x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

House Doctor: Keep gifts for the home simple

Whether it's for a wedding, housewarming or formal house party, gift-giving etiquette can be intimidating. Here are a few simple rules.

While many of us look forward to receiving an invitation to a wedding, housewarming or formal party at the home of a friend or colleague, the anticipation is often overshadowed by the uncertainty of gift-giving etiquette. Most people are in doubt when it comes to finding something appropriate for the intended recipient.

Buying decorative gifts for others can be tricky, particularly when we are selecting something for a home that we have never seen. We also must consider the message a gift may impart. The aim is to present something thoughtful and personal that offers happy memories for years to come and is not consigned to a closet forever. I try to be creative with gifts so I can stand out from the crowd and, hopefully, be invited to another event.

While the nature of the gift-giving occasion is one of the most important considerations, a few rules apply to almost any circumstance. First, always err on the side of elegance and simplicity.

A simple - and personal favourite - gift idea is an elegant, scented candle. Bloomingdale's in Dubai Mall has an incredible selection of aromas to fit every budget. A single candle can be a hostess gift, or a collection can be given as a wedding gift. Every time the candle is used, the recipient will be reminded of your thoughtfulness.

For casual get-togethers and housewarming parties, a decorative vase of flowers is useful and considerate. Long after the flowers have expired, the vase can be used again, prompting a memory of your attendance at an event.

Functional items such as a distinctive presentation dish or serving set are both useful and unique. Tavola (www.tavola.ae), a houseware and kitchenware store with locations across the GCC, has a wide range of options.

Coffee table books of local significance or on a subject the recipient has an interest in are also thoughtful. I like to give books featuring photography of Canadian landscapes, providing a glimpse into where I'm from. Other ideas are speciality food items and spices from your home country presented in elegant containers, or decorative objects that capture the spirit of your culture and heritage.

Consider gifts that can be enjoyed after an occasion has come and gone, avoiding items that impose your particular style on the recipient, including artwork, knick-knacks, joke gifts and odd gadgets that will live out their life in a drawer. The thought you put into selecting a gift will be evident to the recipient. Try to keep gifts small, tasteful and above all else, beautifully presented.

Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah.