What to get an Architect for Christmas 2011

December 8, 2011 — 38 Comments

Let’s see …

400 square feet of glass mosaic tile, labor to install, elongated 1 piece toilet, large soaking bathtub, 20 hours plumber labor, 60 hours carpenter labor, tape, bed and texture … wait a minute, that’s my Christmas list!!

.Life of an Architect Christmas

Ho Ho Ho!! Once again it’s that time of year to let that special architect you’ve been ignoring for the last 3 years know just how much you care … at least enough to buy them a present. If you are like most people, you know that shopping for an architect isn’t any fun because we are generally self-righteous about quality and routinely look down our noses at mass-produced items.  My wife groans every time I keep her from getting an item we desperately need simply because I want to wait until we can buy something extremely particular and generally (always) above my pay grade.

Oh well, I say quality still counts for something and the nicer something is and the longer I have to wait to get it, the more unlikely it is that I will run out and “get the next cool version” of whatever it is that I have been saving and waiting to get for the last 17 3 years…

I came up with a list of what to get an architect last year – cleverly titled “What to get an Architect 2010 list” and since almost everything on that list is still good I momentarily thought about just changing the title and reposting it – but that’s not my style! So … let’s get to the all new, super fresh and current list of What to get an Architect 2011



Architectural T-Shirts from Life of an Architect

Architectural T-Shirts from Life of an Architect     $20 – $30

Yes, it’s the Periodic Table of Design from everyone here are Life of an Architect World Headquarters. There are 17 unique designs in total and if I didn’t think you would like them, I wouldn’t have put them on the list. So far, these shirts have been shipped to Belgium, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France and right here in the United States. That is amazingly cool. I tell everyone I can (who buys one of these shirts) to send me a picture of them in it and I will place it with great honor on the Life of an Architect Facebook page. I’ve already received a few – one picture is from the Great Wall of China!



Sennelier Watercolor Travel Box 8 TubesSennelier Watercolor – Travel Box 12 Tubes     $60

Architects like to watercolor and if they don’t, it’s because they can’t … and if they can’t, it’s because they don’t have a decent watercolor set. Even if  they tell you they don’t want watercolors for Christmas they are lying and just need some encouragement to pursue the dream that they already have … that one day they will be able to sketch with 5 pen strokes, lay down some watercolor and people will stop and nod their head in approval. 

pointing at 5 pen stroke and quick watercolor drawing and talking to small French child (but in English) “See that sketch right there … Magnificent!! They must be an architect! Here is €150 (handing money to architect) just because you are awesome”



Eames DVD The Architect and the Painter

Eames: The Architect and the Painter DVD     $25

If you are looking for a gift for the Mid Century Modernist in your life this is it. ( I know for a fact that they will not have this… it just came out in select theaters and was only released yesterday (Dec 7th).

Narrated by James Franco, (I promise he won’t cut his arm off in this one) the film goes in depth into the world of the Eames studio and chronicles the amazing husband and wife creative career which defined mid century modern.  I’d write more about how awesome I think this movie is going to be but then I’d just be wasting time trying to re-write the description on the films website.


Sennheiser CX 300B MK II Headphones

Sennheiser CX 300B MK II Stereo Headphones      $33

Using my own office as an example, everyone except those with offices have headphones that they routinely wear. Not only will your architect wear these headphones to the funky beat of their own mix, it will keep them from killing the people they are sitting next to because they don’t have to hear that person’s mix of funky beats. Buying these headphones will actually save someone’s life – or at the very least, save them from getting a computer mouse shaped laceration on the back of their head. Don’t worry about the fact that your architect probably already has a pair of headphones, they will get destroyed sooner rather than later. (Architects go through headphones like Interior Designers go through box wine.)



Architectural and Interior Design Magazines

Magazine subscription(s)     $14 to $180

One of my favorite gifts for many reasons….

As a giver…

– It’s an easy last minute gift that you can pick up at the check-out stand in the grocery store

– There are an infinite amount of subjects to choose from to suit the fancy of your recipient

– Big bang for your buck (especially if you don’t actually send in the subscription card, come on, you’ve done that before)

As a recipient “It’s the gift that keeps on giving all year ‘round”, but unlike the Jelly of the Month Club, magazines will add to your library of reference material that you will feel an overwhelming need to hoard for the rest of your life (and probably end up spending thousands of dollars on bookshelves or storage unit rental fees to house them).

Magazine suggestions for the designer/architect…

Dwell    GOOD    Interior Design    Abitare    Wallpaper    Juxtapoz    Make



Eames Hang it all rack

Ray and Charles Eames  – Hang it all      $169

Some things stand the test of time and having them is akin to a secret handshake between members of a secret society. Anything by Ray and Charles Eames is cool and the Hang-It-All has been granting passage into secret hipster clubs since 1953.

“Hey Teddy, how’s it hanging?”

“Well, Fritz, it been (winking and air quote fingers) Hanging-It-All since 1953.”

“Nice. Welcome brother, cocktails are on the buffet located around the corner next to Tiffani.”

See what I mean?



Anchor Brewery Holiday Beer

Christmas Ale      $9-$12

Beer is the universal language for “kick back, relax and have a good time” or “get belligerent and go on a rampage”.  Since 1975 Anchor Brewing Co has been making their Christmas Ale…each year they slightly modify the recipe and change the tree on the label.  This beer features a very festive and well designed label and an even better crafted taste. Hopefully giving this fine brew will result in a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Kerry Woollen Mills Blanket

Kerry Woollen Mills – Blanket     $83 (€63.38)

I know what you’re thinking – that has waaaaaay too much color in it for an architect but hear me out … I’m never wrong about these things. It’s mostly brown in tone with muted shades of color. It has no texture (other than “woolly” and has an indeterminable pattern. Plus, it’s 100% wool from 100% Irish sheep and made in Ireland where they know a thing or two everything about sheep and wool. Besides, I am speaking from first hand knowledge because this my 100″ x 90″ blanket that I bought in Ireland 8 years ago and I still love it as much today as the day I made my wife get this one instead of the one she wanted.



iPhone photo Lenses

iPhone Camera Lenses  $11

So you’re looking for the perfect gift for your iPhone / photography addicted Architecty friend…well, look no further.  Insert the Telephoto, Macro and Fisheye lens attachments. I use my iPhone camera more than I use my point and click or my DSLR so why not maximize the iPhones full potential with one (or all) of the lens attachments. I don’t know if these really work but they look awesome.



dieter rams design as little as possible from phaidon

Book – Dieter Rams: Design as Little as Possible     $60     

If for no other reason, you should get this book for the following quote:

‘Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design’ – Dieter Rams.

I do feel a little guilty about putting a book on here that costs $170 but this is more than a coffee table book and your architect will keep it forever. This is not the sort of book you ever find at the used book store … maybe an estate sale … and it won’t be marked down.



Case Study Houses - The Complete CSH Program 1945 - 1966

Book – Case Study Houses   The Complete CSH Program 1945 – 1966     $195

Yikes!! This book is crazy expensive … but is possibly the most awesome book you could get your architect (if you really love them that is). I actually have this book and look at it with great frequency. It’s a massive book full of pictures, drawings, stories … it’s everything that an architectural book should be (and its owner will brag about that fact to the people they don’t even know). This is an over-sized book, 440 pages and checking in at 4 lbs!! Worth every cent, all 14,000 of them.



Joey Roth Desktop Speakers

Cool Desktop Speakers     $495

Architects spend a lot of time at their desks on a daily basis… pumping cad, sketching or surfing the internet pretending to pump cad.  Listening to music can help break up the monotony of L, spacebar, mouse click, 3’-4”, mouse click, ESC, ESC, TR, spacebar, spacebar, mouse click, Etc. Cranking up some good music can definitely help slip you into the creative zen state you need to be in while checking shop drawings.

Ok, you don’t have to spend $500 on handmade ceramic speakers but make sure that the speakers you are purchasing have an input for a computer or MP3 player/iPhone and that it has an earphone jack so you can plug in your headphones and drown out your coworkers.



The Mushroom Kit

The Mushroom Kit     $19.95

I bet you think I am going to make a psychedelic drug joke here….well I’m not (cause I’m better than that).

There are a lot of architects out there that love to cook….and the ones that I know are obsessive about cooking.  It’s an art form to some, like an extension of the architecture profession (If anyone can find a source for a black turtleneck apron I’d love to see it).

What a conversation piece this Home Startup Mushroom Kit would be at a dinner party…

“Hey Bob, smells good in here…Wa!? What the hell is that?” Bob’s dinner guest stops mid sentence as he notices a box with mold growing out of it on the counter.

“That’s my home mushroom growing kit…do you want to eat some shrooms and go on a magical psychedelic trip?” Bob whispers with raised eyebrows.

“Um. No.” 

Bob’s dinner guest slowly puts his drink down and briskly walks out the front doorWhat a shame … Bob had made some delicious oyster mushroom risotto and now it’s gone to waste.



Taa-DAH!! That’s this year’s list and I have to say I’m pretty proud of it – a little something for everyone (who is an architect). Please stay tuned for a special message to start in 3 …2…1…


Scott Taylor and the Lion Avatar


This is Scott Taylor … some guy in the next cubicle a good friend of mine.

Scott will be joining me here at Life of an Architect from time to time to add some diversity, style, and flavor because I feel like things have become somewhat stagnant and fetid over the last few months. It has taken me a long time to find and cultivate the right person for this “Life of an Architect: Field Correspondent / Gator Wrassl’r” position. I have been working with him night and mostly days on his run-on sentences and social awkwardness and I think Scott is ready to finally start contributing to society. In fact, Scott prepared half of today’s post and for the most part, I think you would be hard pressed to know which items I selected and which items I told Scott to select.


In his own words, Scott’s description of Scott …

I endeavor to learn how to make anything and everything….from welding to woodcarving.

I have recently grown a winter beard, not necessarily in solidarity for “Movember” but in an attempt at the not-too-well-celebrated “Creeptober” “®”.

I secretly wish I was a hipster but I am too much of a wuss to get a tattoo or give up my Brooks Brothers slim fit non-iron dress shirts.



Please welcome Scott into the fold and make him feel as welcome as you have made me feel.

Well, not quite as welcome but a close second.



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    Please make a shirt option with all of the periodic table. Similar to the picture above. I thought that was available and wanted to make a purchase 🙁

    • I’ll see what I can do – it might be time to do a major overhaul of those t-shirts

  • Katie

    Thank you so much! I stumbled across your post by Google search, looking for Christmas gift ideas for my boyfriend who’s finishing up his fourth year of architecture school. Great to see some unbiased recommendations from a regular person!

    • Hi Katie –

      Just thought I would let you know that I will have my “What to get an Architect 2013” list coming out is just a few weeks (right around Thanksgiving). It’s one of the most anticipated posts I write all year so make sure you don’t miss it!

  • Ajcameron

    Don’t forget the wallet! http://www.dynomighty.com/product_detail.php?Graph-Paper-Mighty-Wallet%C2%AE&d=mighty-wallets+DY-542

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  • Mexico DESIGN

    Mexico DESIGN
    Very good ideas!

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  • Jennifer

    Great quote from Dieter Rams!  Thanks for sharing.

  • Cheirie

    Hi Bob!

    Just FYI, the Case Study House book is now $44 on Amazon. It’s the 25th Anniversary Edition from Taschen.

  • Phil

    Really nice list you guys did here! I’m amazed by the speaker though. Wouldn’t it be much more simpler to make them than ridiculously spend $500 ? I’ll add that to my future projects… 

  • “Architects spend a lot of time at their desks on a daily basis… pumping
    cad, sketching or surfing the internet pretending to pump cad.”  Hilarious! – it’s like you know me 🙂  Just found your blog today and will be bookmarking it.

  • Anonymous

    Great list Bob. Would have replied earlier but had a deadline today…the first since 2006 so I thought I’d better make it a priority. Very exciting!!!

    My wife will be sending in an order for a T-shirt (and if it looks good on her I just might buy one myself….LOL.)

    Mags…..there’s always Fine Homebuilding (jeez, can’t make italics here!!!) on my list as well as a bunch of books.

    Now regarding Scott. I thought I said back in the “playhouse” post, where he first appeared, that if he was going to get anywhere in this profession he needed to ditch the WHITE shirt for a black one. Apparently no headway has been made in that area. And what’s that hanging from his neck in the “lion’s mouth” photo, a leash??? If so, ain’t gonna work long term Bob!


  • Jeannette

    This list is the best ,and welcome Scott! I cant wait to see what you guys will come up with next~

  • Christy Brown

    Wow, this list is reminiscent of the list my husband, a fellow Architect, supplied to me.
    1) Lots of books I don’t understand – CHECK
    2) Average retail prices above $100 – CHECK
    3) Stuff you will never, ever use but look really hip – CHECK

    Its so hard being married to you Architects…sigh

    Seriously, you are genius, Bob!  Love your humor and wit.  Keep it up!

    If you ever need a snarky wife of an Architect’s view point, don’t hesitate to ask!!

    • Christy Brown offering snarky POV as Wife of an Architect – CHECK

      Life of an Architect already having a Wife with snarky POV – CHECK

      Having access to Two wive’s of an Architect with snarky POV – (probably a little dangerous)

      Thanks for the offer, you just might get an assignment before too long…

  • ruthanne17

    great ideas.  i just ordered the watercolors.  nice! thanks
    fyi they are $45 at dick blick..

    • thanks for the price check! I’ve never heard of dickblick.com so that is some good information


  • Great list, Bob. Scott, I live in a rather artsy town, and many of my friends are, indeed, quite hipster. I fear the day when they see me shirtless to find I am void of any body art or piercings… or heaven forbid if they saw the inside of my closet and discovered I own more Vineyard Vines ties than I own v-neck t-shirts. 

    • Scott Taylor

      James, that is why I always carry a fine tip sharpie.  You never know when you’ll be suddenly diverted to a pool party and have to draw your Tall Bike tattoo back on.

      • I wise strategy, my friend. Be sure to have 6’er of PBR and a pack of American Spirit ready at all times, too. 

  • Brenda S. Lynn

    Did someone mention tattoos? Bob are you and Scott going to get matching architect tats? I can hook you up with a great artist… hehehe…

    • I think you might have mentioned that before ….

      Say hello to your daughter for me since I won’t be coming in for any body art.

      All my best,

  • You forgot to add Contract magazine to that list Bob! 😉

    • has the switch occurred? I have my loyalties but they travel with the individuals

      • It’s official! I sent out my first Tweet today and everything =)

  • Welcome Scott!

    And great list Bob…  one of my favorite features on LOAA, for sure …  I always feel just a bit more “cultured” in … skimming it.  cheers and happy blogging both.

    • Thanks JB,

      All the best in 2012!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for having me…I’m looking forward to it.

  • Elise

    Nice list, Bob! I’d like to say us lay folk would also be interested in several of those gifts on your list. 

    Oh boy, does Scott know what he’s getting himself into?  Pour unfortunate soul 😉

    • Oh course he doesn’t! How else could I convince him to contribute …

      The truth is that Scott makes me laugh and that was the number one requirement for consideration. It was an added benefit that he’s a great designer, clever writer, and still enjoys jokes about flatulence.

      Everybody wins.

  • Good list, Bob.  But I have to disagree with the comment about Interior Designers & boxed wine…every Interior Designer that I know has excellent taste in wine, better than some Architects that I know in fact!

    • that comment was a tongue-in-check jab at my ID friends – none of which drink box wine.

      The joke was more about quantity than quality (because we all known interior designers buy the bottles with the prettiest labels)

  • These are superb gift ideas!  You’ve hit all the right notes: budget, aesthetics, even crossing age-groups.  I am using this list to find gifts for my son (who is only 16 and not yet an architect.) What a gift this post is.

    • Thanks Jocelyn! We try and find something for everyone. There are several things a 16 year old would want from this list (at least I know that would be true of me when I was 16)


  • Douglas Gliedt

    Snaps for Scott!
    …and Bob if a Holiday 5 pack happens upon your doorway – You’re welcome!