What makes a great hostess gift? We asked some frequent hosts (and guests) what they like to give and receive….
Kit Kemp, co-owner and interior designer of Firmdale Hotels
Kit Kemp and her husband Tim’s boutique hotels in London are known for their modern whimsy and vibrant décor set in the best and most desirable locations. Soon New York will get the same treatment when their eighth property, the Crosby Street Hotel, opens mid-2009 in Soho, followed by another site in mid-town Manhattan. She and her husband live in London and also have a house near the New Forest.
Is it different hosting in town and in the country?
Well, if you are our guests in London, you stay at one of the hotels. But in the country, obviously you stay at our house. That’s when you actually get to know people over the weekend, when you have time.
What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever received?
I’m always touched if when someone brings something personal. I once got photos of my children and their children riding horses bareback in the sea near our house. I love to get jar of jam or chutney from the person who makes it too.
What make the best hostess gifts?
The personal touch means more to people. Recently I stayed with a friend in France, and his previous guests had competed over who could find the naffest gifts. So in my guest room was one of them — an elf with a funny hat and a donkey with a plant in it. His house is an interior design paradise and it had this ridiculous thing in the bedroom.
What do you like to give as gifts?
Because I’m a designer, we have loads of scrap materials left over, and so I’ll make a shoe bag or something like that. I always think it’s nice to bring something you’ve made yourself. My cakes and my pies, like my blackberry and apple pie, always look very homemade!
Anya Hindmarch, designer and owner of Anya Hindmarch London
The beribboned stamp of Anya Hindmarch is much coveted by fashionistas everywhere (her collection for Target in the US sold out in two days), and her handbags, shoes and accessories make welcome gifts. Not surprisingly, many of her personal gifts come from the same well that inspires her luxe fashions.
What do you like to give if staying somewhere for a long time?
I recently stayed with someone this summer and made a washbag covered with photos of all of us at a fancy dress party, and gave one to all the family and children. Really the ultimate luxury is time, so a hand-crafted gift means a lot, like a pillow hand-stitched with “Love from Anya and Co.” I’ve also made towels with a map to their house printed on, and made beach bags for each of the guest rooms with the name of my hosts’ house stitched on.
What do you like to bring for a dinner party?
Something personal is so much nicer — it doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, and it’s actually more generous when it’s personal. I recently went to dinner with a banker, and brought Credit Crunch chocolates bought from a friend who runs the chocolate department at Selfridge’s. A tiny posy of flowers tied with a ribbon like bluebells is very sweet, something in season that smells lovely.
Do you usually bring gifts for your hosts’ children, or include them?
I love to give presents to the children, usually something they can do during the holiday, like make their own gingerbread house. We make leather photo albums that can be embossed, and I once took all the little misspelled messages the children had written down and put them on the album cover. It was really sweet.
Do you research your hosts’ tastes? Like not bringing wine to someone who has a very large cellar?
Absolutely, the gift has to be completely relevant. It’s got to be thought through — it’s about spoiling them, isn’t it?
What do you love to get?
It’s always about memories for me, and photos are really special.
Bobbi Brown, founder and CEO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Bobbi Brown has released her latest book, Bobbi Brown Make-up Manual: For Everyone From Beginner To Pro (Headline Springboard, £20). Her cosmetics are sold in stores from New York to Bahrain, and she and her family reside in New Jersey and Telluride, Colorado.
Do you have a standard gift you like to give or do you tailor it to each occasion?
I tailor the gifts. At dinner at the Edgar Bronfmans, who owned the Seagram Company, I didn’t bring any alcohol, I brought my make-up. I like to bring the new line, something you can’t get in the store yet, or J. Crew or Loro Piana cashmere socks, so you don’t have to worry about the size. If I’m staying somewhere for a long time, I’ll give a cashmere blanket from Loro Piana. They are ridiculously expensive, but I gave one to Leonard Lauder when I stayed with him in Aspen.
What is important when considering what to give or get?
I like something that’s personal and took thought and shows that the person didn’t just grab the classic thing. It’s not about impressing me, but about being creative. I have enough candles, pot pourri and orchids. A photographer friend, Henry Leutwyler, once gave me a framed photo of my kids he had taken. Often, I get things that aren’t me and I’m happy to pass them on to my sister-in-law and friends. I also like it when a guest makes a contribution to charity but does their research, and makes it to my charity, Dress For Success, not their own.
What is the most memorable hostess give you’ve received?
I had a friend stay in my house in Telluride while I was away, and when I came back, she had filled my cabinets with a soup ladle, measuring cup, corkscrew, and left a note saying these are the things that you needed. That was most thoughtful and I was really impressed. I also love to get food. A number of my friends pre-order great, healthy things to put in my fridge, simple things that will be a meal for people. I love it when guests say “I’ve got dinner on Thursday night,” and they shop for it and make it.