The Gift of Good Design: Metropolis’s 2016 Holiday Guide

Our gift guide is packed with potential presents sure to please the architect or designer in your life.

Staged photography by Nicholas Calcott; all product images courtesy the brands and manufacturers

Finding the perfect present can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Metropolis has rounded up some of our favorite items to gift family and friends this holiday season whether they’re a design lover, techie, chef or history buff.

Eat and Drink


Netatmo Home Monitor, $100

This little elegant cylinder has enough sensors to monitor the temperature, air quality, humidity, and noise levels of any room in your house. It also communicates with your smartphone, warning you of any potential health hazards and suggesting ways to correct them.

Bookniture, from $86

Bookniture is exactly what it sounds like—furniture disguised as a book. These nifty pieces can be used as a stool, foot rest, a side table, a standing desk, or anything else you like. The body, which is made of corrugated Kraft paper topped by a felt disk, can support more than 2,000 pounds.

Lyngby Vases, $79

First produced in 1936 by the Danish company Lyngby, these vases were inspired by the German Bauhaus movement and marked a turn in vase design. After being out of production for more than 50 years, the Lyngby vase was reissued in 2012.

Margaret Howell Anglepoise Lamp, from $160

Clothing designer Margaret Howell managed to infuse new life into the Type 75 desk lamp by Anglepoise. Howell updated the 80-year-old masterpiece of British design by adding two new colors, Saxon Blue and Seagrass, to match the essence of her clothing: simple, authentic, and timeless.

Liz Collins Potholder Rug, $2,125

Textile designer and artist Liz Collins combines simple weaving techniques and knitted fabrics to create her Pot Holder rugs. These unique flooring textiles are a sculptural spin on a childhood craft that is sure to be a beautiful addition to any home.

Neo Vessel, $2,400

Designed by Apparatus Studio, this sculptural object is both a vessel to carry fruit or even your car keys and a ceremonial totem. It is carved in black or white marble with an extractable brass basin, which adds elegance to the space it sits in.

Tank Vase Stem, $130

This clear glass vase with hand-painted copper at the top is a new addition to the Tom Dixon Tank family of glassware, which includes highball and lowball glass versions, a decanter, and a jug.

Eat and Drink

Les Diners de Gala, $59.99

This reprint of Salvador Dali’s 1973 cookbook will inspire surreal dishes and set the atmosphere for unforgettable dinners like the ones the artist prepared with his wife and muse Gala.

The Porthole Infuser, $100

Established chefs and foodies alike will love this elegant design from Martin Lestner. Inspired by submarine portholes, this sophisticated infuser assists in making oils, dressings, and cocktails. Best of all, it will turn any kitchen into a design-oriented space.

Gemini Espresso Maker$45

The Gemini Espresso Maker was originally designed in 1968 and derives from the regular Bialetti Moka model. But this vintage and brightly colored espresso maker has the competitive advantage of preparing two cups of coffee in one shot

Cork Cutting Board, $68

A new spin on an old classic, the cork cutting board by Daniel Michalik is inspired by his deep love for this versatile material. Layered with beeswax, the board conceals cut marks better than most woods.

Bedside Carafe, $210

Upgrade your bedside table with this carafe designed by New York–based designer Anna Karlin. This hand-blown, glass carafe is simple in form but very vibrant in color. The cap even doubles as a cup.

Pax 2 by Branch Creative, $200

The Pax 2 is the gold standard for herbal vaporizers. Designed by San Francisco-based Branch Creative, the vape is available in four colors and comes with a 10-year warranty.

Fort Standard Dry Goods Vessels, $88

These glass canisters topped by cork stoppers are versatile and add an element of sophistication to spruce up any kitchen countertop.


B&O Play A1 Speaker, $249

This special-edition bluetooth speaker from Beoplay resembles a little pochette. The round grill is made of aluminum making this speaker particularly resistant to impact, while practical cords make it easy to carry.

Hans Bolling Duck & Duckling, $89

Danish architect Hans Bølling designed this set of wooden ducks in 1959 after reading a newspaper story about how a certain feathery family of waterbirds had held up traffic in Copenhagen while crossing the road. These are little masterpieces of mid-century modern design—see how the beak seamlessly merges with the head—which is why Architectmade decided to reissue them.

Rigamajig by Cas Holman, from $350

Rigamajig is a building kit for kids that was first designed as a play fixture for the High Line. Since then, it has developed into a collection of wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts, bolts, and rope for any play environment.

Chisel and Mouse Model Buildings, from $160

These plaster and metal-etched pieces are an elevated interpretation of the architectural model that any architect or designer will love. Chisel and Mouse’s beautiful renditions of buildings such as the Glasgow School of Art, the AEG Turbine Factory, and even the Guggenheim Bilbao make for a great addition to any work desk.

Sony PlayStation VR, $399

The Sony PlayStation VR brings gaming to the next level. Using the RoboCop-like headset, players are able to not only play but utterly immerse themselves in a game.

Bauhaus Chess Set, $625

Josef Hartwig’s classic 1923 chess set is sure to please any design enthusiast. Born out of a reaction to the rising nationalism of the period, Hartwig aimed to eliminate hierarchies by making the pieces referential to their movement rather than their royal character.

Kano Computer Kit- RED Edition, $150

Kano lets anyone of any age build their own computer from the ground up and learn to code just like a real developer. This version of the DIY kit is a collaboration with (RED), an organization that raises money for the global fight against AIDS.


The Tine Mill Passport Hardback, $40

This airplane-grade aluminum passport holder is as durable as it is sleek, making it a stylish addition to any traveler’s bag. It also features radio frequency identification (RFID) blocking technology to protect against identity theft at home or abroad.

Flashlight II Tent, $230

Give the gift of easy camping this holiday season. The creators of the Flashlight II designed this tent to be durable, portable, and easy to assemble—there are only three poles, making it a breeze to set up. What more could you ask for in a tent?

Marimekko Aina Adam Bag, $495

This elegant suitcase for global travelers features Marimekko’s Adam print designed by Katsuji Wakisaka. Made of 100 percent cotton, the bag has sturdy handles, a detachable leather shoulder strap, and a zip top closure.

Rimowa Electronic Tag Suitcase, $500

This suitcase is equipped with a Rimowa Electronic Tag, which wirelessly connects to mobile phones and allows travelers to check-in their luggage from home, drop it off at the airport, and skip check-in lines (if flying with Lufthansa and Eva Air). More airlines are expected to join in the future.

W&P Design Carry On Cocktail-Kit, $24

Hate expensive airplane cocktails and love good branding? W&P Design, in collaboration with PUNCH, created these neat, portable, and carry-on friendly DIY cocktail kits featuring mixes to make bloody marys, gin and tonic, and the hot toddy.

Fujifilm X70 Camera, $700

This compact digital camera is fast and delivers incredible high-quality pictures with its 16-million-plus pixel sensors. The X70 is also the first of the X series cameras to be equipped with a digital tele-converter that allows it to switch from a fixed 28mm wide angle lens to digital 35mm or 50mm ones.

Anti-Theft Backpack, $100

The Anti-Theft Backpack by XD Design is for the traveler who needs security, style, and peace of mind on the road. A simple and protective design, the backpack boasts features like slash-proof material, hidden zippers, and RFID protection, among other things.


Allbirds Sneakers, $95

New Zealand-based start-up Allbirds spent spent two years researching and developing their merino runner to create a sneaker that is trendy and comfortable, while also minimizing odors, regulating temperatures, and wicking away moisture. Each shoe is made of a wool upper and castor oil bean base, making them environmentally sustainable.

Agnes Martin Guggenheim Capsule Collection, from $89

COS, the upscale brand of fashion retailer H&M, partnered with the Guggenheim Museum to support an exhibition on American abstract painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004). The collaboration spawned a 12 piece, limited-edition capsule collection for women and men inspired by the artist’s work.

Instrmnt 01-a watch, $240

Instrmnt is a Glasgow-based design studio that makes high-quality watches that are smartly packaged. With an incredibly elegant profile and watch face, Instrmnt’s design will be sure to please the minimalist in your life.

Nizzo Leather Backpacks, from $138

Amsterdam-based design studio, By Nizzo, has soothed the minimalist’s anxiety of bulky backpacks with this leather knapsack. Incredibly simple yet very accommodating, this bag can hold a laptop and several books, without ever losing its slim profile.

Retro Specs Contact Case, $10

Among the many original, fun, and creative objects Kikkerland makes, these retro-themed contact lens case is particularly appealing to architects. In fact, it resembles the round-shaped eyeglasses that Le Corbusier used to wear.

Google Daydream VR, $79

Experience virtual reality without spending a fortune. Google’s Daydream goggles are made of lightweight fabric making them comfortable to wear. They also come with a practical remote control that allows for a VR experience via mobile phones.

James Wines Terra-Time Watch, $145

The eccentric architect James Wines designed this watch whose clockface is inspired by landscape elements. The different layers create the effect of a quarry, the illusion of topographical elements, or perhaps a map or agricultural terraces—hence the name.


Cecil Beaton at Home: An Interior Life, $85

This tome offers a look into the homes of one of Britain’s most beloved icons, chronicling properties near and dear to the photographer Cecil Beaton, including Reddish House and Ashcombe House. The book also includes original photographs, artworks, and personal objects that add yet another facet to this man’s prolific life.

domus: 40s, 50s, 60s, $20

Founded in 1928 by Milanese architect Gio Ponti, domus is considered the world’s most influential architecture magazine. Taschen collected all the issues of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, in the Bibliotecha Universalis series—in case you’d like to brush up on your knowledge of modern design history.

Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, $195

This book by Susana Martínez Vidal pays homage to the global fashion and art icon, giving insights into Kahlo’s views and manners of expression while painting a picture of the artist as vivid as her art and fashion.

Artek & The Aaltos: Creating a Modern World, $75

Inspired by the Bard Graduate Center exhibition, this authoritative book dives into the often overlooked legacy of the Finnish design company Artek and its famous founders. Elucidating the critical role that the Aaltos and Artek had on design and retail, it explores the events and designs that changed the world of Scandinavian Modernism.

Design: The Whole Story, $35

As its title implies, this book tells the lengthy, complex, and multifaceted history of design. Visually informative and wonderfully concise, the tome is an in-depth look at the many products of the human race, which are thoughtfully considered and examined.  

Midcentury Christmas: Holiday Fads, Fancies, and Fun from 1945 to 1970, $25

Midcentury Christmas is an homage to the archetypal American Christmas of the post-war period, as it played out in western homes and department stores. Nostalgic and enlightening, this volume is a look into the material culture of the holiday, as shaped by consumers of the 1950s and ’60s.

Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered, $300

Shedding light onto some of the forgotten architecture of California’s Modernist era, this book features the personal photographic collection of Julius Shulman. The images document more than 400 buildings and spaces that together reveal a side of Californian modern architecture that’s not so easily found in typical histories of the style.


Mayd This Way Cards, from $4

Architect Lindsey May creates cute greeting and holiday cards whose message may look incomplete at first. Strategically placed fill-in-the-blanks allow givers to customize the cards’ text in a way that’s both funny and intimate.

Nisolo Weekender, $378

The founders of Nisolo, a socially driven fashion retailer, left their lives in New York City to help kickstart Peru’s workforce and help bring its products onto the global market. These bags are responsibly made in Trujillo, Peru, and offer both excellent craftsmanship and luxurious materials.

Soma Glass Water Bottle, $30

For every bottle sold, SOMA donates money to a clean-water initiative to support safe drinking supplies across the world. The water bottles, made out of glass, silicone and wood, are minimally designed and socially equitable as well.

Cooper Hewitt Design Insider Membership, $350

This membership to the National Museum of Design, the Cooper Hewitt, grants holders exhibition previews, free admission, and a 10-percent discount on all designer items inside the Cooper Hewitt Shop. This tax-deductible gift is perfect for any New Yorker on your holiday list.

Americans for the Arts, by donation

This national organization provides communities with access to the transformative power of the arts. A donation to Americans for the Arts helps it pursue its mission of “infusing the arts into all spheres of American society— from the boardroom to the classroom.” Donations of all sizes are accepted.

Inner-City Arts, $25

Inner-City Arts aims to enhance the academic performance of children within underserved communities in Los Angeles. Its mission is to “engage young people in the creative process in order to shape a society of creative, confident and collaborative individuals.”

The Center for Architecture, by donation

This nonprofit provides free programming to young people, teachers, and community members in an effort to inspire new generations of architects to be civic activists through the built environment. The center also provides scholarships to high-school seniors interested in architecture. Donations of all sizes are accepted.

Institute for Public Architecture, $50

Supporting socially engaged architectural projects, IPA promotes urban research and hosts a biennial residency program for architects interested in public equity. IPA’s core philosophy is to improve the built environment’s public spaces through support and scholarship.

Recent Viewpoints