holiday gifts 2023

89 People With Exceptional Taste on the Things Under $100 That (Still) Make Great Gifts

A story we did four years ago that we keep coming back to.

Illustration: Pete Gamlen
Illustration: Pete Gamlen
Illustration: Pete Gamlen

Back in 2019, around this time of the year, we approached 130 people whom we thought had particular, exacting, and exceptional taste about the gifts they were most excited to give someone else, setting a limit of $100. So much we do at the Strategist has an evergreen appeal, but that guide in particular has remained a document that we as editors and writers return to year after year for inspiration when we’re all feeling somewhat stumped. Of course, some of the recommendations have stood the test of time better than others, lots of stuff has sold out, so below we’ve culled from the megalist to present you with the best things from the most tasteful people that still make excellent not-too-expensive gifts, from Tina Brown’s hot chocolate to Scarr Pimentel’s turtleneck to Agnès B’s Champagne. Also, it should be noted: inflation. Some things have gone up in price, and are a little over $100, but we’re including them anyway, because c’est la vie!

Incidentally, here’s every single gift guide the Strategist has published this year.

Bevy Smith

Lelo Sona Cruise
$74

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

Amy Sedaris

“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!”

Erica Chidi Cohen

Co-founder and CEO, LOOM

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

Ladyfag

“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.”

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.”

Elizabeth Perkins

Actress

“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.”

Claire Mazur

“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

“Affordable. Super-cute. Useful. It’s a convenient way to keep our city streets clean of dog business or other trash.”

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

From $19

“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

Writer

“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.”

Scarr Pimentel

Chef-owner, Scarr’s Pizza

From $20

“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.”

From $20 at Lands' End
Buy
with code: DELIGHT

Angie Mar

Chef-restaurateur

“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.”

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.’”

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

“A funny, slightly subversive children’s book to be enjoyed by parents as well.”

Marie Louise Scio

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.”

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.”

Misa Hylton

Fashion stylist

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

Fabiana Faria

Co-founder, Coming Soon

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

Marques Brownlee

Tech reviewer and YouTuber

“Simply the best mouse I’ve ever used — and I’ve used a lot of mice in the last ten years.”

Marisa Competello

Founder, Metaflora

“Brooks Brothers’ monogrammed pajamas are a classic for a man — and a woman (I own a pair).”

Missy Robbins

Chef-owner of Lilia and Misi and co-founder of MISIPASTA

“Gustiamo has incredible Italian specialities. I love the Wholesome Grains & Legumes basket, but they are all great.”

Masami Hosono

Hairstylist and creative director, The Vacancy Project

“Super-fun — and it will make any old kitchen look cool and chic.”

Rafael de Cardenas

Creative Growth is a nonprofit organization based in the Bay Area that serves great artists with disabilities. It also makes the best gifts, like this superb Charles Smith print of Batman.”

Amy Morris

“This is actually a traditional Spanish wine decanter, but I suggest filling it with a favorite olive oil for an eye-catching holder that can sit on the counter instead of being tucked in a cabinet.”

Jordan Roth

Broadway producer

“A most wonderful collection of children’s books hand-selected based on your family and your child’s interests. Perfect for the kids in your life, or those you love who have children.”

Mimi Thorisson

Agnès B.

“Spending time with friends and family is my favorite part about the holiday season, and there’s no better way than with this bottle of Champagne.”

Mickey Boardman

Editorial director, Paper Magazine

“This hamburger dog toy is perfect for people without pooches who, like me, are obsessed with art that looks like food. It’s for display purposes only.”

Caroline Goldfarb

Television writer and @officialseanpenn

“The national nightmare that is un-aesthetically pleasing cannabis accessories is now over, thanks to this simply stunning, stacked gold grinder. It’s a must for your friend who likes to indulge in the Devil’s Lettuce. (Not Sweetgreen. Weed).”

Buzz Bissinger

Writer

“The Beis Cosmetic Case has a zippered top and enough room for about a dozen skin-care items. The lining is water-resistant and very easy to clean, and it has compartments for brushes and smaller items such as tweezers. There is also a cleverly designed cosmetic mirror with a built-in stand.”

JiaJia Fei

Digital strategist

“Every holiday season, I gift a suite of Muji’s 0.38mm black gel pens — the only ones I can write with — to my team, so that everyone is on brand.”

Durga Chew-Bose

Writer

“You’d be surprised how many people — even among your friends — were once competitive figure skaters. And even for those who were not, a Hockney photomontage is thoughtful because it’s the sort of thing you ‘add to cart’ but never purchase for yourself.”

Matt Tyrnauer

Director

“For a few years in the 1960s, Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK (which recently reopened as the TWA Hotel) redefined air travel — which, alas, has been defined-down almost ever since. This book gives a granular account of the design and construction of the terminal.”

Harley Viera-Newton

“A dwarf Meyer-lemon tree is a great BFF for anyone who has the right amount of space in the sun (indoors or out). It’s incredibly helpful when you decide to make dinner last minute and don’t feel like running to the store.”

Tabitha Simmons

Fashion stylist and creative director, Tabitha Simmons

“The packaging is so beautiful and the soaps themselves add a nice touch to any home.”

Ty Williams

“The bathtub is where a lot of people (including me) get some of their better ideas. I love the smell of Bathing Culture’s earth-friendly soap and use it for virtually everything.”

Rita Sodi and Jody Williams

Chef-owners, Via Carota, Bar Pisellino

“We always buy these loaves as gifts — but they’re too good to part with, so we end up eating ourselves.”

“The silver-plated nutmeg grater we use at home — and to finish the tagliatelle with prosciutto and Parmigiano at Via Carota, as well as Bar Pisellino’s seasonal hot cider.”

Kathy Grayson

Owner, the Hole NYC, and mom to Bertie the Pom