Privilege Blog

The Best House Guest Present Ever

Hand towels. Is there anything more perfect than an embellished hand towel? That’s a rhetorical question, hyberbolic, even. And yet.

The season for house guest presents, often called “hostess gifts,” is upon us. A house guest present means you are spending the night at someone’s house. A house guest present calls for something that will endure beyond your leaving. And should be something your hostess is unlikely to buy for herself.

Gumps, in San Francisco, is a store put together to serve those who might have friends with houses by the sea, and guest bathrooms. They sell hand towels for everyone, or, apparently, every hobbyist, including the gardener, equestrienne, and koi collector. And yes, people do collect koi, even though they are hard to scratch behind the ears. They are the animal version of orchids, I believe, available in many varieties and easier to tend than one might imagine.

A “fingertip” towel is priced at $39. Of course it’s fingertip, right?  One can even buy monogrammed paper towels, but that’s harder to justify in this era of garbage cities floating across our oceans.

But my favorites are these. Sea horses who confess to having an Uncle Dragon in some other city. Slightly mythical, still nautical. If I went into the guest bathroom of a terribly proper lady, and found these hanging, I might stop my handwashing to wonder if I really knew my hostess. All to the good.

Here’s to summer, everyone. To hospitality, however furnished. And maybe, just maybe, to a night at the pristine seaside, dancing with fantastical creatures.

Note: No compensation of any sort has been received for this post. That said, it does smell pretty good in that store.

30 Responses

  1. I like the terri-cloth better than the flat linen.

    The linen is elegant but once they’ve been used they look wrinkly.

    “Some” people are a little nuts about germs and the paper towel are good for them because they’re one-use.

  2. I literally gasped when I saw the seahorse towels; they are critters I’ve long been fascinated with. I love them!

  3. very pretty, they are a wonderful present to give-I remember going to a drawer at my grandmother’s and pulling my own out to use when I visited, she had stacks and stacks-this is one thing you can never have too many of. and cleanliness is next to godliness they say.

  4. Oh the seahorse! They are fantastic. But all your choices are lovely. It is nice to think that people still think about hostess gifts, makes me feel less like a silly old fuddy-duddy.

  5. I realized after I posted a comment that I failed to mention that linen/damask/huck towels are useless for drying one’s hands. That might be part of their allure, though.

  6. I totally agree – hand towels are a fabulous hostess or housewarming gift. I really like the equine ones you featured – very nice!

  7. It is nice to think that people still think about hostess gifts, makes me feel less like a silly old fuddy-duddy.

    But hostess gifts are the Right Thing To Do, as are thank-you notes! I no longer expect a thank-you note from someone who has just gotten a wedding or a baby gift from me, but I have also decided that if there is no thank-you note, there will be no further gifts. Oh yes I am harsh.

    PS One of the best hostess gifts I ever got was seven bags of kitty litter from Fleet Farm. Our friends have a lake house an hour north of here and right by Fleet Farm, which has the best store brand kitty litter in the world. They came to our house for dinner and stopped at Fleet Farm on the way to bolster our kitty litter stock.

  8. Those are delightful. I do find, as a frequent hostess at a waterfront place that does end up attracting guests, that I prefer consumables rather than something that persists long after the visit. Unless you’re absolutely sure that your taste is either like mine or absolutely unassailable, you’re leaving me with something I then have to feel guilty about not saving to display at your next visit (and hopefully, we’ll both want there to be a next visit). These seahorse towels are great because they are “consumable” in a way; luxurious soaps — Portofino,etc.– as well. A great cookbook, perhaps, and one can never have too much glassware, except again, there’s the taste/quality issue.
    Those seahorses, though, could swim right into my home, and I’d love them forever!

  9. These towels are charming and one could buy a few and keep in reserve.
    Gumps is a treasure trove of goodies…if I lived nearby I’d go in and browse often!
    The sea horses would look great on our boat…with the vintage salmon arborite.

    When I am a guests I usually take wine, chocolates and flowers and leave a small personalized gift for the hostess…sometimes it’s a luxe bar of french triple milled soap and other times it’s a candle.

  10. Agree with Materfamilias on this one. We have a summer home, and I prefer something consumable, like muffins for breakfast the next morning. Anything that is sort of “helpful” to the extra burden. The worst – cut flowers with no vase – that I then have to scramble to find and display.
    However I love the seahorse guest towels so much, I’m thinking of buying them for myself.

  11. I was always told that a hostess or house gift should leave no trace. That said, I would LOVE to receive those sea horse towels. Lisa, please feel free to join us on the rocky northeastern shores any time you are in the neighborhood ;-)

  12. What a nice post. Over here, in Finland guests bring flowers, wine, chocolates. I don´t think that the ones spending a night over even understand, how pleased the mistress of the house would be, getting a special gift.
    Although we have live horses, paintings of horses and a few sculptures, I would like to receive something totally different, given the option. Hand towels are a good idea, white ones would be a safe choice.

  13. i admit that i’ve been getting twitchy about acquiring monogrammed towels with three-letter pop culture references: ODB, PYT, OPP…

    it’s probably best that i’m not allowed to make purchases at present.

  14. So cute! And I agree with you about the towels. I had a single friend to Thanksgiving with us and she spent the night. She gave me a gift of four dishtowels – really cute ones I probably wouldn’t have bought for myself. One has an embroidered martini glass. One has embroidered grape bunches.I use the towels every day and think of my friend when I do.

    I have another friend, “E”, who brings a “hostess gift” rather than a bottle of wine to every event she attends in someone else’s home. The idea is nice, I guess, but the hostess gifts tend to be regifts of things others gave her. I once received back a gift I’d given her myself. Another friend received a book with a very long personal inscription to “E” just inside the front cover.

    I think E will be regarded as an amusing eccentric when she gets older, but right now she’s just strange.

    Anyway, YAY hostess gifts!

  15. Love your post Lisa! Oh dear, now it comes out–my seahorse fetish. My entire patio collection is covered in them. I buy almost anything with a seahorse on it. Well not any seahorse, I’m particular. And those fingertip towels are precious! I love buying hand embroidered hand towels at the flea market. It’s hard to find that kind of handwork anywhere else–I always buy non-used ones (someone was saving them for a rainy day) and they are lovely.

    xo Mary Jo

  16. hi lisa,

    those handtowels are gorgeous. almost too pretty to wipe your hands on! and i agree with you, they make the best gifts.


    ps – i so wanted to comment on your last post but just could not get my words straight. i tried though. basically i wanted to say that any money in the wrong hands, no matter the age of the recipient, is such a pitiful waste. i’ve seen it happen and it’s ghastly. does that make sense?

  17. Stephanie – I know. I love those old ones too. They are perhaps meant just to hang there, forever?:)

    RoseAG – Yes, it’s a once and done scenario. I hope “some” people have a good weekend.

    Jan – Oh I’m so glad!

    little augury – It’s very much something I remember from my grandmother, and something my older female relatives have in abundance.

    Mardel – Good manners should never be fuddy-duddyish.

    Jen – Thank you! Those equine ones appear on closer examination to have leather trim (!)

  18. The gold digger – Hahahahahaha. Perhaps monogrammed kitty litter?

    Mater – I would be too worried to give a present if I didn’t feel I knew the hostess’s taste:). I am pleased you like the seahorses. But soaps, candles, all wonderful.

    Hostess – It’s absolutely beautiful come Christmastime. Maybe a trip to SF? The towels would be great on a boat.

    Kathy – I have often heard this complaint about cut flowers. So glad you too like those fanciful critters.

    Mette – Thank you. I can imagine a pair of wholly pristine linen towels hanging by a sink in your house…

    rb – Dishtowels! Yes! Another similar option. Regifting is not very nice in that situation;).

  19. Susan – :).

    mary jo – Well you have a seahorse clip on your pearl necklaces, right?

    DocP – Well thank you!

    Laura – Wine is good. Very good. Only if I’m staying overnight sometimes I like to do a little more.

    Lori – Great minds think alike:).

  20. Tabitha – Thank you!

    Janet – Thanks for all your thoughts. I can imagine you would thrift some wonderful old linens if you put your mind to it.

    Stephanie – Here’s to summer!

    EntertainingMom – You’re so good at this stuff, I’m surprised!

  21. Hmm. While gratefully received I’m afraid hand towels would go straight into our thrift-store bag once our visitors had gone. I like when N’s parents come and they bring us a case of their local wine. Presents I can eat or drink are my favourites.

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