Scene from the Old Testament (detail). Woven by Willem de Kempeneer (Flemish, active ca. 1522–48). Wool, silk, 164 1/2 x 259 in., 1535–48. Gift of Mrs. Constance McCann Betts, Mrs. Winston F.C. Guest, and Frasier W. McCann, 1942 (42.193.1)
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A Guide to Hostess Gifts

If you want to make a great impression on your hosts, do so artfully

With summer almost upon us, you’ll soon be accepting (or at least discreetly angling for) invitations to getaways at your favorite friends’ oceanfront retreats, mountain cabins, and lakeside spreads. Before you start packing your weekender, consider these five tips, which are sure to get you invited back next season.

1. Go a little over the top.

Left: 18th-Century French Tea Towel Set, $55. Right: Armchair (fauteuil à la reine) (detail). Designed by Jacques Gondouin (1737–1818). Carved and gilded beech; modern silk lampas, 1779. Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1944 (44.157.2)


Minimalism is so 20th century—and a little bit of ancien régime opulence goes a long way. A pattern derived from one of Marie Antoinette’s upholstered armchairs enlivens even the simplest kitchen.

2. Don’t be afraid to make waves.

Left: Japanese Wave Pattern Bowl, $48. Right: Stencil with Pattern of Wine Cups on Waves. Japanese, 19th century. Gift of Mrs. Horace Havemeyer, 1942 (42.91.39)


This stylized pattern, derived from a Japanese stencil, cools down any home environment. Whether their home is rustic or mid-century modern—or even if it’s a beach house—this is one wave they’ll be happy to have crest in their living room.

3. Pour. Sip. Repeat.

Left: Imperial Strapwork Decanter, $58. Right: Morion. German, Nuremberg. Steel, silver, pigment, brass, gold, glass, late 16th century. Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913 (14.25.650)


They say liquor goes down easier when it’s poured from a decanter. And even if that’s an old host’s tale, this striking piece, adorned with etched strapwork found on a 16th-century German helmet, will make quite the conversation piece for anyone’s bar cart.

4. Give them the royal treatment.

Left: Versailles Labyrinth Long Tray, $20. Right: Labyrinte de Versailles. Etched by Sébastien Leclerc I (French, 1637–1714). Etching, 1677. Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.77.30)


While their property may not be 2,000 acres, the gardens of Versailles provide inspiration to anyone with a lawn to mow and flowerbeds to tend. This tray depicts the entrance to Versailles’s celebrated hedge maze—a portal to daydreams of grounds fit for a king.

5. Make it spring—all year long.

Left: Spring Blossoms Serving Bowl, $40. Right: Two Fan Designs: Plum Blossom and Wave (detail). Totoya Hokkei (Japanese, 1780–1850). Polychrome woodblock print, Edo period (1615–1868). H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (P1812)


When blossoming branches are this beautiful, spring lasts all year. A Japanese fan design provides the color palette and motifs for this ceramic serving bowl—which is maybe just too lovely to use.

For more art-inspired gifts for the home, visit


  1. Author icon Jauquesla Ross

    I love the trays. Absolutely fabulous. First I thought how would I style food on a tray so lovely as not to take away from it’s beauty. Then in a instant I thought this could possibly be a tray for my watches. Beautiful. Definitely will be shopping with you in the future ????


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