ask a cool person

The Best Housewarming Gifts, According to Cool Homeowners (and Renters)

Photo: Courtesy of the retailers

So your friend has a new apartment or, after years of sharing a bedroom wall with their kitchen, just got the keys to their first proper house. Wherever they’ve landed, choosing the right housewarming gift can be tricky, not least because the range of things to buy is so wide. Do you go with something that matches their aesthetic, or something you use yourself and love? Is it a functional gift, or one that sets a mood? Should you choose something for the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, or the living room? With host and hostess gifts, the parameters of what you should give are pretty clear (something they can use when hosting future guests). But when it comes to housewarming gifts, there really are no rules.

To help you find housewarming gifts that will make your recipients think of you long after you give them, we asked 11 homeowners and renters — including some with day jobs as interior designers, musicians, and chefs — about the best housewarming gifts they’ve ever received, as well as housewarming gifts they’ve given that have gone over well. Their 37 ideas below include options for practically every budget and home size, any of which will guarantee that you’re thought of long after you leave the housewarming party.

Candles and scents

Of all the housewarming gifts our homeowners recommended, candles (perhaps not surprisingly) topped the list when it comes to the best type of housewarming gift to give, with six of our 11 cool people recommending one candle or another. “Candles are the perfect housewarming gift,” according to New York-based stylist Mecca James-Williams, “because they set the tone for a home.” Two of those people — Kelly Zutrau, the lead singer and songwriter for the band Wet, and Tiffany Thompson, the founder of Portland-based residential-design firm Duett — specifically recommended Le Labo’s Cade 26. “The perfume is so concentrated that you only have to light it for a few minutes at a time,” according to Zutrau. “Very useful for drowning out the smells that waft around the shared entrance hallway in my apartment building.” Thompson agrees, saying that, in her opinion, “there are no better candles than Le Labo.” She adds that Cade 26 may be a more unexpected choice than Le Labo’s popular Santal 26 home scent, because it is “a rarer candle created for the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York,” but is available elsewhere.

For a less expensive but just as thoughtful option, photographer Jacqueline Harriet told us that this “super warming, romantic scent” was the best gift she received when moving into her first solo apartment. Inspired by the time of day when work fades and personal time begins, the candle’s combination of great smell and “super-sleek, black packaging” makes it something that “guests ask her about all the time.”

James-Williams, meanwhile, suggests soy-based candles from Boy Smells, a brand we’ve become quite familiar with since designating it as the next status candle. When it comes to which Boy Smells scent to give, James-Williams likes Kush: “It’s warm, romantic, and captivating with a smoky finish,” she says.

Alex Tieghi-Walker, the founder of Bay Area interior design store Tiwa Select, told us that when he goes to housewarming parties, his go-to gift are beeswax candles tied together with string, to give the gift a personal touch. “I’ll bring them wrapped up with string or straw, and usually they use them straight away,” he says. When we asked cool people about the best candlesticks, Salter House owner Sandeep Salter told us she swears by these natural beeswax candles for their simple, natural color, sculptural design, and “divine” smell.

If giving an actual candle feels too obvious, James-Williams suggests a candle-wick trimmer like this one she received from a friend when she moved into her home. She says it’s the type of handy tool you might not think to get yourself, but will later wonder how you burned candles without it. “For a minute, I didn’t understand or use it properly,” she told us. “But now, it’s my favorite home gadget.”

Four of our experts say sprays and diffusers are great alternative to giving candles. Elizabeth Jaime, a floral designer and the owner of Miami’s Calma flower store, told us she is “super picky when it comes to scents,” but says this Aesop spray checks all her boxes. “A new place should smell like a spa,” she says, and this scent manages that by being earthy, not too floral, and not overpowering, she told us. “Whenever I have someone coming over, I spritz a few pumps around the house, and voilà.”

For homes with sensitive smoke alarms, Canyon Coffee founders Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz recommend giving this smokeless incense. “Emily from Bodha creates the most beautiful smells,” according to Walsh. “In addition to the smokeless quality, the packaging alone makes it a perfect gift to give.”

James-Williams told us that her sister brought this Stone Oil Diffuser into her life. “I use it for a more natural home scent than candles,” she says, adding she loves that the brand also sells different essential oils that you can use with it. Strategist contributor Lindsey Weber wrote about how she too “can’t stop giving oil diffusers as housewarming gifts,” citing that their clean look makes them both stylish and easy to hide, and that they please even the pickiest of people.

Kitchenware

After candles, gifts for the kitchen were the next most-popular suggestion. According to chef Jeremy Blutstein, the best housewarming present you can give is cast-iron cookware — specifically, from Lodge, which makes the cast-iron pan that Strategist writer Liza Corsillo said is the best single thing she bought last decade. “It will last a lifetime,” Blutstein told us, citing the cookware’s superior heat-retention ability, durability, and the fact that pieces improve with every use because they retain hints of flavors from previous meals. Blustein adds that Amazon offers a “crazy deal” on Lodge pans, pointing us to this five-piece set that includes a griddle for pancakes, a Dutch oven for roasts and bread-baking, and a skillet you can use to make fish, steak, and vegetables, for less than $100.

If you just want to go with one Lodge piece, this is the pan Corsillo swears by. “I use it every day, would buy it over and over again, and enthusiastically recommend it to everyone I know,” she wrote.

Perhaps you want to give one pan, but are looking to splurge. This pan, recommended by James-Williams, is “one pan that can do everything,” making it worth its higher price tag, according to her. Additionally, because it functions as eight different pieces of cookware — the pan comes with a spatula and steaming basket, is both as deep as a saucepan and as wide as a skillet, and can be used to sauté and fry — it’s a great way to reduce clutter in a new kitchen.

Two of our panelists recommend giving salt-and-pepper shakers. “One of my best friends sent these to my apartment shortly after I moved in,” home decorator Carrie Carrollo told us of this set of enamel shakers in a checkerboard pattern from New York–based ceramics maker MacKenzie-Childs. “I was in the thick of decorating, looking for accents to bring the space together, and surprisingly, these changed the entire look and feel for the best.”

According to Walsh and Wojtalewicz, one of the best housewarming gifts they got after moving into their current Echo Park home is this brass pepper mill. Made in Greece, the mill grinds the pepper, which means your recipient can fill them with whole black peppercorns for that “freshly cracked” taste. Beyond its functionality, Walsh also loves how it looks on a dinner table.

Zutrau told us that a pitcher with a water filter would be a thoughtful housewarming gift, citing the hell that was dealing with her new apartment’s old pipes and “slightly brown” water. After trying a water cooler (“expensive and wasteful”), a Brita filter (“foggy and mossy-looking eventually”) and bottled water (“the most expensive and wasteful”), she did some research and found this Lifestraw pitcher. “Its two different filters make the water taste very clean,” she told us, adding that “its sleek chamber fits perfectly on the top shelf of my fridge.” The pitchers come in both plastic ($40) and glass ($55).

Jaime says these fancy plastic chopping boards from Strategist-approved brand Hay make for another functional — but also stylish — housewarming gift. “They’re not your typical wood board” she told us, noting that “they come in the most beautiful colors.” When she’s not using hers as a cutting board, Jaime told us that it doubles as a neat tray for a cheese plate or other spread.

After the stress of moving into a new place, Jaime told us that the last thing many new homeowners (or renters) want to do is cook. That’s why she recommends giving this rice cooker, which she’s loved since her days working for Bon Appétit. “The Zojirushi is the only appliance that is allowed in my kitchen, besides a Vitamix,” she says, adding that the cooker requires a minimal amount of effort to make a great meal. “I just pop a few cups of rice into the maker, and within 45 minutes, I have the best rice ever.” For more rice cookers at various price points, check out our list of the best-rated ones on Amazon.

For something more striking than stainless steel, Tieghi-Walker loves to give horn cutlery (teaspoons and butter knives made out of old cow horns.) “They’re cheap, so beautiful, and you can find them all over,” he tells us. Tieghi-Walker especially recommends giving them to homes with babies, as the horn material is a more natural alternative to plastic.

“A lot of people won’t invest in beautiful storage for their foods,” Thompson says, adding that this set, from Scandinavian design firm Rosti Mepal, will “make any refrigerator look organized and beautiful.” If food storage sounds like something your recipient would love, we’ve written about it a lot, and suggest you explore our lists of expert-recommended meal prep and food-storage containers, top-rated food storage on Amazon, and the best bento boxes.

When James-Williams moved into her home, the most helpful housewarming gift (that she bought herself) was a sprouter, which makes it easy to grow greens and certain vegetables like broccoli, cress, and chives. “I am a big advocate of creating your own food,” she says, “and my sprouter still sits in my window.”

Décor

African Interiors Book
$46

Lots of our homeowners also suggested decorative gifts, with three calling out coffee-table books. Books are “the centerpiece to a home,” according to James-Williams, and of course run the gamut when it comes to topics and subjects. If your homeowner is into travel or interior design, she recommends Taschen’s “African Interiors” as one of the best housewarming gifts she received, and that she loves to open it up to a new page every day. “The text and imagery bring you into these glorious homes across the continent of Africa,” she says. “A real source of inspiration when redesigning an apartment.”

If you want to be a truly helpful friend, Benjamin Glynn-Philips, the store manager at menswear mecca Drake’s in London, recommends String Shelving as a truly luxurious gift. “I can not tell you how happy it has made me since my wife and I bought our apartment,” he told us. The affordable, mid-century–inspired shelving units (which come in a range of textiles and wood finishes) have plenty of space for his books, photos, and ceramics, while also being nice enough to double as décor themselves.

“If I’m giving a housewarming gift,” Carrollo says, “it’s going to be functional and decorative.” To that end, she told us that her 2020 housewarming gift is going to be these lucite bookends from Poketo. “There’s a certain chicness to how simple the shape is” she told us, “and they’re totally colorless, so you won’t have to worry about clashing.” If these exact bookends aren’t your jam, take a look at the others in our roundup of the best gifts for book-lovers.

Two of our experts cited blankets as a great housewarming gift to make a new home more cozy. “If a friend ever needs an ear, they come over and sit on my comfy couch with tea and a throw blanket,” James-Williams says, telling us that she loves CB2’s blankets for their combination of quality and not-astronomical pricing. In addition to white, this throw comes in a mauve color called “orchid” (and both styles currently ship for free.) Other CB2 blankets made our list of interior designers’ favorite throw blankets, which has more options from other brands if you’re looking to shop around.

For a more whimsical, art-forward blanket, Thompson says this blanket from Cold Picnic would make a nice alternative to giving the brand’s beloved (but ubiquitous) bath mat. “Their fun throws can add a touch of color to any household,” she explains.

Giving flowers or plants can be tricky, because as beautiful as they are, they can be hard to maintain for folks without green thumbs. That’s why Carrollo recommends giving a dry floral arrangement instead. “For the longest time I couldn’t be trusted with live plants, and I know I’m not alone,” she told us. “Dry arrangements like Oat Cinnamon’s are stunning, and impossible to kill.” Those arrangements, alas, are currently sold out, but this cheery (less expensive) dry bouquet from Etsy seems nice-looking enough to leave on display all year. For more options, may we direct you to our deep dive into the best artificial plants.

After death and taxes, a third certainty in life is that moving costs money. That’s why Thompson recommends giving a (live) money tree, which, in addition to being affordable, is also meant to bring wealth to the receiver. She says the custom is for a recipient to “stick a dime in the soil” to ensure an abundance of prosperity — and if that happens, they’ll really owe you a cut.

James-Williams told us that her first housewarming gift was a piece of artwork from her mother, and that prints in general can be a thoughtful gift if you know the type of art your recipient likes. She specifically suggested gifting an affordable print from artist Kenesha Sneed, who is known for her depictions of black female bodies and whose work has been commissioned by The New Yorker, Apple, and Netflix, to name just a few. “A print that I have been dying to gift is a Kenesha Sneed piece,” she told us, adding, “I appreciate how she makes art, and her color play.” If the idea of giving art strikes a chord, another option to consider is this Matisse print we’ve spied in fashionable homes across the globe.

Zutrau told us not to underestimate the impact that design-y coasters can have on an apartment. “I spend my day moving around from task to task, and used to just get water rings on all the wood surfaces around me,” she told us. But after finding cheap coasters she loved at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, the problem was solved, and she now has “little square paintings everywhere” to make her place more colorful and interesting. In our guide to the best expensive-looking apartment décor under $30, Areaware’s graphic tiles were praised for being “a twofer”: Alone, they provide a surface to put glasses on, but when arranged together, they form a trivet for larger pots or pans.

Food and drink

$6

The traditional housewarming gift of bread and salt may have fallen out of fashion, but a number of our experts still say other edible and drinkable goods make great gifts, and Tieghi-Walker still counts salt among the stylish pantry items he likes to give. “Nice pantry items are things people wouldn’t necessarily buy themselves, but I love to give them as they last awhile and look beautiful,” he told us. We’ve written again and again about how we, celebrities, and chefs think Maldon salt is an essential in any pantry. The classic counter-top box will surely impress your recipient without breaking your budget, but the brand offers an assortment of sizes (and flavors) that should suit salt-lovers of any stripe.

“This lemongrass ginger tea is the perfect choice to help someone settle into new digs,” says Thompson, pointing out that in her opinion, the stress of a move means that housewarming gifts should be focused on helping the recipients relax. She adds that, for those who care about where their hard earned money is going, these teas are created by a female-owned business with a focus on creating events and community spaces to discuss mental health issues.

After Condé Nast Traveler editor Corina Quinn received a bottle of olive oil fresh from Italy as a gift a few years ago, she got an idea that has served her well ever since. “Fancy olive oil makes the perfect housewarming gift,” she told us. “People won’t splurge on olive oil for their home, but it lasts a lot longer than wine does, and is also a more selfless gift than booze, which comes with the pressure to open immediately.” Quinn recommends Frescobaldi’s Laudemio oil for a few reasons — it’s Tuscan, well-priced, fragrant, and a hypnotizing shade of green. For more giftable olive oils, check out our guide to the best olive oils, as chosen by chefs.

“Everyone has their go-to booze,” Tieghi-Walker says, but adds that “it’s important to have something that feels more luxurious and interesting — like mezcal — to open as the night winds down.” For that reason, he feels all new homes need a bottle of mezcal close by, and spotlights Yola Mezcal’s as being particularly giftable thanks to its stylish bottle, which he reuses to water his plants once it has has been drained of mezcal.

James-Williams also recommends alcohol as a gift — but instead of mezcal, her go-to is Clase Azul tequila. ‘The bottle is just as vibrant and rich as the contents inside,” she tells us, “and the tequila is so smooth, it doesn’t really need to be mixed with anything.”

Other recommended gifts

Hand soap and cream was also a popular housewarming gift suggestion among our experts. James-Williams recommended this hand wash from Grown Alchemist, a lesser-known brand (for now) that she says has the style and quality of Aesop. “There is nothing that tells you more about someone’s home than the soap in their bathroom,” she says, and this set from Grown Alchemist has an on-trend cedarwood scent. Our own Rio Viera-Newton is also a fan of the brand.

When Carollo moved into her first New York City apartment, her mother also gave her a Dyson vacuum she’d been begging for. “It’s by far the best housewarming gift I’ve received — and the most functional,” she says, citing the many included attachments that help her vacuum every corner and crevice of the home. While the price is high, we’ve written before about how there are few (if any) more stylish and effective vacuum brands than Dyson, and how Dyson users say the products are worth the splurge. The Animal made our list of the best-reviewed vacuums on Amazon, with one user saying they’ve “never been so excited to vacuum” after getting their hands on one.

For an indulgent gift for the homeowner (rather than for their home), Thompson suggests these slippers from Parachute, the maker of Chris Black–approved towels and one of our favorite bathrobes. According to Thompson, the slippers, which have a grippy rubber sole and are made of soft terrycloth, “make you feel like your new home is a hotel.”

As far as Thompson sees it, “every single household needs a security camera.” She loves this one from Nest, which features 24/7 streaming and the ability to answer the door and converse with the person on the other side (even if you’re not at home). The Nest can be combined with a smart lock, too, so that users can let people in remotely. For more security cameras at various price points, check out our list of the top-rated home security cameras on Amazon.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Housewarming Gifts, According to Homeowners