Admit it. You’ve got one. The gift closet. The holding cell where the less-than-ideal presents are stowed for regifting later. The staging ground for clearance purchases that could not be resisted (but should have been). Or, if you’re a particularly thoughtful or generous or organized gift giver, perhaps just a great place to hide your finds from throughout the year.
On Christmas Eve, as gift-shopping procrastinators grow ever more desperate, perhaps someone in your home will be madly searching for something — anything! — that might do the trick.
Even if you don’t have a gift closet — or box, or drawer, or bin — chances are you’ve received a lovely (or not) gift-closet present from somebody else. Though that might earn the disapproval of Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette doyen Emily Post, whose Tip No. 1 is “Don't put gifts people have given you into your gift closet,” party planner Colin Cowie sees it another way. He once he gave a bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage, an Australian wine that runs into the hundreds of dollars. “Two years later, she gave it back,” said Cowie, who believes there is nothing wrong with regifting. “I was so glad to get that wine back I couldn’t tell you.”
For the gift closet pros and newbies alike, we canvassed dozens of folks from all walks of life: Nate Berkus, Jonathan Adler, Bob and Cortney Novogratz, the "Dinner Party Download" guys. We posed the question: What’s in your gift closet? Here's what they all said:
Toni Braxton, Grammy winner and star of the reality TV series “Braxton Family Values” (Photo credit: Erik S. Lesser / For The Times):
I always have Starbucks and Target gift cards on hand. I just bought some today! For either $50 or $100. Everyone goes to Starbucks, and everyone goes to Target, so it’s perfect. But I will admit that my stash of gifts does include some regifted items. Those are usually for my sisters. We regift among ourselves a lot. Like recently Lady Gaga gave my sister Tamar two pairs of really nice sunglasses. Well, she says her face is too fat for them, so she gave them to me. But we always reveal the real giver when we regift, so Tamar told me the sunglasses were from her and Gaga.
Carole Townsend, author of the humor book “Southern Fried White Trash,” on the worst thing in her gift closet (Townsend family) :
I did not have to hesitate. A boy I dated in college was raised by a great-aunt, and she could not stand me. … They were high-society New York, and maybe they thought I was a Southern bumpkin. … It was a set of salt-and-pepper shakers and a creamer. They were pigs – I was a little chunky in college, and I got the message. Of course, if you used the creamer, it came out of the mouth. And it grunted! … It was the most awful thing. She shopped long and hard for that. Now that I’m 50, I can laugh, but I never got over it. … It’s cheap ceramic.
L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti and his wife, Amy Elaine Wakeland (City of Los Angeles):
Eric: It’s not really a closet. What would you call it?
Amy: We have gift baskets that we keep filled with small hostess and holidays gifts. They’re in the garage. We probably have about 10 to 20 gifts at any one time. I replenish it when it starts getting low, but I usually don’t buy more than two of any item. Right now, we have: Armenian brandy, Hollywood ornaments, cute little handmade ornaments, wine glass charms, salted caramels and a modernist birdhouse. For kids we have educational toys — like a talking clock, a wind-power renewable energy science kit and a mini-piano. And I almost always have potted succulents or orchids that we use as gifts.
Eric, on the worst thing: There was the home-growing gourmet mushroom kit. It just kind of got moldy when we tested it, so I don't know if any others will ever be gifted.
Amy: There are also bottles of wine in there that sometimes disappear before we have the chance to give them away.
Nate Berkus, designer and host of “The Nate Berkus Show” (The Nate Berkus Show) :
The contents of my gift closet fall into two categories, staples and vintage. The first are items that are evergreen when it comes to gift-giving. Beautiful bars of soaps, candles (both wick and flameless) frames, simple Turkish hand towels. They're the gifts that work for nearly any occasion and cater to the details of living beautifully. The second category of vintage is comprised of what I love but have outgrown from my own house as well as flea market finds that I hauled home but didn't find a place for. In other words, they're things that I love and could be the perfect gift for the person on your list.
You perfect the art of the gift closet not by what's in it, but by simply having one. In other words, a gift closet means avoiding the headache of having to rush to the mall on the way to your next dinner party, running from store to store trying to find a hostess gift. You're prepared. Now, all you have to do is open the door at the end of the hall. Problem solved.
I'm obsessed with order. So, if something’s been lurking for too long in my gift closet, then you can bet it goes in the charity bin well before its expiration date!