The Best Gift I Ever Received

Our favorite design insiders dish on the presents that made the memory bank and the stories behind them.

'Tis the season for finding the perfect present for each and every faithful friend and loved one on your holiday list—something they'll treasure for years to come. But how to find the gift that keeps on giving? This year, we're turning to some of our favorite design-world tastemakers, from Celerie Kemble to John Robshaw, for insight into what makes a gift worth giving.

Luke Edward Hall 

Photo courtesy of Luke Edward Hall.
Photo courtesy of Luke Edward Hall.

 What's the best gift you've ever received? 

"My partner, Duncan, gave me a Goyard cardholder for my most recent birthday—it's bright yellow and has my initials hand-painted on one side in pink and green. It's a fairly simple object, but I like it so much because it's personal, I get to use it everyday, and I know that I'll enjoy using it for many years to come (it's going to age well, I'm sure). Plus the color combination is so very me."

What's the best gift you've ever given? 

"One Christmas, I gave Duncan a pair of embroidered velvet slippers and a vintage fountain pen—the surface has a marbled blue-and-pink pattern and is very beautiful. We also take each other to our favorite restaurant in London (The River Cafe) for special occasions, and I have to say, that is also one of the best gifts I could give or receive. It's a truly wonderful place."

What's the best gift on your current wish list? 

"I would really love to have a few jackets made by a tailor for me, because I often find it hard to find nice ones that fit well, and I'm quite particular about shape and length. Ideally, I'd have one made in navy wool, one in tweed, and one in teal velvet for parties!"

Christiane Lemieux 

Photo courtesy of Christiane Lemieux. 
Photo courtesy of Christiane Lemieux

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?

"I think perhaps my greatest gift was a trip I took with my family to India two years ago. To me, an experience is the best gift anyone can give. I am writing this to you from Thailand, where I just spent a week at an elephant rescue camp. This may top my trip to India! Seeing my kids care for elephants has been extraordinary."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN?

"I give my mom a spa package every year, and she loves it – plus it’s easy to pull off. No wrapping paper, and she appreciates it much more than a scented candle."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST?

"On my current wish list is Spanish classes. I once received a daylong cheese-making class as a gift and loved it. It was really, really memorable, and making mozzarella is really fun. The experience really stood out in my mind. This year, I am giving the people on my list an experience unique to them that they would really love."

Sally King Benedict

Photo courtesy of Sally King Benedict.
Photo courtesy of Sally King Benedict.

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? 

"Besides the gift of becoming a mother, one of the best gifts I have ever received was the pair of D. Porthault boudoir pillows as a wedding gift from my best friend. They are practically threadbare now, but they have been along for the ride to all of the many amazing places where so many memories have been made in the last 5½ years."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN? 

"I like to give group gifts. 2010 Labor Day in Lake Michigan, we were with some of our closest friends, and I decided to give everyone a pair of Soludos. It was so fun because it was really all we wore during the trip. Trying to nail each person's personal style was a fun challenge. I also love to give portraits to my friends." 

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST?

"There's a house we want, and I am not focused on anything else. We are all in for this place! If it works out, we would settle in so cozy and happy and truly design it as our forever home. I'm crossing all fingers and toes."

Mark D. Sikes

Photo courtesy of Mark D. Sikes. 
Photo courtesy of Mark D. Sikes

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? 

"This year for my birthday, my partner Michael gave me the Hermes Apple iWatch. It was special because it was so hard to get. My birthday was in October and the watch had just come out so he had to wait in a series of lines and make a bunch of calls just to get it."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN? 

"Almost exactly eight years ago, I gave Michael our French bulldog, Lily, as a surprise for his birthday. She runs the house but has brought us so much joy. I know it's a bit crazy, but she has her own Instagram account @HRHLily. You can follow her and see what she's up to."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST? 

"I have had the same croc wallet for almost 20 years—literally. At the time it was a huge investment. I hate to see it go, but I have worn it until it's falling apart. This Christmas, I need a new one. Hopefully it will last me another 20 years and see as many adventures and good times as the last one."

Diana Yen

Photo courtesy of Diana Yen. 
Photo courtesy of Diana Yen

What's the best gift you've ever received? 

"An antique mother of pearl knife set. When I was still doing catering, my wedding clients gifted this to me on their wedding night. It was the sweetest gesture. I was sort of burned out at the end of the night with behind-the-scenes kitchen work, and the couple said they had something that reminded them of me. It was totally spot on with my aesthetic, and it just brought tears to my eyes that they would think of me on a day that was meant to celebrate them!"

What's the best gift you've ever given? 

"The best gift I’ve given is a ticket for my mom to come visit me in New York City. My family loves spending time together, so an experience gift is always great."

What's the best gift on your current wishlist? 

"I live in New York and am kind of addicted to ClassPass right now. I’m giving a month membership to a couple of people in my life, because I know that they want fitness to be part of their New Year resolution. Living in the city usually means that you have less space at home, so it’s nice to give a self-improvement gift that lets people pamper themselves."

Anthony D'Argenzio

Photo courtesy of Anthony D’Argenzio.
Photo courtesy of Anthony D’Argenzio.

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? 

"A trip to Beaune. There's nothing like an escape to the French countryside. We loved the slow pace of life in Burgundy—amazing wine, food, and people. It was a truly magical trip and gift from my wife."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN? 

"A vintage farmhouse to my wife. Because we can share! And I secretly wanted it more..."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST? 

"Currently, I'm asking Santa for a Lacanche range. Talk about adding a little French charm to the kitchen. One could only dream about cooking on this brass-and-white beauty."

Dan Mazzarini 

Photo courtesy of Dan Mazzarini . 
Photo courtesy of Dan Mazzarini

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?

"A few years ago I was able to take my mom on a trip to Paris. I remember feeling like such an adult: able to treat mom to a vacation! We had such a great time. That year for Christmas, she gave me a framed black-and-white picture of us (in a very designer-approved simple black frame.) I have it in a special place in my house—and my heart—and have such fond memories every time I look at it."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN?

"I like experiences. I sent my parents to Puerto Rico once. That was really fun. I also gave my whole office Taylor Swift t-shirts last year: amahz."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST?

"I really need some kitchen goodies. I'm coveting new plates in matte black from Royal Copenhagen and or copper kitchen utensils from William Sonoma."

Alessandra Branca

Photo courtesy of Alessandra Branca.
Photo courtesy of Alessandra Branca.

What's the best gift you've ever received?

"The best gift(s) are those my children have made me over the years. I have saved everything and love rediscovering them each year—they are my treasures. One year, my husband gave me a collection of vintage books on decorative arts, fashion, art history, design, and gardening. It's an amazing library that we keep at the office so everyone can share in it."

What's the best gift you've ever given? 

"I love giving vintage books to friends and family. I select each one very carefully to suit their interests and passions—from travel to textiles."

What's the best gift on your current wish list? 

"Honestly, I want nothing but more time with my family and friends. We are taking a trip to New Zealand at Christmas with the whole tribe, and the experience together is better than anything else I could ever wish for."

Patch NYC

Photo courtesy of Patch NYC. 
Photo courtesy of Patch NYC

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? 

DON: "The best gift I ever received was an owl-shaped inkwell carved out of wood that belonged to my grandfather. My grandmother knew how much I liked it and gave it to me as a Christmas gift the year that he passed away. It is always on our mantel and has been a source of inspiration for PATCH NYC over the years."

JOHN: "The best gift I ever received was when I was eight years old, and my sister made me an entire toy town for my Matchbox cars. She used cardboard and construction paper to make houses, a school, a fire station, a grocery store. I spent hours arranging and re-arranging those miniature structures and driving my toy cars all around them."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN? 

DON: "This year, I will be giving my brothers art that was created by our dad. He suffers from severe vision loss, tremors, and dementia. He has never created art until this past year, when I started giving him lessons as a pastime. I have no doubt that these drawings will be special gifts that will be enjoyed for years."

JOHN: "A few years ago I traveled to Japan with my family to visit with relatives. It was my first time there as an adult, so I took lots and lots of photos. For Christmas gifts that year, I made photo books for my family. It was nice to take all those photos and organize them into a custom souvenir of the trip."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST? 

DON and JOHN: "We are both itching to travel more in the new year, so we
are wishing for some opportunities that allow us to pack our bags and
explore new places."

Leanne Ford

Photo via Etsy from Leanne Ford. 
Photo via Etsy from Leanne Ford

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?

"When I was a kid I was really into playing school—I wanted every last school supply that my real teachers had. One Christmas, I asked for a chalk holder. I always thought I was going to grow up to be a teacher. Ha! I guess that's why I always seem to find an excuse to use chalkboard paint and chalkboards in my interior designs."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER GIVEN?

"A couple of years ago my sister really wanted a mantel in her living room, so I set off on a mission to find her the perfect mantle. I found an old, amazing, beat-up one at a thrift store in Pittsburgh, and my brother helped me fix it up and paint it. It was nice, don't get me wrong, but when she opened it you would have thought I bought her a brand new car or something. She started cheering and crying about the mantle. We still tease her about it when we sit in the living room."

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT ON YOUR CURRENT WISH LIST?

"I'm asking for a couple of these incredible prints from the Austin-based artist Alexandra Valenti. She's incredible. She shoots the photographs, and then paints watercolors over them. I'm almost always drawn to only black and white in my design but her art is totally my exception. I want these all over my house."

John Robshaw

Photo courtesy of John Robshaw. 
Photo courtesy of John Robshaw

What's the best gift you've ever received? 

"My pal Alexander Gorlizki had this miniature painting of me made as the Maharaj of Jaipur. We met there 20 years ago over a beer as I was just starting block printing, and he was starting his Indian paintings. It brings back fond memories of the rough and tumble days."

What's the best gift you've ever given? 

"I just gave my mother a Filip and Inna hand-embroidered jacket. She loves to show it off at the holiday parties."

What's the best gift on your current wish list? 

"I just gave it to myself. Skiing in Nagano, Japan, then a week hunting textiles in Kyoto and staying at a traditional ryokan."

Celerie Kemble

Photo courtesy of Celerie Kemble. 
Photo courtesy of Celerie Kemble

WHAT'S THE BEST GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?

"It's so thoughtful when a good friend gifts a book on a subject matter they feel I would want to discover more about. This book, The Kemble Era by Linda Kelly, was a gift from my best friend Bronson Van Wyck. It's no surprise that the title struck me."

What's the best gift you've ever given? 

"My favorite Christmas gift to give, which only works out once in a while,
is a vintage piece I find with a loved one's initials already monogrammed on
it. I once gave Bronson a little leather Gucci booklet that had BVW on front. I came across it in a vintage store—it was meant to be."

What's the best gift on your current wishlist? 

"I find the best gifts to be experiential. I would love a gift as simple as a pedicure from a friend, but to go experience it together and enjoy each other's company."

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