Modern Life

The most personal ways to give: 7 customized gifts to splurge on this holiday season

Treat your friends and loved ones to something created just for them.

By Christina Shanahan — December 6, 2018

With Cyber Monday deals starting well before the actual Monday (and Amazon wishlists being amassed year round), it’s easy to just one-click your way to seasonal and mass-produced items to gift during the holiday season. But according to the Deloitte Consumer Review, 36 percent of consumers, including 50 percent of millennial and Gen Z shoppers, are interested in purchasing customized products.

It's clear that people crave a more personalized approach to gifting, so consider putting a special touch on your purchases this year. From framed photos to monogrammed blankets, personalization isn’t a new idea, but new advances in custom printing technology make it easier than ever to create hyper-specific items that recipients will not only use, but also cherish. Whether you’re seeking a festive hostess gift that goes beyond a basic bottle of wine or an original method of displaying children’s artwork, there’s a beautiful and tasteful way to give a truly personal present. Here, a roundup of the most unique customized finds for everyone on your list.

©2018 Liz Clayman

Choose your own (cooking) adventure

Show the foodie in your life how much you cherish them with a personalized cookbook from The New York Times Cooking. Start by choosing seven chapters to anchor the book, such as hearty pastas or one-pot meals, then fill each one with eight New York Times-tested recipes tailored to the recipient’s taste. Printed via HP technology, you can include a dedication message on the first page of the book, and add a custom binding as the finishing touch. The cookbooks are available in softcover ($35) or hardcover ($55).

A memorable vintage

Perhaps you have a friend with a penchant for pinot, or want to bring your own favorite wine to a dinner party or holiday bash. Make your gift stand out by designing a signature Evermine wine label ($10 for six labels). Choose from a variety of pre-made templates, or upload your own photo or design, then insert custom text with the hosts’ names or a special message. Over 32 shape options ensure a seamless fit for most bottles, and waterproof vinyl and static cling options let the recipients easily peel off the label damage-free to save as a memento.

A one-of-a-kind library

Juniper Books creates custom book covers and library sets for the serious bibliophile on your list who would love a unique way to display their favorite novels or series. Select templates by genre: literary classics, fandom, food, and even children’s books, such as Emma by Jane Austen, the Harry Potter collection by J.K. Rowling, or the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. The site will guide you through the selection process, and allow you to tailor the cover templates to your exact specifications. From simple neutral solids to chic patterned prints, the covers are sized to fit the dimensions of the books in your current collection and can be slipped over both softcover and hardcover tomes alike. If you’re looking to invest in full-shelf styling or a larger library overhaul, you can fill out a request form to work with one of Juniper’s pro designers on an overall aesthetic. A set of three covers starts at $125.

Chic, unique shades

For a stylish friend who know exactly what extras to pair with each look, consider surprising him or her with a custom pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses using the retailer’s Remix tool. Do they love oversized mirrored aviators or prefer wayfarers with funky red frames?  You can select the shape, color and material, then choose lenses, temples and temple tips. To make the design even more meaningful, you can add subtle engraving to the inside or the arm or the frame. Or let them design their own with a gift card redeemable for a custom pair, and they can play with the augmented reality virtual try-on feature before making a selection.

Precious artwork preserved

Perfect for parents or grandparents, PlumPrint digitizes kiddie masterpieces to create a coffee table book that immortalizes wee ones' works of art. Just select the best puffy paint clouds, colored-paper flowers and squiggly self-portraits, and pop them in a prepaid box. Once PlumPrint receives the artwork, the design team will create a portfolio for you to view and approve online. Should you choose, you can also add photos of the mini artist to complement their creations. And after beautifully preserving the little ones' creations, you can dispose of the original, glitter-covered creations guilt-free. Softcover books start at $40, and pricing depends on the number of pieces included.

Notes from the heart

Sarah & Abraham’s new custom family note cards make for considerate hostess gifts that show you have really thought about the recipients and who they are. Gifting a couple? Select the charming silhouette that best represents the duo. Purchasing cards for a larger family? Add illustrations for each kiddo or whatever best represents the family unit — furry friends included! Printed on double-thick card stock and paired with coordinating envelopes, you can also add a name or initial to the stationary design (sets start at $20).

Personalizing the impersonal

Sometimes you just want to give the gift of flexibility, but rather than sticking the green stuff or a gift card inside an envelope, Tendr holiday e-cards offer a more personal way to present monetary gifts. Sign up and create a beautiful, customized electronic card designed by one of over 20 independent artists, painters and graphic designers vetted by Tendr. Then select the amount you would like to gift. The recipient can redeem the value immediately with no fee, and a portion of each transaction goes back to the artist who designed the card.


Find out more about recent holiday card trends.