature charming illustrations, like this double-decker bus pack, which Diamond says is her recent favorite.

Leigh Batnick Plessner, co–creative director of Catbird, told us about this light-pink stationery from Choosing Keeping. “Every night (okay, a lot of nights), I’ve been writing love letters to our customers on sheer pale-pink paper inspired by Elizabeth Peyton’s Pierre,” says Plessner. “I love the size, weight, and smoothness of this paper; it’s perfect to scrawl a note on with an inky pen.” For Plessner, the best stationery is “lovely but not fussy and preferably comes in a big stack because it holds the promise of so much correspondence.” This Pink Rivoli Writing Paper Pad satisfies that description exactly, she says.

Architect and designer Adam Charlap Hyman told us that, for personal correspondence, his go-to paper goods are from G. Lalo, which he describes as “inexpensive but nice-feeling” and available in an array of colors. Hyman says that he has been using the stationery in the pistachio color for many years, in part because “it’s not a color that makes a big statement, but it does feel a little more special than white.” G. Lalo is also a favorite of illustrator Maira Kalman, who included the bordered correspondence set on her list of items she can’t live without. “Mostly I write letters to my granddaughter Olive and her little sister Esme,” Kalman told us. “Olive is 4, and I’ve been writing her an illustrated letter on this stationery every week or every two weeks since she was born. So now she has hundreds of letters and a record of the history of her life and the history of my life over the last four years.”

Photographer Chloé Crane-Leroux told us that her preferred stationery comes from new brand Maurèle, which offers custom note cards, letter papers, and leather goods in designs inspired by the paper goods of artists and writers. “My favorite style is definitely the Catalonia, which features a big statement header apparently inspired by Dalí’s stationery,” says Crane-Leroux. “I’ve designed mine using the font called LOVE; the second I saw the dramatic C from my name, I was sold.” She says she’s been using letter papers from the brand to write notes to her boyfriend, and that the line offers a wide range of font styles and colors so that you can create a stationery set that feels especially personal. “The template designs are all elegant and distinct, they have everything from big and bold to quiet and minimal styles,” says Crane-Leroux. “The customization options let you really make it your own, with options like placement and orientation, text color, etc., and a dozen typefaces that usually only designers have access to.”

Another customized option comes recommended to us by Joanna Payne, founder of Marguerite, a London-based group for women in the arts and design communities. “I absolutely love these note cards by Luke Edward Hall,” says Payne. The maximalist artist and designer’s work can be found on several cards from Papier (including a hot-dog-themed set, which we’re partial to). But for Payne, the appeal of the Mercí cards lies in their less-is-more look. “I’m particularly drawn to the simplicity of the ‘Mercí’ series. They’re just so chic,” she says.

“I’ve been writing letters to friends for the first time since email was invented,” says designer Susan Alexandra. Her go-to stationery is a collection of postcards she’s stockpiled from museum shops (“the best part of any museum”), and she told us that “eBay has a sick selection too.” And though it may be a while before you can browse postcards and note cards in person at your favorite museum, many of their shops are still open online and shipping orders. These note cards from the Phoenix Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., are Alexandra’s recent favorites.

If you like the idea of sending a note on a postcard, Passerbuys founder Clémence Polès suggests looking at the newly open web store of New York City photography-postcard shop Fotofolio. You can order an assortment of ten postcards with images by various photographers (like William Eggleston and Duane Michals). Fotofolio also offers a subscription postcard service that includes ten postcards every month (which might also make a great gift for the photography fan in your life). And if you just want to send one postcard to someone special, Polès says that Fotofolio will “offer to handwrite your note and mail it for you, which is pretty neat.”

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What’s the Best Stationery?