Gift Guide: The Best Design Goodies of 2013

Four Metropolis editors select the best design goodies for this year’s gift guide.

What’s a holiday without gifts? Half the fun of the season is trawling through the goodies created by and for design lovers. We’ve put our guide together in the belief that whether you’re a DIY geek, an aspiring design star, or a one-percenter who has everything, there’s a perfect gift out there for you. So you’re sure to find something you covet for yourself or for a loved one in our mix of stocking stuffers and grand gestures.

$50 and Under


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$5000 and Over


JIX Construction Kit

Forget LEGO or K’NEX. If you want a challenge, try building something out of plastic straws. With JIX, you won’t even get those, but you do get a pack of 3D-printed stars that will hold them together. The latter are designed to anchor a number of straws at once and at different angles, thus greatly varying the type of “structures” the kit can generate. The connectors come in packs of 125 ($19) and 250 ($36). — Samuel Medina, Web Editor

Cumulus Cufflinks

Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee founder Matter Design studio to push the limits of digital fabrication, developing new forms in tried and tested materials. These 3-D printed cufflinks are both sophisticated and cutting-edge. They available in a range of material and finishes, from nylon plastic that proudly shows off the texture of the printing process to finely polished brass plated with 22K gold. ($40) — Avinash Rajagopal, Associate Editor

Fiftieth-anniversary Easy Bake Oven

The 50th-anniversary Easy Bake Oven (Has it been that long?) is for anyone feeling nostalgic for a fudgy chocolate-chip cookie that’s been baked under a lightbulb. The good news is that it’s finally available in gender-neutral black and silver colors. ($45) — Paul Makovsky, Editorial Director

Requiem for a Dying Planet: Sounds for two films by Werner Herzog

Dubbed Audiofilm-“cinema for the closed eyes”, this beautifully packaged recording is the outcome of the collaboration between Werner Herzog and the Dutch avant-garde cellist Earnst Reijseger.  Comprised of remixed orignal scores from Herzog’s films The Wild Blue Yonder, and The White Diamond, Reijseger is joined by the Senegalese singer Mola Sylla and a Sardinian vocal choir. ($19) — Soohang Lee, Photo Editor

Ian Nairn: Words in Place by Gillian Darley and David McKie (Impress Books)
The first book to examine the life and work of Ian Nairn, an outspoken and self-destructive English architectural critic of postwar modernism, who was anti-sprawl, pro-human-scaled streets, and always highly personal. He died too young (a week short of his 53rd birthday – of liver disease resulting from chronic drinking), but this book is a great read for anyone interested in learning about this non-architet who looked at modern architecture and the world in a critical way. ($13) — Paul Makovsky


Papafoxtrot Space Series

Fly your geek flag high with these desktop wooden toys collectibles. Produced by London design studio Postlerferguson, the Papafoxtrot Space Series reproduces the likenesses of real, orbiting satellites by fancifully combining wood and stainless steel. It’s the space race filtered through art-and-crafts: in the case of the Spektr-R (above), maple forms the hull of the structure, replacing the sleek aluminum that wraps the core of its full-scale counterpart. Each model comes artfully packaged in a themed box. ($33)  — Samuel Medina

Re-Turned Penguin

Made entirely from reclaimed wood, Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland’s Penguin will bring a smile to the bird-loving, eco-friendly person on your list. ($90) — Paul Makovsky

Make Rovera 2WD Arduino Robot Kit

We live in an age where anyone can build a robot, and this kit proves it. With the aid of a handy manual and a bit of concentration over a weekend, even a beginner can understand the basics of robotics and build a machine that can detect obstructions and follow remote instructions. The kit is powered by the Arduino chip, which has created something of a DIY revolution, by allowing almost anyone to program and control simple automatons. ($170) — Avinash Rajagopal

Courtesy Fredericks and Mae

Foosball set by Fredericks and Mae

A modern version of everyone’s favorite frat game with a global-minded twist, Fredericks and Mae’s portable Foosball set is silkscreen printed and assembled by the designers themselves in their Bed-Stuy studio.  It’s stylish enough to be on permanent display at any home, but can just as easily be disassembled for storage. ($320) — Soohang Lee


Courtesy Scholten & Baijings

Color Porcelain Milk & Sugar Set

Designer duo Scholten & Baijings first studied the 300-year history of porcelain decoration on the island of Kyushu before developing the Color Porcelain series for the Japanese brand 1616/Arita. This delicately colored set, with a blush reminiscent of a clear dawn or dusk sky, is sturdy enough for everyday use. ($260) — Avinash Rajagopal

Courtesy Røros Tweed

Snøhetta Mountain Fold blanket

One of Norway’s most famous architectural exports, Snøhetta’s is now designing product design. And with the cold weather here, what better gift to give your loved one than a Mountain Fold blanket, made by traditional Norwegian wool manufacturer Røros Tweed. By following the strict graphic pattern, the blanket can be folded into the profile of the mountain Snøhetta at Dovre in Norway, the namesake of the architecture and design studio. (Contact for pricing) — Paul Makovsky

Courtesy Creative Time

André Saraiva’s New York I Love You poster

Based on Saraiva’s Dream Concert series, the poster reflects “a fantasy line up” of our city’s beloved icons. Says Saraiva, “The people included are the reason I always dreamed of coming to New York.” Silk print on conventry rag, 22” x 30”, signed edition of 50. ($350) — Soohang Lee

Boxer (Boxers), 1929 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur UltraChrome print on baryta paper. Authorized, titled, dated and numbered on a certificate 26 x 16,7 cm

Courtesy Foam Editions

August Sander Handlager Print

Not only does Foam Editions carry an exciting selection of contemporary photography, like Anton Corbijn’s portrait of Ai Weiwei, but they also have signed limited-edition prints by Malick Sidibé and Daido Moriyama. Still, the real steals are the mini August Sander prints. For a mere 280 Euros ($385), you can gift a piece of contemporay art history! — Soohang Lee

Courtesy Toiletpaper-Seletti

Toiletpaper-Seletti Plates  

A plunger, a bloody heart, and chopped lady fingers might not sound appetizing, and they aren’t. So you might not want to eat anything on these special-edition plates, part of a collaboration between the Seletti design house and Maurizio Cattelan’s Toiletpaper Zine. — Samuel Medina

The Unsophisticated Arts by Barbara Jones (Little Toller Books)

The artist, designer, and curator Barbara Jones (1912-1978) was the original hipster decades before Williamsburgers were being ironic, twee, and decidedly nostalgic. During the 1940s, she was into tattoos, taxidermy, and even Louis Wain’s drawings of cats (just google them, and then check out the ceramic cats he did).  She set about documenting everyday art from Britain, and studied, collected and drew almost everything that was in and around the edges of British post-war pop culture–from wedding cake decoration and circus posters to carrousel art and houseboats. Much of it was included in The Unsophisticated Arts, first published in 1951, the same year Jones curated the ‘Black Eyes and Lemonade’ at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The revised and updated book by Little Toller Books contains previously unpublished ephemera and illustrations from the artist and is an inspirational look at objects of everyday life, encouraging us to find beauty in unexpected places. ($70) — Paul Makovsky


New Friends Best Woof Sweatshirt 

Love dogs? Cotton loungewear? This special edition sweatshirt and sweatpants combo by Metropolis friends, eh, New Friends was produced for Sight Unseen, in addition to other collage-themed articles. ($68 top, $74 for the bottoms) — Samuel Medina

SSunhome Napkin scarf by Misu a barbe 

This multifunctional cotton scarf by the Korean conceptual knitwear specialist Misu a barbe can double as a light blanket, table cloth, bandana, or anything that requires soft, lightness. ($280) — Soohang Lee

2 Zip Wallet by Early

Handcrafted in Frankfurt by Valerie Sietzy and her small team, Early’s 2 zip wallet is all about playful functionality that’s built to last.  Every detail has been carefully considered within the seemingly minimal design- from the clever placement of the front pocket and the smoothness of the zippers so that your bills won’t be caught in between. It’s even made with vegetable-dyed, chrome-free leather! ($122) — Soohang Lee

Courtesy Maharam

Maharam Scamp Bag

Designer Jasper Morrisson, known for his appreciation of anonymous, well-designed products, interprets the classic Amsterdam bag for the new millennium. The bold zipper on the front of this sturdy bag provides handy access to a boarding pass or an important document, the spacious interior can comfortably hold a laptop and a lot else besides. Scamp is part of the first collection of totes from the textile manufacturer Maharam. ($285) — Avinash Rajagopal



Give Directly

Because you can’t forget the most needy, Charity analysis group GiveWell, named Give Directly as one of the three best charities in the world for helping the world’s most poverty-stricken people. Give Directly’s mission is pretty simple: you donate money to their organization; they locate poor households in Kenya and Uganda; they then transfer your donation electronically to a recipient’s cell phone, and then the recipient uses the transfer to pursue his or her own goals.
— Paul Makovsky

One-year Architectural League Membership
It’s the gift that keeps giving to the architecture world! Not only are you supporting some the League’s initiatives, like the Young Architects and Emerging Voices, your membership lets you network with architects, designers, policy-makers, and just about anyone else who’s interested in architecture and urbanism, and, you get other benefits like discounts on books from Princeton Architectural Press and from indie-retailer McNally Jackson Books. — Paul Makovsky

Become a Friend of the Canadian Center for Architecture

Since 1979, Montreal’s CCA has established itself as one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world dedicated to architecture. The Center is known for courageous exhibitions that plunge into issues and histories that receive little attention elsewhere—its director Mirko Zardini was nominated a Metropolis Game Changer in 2012. Friends of the CCA not only receive free admission, invitations to talks, and discounts in the store, they also get special privileges and rates at partner organizations all over North America. — Avinash Rajagopal

Membership to the National Trust for Historic Preservation

There is probably no better gift for the roving architecture buff than a membership in one of the nation’s foremost nonprofits dedicated to preserving our historic built enviornment. Members get discounted admission into National Trust Historic Sites (which include the likes of the Glass House and the Farnsworth House), as well as 200 other sites in America and 500 buildings around the world. They also get up to 50% off on reservations at participating Historic Hotels of America. — Avinash Rajagopal



Courtesy Zumthor Ferienhäuser/Photo: Ralph Feiner

Annalisa and Peter Zumthor’s Timber Houses

Everyone has their idea of their perfect Christmas. But where? You could hardly do better than Leis, Vals, an impossibly picturesque valley in eastern Switzerland. If money really isn’t a concern (and it clearly isn’t), you actually could do better by renting out one of the three Peter Zumthor-designed vacation chalets in town. But beware, during peak season, the houses are only available for 1-week stay. ($5385) — Samuel Medina

Courtesy James Edition

Original Swiss Bank Deposit Safe

Perfect for the one percenter who has just about everything, this early modernist Swiss bank safe (or as the seller likes to call it “a money swimming pool”), comes complete with 1619 safety deposit boxes, 8 million 5 cent coins (or 15 tons of “liquid money” in Christmas cocktail-speak). (8,000,000 Swiss francs). — Paul Makovsky

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