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Vern Yip offers gift advice for the home

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Like most people, I enjoy receiving a great bottle of wine or a box of chocolates from friends paying us a visit over the holidays. I’m always grateful for the thoughtfulness.

But there is something really special about getting something meant to be incorporated into the home. Those gifts linger and are constant reminders of the folks who gave them and of the wonderful visit that was had. Gifts for the home hang out on end tables or are displayed on bookshelves, helping to recall a special event hosted or a holiday party given. They also aren’t weighted by calories or trans fats, which seem to be around in overabundance this time of year, anyway.

Of course, the big obstacle everyone worries about in selecting a home decor gift is whether or not it will be the receiver’s personal style. A home, after all, is ideally supposed to be a physical manifestation of its owners and their personalities. There are several great home decor gifts, however, that don’t require you to know the ins and outs of someone’s color palette, or whether the recipient is a traditionalist, a modernist or something in between, while also being thoughtful and well-designed. Below are some of my favorite 2011 home decor gifts that will work in just about anyone’s home:

“Henri Cartier-Bresson: Aperture Masters of Photography” hardcover book: 8 inches square, 96 pages, $10.47 from Aperture. Henri Cartier-Bresson has been famously labeled “the photographer of the decisive moment” and has captured some of the most iconic images in photographic history. Considered one of the great portraitists of the 20th century, in many of his photographs he captured people and events that changed the world. This beautiful hard-cover book, published by the Aperture Foundation, showcases some of his most famous black-and-white images. I always love giving books. They are not only wonderful to look at, but they help give a room life when placed on an end table, bedside table or coffee table.

Restaurant Cocktail Napkins:

8 inches square, white or red, 100 percent cotton, machine washable, $9.95 for a set of eight from CB2. Almost everyone has one set of nice cloth dinner napkins, but far fewer have pure cotton cocktail napkins. My choice would be to go with white — even though red is a little more festive — because it’s timeless, goes with everything, and adds a visual crispness under a martini or a glass of wine. It’s a wonderful way to make cocktail hour a little more special.

Snow Globes With Design: 4 3 / 4 by

5 1 / 2 inches, clear glass with a white base, $25 from West Elm. This is not your grandmother’s snow globe. All available with white bases and with a white tree, owl, nutcracker or Santa as the central focal point. My personal favorite is the owl. Owls have been such a huge design statement for the past several years, and the classic lines of this particular version, combined with the sleek white base, make this snow globe a transitional design statement that will work in almost any home. Practical as a paperweight or just used decoratively, the owl or tree versions can sit out throughout the year.

Travertine Noodle Bowl: 5 inches wide, hand-turned travertine marble, $30 for nonmembers/$27 for members of the Smithsonian, from the Smithsonian Gift Shop. This bowl is that rare combination of great looks and practicality. Hand-turned from travertine marble and in a classically simple shape, it’s capable of assimilating into anyone’s home, regardless of style or color. Although it’s called a noodle bowl, it would really be wonderful for serving nuts or candy, or filled with water and a single blossom or floating candle.

Mughal King of Elephants Plate:

8 1 / 2 by 12 1 / 2 inches, painted glass, $50 for nonmembers/$45 for members of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hung on a wall as art or set on an entry table as a mail-and-key receptacle, this gorgeous plate really speaks to the huge influence of Indian and Asian design in home decor. The image is a reproduction of an illustration on an album leaf in the museum’s collection. The clean shape and color palette (pale blue, warm gray, chocolate brown) make it easily adaptable to many homes.

HSN Cares Vern Yip 2011 Year

of the Rabbit Heart Ornament:

3 ½ inches wide, red glass with Swarovski crystals and faux pearl detailing, $19.95 from HSN. I love gifts that also manage to give back. Sales of this ornament go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Thanks and Giving campaign, which assists children with cancer and other illnesses. Designed to commemorate 2011 as the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, this red glass ball features an intricate medallion celebrating the snow hare running in front of pine trees on one side and a large white snow hare on the back. The signed and limited-edition ornament adds a little multicultural flare to anyone’s tree while also doing some good. It comes in a beautiful red box ready for giving.

If you’re attending a holiday party at someone’s home this year or pondering a gift for friends and neighbors, consider the more enduring alternative of a home decor gift. Gifts for the house, after all, really do help make it a home.

Yip is an interior designer and star of HGTV’s “Design Star” and “Bang for Your Buck.” Originally from McLean, Yip is based in Atlanta and New York. Follow him on Facebook (Vern Yip/Artist) and Twitter (@VernYipDesigns), and learn more at www.vernyip.com. His column will appear monthly.

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