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Holiday Gift Guide for Architects

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Life of an Architect Podcast

Holiday Gift Guide for Architects

It’s that gift-giving time of the year, and if you have an architect in your life, you know that getting them the perfect gift is rough, since they are so particular. That’s why we’re here!

November 23, 2020
Life of an Architect episode 63: Holiday Gift Guide for Architects
Life of an Architect ep. 63: Holiday Gift Guide for Architects

It’s that gift-giving time of the year, and if you have an architect in your life, you know that getting them a gift is rough since they are so particular. That’s why we’re here. 

Now in its 11th consecutive year, Life of an Architect is once again putting out the definitive gift guide for architects so you don’t have to figure these things out for yourself.



Today we are talking about gifts and what an absolute joy it is to buy that special architect a gift that they will actually like. After putting together a list like this one for over a decade, I need to confess that putting this list together is becoming increasingly difficult. Since I am not a person who is particularly materialistic and I’m not a fan of visual clutter – which means I am anti “doo-dah” – I don’t have a huge list at the ready of all the stuff I want (and therefore by extension, you should also want). 

In the past, I would simply make a list of the things I actually wanted and would put them out there as ”my list” of what to get an architect. I was an architect and these were actually things that I wanted, therefore, other architects would also want them. This is what is known as “Truth in Advertising” … but this year, to help provide some structure, we decided to break down our gift selections into fairly organized and rational categories. Prepare yourself to want most of the items from the” 2020 What to Get an Architect for Christmas Holiday Gift Guide”!

Best Gift under ($20) jump to 4:16

Besta Felt Storage Boxes from IKEA ($13)
Bob’s Selection

While this might seem like an overly practical gift, there was no “whimsy” requirement in our selection guidelines and so I went with these collapsable storage bins from IKEA. I’ve actually had these in my house for almost two years now and I am completely satisfied with them. They are sturdy, they look great, and they are easy to store as my needs change over time. All the working from home I’ve been doing has made me really appreciate how I can organize (and hide) all my necessities in a smart-looking container.


Book Darts ($10)
Andrew’s Selection

I found these little things this summer while I was brushing up on all my reading for my Architecture classes in the fall. I had a plethora of books that I needed to go through and that I needed to keep track of all the things that may be useful for my students to read. These little fellas just hit the spot. They are small, minimal, and actually quite discreet when you make a page in the book. They don’t stick out from the book in an unusual way, so you can put that book right back on the shelf just like it without any special considerations and still maintain that bookmarked place.

Best Gift Under $100 jump to 9:02

Brio BeardScape ($114)
Andrew’s Selection

This one eliminates half of our readers and listeners right off the bat and then probably another half to 3/4 that don’t necessarily wear beards, this is something that I want for my newly grown COVID era facial hair. While I used to keep a short 5 o’clock shadow growth all the time I have let that get longer during COVID and I don’t have the proper tools to keep it well-groomed at the longer length. After several rounds of research, this one seems to be my clear winner. And if you’re interested they have other versions as well for non-facial hair use.


Custom Signature Embosser ($40)
Bob’s Selection

I actually had an embosser on my shopping list before – but this one is different! The previous style was very traditional and basically read “From the Library of” and then it spelled out my name. It was nice – even professional – but I learned that I stopped using it fairly quickly and resorted back to signing my name, most likely because I think my signature presents more “architectural” than the previous stamp. But this is 2020 and things have evolved – you can now send in your signature and they’ll turn THAT into you embosser seal which is pretty cool. An added bonus is that I am going to start embossing all sort of other things just for the heck of it.

Best Gift over $25,000 jump to 13:19

Land Rover Defender 110 Open Top 1991 (price varies – this one was $55,000)
Bob’s Selection

I don’t know what to say other than if you can’t see yourself in this car, I’m not sure we can be friends. Every. Single.Thing. Is. Cool! and I feel like I know what I’m talking about here. I will concede that I live in Dallas which means I can drive around in a convertible car long than other people who live in less hospitable climates, but I still can’t come up with a reason you wouldn’t want this car.


2021 Ford Bronco ($45,000)
Andrew’s Selection

I really liked the classic Ford broncos of the 80s it’s nothing like having a convertible giant car. Because we didn’t even call them SUVs back then. And while they’ve been out of production for quite some time they’re starting back up with this version seen here and I am fairly excited about it. While doubt I will be owning one (my current vehicle works just fine) it would be nicely parked in my driveway … and I would obviously opt for an all-black version.

Best Techie Gift jump to 19:02

TP Link Wifi Booster ($70)
Andrew’s Selection

With all of that at home teleconferencing, streaming, downloading, and everything else that is happening even more now due to our current pandemic situation I thought I’d go with something very practical for this gift. This Wi-Fi extender is just something I think would help anyone out in today’s wonderful climate. I need to get a couple of them for my house so that I never have any issues with signals. While there are cheaper versions of Wi-Fi extenders, just make sure to check the MPS provided by that specific item. I would urge you to go with the highest amount you can afford because you want as much juice as possible if you’re trying to spread it throughout your house.


DJI Mavic Air 2 Drone ($988)
Bob’s Selection
Hey Bob, 2012 called and they want their drone back!

I know that it is not all that visionary to say in the year 2020 that getting a drone is a good gift, but I will say that it is still a cool gift to get an architect. With 100% conviction, I can promise you that your architect wants a drone – that was never the question – it’s whether or not they would have the need for a drone … but who cares, it’s a gift!! The technology behind these drones has made them smaller and sturdier, more affordable, higher performing, and easier to use. The pack I’ve identified above is the full monty – you get a drone and all the trimmings which includes extra batteries, all the requisite connector cables, spare propeller blades, and a slick carrying case to store it all in.

Best Classic Architect Gift jump to 27:50

Alvar Aalto Large Clear Vase ($117 +shipping)
Bob’s Selection

I actually have two of these Alvar Aalto vases and when I was trying to come up with an idea for a classic architect’s gift, I didn’t have to spend much time thinking about it. There isn’t an architect on the planet that wouldn’t recognize it, they are all unique, and i can promise you that your architect will keep it forever (and isn’t that the sign of a really good gift?!?). BUT … you have to get the large and you have to get it in clear. Absolutely no modifications to this requirement.


Moleskin Watercolor Pencils ($19)
Andrew’s Selection

I chose to keep it simple with this classic architect’s gift. The watercolor pencil is a simple way to improve the beauty of a sketch or give it that extra pop that’s needed to put it over the edge from good to great. And I know there are several types but I really enjoy the aesthetic of these pencils.  And I feel like nothing is really more classic than a hand-drawn and nicely colored sketch. That’s classic.

Best Gift that Nobody has Ever Heard Of jump to 33:44

Revo Hubless eBike by Beno ($2,569)
Andrew’s Selection

This bike was just aesthetically too cool for me to pass by. Well I know it’s more like a fully electric scooter shaped like a bicycle I still think it’s pretty cool.  I would like to ride one around my little hometown and watch people flip out. It would be like my own personal version of Tron!  Even though there is some argument about the need for an all-electric bike, this is a wish list.


Hovel Pencil Plane ($48)
Bob’s Selection

Pretty sure this pencil sharpener will be unheard of by most people out there. While it is pretty expensive for what is basically a fancy pencil sharpener, the hook here is that a) it really is a unique and high-quality item, and b) it sharpens pencils differently than other pencil sharpeners – you get a longer extension of graphite which if your architect ever uses traditional pencils, they will appreciate.

Best Gift for your Bar jump to 41:38

Georg Jensen Stainless Steel Bottle Opener designed by Jorgen Moller ($30)
Bob’s Selection

I make no bones about the fact that I like bottle openers and I have put a modicum of effort in over the past several years to create and curate a collection of them that I find interesting. (This is my current favorite but I don’t think anybody actually has one other than me).  This one from Georg Jensen is pretty nice and I would have no issues leaving it sitting out on top of my bar. It is a polished stainless steel abstract elephant that would easily fit within the palm of most people’s hands. I don’t currently own one but I can promise you that I will before January gets here.

[If you listened to the show, this is the bottle opener that my neighbor Poul owns that I want to steal … it’s in the shape of the Concord]


Smoking Cloche ($199)

This is just an interesting addition to any bar of someone who likes to make craft cocktails. I have been to several bars that used a similar device to smoke cocktails of a variety of styles just give it an extra umphh of flavor. And while I’m not a big whiskey drinker, I know that a smoked old fashion is on the top of some of my whiskey drinker friends list. And I think this could sit out on your bar and still look like a nice piece of almost art … or you could put crackers in it!

Best Gift for your Desk

Youkoyi A16 LED Desk Lamp – swing arm architect lamp (dimming) ($30)
Bob’s Selection

This is as practical a gift as you might find on this list but I included it because I recently picked on up for myself and I have really like having it. For only $30, it’s pretty attractive for a clamp-on desk lamp but what I really like is the length of the light source. I use my desk now for video calls and for taking pictures of things so that I can send them out. This fixture provides a nice even wash of light that works considerably better than the light I would receive from a point source fixture. It’s large enough to work extremely well but small enough to be convenient … and did I mention it was only $30?

Best Gift for your Wall

Stendig wall calendar by Massimo Vignelli ($60)
Bob’s Selection

I like this wall calendar, I always have. Do you NEED a wall calendar? Of course not, but if that’s all this is to you, that’s exactly why you wouldn’t want to get it. The truth of the matter is that this calendar says something about you if people see it hanging on your wall (other than knowing the date is really important to you). This calendar is a modernist icon and one of the defining pieces from the 1960s… AND it is in the permanent collection at MoMA. YOu hang it on your wall and what it says about you is that you are cool.

Best Gift for your Library

Architecture Books ($12 – $1,400)
Bob’s Selection

Everyone knows that architects love books and tend to buy them whenever they can. Most of us are not lucky enough to have a good architectural bookstore in our town so we are reliant upon companies like Amazon to get us the books we crave. Over the last 30 years, I have been adding to my own collection – but I don’t have the book budget to get every pretty picture book that comes out. Rather than list an endless stream in today’s post, I set up a book list that I am constantly modifying so that the most relevant books I can recommend are available. I have every single one of the books on this list and I can personally tell you that each is worth owning. This year’s books list has over 40 books on it and I would venture a guess that your architect has at least half of these already.

Every now and then, someone suggests a hypothetical question that you just can’t ignore. Sometimes it’s because it’s just so good, and sometimes it’s because one of the partners at your office suggests it to you. In the case of today’s hypothetical, it’s actually both.  jump to 52:00 

"If you could live your best life – whatever that looks like – but you can only eat canned cat food for the rest of your life, would you do it?"

The first thing that seems to come to people’s mind is “How am I living my best life if I’m eating cat food?” which I will concede that most people don’t actually think they would like to eat canned cat food … but it is important to take note of here is that the focus should be on all the other things you are getting. And don’t you think you would get used to it at some point?

So there you go and Ho Ho Ho! I can’t speak for Andrew but I am feeling pretty good about this year’s list … which is a good thing because I spent a crazy amount of time trying to find everything that’s on here. For the most part, I endeavored to include only things that had some staying power to them (other than the calendar which won’t be any good in 13 months). The short and sweet of it is that buying a gift for someone is pretty hard. I find shopping to be a fairly painful experience and I keep that in mind when coming up with my own items. The reality is that my own family will use this list to shop for me so I had better put things on here that I think are worth having. I would think that between the books I’ve listed, the stainless steel bottle opener, and the desk lamp, I’ve got you covered … the rest is all gravy.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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