Home: My New Best Friend: Gifted!

How to stock — and enjoy — a closet full of presents

There’s a reason why my friends call me, I swear, “Gifty McGifty.”
I absolutely love giving gifts. For Father’s Day, I got my husband the most exquisitely hand-engraved cuff links from Town Home. To thank my mom and step-dad for babysitting my bambina , I shipped them a trio of chowders from Legal Sea Foods. I’m writing this column in August, and already my gift closet is brimming with birthday presents, back-to-school presents for my nieces and nephews, and, yes, even Christmas presents.

That said, my stash o’ offerings is a hot mess. The personalized growth charts I got for my niece Saniyah and nephew Keyshawn got lost in the chaos over the spring, so what were meant to be birthday presents will now be “From Santa.” I’ve also stocked up on cook-books and art books, but by the time I finally find a recipient for these lovingly selected, originally pristine volumes, they look like they came from a seconds shop.

Enter Elizabeth Bloom, owner of Home Grown, Haverford’s gently upscale gift boutique. Home Grown pretty much doubles as the Main Line’s very own gift closet, what with its hand-painted tea sets, preppy children’s goods, delicate Japanese pottery and handcrafts from all over the world. Liz, too, looks like the perfect example of global chic that her store sells, dressed in a chocolate-brown blouse, gold hoops and lovely Hogan shoes.

Confidently opening my gift closet to her, I told her that last year, I gave my favorite editors jars of Marc Jacobs “­Daisy” lotion along with copies of the book ­Daisy Miller by Henry James. She nodded in approval. I felt like the queen of gifting.

A few minutes into our conversation, I realized that compared to my guest, I was just a lady-in-waiting. Elizabeth — creative, organized and, dare I say, quite opinionated about such matters — is clearly gift-­giving royalty. So, just in time for the mother of all giving seasons, here are Elizabeth’s 10 rules for cultivating gift closets:

1. Gift closets should reflect your life. You don’t need silk-ribboned boxes of Waterford crystal if you’re a girl who loves nothing more than a cold bottle of beer.

2. Your gift closet should have at least one item that you can take to a party­ — say, a lovely pair of salad servers and a bottle of fancy olive oil. “It’s so much work to invite people into your home,” says Elizabeth. “It’s nice to bring a little something to say thanks.” My closet, Elizabeth pointed out, lacked generic hostess gifts. Which brings us to her next rule:

3. Big, expensive gifts can be obnoxious. “It’s not appropriate to overspend,” she says. The value of the gift should match the occasion. In today’s market, a nice gift falls between $40 and $65.

4. Stock up on easy, pretty wine bags. Elizabeth advises keeping 12 wine bottles around to fill the bags: six everyday bottles, six for special occasions.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of that little blue box. I recently discovered that Tiffany’s makes a lovely set of playing cards which they sell, and gift wrap, for $30. Elizabeth gave me major points for this item in my gift closet. “Playing cards are great,” she says. “They’re not seasonal, and they’re family oriented.”

6. A good tip for the organization-­challenged: Elizabeth has a client who has all of her presents at Home Grown gift-wrapped, but before she does, she takes a digital photo of each item, which she then tapes to the gift before shelving it in her gift closet. (I found this tip to be nothing short of stunning.)

7. “Books are fabulous,” says Elizabeth. “Especially a great home design book. It’s often in the $30 to $40 range and not the sort of thing you’d buy for yourself.” My gift closet includes several signed copies of Marcus Samuelsson’s latest cookbook. I also picked up signed copies of Wicked when Gregory Maguire appeared at the Free Library.

8. Organize the tools of your giving. Store gift wrap, tape and scissors in a clear box. “It’s an investment that would totally organize the presentation part of your closet,” she says.

9. Organize smaller items so they don’t get unruly. In my gift closet there were lots of smaller items — bath petals, a silver bracelet, photo coasters — that I’d put aside for friends but found hard to keep track
of. Elizabeth suggested corralling them into a box, too.

10. Fifty percent of gift certificates are never used, according to Elizabeth. My closet had several gift cards for Barnes & Noble that I’d purchased for my nieces and nephews. “Kids will use them, but for the most part, it’s better to be brave and buy a gift,” she says.

Of all the inspiring things she taught me, I think that this last tip is the one I love the most. It is brave to buy a gift. You’re never sure if a person will really like it. But browsing for gifts online, finding the perfect Christmas surprise for someone I love in the middle of summer — that’s where the real joy is, no matter how the gift is received.