Who needs a Sub-Zero? Who needs a Mercedes-Benz?

SubzeroA reader asked good question recently, one I’ve heard the likes of before: Who needs a Sub-Zero refrigerator? Who needs a $10,000 Viking range? Who needs to spend so much on appliances?

This reader said he got a kitchen full of good-quality appliances — refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher — for less than $2,600 at Sears.

Ann Lippincott got a similar challenge during her Santa Barbara remodel, where she used some of the most prestigious subcontractors in a town where well-connected and talented subs work on Oprah Winfrey’s estate, or Ty Warner’s new beachfront mansion. When someone asked why Ann needed to use the best subs in town on her condo kitchen, her response was: Why shouldn’t I?

So what is the justification for choosing the best?

My take: I liken it to choosing a car. Some people want the economy of the least expensive Kia (the Rio, at around $11,00) or Hyundai (the Accent, at around $10,000), while some want the luxury of a Lexus (at way over $50,000) or the top of the line Mercedes-Benz (in the hundreds of thousands).

No matter which car you choose, I’m sure there are cheaper ones you could have bought. Will it be the same quality as the higher-priced cars? Not even. That’s how it is with remodels. Some people want the best.

What do you think? Would you expect a $20,000 kitchen remodel to be the same quality as a $60,000 kitchen remodel? Is there anything wrong with wanting — and paying for — the best?

3 Comments on Who needs a Sub-Zero? Who needs a Mercedes-Benz?

  1. Susan Serra, CKD

    If you want to use the word “wrong,” here’s when it’s wrong. When people have the desire to purchase the best, whether it is to impress themselves or others, and they cannot really afford it, creating stress, which then affects the adults as well as children in the family.
    When funds perhaps could better go toward needed expenses such as college, health care, emergency savings. When people are unwilling to seek out a designer who can be super creative on a budget, if they need to be on a budget. Bottom line, when self discipline evaporates and raw desire takes over.
    Conversely, if the money is flowing, do it, why not?! Try to do it responsibly, starting with donating the existing cabinetry. I believe the right and wrong argument has to do with the effects on relationships as opposed to anyone else’s “moral” issues surrounding it.

  2. Ian Swett

    Actually, Sub-Zero and Viking are a special case, because they are offering products which are historically unreliable and Consumer Reports rated relatively poorly, but at very high prices.
    They’re the Hummer H1’s of kitchen appliances. So unsuitable for their purchased purpose that the only reason to buy them is conspicuous consumption.

  3. sheila

    this is a much bigger question than a remodeling question. it has a lot to do with why you “need” the best and how you conduct the rest of your life, in my opinion.
    many people choose a “better car” because they will be much safer, but many others do it just to impress people. many people volunteer, donate to charity and conserve resources in all other areas of their lives, but just LOVE to cook for friends and need a beautiful, high-performance space.
    my vice is a full-water shower. i am ridiculously conscientious about recycling, conserving water, using green/organic/fair trade products, etc. i donate time and money to charity and do pro bono work. and so in some sort of karmic “swap,” i feel that it’s ok for me to take a full-flow shower.
    in other words, there is not a lot of value in a miserable life — but there is a difference between being greedy, insecure and narcissistic, and enjoying/indulging in certain things in life which you may need to offset by trying extra-hard to care for people, the planet, etc.