Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

The Gift Guide: An Aesthete’s Lament

What would the discerning (is there any other kind) aesthete give to the deserving few this holiday season? Something elegantly designed, well-written, beautifully photographed, classic and perfectly realized. That’s a tall order. To whom would one turn to help separate the wheat from the chaff? An Aesthete’s Lament, of course.


“It is better to give than receive” is a homily that turns out to be even more important during this ever-weakening economy. Give to charities that impact families and people in need, from food banks to church outreach programs. Donate gifts to underprivileged children. Get your neighborhood friends together and contact a nursing home to see what the residents might like or require to make their lives easier and their hearts lighter. The needy are always with us, so make the effort.


A box of handmade sweets from Black Dinah Chocolatiers: Decadent, delicious, handmade, and not too pricey.


An essential for anyone who likes to entertain and prefers the flattering glow of tapers to the glare of electric light. This cast-bronze version ($84) sports delicate floral decorations and a hinged walnut handle that can “snuff out candles in sconces or hurricane holders”.

The Executive T-clip sterling-silver ballpoint pen by Tiffany & Co.

For him or her, the T-clip pen ($185) makes even signing a cheque an elegant experience.

OXO Mandoline from Williams Sonoma

Even casual cooks will thrill to this elemental slicer ($70), which was rated “perfect” by The Washington Post. (Coupons for W-S, here.)

The Oxford English Dictionary

Extravagant ($895) but a 20-volume gift that keeps on giving for generations. And fascinating reading too.


A children’s magazine that has been broadening young minds since 1946. A one-year subscription is just $26.04.

The National Geographic

Every family should read this—and it’s just $15 a year.

An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration—From Pompeii to Art Nouveau by Mario Praz (Thames & Hudson, 1981)

The one book no design groupie should be without, a volume that is as cultured as it is quirky. Find a copy on Amazon.

A set of dominos or mah-jongg: Classic games that delight young and old.

A fondue set: My father-in-law bought us one a few Christmases ago, and we have used it frequently. Guests are always delighted by the retro-ness of a fondue-centered meal. And don’t forget to include a few classic fondue recipes in the package.

Extract of Limes eau de cologne by Geo. F. Trumper

The ultimate unisex fragrance—fresh, tart, invigorating, elusive. Pauline de Rothschild gave large bottles of it (£50.00) to friends every Christmas.

One thought on “The Gift Guide: An Aesthete’s Lament

  1. Nice stuff. But to hell with a donation. I like presents. It seems I become happy enough with a single ornament given – one to suspend from some needy branch of my Christmas tree. One beautiful glass orb – hidden inside a be-ribboned box – always appears to have been carefully selected. Truly thought out. I often imagine there’s no other like it. One begins to experience whatever it was that kept Czar Nicholas frequenting Faberge’s studio.

    But don’t give me one of those tacky Radko ornaments. One year I was given the Wicked Witch of the West. I never hung it on the tree. Instead I tossed it out into the alley where all the trash eventually goes.

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