Holiday

The 2023 Fewer & Better Gift Guide

It’s (almost) that time of year! I absolutely love the holidays and tracking down the right gift for each person on my list. I come by my love of this season honestly–both sides of my family have always loved Christmas, but no one more than my paternal grandmother. Not only did she decorate their entire house for Christmas as soon as possible each year, she even opened a Christmas store in our town in the late 70s! Christmas is in my blood, and I love finding unique gifts that are actually used and loved. This year, like last year, I’ve compiled an extensive gift guide featuring special gifts for everyone on your list.



Special Gifts for Her

A custom piece of jewelry from the wonderfully talented Janie Kruse Garnett would be an incredible and special gift for an important woman in your life (or just yourself). She can work with you to design a piece to wear for a lifetime.

A Mason Pearson brush is a must-have for any woman, and it’s likely not an indulgence she’s bought herself. Surprise her with one this Christmas!

I’m a big advocate for well-made shoes (you can read my thoughts in many places, but particularly here, on the importance of investing in fewer and better pieces). A very special pair of shoes she can wear every day would make you a winner in anyone’s book! You can find my favorites here.


Special Gifts for Him

A custom signet ring is an incredible way to immortalize a family, an individual, or a particular interest. This is a special heirloom piece to be passed down to the next generation–a worthwhile investment.

A made-to-measure shirt is my go-to gift for my husband–I give one at least once a year. It’s a wonderful way to get exactly what he wants and have the shirt fit him perfectly. Sid Mashburn’s clothes are of the best quality and their service is impeccable.

Every man (and woman!) should be prepared for a black tie event at the drop of a hat… at least that’s my opinion. Make sure the man in your life is prepared with a pocket square, cummerbund, and bow tie. We like Dege & Skinner.


Stocking Stuffers

I always love gifting special ornaments–some of my favorites are found at All the Finery, The Met (especially the snowflake ornament), John Derian, The Pink House Design, Houses & Parties, and the Central Park Conservancy.

I absolutely adore Diptyque’s scented ovals, and these make a nice change from the ubiquitous candles! Perfect for anywhere in your house (and great for your closet, too!)

Cashmere socks are the ultimate in luxury! I love and wear these and these in cold weather.

A family tradition of ours is including peppermint bark in each year’s celebrations–we’ve merged traditions from my childhood and my husband’s by using Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark, but when I was growing up we always had Williams-Sonoma in our stockings.

If you’re not a fan of peppermint bark, I would recommend Louis Sherry truffles. It’s especially fun to choose a beautiful box as a special surprise!

I was most profoundly influenced by the early 2010s Diptyque craze because scented candles are still a great love today! I love tucking a small candle from Diptyque or Cire Trudon in each stocking.

Christmas crackers are another family tradition, and Caspari’s are so good! This is a fun gift to give and then be able to use right away.

I’ve used this Swedish Dream sea salt soap since being influenced by a friend in the 2010s and haven’t looked back–the soap has a great scent and I love its exfoliating feel.

Lightbulbs are a strange stocking stuffer, but I swear by these battery backup lightbulbs! They last forever and work when the power goes out–they’ve saved us numerous times since we purchased them several years ago.

If you have a Lego fan in your life, this Lego brick separator is EVERYTHING.

A Swiss Army knife contains just about every gadget you’ll ever need–a great stocking stuffer!

I’m trying to get off my phone this holiday season, and adding a deck of playing cards to a stocking is a great way to encourage interaction instead of mindless scrolling!


For the Hard-to-Buy-For Person

Russ & Daughters caviar is a luxurious and delicious gift that’s perfect in so many ways, but most of all because it’s a luxury few buy for themselves. Pair with a bottle of champagne if you’re local and bringing it in person for a truly memorable gift!

A museum membership is such a great gift to give, especially to one that’s more off the beaten path! It’s a go-to gift for me to give (and receive!)

We received opera tickets for our wedding, which was such a fun and thoughtful gesture! The entire evening becomes the gift and it will be a memorable choice for your recipient.

I’m really getting into Substack this year–a founding subscription for a friend to a favorite Substack would be such a fun gift! Three of my favorites are The Bell, The Love List, and Yolo Intel.

Gift a special evening to your loved one with tickets to Regarding Oysters, an evening salon in Manhattan where you learn to shuck oysters and prepare cocktails under the gentle guidance of Georgette Moger-Petraske. (Hint hint–this is high on my list this year!)


For the Homebody

I’m sure any homebody in your life has more blankets/candles/shawls/etc. than they can handle—I know that I certainly do! Think a little bit outside the box. One of the most simple yet luxurious purchases I’ve ever made is a sheepskin rug for my bathroom. Sheepskin is actually an excellent bathmat, as the natural lanolin in the wool prevents bacterial growth, and sheepskin can absorb enormous amounts of moisture before feeling wet. A perfect gift!

We live in our sheepskin slippers–the LL Bean offering is great (men’s here, women’s here). Sheepskin is just so cozy and the slippers are hard-wearing and long-lasting!

You spend a third of your day asleep, so elegant yet comfortable pajamas are an absolute essential! These from By Merryn are my absolute favorites, and I hope more colorways are forthcoming! I also love Petite Plume pajamas (you can read my review here)!

We love these square trays from the Mashburns–they are such a practical and beautiful way to keep your nightstand organized! You can find a selection of colors and sizes here.

I’m absolutely in love with Janie Kruse Garnett’s modern take on the chintz bedding that I’ve always loved. I’ve been on the hunt for a pattern that really speaks to me (and isn’t too feminine), and I’ve finally found it. This is all I’m asking for for Christmas this year!

A hot water bottle and cozy cashmere cover is the best way to stay warm on cold nights.

Upgrade their at-home experience with a warm wool blanket from the Hudson’s Bay Company or the Swans Island Company.

There’s nothing I want more than a breakfast traythis one is the dream, but this version is more budget-friendly and still lovely.

Other than an outdoor shower, there’s nothing I love more than a bath. I’ve used these bath salts for a decade now and they are so good.

Make your everyday elegant with hand-blown glass hurricanes and pillar candles–a great way to be hygge this winter!

Wrap up a selection of classic Christmas movies and watch together! You can find my favorites here.


For the Entertainer

I love tracking down beautiful vintage barware for myself, and there are always so many fun and beautiful pieces to find to add to a friend’s collection! I love Houses & Parties’ curation, but there are so many other great places to find vintage barware. You can read my guide to online antique and vintage shopping, including my favorite sources, here!

I still bitterly regret the loss of the marble cheese board we used at the house I lived in in D.C. after college! I recently stumbled across a great collection at our local farm and look forward to picking a few up to use myself and gift this holiday. This one from House of Léon is gorgeous and high on my list; I also really love this one from Williams-Sonoma, which has been a go-to housewarming gift over the years. Add these cheese knives for an extra touch! (We have and love them; this was the pair I was searching for when we purchased our Amazon set this summer–also a great option.)

I would love to receive napkins this year, honestly–whether fine linen, block print cotton, or something in between, I love setting the table with something special and I find them so fun to give as well! I love Porthault, Julia Amory, and Pink House Design.

This vase from Elfrieda & Eliza would be beautiful on your table!

These snack bowls are such a beautiful and practical gift, and a great way to enliven even cocktail hour on your own. These are in my cart for us for this year!

While I love gifting bottles of wine, try something a little different this year with Figlia’s non-alcoholic aperitivo, Fiore, described as “an ode to the spritz.” The brand focuses on inclusive conversations around alcohol consumption–a great gift for those who don’t drink and those who do!

For those who are fans of exotic cocktails, Dio’s canned cocktails make testing new recipes simple–and unlike many canned cocktails, these are delicious! I particularly loved their Hibiscus Rose French 75, which I drank all summer.

You can never have enough taper candles–a box from Caspari is a practical and elegant gift!

I love preparing for a dinner party and seating arrangements are a favorite part. This table planner and place card set makes rearranging easy!

For your place cards, don’t forget elegant place card holders.

Perfect your calligraphy for your menus with this calligraphy practice pad and tools.

Hobnail tumblers and pitchers are a unique way to elevate even everyday tables. I also love these cane-wrapped glasses and pitcher for warm-weather winters. John Derian has a beautiful selection of glassware and ceramics, as pictured above.

Cocktail napkins are an easy gift to give and so fun to receive! My favorites are from August Morgan.

It’s rare to have silver and fine china any longer–start off a collection for a friend by browsing the offerings at Replacements.com.


For the Cook

I love gifting favorite cookbooks to those of my friends and family who enjoy the kitchen as much as I do! Some of my favorites are the Buvette cookbook, the Via Carota cookbook, and the Essential New York Times cookbook.

Another great place for recipes is Cook’s Illustrated–a yearly subscription is the gift that keeps giving.

Save me the Plums isn’t quite a cookbook, but it’s one of my absolute favorite memoirs and filled with incredible descriptions of food. It’s a must-read, especially for cooks.

I always wish I had a measuring scale–it’s the best way to get the exact right proportions for your recipes. This one comes highly recommended by friends and by the New York Times Wirecutter reviewers.

Encourage them to write down their recipes using this custom recipe binder–I love that it looks like Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

I spent a lot of time using mortars and pestles in an experimental archaeology class, and there’s no denying that this is still the best way to grind many things. Williams-Sonoma has a great selection; my eye is on this one for our kitchen.

A stand mixer is a big gift your favorite cook may be waiting to invest in. The experts at Cook’s Illustrated say that the Ankarsrum stand mixer is the best of the best.

Don’t forget a selection of cookie cutters–a fun stocking stuffer or gift for a child who loves to help in the kitchen.

Le Creuset is the be-all and end-all of enameled cookwear; we have a big collection at home, and not a day goes by without using at least one. This five-piece set is a great way to upgrade a loved one’s kitchen.

This salt keeper is used for every meal in our kitchen! A small yet practical piece that you won’t realize you need until you have it.

Another small yet handy kitchen tool is a butter keeper, which keeps butter fresh and spreadable for weeks. I love the unique look of this one.

Build up your home bar with all the extras–these maraschino cherries are my absolute favorite to elevate cocktails.

Make sure your favorite mixologist has a set of classic bar tools. This set is a bit of a splurge but so elegant!


For the Creative

A bluetooth mini speaker is the perfect thing for the aspiring DJ.

Encourage their photography with this Fujifilm instant camera.

This pocket tripod lets them shoot whenever, wherever!

Don’t forget to gift a photo album as well!

A beautiful pen and pocket-sized notebook are ideal for the writer in your life.

Don’t forget an elegant tablet for jotting down reminders and notes for future projects!

Make sure your creative person has as much peace and quiet as possible with a sound machine.

Add a touch of elegance to a draft of their latest work with these gold paperclips.

The ideal pair of tailoring shears is perfect for the clothing designer. For the needlepointer, these delicate scissors would be great to find under the tree.

Display their latest creation in this collector’s niche (more colors available here).


For the Aspiring Designer

You can never have enough picture frames and these enamel ones are beautiful and timeless.

Did you know that major auction houses offer subscriptions to their auction catalogues? It’s the perfect gift for your antiques-obsessed friend. My grandmother and godmother’s mother were both collectors and I loved poring through their collections of catalogues.

Rescue your friend’s winter flower budget with this paperwhite bulb kit.

Tole flowers are also a timeless choice! See my picks here.

Pom-Pom Home makes lots of fun and cozy items, and these handwoven throw pillows have a beautiful linen/cotton blend on one side and cozy sherpa fleece on the other.

A miniature leather tape measure is the item you always need in your bag but never have. You never know when you’ll find something at an antique shop that you simply must have–and must make sure it fits, first!

We’ve been on the hunt for a new bench for our foyer and the Gio bench from Sixpenny Home is high on my list–I love that the cushion has a slipcover, which is easy to change for cleaning or for a seasonal refresh.

There are so many great books about houses and designers that it can be hard to choose! I recommend The Guynd, The Story of a Country House, At Home: A Short History of Private Life (fun fact! one of my photographs is included in this book!), The New Antiquarians, Mario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator, and Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century.


For the Old-Fashioned Person

An alarm clock from Båge & Söner is both beautiful and practical–and gets you off your phone at night!

Gift a subscription for a year of books from the Strand or Heywood Hill for the recipient who is against ereaders.

A turntable and records would be a fun gift for the person who loves music and prefers vinyl.

Appointed and Smythson make beautiful planners for those who prefer to write their commitments down.

A new watchMarch Hare for women, Timex for men–is a simple and elegant way to bring style back to timekeeping.

Spend the evening playing board games instead of watching TV with this custom backgammon board from Nine Fair.


For the Traveler

I bought my husband a Monos suitcase for our anniversary and fell in love with it myself! I had crowd-sourced recommendations but finally went with this one, and I’m so pleased we did.

Travel adapters are always essential when abroad and this five-in-one adapter is perfect for whichever country you’re in.

I have relied on this portable wifi hotspot for travels in seven countries and it has never failed! They have a variety of hotspots and data plans which you can tailor to your recipient’s needs.

Airline tickets are always a good idea–and if you already have travels planned, an upgrade to your seats would be a special gift!

Longchamp bags are my go-to for everyday use, but they’re particularly good for travel. You can fold them up in your luggage for your outward journey and unfold them to carry all your souvenirs on your way home!

These personalized luggage tags are a great way to ensure your suitcase is immediately recognizable in baggage claim.

This tech folio allows you to keep all your devices and chargers organized and close at hand during your travels.

A jewelry roll is the easiest way to travel with your jewelry! I love this one from Neely & Chloe.

A matching toiletry set is a great gift for the frequent traveler–this set from Julia Amory also includes travel-size cosmetics.

Make your next trip extra-special by working with a travel agency. Artisans of Leisure is the best of the best!

Joan Didion always traveled with a blanket–while that’s not necessarily practical in this age of airline travel, this Ann Mashburn cape is the next best thing. I’ve had one for twelve years and it’s truly perfect.


For the Outdoorsy Person

A National Park Service pass gives your recipient free access to all federal recreation lands–an amazing way to see our beautiful country.

The 1963 Lands’ End waterproof squall jacket is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities, including sailing.

A dry bag comes in handy in so many situations–a great gift to have on hand.

This insulated tote and this cooler are ideal for picnics or camping.

No one can ever have enough boat & totes!

The chess beach towel and backgammon beach towel provide hours of outdoor entertainment.

For cold winter nights, spend some time with the Atlas of Remote Islands, planning out your next adventure.

If I lived in the city still, this Tenways bike would be high on my list. I love its classic design and the fact that it offers 53 miles of assisted biking–crucial for commuting!


For the Well-Dressed Person

Keep their shoes looking great with an assortment of shoe care items.

Everyone can use a good Christmas sweater–I love a classic Fair Isle. You can find my Fair Isle edit here.

The hair hook is a unique way to twist your hair into an elegant chignon. See the how-to video here.

A silk scarf adds a chic touch to almost any outfit. I recommend Hermès, By Merryn, Janie Kruse Garnett, Swells, Fleur Sauvage, and Grey Hall Design.

But for added warmth, try this beautiful cashmere ruffle shawl–perfect for daily life or a special evening.

I love reading books about style. Some of my favorites are A Guide to Elegance, Lee, I Love Your Style, Jane, and Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Icon. I’m also eagerly awaiting CBK: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: A Life in Fashion, which publishes November 7th.


For the Employers/Employees/Clients/Those Who Help You

I’m so grateful to the many people who make my life work—teachers, security guards, our wonderful postal workers, and so on. I love to give something small in addition to the traditional Christmas tip. This year, I’m giving tins of these cookies—a Christmas tradition of ours!—as a gift, along with a bag of really nice espresso or tea. Add a great mug for extra points!

Jigsaw puzzles are so fun and a great way to bring people together over the holidays and get them off their phones! I’ve enjoyed gifting and receiving Cavallini puzzles over the years–the quality is excellent and they are enjoyable to put together with others!

There’s nothing like a good bottle of wine around the holidays! I’m partial to champagne, but if you’re looking for something a little more unique, my favorite red is Gevrey-Chambertin. If this is a special recipient, pair with a set of wine glasses. As you know, I love my champagne coupes, and this style’s wine glasses are also beautiful! Find both here.


For Children

I recently bought this domino race set for our family and all of us have had hours of fun! It’s a fantastic gift for any age and gender.

We’ve tried to fill our home with only classic toys, and we’ve found wooden Brio sets to fit the bill! The modern ones add on seamlessly to the ones from previous generations. This one is a great starter set.

I love vintage picture books for the memories they evoke for me, but also for their beautiful illustrations. We love Babar, Madeline, and M. Sasek’s This Is series in particular!

For those who make up stories every night (or are encouraging children to get creative), I am absolutely obsessed with the new Surprise Stories, “a nighttime story game that inspires imagination through improvisation.” The cards have more than 60,000 combinations for endless storytelling inspiration!

Heirloom gifts are so special for a new baby in the family. I cherish my silver cup and my silver spoon, as well as the beautiful silver spoon we received when my little one was born. A silver ornament engraved with the year is another timeless gift.

The Busy Town “I Found It!” board game is the absolute best game for kids and the adults that play with them! We have spent hours with this game and we are still finding new things. I love it so much!

Other board games we love are Apples to Apples, Rush Hour Jr., Don’t Break the Ice, Busy Busy Airport, and Catan Junior.

I love everything Mr. Boddington’s produces, and the Santa Writes Back kit is no exception! This is such a fun way to learn about Santa and experience the joy of Christmas through a child’s eyes. We’re looking forward to our response this year!

We love the quality of the Melissa & Doug Tabletop Easel–it’s a wonderful gift that’s held up to lots of use by our budding artist!

It’s never too early to get in the habit of writing thank-you notes! Their own stationery is the perfect way to make correspondence fun.

SmartMax magnet sets were some of our favorites in early years; they continue to be played with now that my little one has reached school age!

Magnatiles are by far the most popular toy in my little one’s classroom. Invest in a big set, or add-on sets, for the child in your life!

We love Legos in our house (even me!) and we just have the best time freebuilding or assembling Lego kits. I’m definitely planning on adding more Harry Potter sets to our collection this year.

A friend has a subscription to KiwiCo’s boxes and they are absolutely incredible for all ages! I far prefer these interactive options to any other children’s subscription box. You can also purchase individual products for specific gifts!


For the Graduate

I think I wrote more thank-you cards in my first year out of college than I have at any other point in my life! And, nowadays, most people don’t have the stationery to use to express themselves. Dempsey & Carroll has a beautiful collection of bespoke stationery at various price points–and you can use my code, SARAHC, for 10% off.

One of the most versatile things I’ve ever gifted, the Le Creuset griddle has held up to years of use and can be used for truly anything, from breakfast to lunch to dinner. A great option for someone starting off on their own!

Starting a new life as an adult can be daunting, and there are often many etiquette issues you’ll run into on the way. My friend Mariah has started her own etiquette firm, Old Soul Etiquette, and she offers private etiquette lessons to take deep dives into the topics that are most relevant to you! Find out more here.

Speaking of etiquette, there are a number of etiquette books that are must-reads for anyone entering the workforce: Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, Emily Post’s Etiquette, and Treating People Well.

Save them from cheap bedding for their first real place by sending them my favorite sheets–these are elegant and crisp without being too precious to use!

Everyone can use a throw blanket, particularly to conceal the IKEA furniture that’s standard in first apartments! This one is particularly good and will go with any decor.


For the Grandparent

A custom silhouette of their beloved grandchild is a really special and unique way to share their growth! We ordered one many years ago from Mr. Boddington’s. Vana Chupp x Pottery Barn Kids and Minted offer alternatives, as well as Etsy‘s many options.

A Britbox subscription is an excellent gift for those who love British television!

A monthly flower subscription is a special way to show your grandparent you’re thinking of them! I’ve ordered flowers from UrbanStems, Bouqs, and Farmgirl Flowers in the past and have been so happy with them.

A favorite gift for my grandparents has always been warm socks and cozy slippers (with a nonstick sole: men’s here, women’s here).

A book of photos from your year is a special way to share moments with the far-away grandparents. You can design your own here.

One of my most precious possessions is the life history my maternal grandmother wrote before she passed away. Make sure you don’t lose your family memories with a Storyworth subscription.


Food Gifts

While I think gifts of wine are wonderful if you know your recipient’s preference, I find it to be tricky otherwise. Try bringing something local from a farmstand instead–I love giving jars of local honey or jam. If you live in an urban area, try a nice salt (I love Maldon salt) or a bottle of olive oil.

Another alternate to wine is an aperitif instead, like Lillet or a bottle of sloe gin! They are welcome additions to a bar, and something that your recipient might not already have.

Maple syrup is one of my favorite things, and a special bottle paired with pancake mix is a unique and welcome gift!

I find food to be a great gift for hard-to-buy for people, and my motto here is finding a luxury that the recipient wouldn’t necessarily purchase themselves. I love Fortnum & Mason’s hampers, and it’s lovely they offer a selection of exportable hampers for the holiday season at a variety of price points.

There’s nothing like a New York bagel–you can have your favorite breakfast spread delivered to loved ones! I recommend Russ & Daughters, Ess-a-Bagel, and Tompkins Square Bagels.


Wrapping Paper and Supplies

My grandmother always wrapped her presents in glossy red wrapping paper, a tradition I try to continue each year! I have also always enjoyed the whimsical designs of Mr. Boddington’s wrapping paper.

I love using beautiful ribbon to wrap my presents–I love this cotton ribbon, this white satin ribbon, and Riley Sheehey’s beautiful painted ribbon.

Don’t forget gift tags! I always use ones from Dempsey & Carroll (and you can receive 10% off your order with the code SARAHC!)


Am I missing anyone? Please feel free to request help with your holiday shopping in the comments section!

4 thoughts on “The 2023 Fewer & Better Gift Guide

  1. So my new gifts to give this year are the candle lamps! I bought six as gifts . They are great and less hazardous. They just heat the candles up and last longer! I love them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *