Ask-Design-Mom Question:
Dear Design Mom,
as always, I am a huge fan of your site. My father-in-law just retired this month from a 40-year career as a lawyer. We would like to congratulate him with a retirement gift, but are not sure what to give. He’s a very modest and sentimental man, so we are looking for something meaningful and unique. Do you (or your fab readers) have any ideas? Thanks so much, Allison

Design Mom Answer:
What a wonderful thing that I could ponder for a bit: honoring a person’s career. Thanks for the question, Allison. I would suggest three different ways to approach thinking about this gift.

1) Commemorate his actual day-to-day job that he will probably miss (at least a little bit) when he retires.

For example, you could hire a photographer or painter to do a portrait of the building he worked in. Let the artist come up with a beautiful way to consider the architecture — maybe an interior view like the picture above. And keep it small. A framed, 8 x 10, original oil painting or photograph is just the right size for tucking in his home office without calling too much attention to itself.

2) Look ahead to what’s next for your Father-in-law. What do you suppose he wants to do post retirement? Has he expressed interest in a second career? Spending time in the Peace Corps? Think of a gift that will help him make steps toward his next goal.

For example, when a former boss of mine retired, I gave him a few of my favorite children’s books and a how-to-publish-children’s-books handbook — based on discussions we’d had about children’s lit.

3) Commemorate the fact that his career provided for his family — and in particular your husband as a child.

This is tricker. Let me give you an example. Pretend your husband loved bike riding as a teenager. You could find a pint-size model bike (think a 6-inch trinket for the bookshelf) to symbolize the idea that your father-in-law’s 40 years of work enabled his son/your husband to own a bike, to live in an area where he could safely learn to ride a bike, and to be able to have the leisure time to have the hobby in the first place.

Again, my answer is more about how to approach the gift than actual gift ideas — mostly because I can see from your question that you want to give something really meaningful — and certainly, you and your husband are the best people to figure out what that is.

Design Mom Readers: What retirement gift would you give?

architecture photo via getty