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


“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

“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

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

Amy Sedaris

Actress, comedian, and writer

“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

“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

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

“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

“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

“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

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

Adam Rapoport

Editor-in-chief, Bon Appetit

“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

“This Lucky Charm Potion from Snakeroot Apothecary always boosts my mood when I spritz it around my house. The rosemary and cedar smell fresh and I love how Rachel explains the properties of the ingredients she uses. Her Smog Lifter Potion is essential for L.A.”

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

Judy Collins

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


“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

“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 (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

“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


“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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’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

“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

“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

“Succulents require little care (who hasn’t been guilty of forgetting to water their plants)? With this trio, you can also choose different planter colors.”

Tina Brown

“A mug of L.A. Burdick’s cocoa always goes down well in my house, especially when teamed with a gift subscription to the British weekly The Spectator (it is still my favorite retro print read with Brexit commentary that reminds us it’s not just this side of the Atlantic that has lost the plot).”

Natasha Pickowicz

“I give all of my cooks a classic Moleskine notebook stamped with a monogram bearing their name (an extra $5 to $7) and allegiance to pastry. Always a hit.”

Caroline Maguire

Fashion Director, Shopbop

“The kit is perfect for friends, family, or daughters (like mine) who are into making their own jewelry.”

George Wayne


“Rafanelli orchestrated quite a few state dinners for the previous occupants of the White House. It’s total inspiration — the perfect way to get people thinking of ideas for their own unforgettable party.”

Sophie Buhai

“Blenko, a family-run glass company established in 1893, makes the perfectly designed water carafe for a desk. I love the lapis blue.”

Kate Young

“Cate and I hung out while she was recording this, and I feel really connected to it. I’ll be giving it to all my vinyl-collecting friends.”

Lesley Arfin

Writer, author, and producer

“Don’t even put anything in it — just stare at one until your brain gets skyrocketed into the fourth dimension. To me, $65 is a small price to blow someone’s mind.”

Angela Dimayuga

Creative director of food and culture, the Standard

“This tool allows you to use your own leverage to work out knots in pressure points on your back or other parts of your body that need help. Use it on a quiet night at home with a movie on.”

Scarr Pimentel

Chef-owner, Scarr’s Pizza

“My father-in-law gave me one for Christmas, and I started doing the same. They’re soft, cozy, and everyone looks good in them.”

Angie Mar

Chef-owner, the Beatrice Inn

“Salvador Dalí was a true artist and showman. His book is extraordinary — it’s a beautiful work of art that I refer to time and time again.”

Anna Bond

Co-founder, Rifle Paper Co.

“What could be better than a surprise box of ice cream at your door? Jeni’s flavors include the unexpected (Cognac with Gingerbread) and classic (Darkest Chocolate). Everything ships in a well-designed box with dry ice.”

Lauren Santo Domingo

Founder, Moda Operandi

“This lingerie pouch preserves one’s dignity when TSA starts unpacking your bag in front of your fellow travelers. Aside from the appliqué monogram, the pouch can be personalized in different fabrics and finishes (from muslin to satin), and in many colors, making it even more ‘intimate.’”

Editor’s note: The price shown is for one medium-size bag.

Nell Diamond

Founder, Hill House Home

“Use it next to your sink to store jewelry, or keep it on your desk for paperclips and random change that you never have any use for. The ant adds an unexpected touch.”

Ben Gorham

Founder, Byredo

“One of the best construction games children can play with, and KAPLA blocks are made of natural products.”

Karin Bereson

Founder, No. 6

Marie Louise Scio

Lolo Zouai


“Now people won’t have to ask what their sign is.”

Rita Konig

“My mother-in-law, who is quite hard to buy presents for, grows cucumbers amongst many other things in her garden. I love the idea of any specialist trug or basket, and this is so appealing.”

Adam Selman

“Nothing says ‘I’d like to spend some QT with you this year’ like a light-up Frisbee. Trust me.”

Linda Rodin

Founder, Rodin Olio Lusso

“I’ve tried them all and this one is perfect.”

Ali Bird

Director, The Wall Group

“It’s not something you’d likely buy for yourself — which is why it makes it such a luxurious gift. It smells incredible and is a real treat when applied immediately after bathing.”

Carmen Chen Wu

Founder, Caraa

“The rose flavor (think flower, not wine) tastes wonderful and fresh, and is full of antioxidants and anti-aging goodies. Cases are a little pricey, making them a great gift.”

Rachel Antonoff

Susan’s earrings are a very special gift for the cherry-loving person in your life.”

Matthew Schnipper

Executive editor, Pitchfork

Pierre Davis

Fashion designer, No Sesso

“Maison Margiela has a series of scents — to receive all of them at once would be perfect.”

Ana Kras

“The speaker is the size of a quail egg and gives such a nice sound. I always have it on me, and have already gifted many.”

Camilla Deterre

Model and designer

“Cozy and chic, with plenty of color options. A Carhartt beanie is so 2015.”

Misa Hylton

Fashion stylist and global creative partner, MCM

“A water bottle is always convenient. Soji’s is energized by a natural rose-quartz crystal that helps rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.”

Chris Black

Author, brand consultant, and Strategist columnist

“Stuff his stocking with … stockings! These orange socks from French designer/hunk Jacquemus will brighten anyone’s day when they peek out.”

Fabiana Faria

Co-founder, Coming Soon

“This Venezuelan rum is delicious. For Venezuelans like me, it’s also a bit nostalgic as well.”

Fiorella Valdesolo

Writer and co-founder, Gather Journal

“I can’t think of something I like to give (and receive) more than socks. Hansel from Basel’s are both sturdy and whimsical.”

Jackie Johnson

Host, Natch Beaut