Modern museum gifts from the Museum of Modern Art store blend great design and utility with home decor.
It’s become a tradition for me to shop museum gift stores around the country to find great Christmas gift ideas. This is my third year and, because Christmas is fast approaching, I’ve kept the selection concise and from a single source: the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My very first job after graduating from college was at MOMA typing photograph labels in a basement office. But what a joy as I was privileged to know this great museum intimately in its off hours. In those days, as I recall, the gift store was very small. But it is, certainly, one of the greatest sources of objects created by distinguished designers.
MOMA has two price levels in the store — one for members and another for non-members. It would be wise to see if a $85 membership fee makes a purchase more worthwhile as some discounts are substantial. Also check for seasonal discounts.
The term “occasional tables” truly defines the Charles Eames Wire Base Table, $199 [top]. Made of Baltic birch laminate and zinc- plated wires in the base, the great Eames designed this table in 1950. While it looks substantial it’s actually eccentric and small since it was designed to be used for Asian tea ceremonies the Eames enjoyed. Those took place on the floor so this table is only 10-inches high and at 15.5 x 13.25” about the size of a big art book. The top comes in black or white and I can easily see the usefulness of such a low table in a TV room, library, dressing room, bath or home office.
One of the iconic flower vases of the 20th century is the Aalto Vase, $145, created by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto in 1936. Made in Finland by Iittala, each lead-free crystal vase is made by blowing molten glass into a mold, then hand polishing the result. The undulating form is elegant and timeless. 8” x 6.75” and 6.25” h it’s a perfect scale for most tables and will hold a huge number of short blooms.
So sweet! Any child’s room becomes even more adorable with Paul Ocepek’s 2012 Clokephant, $38, on the wall. Hand crafted from baltic birch plywood and coated with non-toxic inks, the clock is hand assembled and comes with pre-cut mounting holes. Measuring in at 11” w. x 10.25” h x 1.25” d., it requires one AA battery and is made in Massachusetts.
I just saw this incredibly clever Bakus Trivet, $48, and plan to buy it soon. That way, all the wine corks in my knife drawer can be put to good use. Real corks are becoming scarce and I don’t like throwing them away. Tati Giumaraes designed the trivet in 2008 as a wine-lover’s memory piece. It holds up to 36 corks — that’s 3 cases of memories!
Every since my ancient desk task lamp died this year I’ve been looking around for a new one. When it comes to lighting, I usually go for modern. And this high design Quattro task lamp, $450, has a lot to offer. Great looking task lighting is expensive so I demand great features. First, is LED which offers clean cool light. Robert Sonneman and Peter Polick designed this lamp last year. It has exceptionally clean lines, wonderful primary color and the classic design style of Bauhaus minimalism. But it offers new flat-panel LED technology that responds to touch. There are 3 settings and it is highly adjustable as both the arm and head move separately. The 5.75” square base is small. The arm is 18” high and the heat measures 3.5” across. I use a lamp like this for everything from sewing to package wrapping. Another gift based on great design that will last for a lifetime.
Stocking stuffers — or holiday house gifts — don’t get better than this chic set of History of Art Coasters, $20, that celebrate famous artists. Designed by Donald Seitz in 1991 the whimsical coasters (there are six in the set), made of coated MDF wipe clean, plus they have velveteen backing so they won’t scratch delicate surfaces.
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