Gift Guide Design Literature

Delaney Rowe, Sam Youkilis, Giampiero Tagliaferri, and More Found Gifts For Those With Disgustingly Good Taste

We all have someone in our lives who is hard to impress. They’ve seen every museum show, are endlessly scrolling 1stDibs, and have a tower of galleys on their nightstand. But never fear: CULTURED tapped our own network of know-it-alls for guidance. For the third installment of our 2023 gift guide, here are the art and design treasures that our community is coveting right now. 

Image courtesy of Sixpenny.

Delaney Rowe
The actor and writer, with her own legion of fans, is an expert at cutting through Internet hype. Here, she suggests a sophisticated alternative to the year's most trendy design pieces. 

“[Sixpenny's Devyn] couch is better than the cloud couch. Yeah, I’ll say it. It’s my favorite and most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased. Yes, I’m terrified of spilling on it. Yes, the fear almost makes it not worth it. Never mind, don’t get this.”

Image courtesy of Mubi.

Sam Youkilis
An expansive book is the one item this peripatetic photographer is hoping to receive as the holidays roll around. 

"I want a book called Fellini’s Films published in 1977. Comprised of over 400 of the most memorable stills from all of [the Italian director's] films, it’s an overview of his career and the most important scenes and characters he created."

Image courtesy of 1stDibs.

Giampiero Tagliaferri
The founder of an eponymous design studio reveals the one gift that will have a place in every person's home. 

"I collect vintage lighting, and I think that a nice table lamp is always a special gift as it’s easy to place in every home. I love this vintage Mezzo Oracolo table lamp by Gae Aulenti, the legendary architect and designer. This lamp is sexy, fun, and elegant at the same time, a must have."

Image courtesy of Grove Atlantic.

Fabrizio Casiraghi
The architect suggests adding a personal touch to every gift given: an inscription turns a standard stocking stuffer into a keepsake. 

"I give novels I enjoyed reading as gifts. I buy new copies of the books that left a strong impression and give them to the close friend or family member they made me think of. On the first page, I write a personal dedication, explaining why the novel reminded me of the person. [For this one for example, I'd write,] 'To my husband, as it reminds me a lot of dynamics in large families like yours.'"

Image courtesy of BDDW Ceramics.

Jenni Kayne

The Cali-cool fashion and interior designer has a ceramic treasure hunt in mind for her holiday shopping this year.

 “Stephanie Dawn Matthias Candle Holders or anything from BDDW Ceramics: I love gifting and receiving luxe ceramic pieces because they’re timeless and serve as everyday art. Plus, I think it’s extra-special when you gift something that takes a bit of curation—finding the right ceramic treasure isn’t always easy, but when you secure the perfect piece it’s always exciting.”

Image courtesy of David Zwirner Books.

Hannah Tacher
CULTURED's junior art director has a plan to outshine all the other gifts at her family's celebrations this year. 

"From all the colors to the humor and pop icons, Katherine Bernhardt's latest catalog with David Zwirner Books would be such a fun gift to receive. I will probably gift this to my mom; the attention it demands is perfect when competing with other presents."

Image courtesy of Marissa Zappas Perfumes. 

Whitney Mallett
The critic and founder of bi-annual literary publication The Whitney Review takes a page from Interview editor Mel Ottenberg's book with her gift guide nomination.

"Inspired by doomed actresses and Ruby McCollister's latest one-woman show, Tragedy is a big, white floral scent that Mel Ottenberg keeps calling by (perfect) wrong names: 'Trauma' and 'Damages.' For extra credit, gift it with Barbara Payton's memoir, I Am Not Ashamed, one of my favorite books."

Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Alyssa Kapito
This founder of an eponymous interior design studio has a suggestion that adds a perfect finishing touch to any home. 

"I’ve been collecting these little Francois-Xavier Lalanne egg cups for years, and I nearly have a full set. They are meant for soft boiled eggs, but I think they are super whimsical and great on a desk or a nightstand for small jewelry or paper clips. They are such a perfect gift and make everyone smile. You can pick them up on 1stDibs, Incollect, eBay, or at auction."

Photography by Jonathan Castillo.

Myriam Ben Salah

Smoking's comeback was solidified in 2023, and the Renaissance Society director has the ideal accessory for the occasional or serial inhaler.  

"This ashtray edition created by artist Shahryar Nashat. Lee Lozano once noted, 'Smoking remains attractive, because it is an excuse to make a little fire.' For all the romantic pyromaniacs out there, this edition, intended for functional use as an elegant ashtray, combines the digital modeling files of multiple existing works by the artist, compressed together with software and kneaded into a new form."

Image courtesy of New York Review Books. 

Christopher Cawley
The antique dealer and gallerist recommends a literary gift rife with both practical design history and philisophical weight. 

"A first edition of The Education of a Gardener would be what I gift! Russell Page was the greatest landscape designer of the 20th century and quite the mystic philosopher who chose to be buried in an unmarked grave on the property of the Badminton House.

This treasure trove of a book found its way onto my lap a few years ago, and I’ve gifted it many times since. The Education of a Gardener seamlessly intertwines invaluable horticultural wisdom and aesthetic theory with deeper reflections on life’s interconnectedness with nature and the impact that relationship has on our experience on Earth."

Image courtesy of the Royal Opera House.

Alex Eagle
This year, the prolific creative director and consummate host has the key to unlock London's cultural gems on her gift list.

"I would love to give someone a membership to the National Portrait Gallery, the V&A, or the Royal Opera House. I think London is such a cultural hub with so much going on, it is nice to gift a membership somewhere so you can be reminded to book things in advance and make the most of what's on offer."

Firoozeh Neman, Joe, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Tappan.

Ella Martin-Gachot
This holiday season, CULTURED's associate editor is taking advantage of a new, accessible form of art collecting. 

"Buying art is hard; buying art for someone else is even harder. That’s why this season I’m turning to Tappan, an online platform that’s an avenue for discovery as much as for shopping. I have my eyes on this almost-archaeological piece by Ojai-based artist Firoozeh Neman for my girlfriend, and this porous wonder for myself."

Image courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers.

Augusto Arbizo
The art advisor, currently at Schwartzman&, has singled out the two best art books released in 2023. 

“Two of the best art books from the last year would make great gifts: The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever and Guardians of Art: Conversations with Major Collectors. Both chart and record the importance of community—of artists and patrons, respectively—and how circles of support can help shape our knowledge and appreciation of art over time.”

Terrazzo Oyster sculptures by Ficus Interfaith. Image courtesy of the artist.

Stephen Markos
The founder of New York gallery Superhouse has a particular sculpture in mind for this season's gifting. 

"The Terrazzo Oyster sculpture by Ficus Interfaith. For just $200, you can select from five different color variations, a unique artwork by one of the most talented artist duos out there."

Image courtesy of Maimoun.

Mindy Seu
The writer, educator, and curator suggests a wearable art piece as a gift, each one-of-a-kind.

"Summon Elemental creates ready-to-wear textile art, each unique and made in Los Angeles by Patrick Carroll, sold exclusively at my favorite boutique, Maimoun. Carroll writes, 'Knitting is breathwork against screens, transhistorical pixel art, immersion in the rhythm of memory.'"

Image courtesy of Wendy’s Subway.

TM Davy
The New York-based artist, who has a show up at Company this winter, recommends a probing and heartwarming investigation into this rite of passage. 

"Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah. There's nothing more beautiful than peace, love, and understanding. Edited by Morgan Bassichis, Jay Saper, and Rachel Valinsky, illustrated by Nicole Eisenman, and designed by Tiffany Malakooti, this book is for the moment and the heart."

For more gift ideas, check out our guides for the gourmand in your life, or the unrepentant pleasure-seeker.