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Best Bets: 10 Holiday Gifts for the Design Enthusiast

For the modernists in your life, we've rounded up 10 well-recognized, celebrated, totally gift-worthy icons of design, each with a story behind them. So not only are they perfect for design-minded friends, they're also a special something for that person on your list who tells you each year that they “really don't need anything.”

Written by Sarah Schaale

Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard for Vitra

Mid-century designer Alexander Girard is famous for the color and textile work he produced in the 1950s and 1960s, much of which reflected his keen interest in folk art. With sculptural shapes and semi-abstract styling, his collection of Wooden Dolls reflect that same vibrant aesthetic, with visual elements inspired by cultures all over the globe.

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Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard for Vitra

Juicy Salif Citrus Juicer by Philippe Starck for Alessi

Is it…a bug? Something supernatural? A little reminiscent of an other-worldly creature, designer Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif is one of the icons of design in the 1990s. The unconventional design earned it a spot in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York's MoMA, and a number of other collections around the globe. Although it's fully functional as a citrus squeezer, its intriguing physique makes it a display-worthy piece for the kitchen as well.

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Juicy Salif Citrus Juicer by Philippe Starck for Alessi

Kettle with Bird Whistle by Michael Graves for Alessi

The Kettle with Bird Whistle is one of the best-known icons from architect Michael Graves. Designed in 1985, the design mixes classical and pop influences, with simple geometry and a playful bird that whistles cheerfully when the water is ready. In 2015, Alessi introduced a fierce new version of Grave's famous kettle in honor of the design's 30th birthday. The Tea Rex Kettle replaces the happy songbird with a dragon in shiny copper or lively green.

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Kettle with Bird Whistle by Michael Graves for Alessi

Aalto Vase – Emerald by Alvar Aalto for Iittala

To commemorate the 90th year of Alvar Aalto's famous vase design, Finnish glass factory Iittala created his signature piece in a rich, emerald green. Inspired by waves of water, the curvaceous design is a stunner from any angle.

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Aalto Vase – Emerald by Alvar Aalto for Iittala

Miniature Plywood Elephant by Vitra

This iconic piece is made teeny tiny as part of Vitra's collection of miniature furniture replicas. The Eames Elephant was created by Charles and Ray Eames from bent plywood, though the design was only released to the public in plastic. The mini version here is crafted in that original material—in one-sixth the size of the original.

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Miniature Plywood Elephant by Vitra

Original 1227 Task Lamp by George Carwardine for Anglepoise

This gift of light is more than just that. The Anglepoise Original 1227 Task Lamp is a British icon, originally created in the 1930 by George Carwardine, an automotive engineer and inventor of the 3-spring mechanism seen in this very lamp. The mechanism allows the lamp to be smoothly repositioned to focus light on the task at hand.

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Original 1227 Task Lamp by George Carwardine for Anglepoise

Cylinda-Line AJ Cocktail Shaker by Arne Jacobsen for Stelton

The Cylinda-Line AJ Cocktail Shaker first debuted in 1967 as part of a comprehensive barware collection, but it fits right into an at-home bar today. The sleek and minimalist cylinder in matte stainless steel is part of a tea/coffee/bar collection that was awarded the ID Prize (now known as a Danish Design Award) in 1967.

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Cylinda-Line AJ Cocktail Shaker by Arne Jacobsen for Stelton

Dressed Butter Dish by Marcel Wanders for Alessi

What started out as a series of porcelain serving pieces from Dutch design superstar Marcel Wanders has grown into a versatile line of kitchen items bearing the signature pattern. Here in porcelain with stainless steel, the Dressed Butter Dish keeps our favorite condiment at the ideal temperature for spreading and serves as a pretty piece of home décor.

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Dressed Butter Dish by Marcel Wanders for Alessi

Tube Clock by Piet Hein Eek for LEFF Amsterdam

A clever repurposing of materials often results in a design win—here, Piet Hein Eek has transformed an extrusion ring and tube usually used to mold materials as his design's materials themselves. Shown here with its companion Bluetooth speaker, this little clock is simple elegance on two tiny feet.

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Tube Clock by Piet Hein Eek for LEFF Amsterdam

Spin Table Candelabra by Tom Dixon

British icon Tom Dixon knows a thing or two about industrial design, and his spin on the traditional candlestick of old is right up his street. This mobile design harkens to the Victorian industrial age in solid cast iron and can hold tealights or tapers as you like.

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Spin Table Candelabra by Tom Dixon

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