It’s almost that gift-giving time of the year and if you have an architect in your life, you know that getting them a gift is potentially the most agonizing experience possible – but that’s why we’re here. Now in its 14th consecutive year, Life of an Architect is putting out the increasingly difficult yet still definitive gift guide for architects, just so you don’t have to figure these things out for yourself. Welcome to Episode 139 Holiday Gift Guide for Architects 2023!
[Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]
Disclosure: We only recommend products that we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that add no additional cost to you and a small commission may be earned. These commissions go towards paying the operational costs associated with ‘Life of an Architect’. Please consider using them as a way of supporting the content on this site.
Today we are talking about gifts that you should give to architects, other than money … but You should start with money. I have been doing this for … so, so long. I went and calculated that it’s been 4,728 days ago was when the first list came out in 2010.
Like last year, Andrew and I had the same categories to select a gift. For some of the items selected for this year’s list, they were extremely easy additions, whereas others were extremely difficult. I will also go on record – right at the beginning of the show – that I either already have these things (and therefore Bob verified and approved) or I want them … which means if you buy them, we are both at some risk. Am I going to tell you which one is which? Maybe
We are going to do the big reveal to one another and then talk about them – we are going to take turns, and Andrew is going to kick things off with:
Best Gift for your Bar jump to 6:03
|Barfly Long Stir Spoon Julep Strainer 24ox Mixing Glass
Andrew’s Selection – $16 to $32
If you mix stirred drinks (and not shaken), then these will be essential for your work. Especially if you just chill them over ice and the drink does not contain that ice. Also essential is a long mixing spoon along with the strainer from previous years or you can get a new strainer. This one is available in a few colors, but the clear crystal one is the most available The Barfly brand makes quality products as I have a few of them. You need this nice heavy bottom 24oz mixing glass along with the Julep Strainer and a stir spoon. I personally like a longer spoon like this one that is about sixteen inches long.
|Cocktail Pitcher $25
|Japanese Jigger $16
|Boston Shaker $23
|Bar Mats $20
Bob’s Selection – $16 to $25
There are a million different things that you could get to help set up your bar … and most of them are unnecessary. When I decided to work through my selection on what someone should get, I decided that there are just a few things that really matter, and that’s why these 4 things are on my list. I should also state for the record that I own all of these things so they are coming to you as certified. A couple of quick things – the cocktail pitcher is 24 ounces, which is important if you think you will ever make 4 drinks at the same time (don’t judge me – there were three other people involved). I also prefer the size and shape of the Japanese jigger shown here since I have large hands – it’s just easier to use. A “Boston Shaker” is a particular thing and this one is weighted. It takes a little bit of time to get used to but it’s a lot better than most shakers that have a fixed cap on top. If you’ve used one of those kinds before, you know how difficult it can be to get the lid off. Lastly, if you only get one thing off this list, get these bar mats. They are AWESOME and you can toss them in the dishwasher if you have a particularly sloppy night making drinks.
Best Gift for your Desk jump to 12:15
Bob’s Selection – $179
Let me just admit that I put a lot of desk lamps on my list – it has more to do with the fact that I have more than one desk and desk lights keep getting better and cooler. The one that I’ve put on this year’s list has a lot of features that warrant consideration, but there are two specific features that are really great. The first is that this fixture has an auto-dimming feature that will allow me to set the illumination I want and it will increase or decrease its light output based on the amount of ambient light from my surrounding area. Whaat?!? That’s awesome.
The second cool thing is that the control is detached from the fixture itself and is wireless which means I can control the temperature and brightness of the light without having to fiddle with the light itself and not have more cables on my desktop.
Andrew’s Selection – $420
You need a good desk chair. While this one is a bit pricey, I like the modern look. Also, I always need to check the raise and lower distance to make sure it can work for a seated desk and also a standing or drafting level desk. Some of the chairs don’t actually raise enough to work for my frame. This one has a very nice range of movement and gets from 23” low to a 35” high. I enjoy the mid-century modern look of it. It feels a bit Mies or Corbusier inspired. The look is simple and clean. I would, of course, have the black one for my own.
Best Gift for your Kitchen jump to 19:31
Andrew’s Selection – $170
I am not a fan of the ice my refrigerator makes. I do not have a expensive enough one that I can select various types of ice for it to make within the freezer. So I am always on the lookout for a smaller ice maker to set on my counter. This may also be good for you to have at your bar to make better cocktail ice on demand. This one provides a good amount and can store a decent amount also. Of course you will not be able to utilize this for a giant party, but on a daily basis or for a small gathering, it should do the trick. I prefer the type of ice it makes, which is nugget ice, as it works for a variety of uses. Again, it works really well for cocktails. It has great ratings.
|Marcato 150 Machine $90
|Ravioli Pasta Set $18
|Mastering Pasta Book $21
Bob’s Selection – $ varies
This is another gift that I already own and I bought all of this stuff after a trip to Finland where I had a memorable vacation and one particular meal stuck out and it was … you guess it – pasta. I ended up coming home and decided that not only would I start making pasta, this would be a family activity. The reason I am including it here is because I believe that architects (as individuals) have personality traits that predispose them to certain activities where process and execution are a central element. For me, this manifests itself into the way I make cocktails, smoking barbeque, and as of 2 years ago, pasta. You aren’t just buying a kitchen contraption, you are buying memories (which we all know are priceless so $90 for this pasta machine is a total bargain!)
Best Gift Under $20 jump to 31:09 Wool Dryer Balls
Bob’s Selection – $10 per set of 6
I have come to the conclusion that I need to spend more time thinking about the chemicals that I have in my life and at the very least, cut some of the easier ones out. For me, this is going to start with changing how I wash and dry the clothes that I wear. Gone are the laundry detergents and dryer sheets … but I still want my clothes to be static free and to smell better after I wash them than before I started. I know a few people that use these wool dryer balls and have only heard good things – so this is where I am starting. Pretty low-hanging fruit … get the gray wools balls if you are drying darks, and the white wool balls if you are drying lights.
Andrew’s Selection – $ 12 to $15
This category almost always seems to be filled with temporary items even if they are not intended to be so. For this year, I decided to lean into that idea and go for something consumable. So that leads us to this flavor variety pack of instant ramen from Samyang. This is a brand that I have made so many times over the past several years. This is a “higher-level” of instant ramen. While there are some brands that are even more “top shelf” but these are better than most. They are also somewhat famous for the spiciness of some of the flavors. They claim to be the reason that K-Spice is even a thing. These are some of the spiciest flavors I have ever had. But they are also some of the best basic flavors that you can get. I make this ramen very often and add my own accessories like green onions, eggs, chicken, spam, seaweed flakes, etc. They are easy to make but so much better than those 99cent packs. If you don’t want this specific five pack, there are so many other flavors to choose from.
Best Tech Gift jump to 36:45
Andrew’s Selection – $60
This is an attachment to your phone that turns it into somewhat of a camera. It is an attachment that has a large handle with a Bluetooth shutter button just like a DSLR camera. This works directly with any iPhone 12 and above, but also has an attachment to work with any phone, but that requires a “sticker” mag to the back of your phone. So this is more for those iPhone only users. I think this one would be very handy if you know you are going to be using your iPhone as a camera a lot. Maybe on a trip or event, or just sometime you know it will happen a lot. It has a battery charger element that also charges the phone via the mag-safe piece on the back of the phone, so it charges while in use. I like the format and the simplicity of this product. It does a few things but does them well. I know they have had some Black Friday sales this weekend. Shiftcam.com
|Fitbit Charge 6 $100
|Renpho Smart Scale $20
Bob’s Selection – $20 to $100
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a worthwhile tech gift for this year’s list, to the point of soliciting ideas from the people I work with to see if they had some insightful suggestions (they didn’t) … until one of the guys I work with said “Why don’t you add your Fitbit on there since you use it all the time?”
Light bulb … I decided to add my Fitbit to the list since I use it all the time.
Technically I have the Fitbit Charge 5, but they have a newer version I list above that actually does a little bit more and currently costs less than the Fitbit Charge 5 (that’s a win-win). This thing monitors all the things I am interested in knowing and even more that I’m not. I keep track of my sleep patterns, my fitness activities, and calories burned. It has GPS built into so I don’t have to carry my phone when I go for a
walk run and I get all the maps, heartrate, calories – and the app keeps a record of all of it. Once you buy the “watch” you are done with the out of pocket – there is no monthly membership required.
I also included a Bluetooth smart scale that you can sync with the app that will track and log you weight, body mass, bone density – I do not have this particular scale but I plan on getting it. For $20 it seems like a good value (not to mention another package to unwrap during the holidays).
Best Gift for a Young Architect jump to 44:18
Bob’s Selection – $80
The premise for this gift is that you are buying the gift for the young architect – which suggests that it might not be something that they could get for themselves. Last year I had a $375 stool on there with the idea that yes, that is an expensive stool, but they will never get rid of it, so it has a high horsepower to weight rating. This year I am pivoting a bit as I noticed that ALL of the young architects I work with seem to be into plants (or biophilia as the cool kids like to say – which simply means a love of living things). So like chocolate and peanut butter – two great things that go great together, I am combing plants and cement and found these planters. I like them, I want them, and I think you or that special young architect in your life will too.
The one I linked to is the “large” which is 11″ diameter x 15.75″ height and weighs just over 14 lbs. They have others but that’ll be up you to select your preferred size.
Andrew’s Selection – $100
I have seen several of these around my college hallways recently, so it seemed like a good choice. This is basically a second monitor for your devices. I would say laptop is most common as it just gives the user a bit more real estate to work with. It is powered direct from the laptop or attached device so it is a simple and clean set up. This one comes with a cover case which, when closed, looks about like an iPad. So you can pack this portable monitor in with the rest of your stuff and it travels well. This is basically the largest size they may right now at almost sixteen inches. I would prefer to have a larger one that matches my laptop screen. This one can be hooked up to multiple types of devices like a phone, tablet, or even game system. So it is also very versatile, which might make it even more useful for a younger person.
Best Gift for a “Seasoned” Architect jump to 51:05
|Men’s Quarter Zip Pullover Women’s Quarter Zip Pullover
Andrew’s Selection – $20 to $30
This one is going be the oldest, lamest gift on this list. I know that, but I cannot see any reason for it not to be on the list. I seem to be drawn towards these a bit more lately. I am not certain why, other than the fact is that I am getting older. Haha! I know this is typically a ‘men’s’ jacket, but I think it works for everyone. It is an inexpensive, comfy pullover that you can wear as its own piece or just to have in the office and pull it over your existing outfit if you get cold. I also think this is classic piece of any seasoned architect’s wardrobe, that may be specifically males, but still it’s a useful and practical garment. It comes in men’s and women’s fit in an array of colors to suite every architect’s preferences. So it doesn’t have to be black, although it should be.
Bob’s Selection – $48
This falls into the “I like it and therefore, think you should like it as well”. I have an emotional (positive) history with ceramics and if I won the lottery, I would definitely set up a corner of my Quonset hut to allow me to throw and fire whatever ceramic pieces my heart desires. In the meantime, I present you with Jono Pandolfi Designs – a ceramist based in Union City, New Jersey. They make amazing serving pieces, full place settings, even home accessories. Personally, I want it all, but for this year’s list, I am starting you off small and classic – an 8″ square sided bowl that can be used in any number of ways. A place to drop your keys, a tray on your nightstand, or a vessel to serve your homemade black miso cod. These are dishwasher and microwave safe, you can choose which color clay body you want, as well as a handful of glazes to finish things off.
You can also follow Jono and his band of artisans (like I do) on Instagram here.
Best Gift Nobody has Heard of jump to 60:17
Bob’s Selection – $780
What can I say other than I like whales and think you should too. The original version was over two-meters in length and was an anonymous work of North American folk art. According to the Eames Office, “Charles and Ray Eames were exceptionally fond of the painted object: it occupied a permanent place in the Eames Office and was also used in photo shoots – such as the first photos of the Lounge Chair.” Vitra makes a smaller scale reproduction which is crafted from ash wood and painted by hand. It’s awesome, and also $1,310 plus tax and shipping. If you’ve got that sort of discretionary income, you should totally do this. What I’ve linked to is a reproduction (which let’s be honest, they are all reproductions and Ray and Charles Eames didn’t actually design it) created by Mohd and is made from solid alder wood and is still hand painted and can be yours for $782 (it’s currently on sale for 20% off that amount so get going!)
bonus here is a link the an image of my cast iron whale bottle opener – which ironically made it’s debut on my Instagram account for Thanksgiving, 2013.
Andrew’s Selection – $2,500
This is one is not a new idea in furniture by any means. This type of expandable, leafed table has been around for quite a long time. My parents have several antique versions of this type. That may be the reason that I have an affinity for this type of table. I think this one is more unique because it is a modern styled table and aesthetic. I like the look of this table at its smallest or largest. This one is not very inexpensive, I will admit. But if you are in need of a nice table that has a modern simple look, this could be the one for you.
Best Gift Missed Opportunity jump to 65:05
Andrew’s Selection – $10
This one was on the list originally in 2020 and it seemed to be a favorite. So it is coming back around for an encore performance. These Book Darts are the most minimal keeper for book marking that I have ever seen. They allow you to keep them in the book for as long as you like and they will stay the course. They will not leave any marks on your books. They also still allow you to put the books back on the shelf without any trouble or complications. They can be placed on any side of the page and not interfere with anything. So these are just back on the list for a second chance. If you have lots of book, these may be worth purchasing several tins. I find that they get used up quickly.
Bob’s Selection – $ varies based on size
This was on last year’s list and it was so good that it deserved to go on this year’s list as my representative for the “Best Missed Opportunity” gift. I ended up getting three of these last year and they were everything that I hoped they would be. I paired them up with a large format frame I picked up at IKEA for $25 and they look terrific. While I am not typically a “poster” for art type person, the ones I picked up have a “exhibition” art graphic style to them. It also helps that I have never seen these in another person’s house.
Of course, as an architect, I have a large collection of books. I also have a list of books over on the kit.co site. I have the All-Star Edition list that is linked from the image, but I also have recently added a 2023 List of Books that are more recently released. This list only includes books from late 2022 and 2023 up to today that I either already own or want to add to my library. I think that an architect can never have too many books. I continue to update and collect so each year there are new books to add to the library.
Andrew and I both have covered architecture books at length at various times on this site and to make our lives easier, we just have a running list in place that reflects our current favorites and recommendations. At some point, I will have to start branching out because my library feels pretty complete and I don’t love most of the architecture books that are coming out these days. I am a little tired of the “collections” or themed books that appear to represent the vast majority of publishing efforts these days. Give me a book dedicated to a single architect or firm, full of pictures AND drawings and I’m a happy guy.
On My Desk
Stuff that is on my desk is a constant consideration – things like sketchbooks, desk lights, pens and markers, cutting boards – everything.
If sketchbooks, pens, pencils, rolls of trace paper – typical architect supplies, I’ve got you covered. This ongoing list (titled Pencils/Pens + Sketchbooks) is curated every time I find something new that I decide is worth using.
In case you didn’t know it, stickers are back and more popular than ever. The website RedBubble is a fun site to play around on and there are approximately 7,698,532,299 items on there that you can look at. If you really have your game handled up, you can even make your own stickers at pretty reasonable prices. On the chance that you simply want something fun to round out your stocking stuffer, I have you covered with some stickers (pun intended). From time to time I will order a bunch of these stickers up and will bring them to events and hand them out to people. They’re inexpensive and look good on a laptop or a car bumper.
If stickers aren’t your thing, maybe T-Shirts are … and here are just a few from my own personal collection. A long time ago I decided I wanted some architectural t-shirts and almost all of the ones I found online unilaterally stunk, so I thought I would make some for myself since the act of making your own t-shirt is ridiculously easy and I apparently don’t like sitting around and relaxing … so I spend my free time doing stuff like making T-Shirt Designs.
What the Rank jump to 72:21
words We thought about attempting to do another festive ranking this year. But with holiday foods, treats, and cookies already ranked, it was difficult to stay that path. So we decided to at least stick with something fun. I thought about how the holidays are great times for children and that led me to today’s ranking question.
Today we are ranking [drum roll please] ….
What are the Best Five Cereals from your Childhood?
|Andrew’s Cereal Selection
|Bob’s Cereal Selection
|Cap’n Crunch Crunchberries
We didn’t quite agree on every choice. While we had a few that were on both our lists, we definitely did not come to the same number one choice. To say we disagreed with one another over that number one spot would be an understatement. Maybe you all could chime in an settle the debate. Each of us thinks the other’s first choice is a garbage cereal. But we were able to agree on a number of cereals from our childhood that had no business being anywhere near this list. Grapenuts should never! We also discussed the changes in the cereals from our childhood to those of today. Even the same cereals (like Fruitloops) have changed over the years. Some of that change has not made better cereal. So what is your fondest memory of childhood cereals? Let us know in the comments.
139: Holiday Gift Guide for Architects (2023)
Ho-Ho-Ho and we are done. After fourteen years, I am starting to recognize how hard these lists are to assemble. I did a quick search on other gift guides and pretty much every single one of them was terrible. The goal seems to get as many affiliate links onto the list a possible. (For the record, only 5 of my 9 have affiliate links so I am feeling okay with this mix – you can trust that my decision making process was not determined by whether or not I could send you to Amazon or not). If you feel that we have missed the mark, feel free to search through any of the other 13 years’ worth of guides that have been put together – or let me know and I will put a pin in it for next years list … if we do one.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Special thanks to our sponsor Construction Specialties, maker of architectural building products designed to master the movement of buildings, people, and natural elements. Construction Specialties has been creating inspired solutions for a more “intelligently built” environment since 1948. Visit MasteringMovement.net to learn more.