This weekend I was invited to a lovely housewarming for a friend who has a knack in style. Naturally, as it was a housewarming, I was in full expectation of providing a useful, stylish, and chic gift. Culturally you are not explicitly required to do so, but if you are in any way close to the person, it’s always a good idea. Be sure and tailor the gift to the person, in the past I have gifted a gift card to The Home Depot and a few small tools to a couple who was going to be doing some extensive renovating, I’ve handmade useful gifts for friends that are into that sort of thing-staining it to match their new kitchen cabinets and everything, and I’ve also just hit up stores for something that really fits the character of the person. What you buy of make for the person will entirely depend on what they actually need.
Do some investigating on what they might need. Here are some usual suspects:
Go in the guest bathroom and ask “are their guest towels up to snuff?” If not, get a set that matches their bathroom (towels are cheap at Tuesday Morning, Ross, and even TJ Maxx).
Find out what size bed they have and they have in the guest room(s). If you can check out the color schemes for said rooms, get a decent sheet set to match. Decent indicates a minimum of 600 thread count and a coordinating pattern or color. Fact of the matter is, I’ve never actually met anyone with too many linens.
For some reason I will never understand so many people live their lives with deficient kitchen knives. Check their kitchen and ask a few questions: do they have a knife set? is that set of decent quality? If it’s a decent quality set but dull, you can totally gift them a sharpening. If it’s not a decent set, you can at least gift them some decent knives. Every kitchen needs a decent paring knife, 5-7 inch Chef’s Knife or Santoku Knife, and a 5-7 inch Serrated Knife. Try to find one that fits their lifestyle. I’ve found that David Byrne’s Fishtail series is a bit of a hit, it’s attractive, durable, and unique. Classic black with rivets is also perfectly fine. Also check for decent branding: Wusthof, Henkels, Shun, etc. But don’t just shop for brand, each of these have lower end lines which will incorporate plastic handles and lesser metals which just won’t have the durability.
Another choice is a set of steak knives. I’m a huge fan of the Barenthal Laguiole series, but I will warn you that the opalescent and colored handles are mere plastic, and I would push for the silver handles which are actual metal and feel better in the hand. Don’t order these online, but hit up Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx, which frequently have these for under $20 for a set of 6.
4) Other Kitchenware
Aside from knives, many people are deficient in any number of kitchen items. Have you ever noticed something missing while over? It can be simple-like a hand held citrus juicer that would facilitate drink making or it can be more obscure like a rice cooker given they cook rice fairly often. I also find that most any and everyone in the universe could use a good cutting board, and you will see more on that in a second.
This one can go for just about anyone but is particularly useful if they’re going to be doing some Fixer Upping. If they will be doing IKEAing then a nice hex key is always a choice that they will love you for later, also consider a set of screwdrivers, a hammer and some photo hanging brackets, etc.
6) Housewares That Match Their Style
Like a door mat, a cute vase, or even a 4′ in diameter octopus made of rope and shells (search Miguel on the site when you’re done with this article). Be sure that whatever it is has both form and function and leave the collectable Hallmark figurines to the parents/grandparents of the homeowner. I also suggest against strongly religious housewares unless they are already prevalent in the house, because you never know if that will make them uncomfortable and it is their house.
Now that we have some gift giving ideas out of the way, let’s talk about what my lucky new homeowner scored. I went to Homegoods because this person has owned houses before and does do a fair bit of DIY, but already has all her tools. She’s quite classy so I needed something to fit that and I wanted to get something for the kitchen because she loves to cook. Naturally, this led me to cutting boards and I found this absolutely fabulous black bamboo cutting board. Just a cutting board is lame, so I paired it with a cute knife that was under $5.00 and matched the look of the cutting board.
Things to think about with cutting boards:
What’s it Made Out Of?- Acacia is attractive but is somewhat soft and will over time get deep grooves. Bamboo is an attractive choice but unless you get a board that uses tiny pieces facing up and not longways, it too will be soft and will develop deep cuts. Granite can sometimes be seen as attractive, but it’s more for display and candy making than actual cutting as it will dull your knives and scratch. Plastic is acceptable for cutting, but should be attractive in design, flexible plastic cutting boards can also be rather useful. Never buy a glass board to cut on, as it will damage knives, they may be used for serving and I have one for this purpose.
How Big is It?- So, people should have more than one cutting board. Depending on your purpose, sizing will vary. A small cutting board will do well for cheese and meat trays. A larger cutting board could be used for carving a chicken or small game bird. A long cutting board could be perfect for bread. Generally speaking, I try to make sure people have a small cutting board for little jobs, a medium cutting board that’s thicker for more substantial jobs, and a large cutting board that’s for big jobs/complicated jobs/display. The cutting board I bought this person is in the last category. It’s a great size to do for a chicken, or cut up 5 different veggies for a stir fry, or display a fair amount of snackage in style.
How Thick is It?- If you’re using wood, a good thickness means the board will last longer. Thin granite will break easily if dropped or subjected to pounding (say to tenderize meat or knead dough). With plastic thin is OK, and super thin plastic is pliable so they can cut, form a funnel with the board, and shake the cut veggies or meat into the desired container.
What Will it Be Used For?- If you want to use it to actually cut meat, you need to make sure that it has a well all the way around to catch blood/drippings. If it’s more for display and veggies, you can go with a plain edge. If you want to cut bread, there are cutting boards that have pre-cut groves to help you get all the way through the crust and help guide you for uniform slicing. If it’s more for cheeses, there are even cutting boards with built in drawers to hold cheese tools. In my case I wanted versatility, so I went with no well, a nice hole to handle it from, and endless chicness from the color.
Here’s a closeup of the board, note it has the tiny segments that are vertical instead of horizontal which will help this cutting board stand up to whatever its new owner can throw at it. Also notice the color, I had never seen a black one before and it was so unique I just had to get it for her.
Now, the wrapping. The boyfriend is growing and maintaining a handlebar mustache for his upcoming theater show. Naturally, when I saw the Mustachioed butcher paper wrapping paper, this simply had to happen.
All wrapped up and ready to go. She actually meticulously took off the paper to save it for later. As an added bonus, her only other cutting board was small so I made a very educated choice which she used immediately for the party and I wasn’t one of 30 guests that brought a bottle of wine with a fun label. I will close by saying, there’s nothing wrong with wine with funny labels, but everyone brings it to a housewarming, so dare to be different, readers.