On Price & Aesthetics: How Much Is Too Much For a Kitchen Tool or Accessory?

Last week I was in Portland and got to visit one of my favorite stores, Canoe, for the first time. Since I was on vacation, I splurged and bought myself a Health Ceramic mug ($34). Like many of my other favorite home and kitchen stores (Brook Farm General Store, Kaufmann Mercantile, Herriott Grace, to name a few), I found myself eyeing far more than I could afford to buy at that time. Which has me wondering: how do you determine whether or not a kitchen tool or accessory is worth the price? How important is the item's aesthetic appeal and backstory?

The trend in recent years towards handcrafted products and goods definitely hit a sweet spot with me. I believe in supporting artisans. I appreciate knowing where things come from, how they were made, what materials and processes went into it. I think spending more on a higher quality item that will last longer is ultimately the way to go. And I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a sucker for "good ol' manufacturing,' all that Americana stuff that's on the verge of becoming a punchline. (Or already has. Hey, I live in Brooklyn. I get it.)

However, that doesn't mean I can always buy that way. While I would love a hand-carved cutting board, I can't justify $225 when I can buy a $10 board from Target. And while I think that copper tea strainer above is absolutely gorgeous, chances are my current tea strainer works just as well, though it isn't nearly as pretty or well-made. (I'm a new tea drinker, so I could be totally wrong on that. Tea aficionados, feel free to correct me.)

So, like most people, I have to pick and choose what to spend my money on. I don't always go the cheap route or the expensive route. Most times I think I end up in the middle somewhere. The thing that I'm considering now is making sure that what I choose to spend more money on is actually worth more. With all trends, there comes a point when items hitch a ride on the costly popularity train because they can. (See case in point: Fleecing at the Brooklyn Flea.) Commenters had a fit (and probably rightly so) over this $35 cutting board oil in a recent post. Now it seems that all precious things come at a price. But do they have to?

I'm not an artisan or a DIY'er, and I'm not a particularly crafty person. However, I understand the value of time, and I understand that time is money. I also understand that skill is money. So here are a few questions I ask myself when considering an expensive kitchen tool or accessory:

  • How much time did it take to make?
  • How much skill did it take to make?
  • How long will it last?
  • How often will I use it?
  • What (if anything) does it replace or improve upon in my kitchen?

So, going back to my Canoe purchases, $35 may be a lot of money to spend on a mug. But I love the company, it's a special reminder of my West Coast vacation, and I'm going to use it every day for my morning coffee and tea. Was it a necessary purchase? No. But it's a beautiful thing to hold and it brings me pleasure. And sometimes it's okay to have that trump all.

What do you think? How do you determine what kitchen tools and accessories you'll splurge on, and when you'll save? How do you feel about the current handcrafted/back-to-simplicity trend in kitchen items, and their higher prices? Is it worth it to you, or does it feel too much like a trend gone too far?

Related: Save and Splurge: 5 Places To Put Your Money in a Kitchen Renovation

(Images, clockwise from top left: Canoe; Blackcreek Mercantile; Simple Peace; Herriott Grace; Spartan)

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