There was a time when, if you were invited to someone's house, you would always, always bring a gift. A bottle of wine, a nice box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, or a small trinket of appreciation was appropriate for the casual night of drinks or informal dinner party, while a much larger token might be expected if, say, you were an overnight guest. The host gift was a non-negotiable part of the social contract, one that has tragically fallen out of vogue (unless you are an old soul or - more likely - Southern.)
It's puzzling that this gesture has more or less disappeared from daily life, because the fact is, everyone loves getting presents! I propose we resurrect the art of the host gift. And I challenge us all to think beyond the last holdout of the custom: the perfunctory mid-range bottle picked up at the last minute from the grocery store.
A host gift needn't be expensive, just thoughtful. Here are twenty ideas so you never show up empty-handed and you always get invited back again.
Ice buckets are a home accessory that few people think to buy for themselves, making them excellent gifts. This one from S'well is constructed of triple-layer, vacuum-insulated stainless steel that won't sweat and keeps ice frozen for hours - seriously, one reviewer took a "morning after" photo and the cubes looked exceptionally fresh and unmelted. The faux teak wood finish gives it a neutral mid-century flair that fits in with a multitude of aesthetics, but there is also a glam Calacatta gold marble version.
This classic board game with a modern twist will be a welcome addition to your game night host's collection. It's the Yahtzee you know and love that has undergone a markedly Scandi refresh. And if Yatzy isn't their cup of tea, Hay Play also makes beautifully designed versions of Backgammon and Chess.
For the host who can't resist throwing a cookout! A set of these clever tents will keep food and beverages safe from uninvited guests (I'm talking about bugs, not annoying neighbors...) then fold up neatly when the party's over.
An expandable cheese board is a thoughtful way to thank a friend who's big on hosting but small on space. It's made from sturdy bamboo and ingeniously swivels out from a compact wedge to a multi-tiered server. It even has storage for the included knives! Choose from a standard 13-inch version or the larger 17-inch size.
Matches tend to be relegated to the junk drawer because, let's face it, their packaging is usually pretty uninspired. But put them in a pretty glass cloche like this one from Skeem and suddenly you have an everyday item that's worthy of display. This cloche even has a strike-on-the-bottle flint sticker, so it's as useful as it is pretty.
I recently gifted these to my sister, who graciously hosted me over the holidays, and she loved them so much that she bought two more sets. Imported from Turkey and made from 100% organic Anatolian cotton yarn, these are soft, absorbent, and super quick drying. Perfect for a guest bathroom or kitchen, they even come in thirteen stylish colors.
To the host of a housewarming party, give the gift of good fortune! Money trees are believed to attract abundance, positivity, and luck. Plus they're low-maintenance for plant parent newbies. Bloomscape's trees feature a trunk that's been carefully braided by hand, adding to the visual interest.
Libbey's 6-in-1 cake stand is as versatile as it is beautiful, perfect for displaying and keeping all their home-baked goodies fresh. Remove the dome and flip it over the base to use it as a chip-n'-dip or veggie tray. Invert the dome and you've got a punch or salad bowl. That's what I call a host gift home run.
Poker night gets an artful upgrade with playing cards inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic work. Each gift-ready box contains two decks featuring colorful designs that are beautiful enough to keep out and show off.
CB2's Hawthorne cocktail set features a gleaming stainless steel shaker with a built-in strainer and six matching shot glasses, all homed in an impossibly shiny, lacquered-finish brass stand. If your host's get-togethers routinely devolve into rounds of shots, this bespoke barware ensures they'll be mixing the classiest Kamikazes of their lives.
Whether filled with blooms or standing alone as an object d'art, this sculptural bud vase will be an eye-catching addition to your host's decor. The unusual shape is a refreshing change from the florist-standard container used to present most cut flowers, and it's available in four lovely colors.
Sometimes, simplest is best. I'm of the opinion that one can never have too many coasters, so as underwhelming as this gift may seem at first, I assure you, it will be appreciated. Felted wool is highly absorbent, which makes it an ideal resting place for sweaty glasses and hot mugs alike. These are made from 100% Fair Trade New Zealand fleece dyed in a variety of serene earth tones.
Puglia, Italy produces some of the world's best extra-virgin olive oil, the kind you drizzle over crusty bread and fresh vegetables with little (or nothing) else as an accompaniment. Take that liquid gold and package it in a gorgeous handmade ceramic cruet, and you've got a gift worthy of your dearest foodie friend.
Are your hosts outdoorsy types? This water-resistant outdoor blanket is perfect for picnics, beach days, camping, or outdoor concerts. The high-quality PEVA backing is waterproof and sand repellant while the soft fleece top provides a pleasant space to sit. And the generous 59-inch by 69-inch size can accommodate up to four adults, so there's plenty of room for you to tag along, too!
Fresh flowers are obviously lovely, but giving a dried arrangement is a way to make the beauty last year-round. The Bouqs offers six different bouquets in their Dried Flowers collection, my favorite of which is the subtle, beachy Four Seasons spray. Preserved white asters, bleached wild oats, gold pampas grass, green spear palms, and white loofah come together in a symphony of textures that will look just as pretty on Day 365 as it will the day it is delivered.
Warm, cozy, and snuggly, UPWEST's The Softest Throw lives up to its lofty name. This brushed acrylic blanket mimics the look and feel of cashmere without the hefty price tag. Available in five sophisticated colors, this pick is always welcome as a thoughtful host gift.
Fridays From The Garden is part cookbook, part regenerative farming and pleasure manifesto, all with a foreword by Martha Stewart. This book is worth it for the gauzy, sun-dappled photography alone, but the seasonal recipes contained within (over 150 of them) are fresh, exciting, and delectable.
Speaking of delectable photography, Piecework's 1000-piece "Paradise Found" puzzle is a visual bacchanal of ripe fruits, veiny cheeses, botanicals, and butterflies. It's a rich still life calling to mind the indulgence and rapture of a perfect dinner party, without the indigestion. It even comes with its own Spotify playlist for your hosts to enjoy while they put it together!