It’s December. The pressure’s on to find great things to give to our families, friends and even ourselves. So I decided to indulge my soft spot for museum store gifts. Many museums — like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, sell gifts inspired by their collections. Others present the work of local artisans. I like buying from these stores because the proceeds help support our precious cultural institutions. In my mind, museum store gifts allow us to give twice.
Honduras Threads Flower Pillow [top]
Two Dallas artists sketch out designs for interpretation by a sewing cooperative in the Central American nation of Honduras where this pillow cover was appliqued and embroidered. Native artisans choose the colors, stitches and fabrics for each handcrafted piece. The pillow measures 20 x 20-inches. Dallas Museum of Art, $140.
Real Simple Mantle Clock
Modern and utterly elegant, this beechwood mantle clock can sit over the fireplace, in a bookcase, on the dresser, office desk or wall shelf and blend into almost any décor. Neither too large nor too small, it measures 12 1/2″ x 7 1/4″ x 2 3/4″ and takes a single AA battery (not included). Art Institute of Chicago, on sale for $87.49 (online price only).
Russian Imperial Egg Candle Holders
Inspired by jeweled eggs created by Peter Carl Fabergé (Russian, 1846–1920), famed jeweler to the czars of Russia, this set of four candle holders (each 1-5/8” high) are hand enameled and feature 24K gold overlay. What could be more elegant on a traditional holiday table? Leave it to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to even include candles. $50
Mother of Pearl Mosaic Table Lamp
A light-catching mother-of-pearl mosaic covers the base of this gemlike handcrafted lamp that would add a touch of mid-century-modern glamor to a room. Standard height for a side tables, it measures 25-inches and is topped with a 14-inch diameter cotton drum shade. Also check out the other great furniture pieces assembled by the Smithsonian Institution store. $275.
Fish Tank Hotel
Anyone who has sophisticated fish might enjoy this whimsical take on a tank. The “bowl” by Terry Luong for Umbra is a removeable glass piece that slips into the outer plastic shell “building”. Finding a home for fish has never been cooler. 7.5″ square x 8″ deep. San Francisco Museum of Art Store, $35.
Large Door Bell with Black Lab
Old-fashioned entry door bells are not easy to find so imagine my surprise at unearthing this one just weeks after Allison featured her family’s European Entry Bell. Dog lovers could easily find the black lab irresistible, too. The bell is hand-painted over recycled aluminum with a leather ringing strap. Winterthur Museum Store, $69.95
MUJI Aluminum Coffee Table
The industrial look is perfect for lofts, to mix with mid-century-modern or with contemporary furnishings. And while we’ve seen a fair number of coffee tables in this style, this Japanese-designed aluminum beauty is a budget-minded dream. 29.5″l X 16.5″h X 17″d. Museum of Modern Art, $180
African Eclipses Wire Baskets
Traditional South African Zulu baskets are made by local artisans from telephone wire, which makes them durable and washable. These woven in Elandskraal, Zululand are one of a kind and support a rural community. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Sizes range from small, $24 to the largest at 16” x 3”, $160.
Motawi Pine Landscape Mountain Tile
Michigan ceramic artists of Karim and Nawal Motawi use local Michigan clay and their own glazes to make these timeless designs in their Ann Arbor tileworks studio. This piece, which also could be used as a coaster, was inspired by the front door of Greene & Greene’s Gamble House in Pasadena, California, which we named as one of our 10 Great Historic Homes. 4 x 4” (notched on the back for hanging). Museum of Fine Arts Boston, $43
Bamboo Swirl Bowl
Sustainable and green, bamboo has many uses including elegant bowls such as this artisan-made undulating beauty which measures 13” x 8” and is imported from Southeast Asia. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, $44
For more Christmas gift sources see Museum Store Christmas Gifts.
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