This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here.
Wondering how to shop for the aesthete who is always going on about clean lines, symmetries and scale? Well, we’ve got you covered — with five ridiculously tasteful objects, as well as one very plastic, taco-holding T. rex. Because even aesthetes gotta eat.
‘Gio Ponti’ by Taschen
He designed industrial flatware and decorative ceramics, graceful apartment buildings and sleek corporate towers. In between, he founded the influential design magazine Domus and created costumes for La Scala. Italian architect Gio Ponti (1891-1979) fused Modernism and Classical traditions and imbued them with an elegant exuberance. Now, almost half a century after his death, his singular designs are back in the news. This fall, the Denver Art Museum unveiled a $150-million renovation of its Ponti-designed building (his only stand-alone structure in the U.S.) and opened the doors of an exhibition, “Gio Ponti: Designer of a Thousand Talents,” that showcases his designs.
For those who can’t make a pilgrimage to Denver — or, better yet, to Italy, where most of his buildings can be found — Taschen comes through with “Gio Ponti,” one of its behemoth XL coffee-table titles. Weighing in at nearly 13 pounds, the 572-page tome covers 136 of the architect’s projects over six decades in sumptuous detail — with the large-format pages (more than 14 inches tall and wide) beautifully reproducing the detail and color of photographs, architectural drawings, wallpaper patterns and graphic design. Think of it not as a book but as a vehicle for an incredible journey.
$250 | 👉 Purchase here
Jaime Muñoz blanket
Pomona-based painter Jaime Muñoz takes signifiers of culture — religious symbols, historic artworks, commercial graphics and vernacular design — and deploys them in diagrammatic works that explore colonialism, syncretism, immigrant subcultures and the forces that shape the urban environment. Muñoz’s style is deadpan and his shades incandescent (which is what stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw his work in person in a presentation by the Pit gallery at Frieze Los Angeles in 2020). All of this makes for one intriguing cobija: Muñoz has created an artist-designed blanket as part of Fred Segal’s Art at Home Series. Like a painting, it can hang on a wall, with the added benefit that it will also keep you warm on a chilly SoCal evening.
$250 | 👉 Purchase here
CMX Sartorii chair
The low-slung chair known as the butaca has been a Mexican craft staple for hundreds of years, but it took on a fresh pedigree in the 20th century when Mexico City designer Clara Porset reinterpreted it for the Modernist set. CMX, an emerging Mexico City design studio, has now given the butaca an unapologetically contemporary look. Where Porset’s design was all languid curves, the Sartorii responds with angular geometries: two intersecting planes of oiled or varnished walnut topped by a flat, leather cushion. I first saw these in a Mexico City design museum in 2018 and have been admiring them from afar ever since. Each chair is made to order, so expect a lead time of six weeks, plus time for shipping. The wait will be worth it, however. The carpentry is exquisite, and the chair is a real design statement. (Note: The CMX website lists the price in pesos.)
About $1,080 | 👉 Purchase here
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Esther Studios pots and bowls
There is beauty in imperfection: the crooked line, the uneven texture on a ceramic, the colors that stray from their borders. Los Angeles-based Esther Studios captures this sensibility in artful one-of-a-kind ceramics that tilt and lean and are emblazoned with hand-drawn lines that are anything but rigid. Founded by landscape designer Steve Siegrist and sculptor Renée Lotenero, their shop is a family operation: Siegrist and Lotenero are a couple, and their son, Ethan, will often pitch in. (The studio’s name is a phonetic blend of all their names.) An exclusive line of their ceramics is available through the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, as part of a series of gift shop objects personally selected by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, who is the subject of a solo exhibition at the museum’s Little Tokyo space. These are design-conscious gifts that evoke a very personal touch.
$70-$245 | 👉 Purchase here
Jam+Rico Carmen earrings
There are earrings. And there are earrings. Jam+Rico, a New York-based jewelry studio founded by Lisette Scott, creates the sort of statement jewelry that isn’t just an accessory. They’re the sort of pieces you build an outfit around. This includes designs inspired by the landscapes of the Caribbean and natural objects such as leaves and cowrie shells. (Scott is of Jamaican and Puerto Rican heritage.) For her brilliant Carmen earrings, semicircular drop earrings with bright tassels in red or green, Scott takes her cues from architecture — specifically the gently curving lines of a building inflected by Art Nouveau design she once spied on the streets of Havana. A new line landing this fall will be inspired by a recent journey to Puerto Rico.
$83 | 👉 Purchase here
There is the discriminating shopper, and then there’s the type (me) who hits the internet in the middle of the night after one too many margaritas. For that slightly addled, yet discerning, consumer, behold the Tacosaurus by Funwares. It’s a dinosaur. It’s a taco holder. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely sculpture. (How did Jeff Koons not think of this?) It’s also the kind of thoughtful gift the recipient is bound to never forget. Not interested in the Tacosaurus? Look for the famous Tricerataco. Steve Martin recently tweeted about it.
$24.99 | 👉 Purchase here