This is part of the LA Times 2021 Gift Guide. See the Complete Guide here.
Wondering how to shop for an esthete who always thinks of clean lines, symmetry and scale? Well, we’ve got you covered – with five incredibly tasty items, as well as one very malleable Tyrannosaurus rex holding a taco. Because even aesthetes have to eat.
“Gio Ponti” Tashen
He designed industrial cutlery and decorative ceramics, elegant apartment buildings and elegant corporate towers. Meanwhile, he founded the influential design magazine Domus and created costumes for La Scala. Italian architect Gio Ponti (1891–1979) combined modernism and classical traditions and infused them with elegant exuberance. Now, almost half a century after his death, his unusual projects are back in the news. This fall, the Denver Art Museum unveiled a $ 150 million renovation of Ponti’s $ 150 million building (his only free-standing building in the United States) and opened the doors of the Gio Ponti: Designer of a Thousand Talents exhibition, which showcases his designs.
For those who can’t make the pilgrimage to Denver, or better yet, Italy, where most of its buildings are located, Tashen offers “Gio Ponti,” one of his giant XL coffee table names. Weighing nearly 13 pounds, the 572-page tome covers 136 of the architect’s projects over six decades in sumptuous detail – large-format pages (over 14 inches in height and width) perfectly reproduce the detail and color of photographs, architectural drawings, wallpaper samples, and graphic designs. Think of it not as a book, but as a vehicle for an incredible journey.
USD 250 | ? Buy here
Blanket by Jaime Muñoz
Pomona painter Jaime Muñoz takes signifying cultures – religious symbols, historical artwork, commercial graphics, and vernacular designs – and uses them in diagrams exploring colonialism, syncretism, immigrant subcultures, and the forces that shape urban environments. Muñoz’s style is unperturbed, and his shades are burning (this is what stopped me when I first saw his work in person at the presentation of the Pit Gallery at Frieze Los Angeles in 2020). It all makes one intriguing Cobija: Muñoz created a designer blanket as part of Fred Segal’s Art at Home series. Like a painting, it can be hung on a wall with the added benefit of keeping you warm on a chilly evening at SoCal.
USD 250 | ? Buy here
Chair CMX Sartorii
The low-rise chair known as seat has been a staple of Mexican craft for hundreds of years, but it took on a new pedigree in the 20th century when Mexico City-based designer Clara Porset reimagined it for modernist decor. CMX, a growing design studio in Mexico City, has now given seat impeccably modern look. While Porset’s design featured flaccid curves, Sartorii responds with an angular geometry: two intersecting planes of oil-soaked or varnished walnut topped with a flat leather cushion. I first saw them at the Mexico City Design Museum in 2018 and have admired them from afar ever since. Each chair is custom made, so expect a lead time of six weeks plus delivery time. However, the wait is worth it. The carpentry is exquisite and the chair is a real designer touch. (Note: Prices are quoted in pesos on the CMX website.)
About $ 1080 | ? Buy here
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Esther Studios pots and bowls
There is beauty in imperfection: curved lines, uneven ceramic textures, colors that go beyond boundaries. Los Angeles-based Esther Studios embodies this sensuality in artfully unique ceramics that tilt and tilt and are embellished with hand-drawn lines that are not rigid. Founded by landscape designer Steve Sigrist and sculptor Rene Lotenero, their store is a family business: Sigrist and Lotenero are a couple, and their son Ethan often intervenes (the studio’s name is a phonetic mixture of all their names). An exclusive line of their ceramics is available at the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles as part of a series of items from the gift shop personally selected by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, which is the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum’s Little Tokyo space. These are gifts with special attention to design, which evoke a very personal touch.
USD 70–245 | ? Buy here
Jam + Rico Carmen Earrings
There are earrings. And here earrings… Jam + Rico, a New York-based jewelery studio founded by Lisette Scott, creates dramatic jewelery that is more than just accessories. They are used to build clothes. These include designs inspired by Caribbean landscapes and natural features such as cowrie leaves and shells. (Scott is originally from Jamaica and Puerto Rico.) Scott draws inspiration from architecture in his sparkly Carmen earrings, half-circle drop earrings with bold tassels of red or green, particularly the gently curving lines of the building, reflected in Art Nouveau design. which she once spied on the streets of Havana. The planting of the new line this fall will be inspired by a recent trip to Puerto Rico.
US $ 83 | ? Buy here
There is the picky shopper and there is the type (s) who go online in the middle of the night after too much margarita. For the slightly confusing yet choosy consumer, check out Funwares’ Tacosaurus. This is a dinosaur. This is a taco holder. And as for me, it’s definitely a sculpture. (How did Jeff Koons not think about it?) It is also the kind of thoughtful gift the recipient will never forget. Not interested in the tacosaurus? Look for the famous Tricerataco. Steve Martin recently tweeted about it.
US $ 24.99 | ? Buy here