Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Houseguest's Guide to the Perfect Thank-You Gift

The fun and froth of summer have a few strings attached. Along with those country-house or dinner invitations comes the task of giving your hosts the perfect thank-you present.Michael Fazio, co-founder of Abigail Michaels, a New York-based luxury concierge service for residential buildings, corporations and hotels, is often a host at his East Hampton, N.Y., house but also spends weekends at friends' homes.Thank you, can mean volumes to people. Whether he is staying two nights or 10 days, his gift philosophy is the same: "A statement that gives just a little simple delight hits the perfect note," he says.

He adds: "Never be afraid of rich people. … You know what they love? A fancy pot of jam," he says, quoting the play and movie "Six Degrees of Separation." "And that's kind of true. People who materially have everything, they're all quite picky, so keep it small and simple."Mr. Fazio, whose firm buys more than 1,000 gifts a year on behalf of clients, has a "gift cabinet" in his home that he keeps stocked with what he calls "small luxuries." These include pricey designer candles and items such as soaps and cocktail napkins.

Sometimes he has already monogrammed them with the initials of friends. "Anything monogrammed is great," says Mr. Fazio. "The personalization shows that you really put thought into it."Often, Mr. Fazio seeks gifts that are conversation pieces. A quirky gift he's given recently is a sleekly designed Home Hero fire extinguisher. "I believe you can give somebody just a bag of potato chips if it has a story—like, 'these potato chips started in this small Vermont town and are made by a grandmother and her grandson,' " he says. "Suddenly, it's interesting."

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