With the season in view, designer Carleton Varney offers a few gift ideas

With the season in view, designer Carleton Varney offers a few gift ideas

Hard to believe that Wednesday marked the start of autumn. The new social season is nearly upon those of us who are lucky enough to spend time in Palm Beach.

In most years, that milestone would mean gearing up for dinner parties at home, restaurant meals with friends and casual cocktail get-togethers without a care in the world.

But that’s not quite the world we live in in these days of the coronavirus pandemic?

Even so, with vaccines widespread, many of us are approaching the season with a sense of optimism, planning to gather — as safely as possible, of course — with friends and family.

I’m also thinking of gifts that I’ll be giving in the coming months, not only hostess gifts but gifts for other occasions as well. During a recent Zoom chat, I was asked a few questions about my thoughts on gifting. I thought I might share my answers with you here.

Q. What would you bring to a hostess who invited to you to dinner?

Always flowers! For many years, I have given roses to those who have invited me to dine with them. Sometimes I bring yellow roses, representing friendship, and sometimes — on special holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day — I give a mix of pink and red long-stem roses. In the spring and summertime, a mix of pink and white peonies will never go amiss. And fall flowers — chrysanthemums, for instance —can be lovely, as well,

Q. What gift would you bring to a special celebration?

If it’s suitable, I give a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne and a set of fine crystal flutes. The bubbly is always festive, and this is a gift that will definitely be enjoyed.

Q. What present might you give to a child?

I enjoy giving books to children. I choose books that are classics, such as Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are or perhaps Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and Grimm’s fairy tales — beautifully illustrated, of course. As a child, I read and re-read Grimm’s over and over again.

Q. What would you give to your family or to friends if you can’t attend in person?

I’d send cheesecake from Junior’s in New York City. Junior’s ships cheesecakes around the world and they are always super, particularly those with the strawberry tops.

Q. What gift would you give to your significant other?

How about an old-fashioned photo album into which I’ve fastened pictures of all the good times we have enjoyed together? Looking at digital shots on a cell phone is fine for every day, but how special it is, I think, to see prints of birthday gatherings, trips taken together, holidays celebrated and other shared moments. I would end the album by writing on the last page: “To our continued love and health!”

Although these are some of my favorites, they may not be yours. But I hope they might inspire you when you area searching for thoughtful and memorable gifts for the loved ones in your life.

Happy fall!


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