Bob Vila’s Last-Minute Holiday Gift Ideas 2011

Read up on some great gift ideas for the DIYer in your life, no matter their taste.

Bob Vila Gift Guide


I don’t know about you, but this year I don’t want to saddle my kids with all sorts of large purchases that they need to fit in the car for the trip home from our holiday celebrations. Plus, it’s the green thing to do. So with this in mind, I’m focused on giving gifts of experiences instead.

Here are my top last-minute gift ideas:

For the Home-Improver:

  • Pass on one of your heirloom hand tools to the new do-it-yourselfer in the family (or if that’s too difficult to part with, show them how to use it instead).
  • Give a gift certificate for their local home center.

Why this is on my list: My father made furniture, worked on home renovations, and fixed things with just two toolboxes and a workbench. Over the years I’ve carefully assembled my own tools, ranging from traditional, tried-and-true tools to the latest innovations. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of creating something yourself, with your own hands, whether it’s a simple DIY project or your actual trade.

For inspiration:

For the History or Architectural Buff:

  • Historic New England is the oldest and largest regional heritage organization in the nation. Membership benefits include free admission to see all their historic properties, exclusive member-only events, a newsletter, and a magazine. Give a gift membership. For an additional fee, members can get a one-on-one consultation with the Old House Maintenance Advisor.

Why this is on my list: Buildings, especially homes, are my life’s work. I’ve studied architecture and had my own remodeling and design business. Old houses have a lot to teach us about the people who built them, lived there, and were part of a given community. They offer us a glimpse of history that helps explain how we’ve come to live how we do. 

For the Museum-goer:

For the Community Builder:  

Why this is on my list: I’ve been actively involved with Habitat for Humanity and helped them blitz build a house in Yonkers, NY, which we put on TV.

Watch my Building Green video on building a Habitat for Humanity affordable green apartment building with the help of volunteers.

For the Preservationist:

  • The Finca Foundation’s mission is to work with Cuban colleagues to restore and preserve Ernest Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigía, its contents, and his fishing boat. Of particular note: the author’s 9,000 book library, which includes thousands of letters and photographs as well as manuscripts and galley proofs. Give a gift in someone’s name and honor the legacy of one of America’s most famous authors.

Why this is on my list: In the last five years I’ve been helping out with the restoration of Ernest Hemingway’s home and collections at Finca Vigía near Havana, Cuba. This place was his home from 1939 until his death and he left it to the Cuban people to be run as a museum. This project has allowed me to visit my parents’ homeland several times.

For the Eco-Minded and Lover of Nature:

  • The National Park Foundation is the national philanthropic partner of the National Park Service. The organization’s mission is to care for “…special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.” Make a donation on behalf of your family and friends and help support America’s national parks

Why this is on my list: The National Park Service safeguards critical parts of America’s history – from 84,000,000 acres of land to 85,049 miles of perennial rivers and streams to 27,000 historic structures to 582 national natural landmarks, and the list goes on.

  • The Nature Conservancy’s mission is “to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.” Gifts of nature include planting trees in Brazil, adopting an acre of rainforest in Costa Rica, and creating safety for hummingbirds along their migration paths.

Why these are on my list: With our planet in peril, global warming, resource depletion, and pollution, nothing is more important than going green.

Happy Holidays!