How to refresh your kitchen on a budget.
The kitchen can be the most costly room in the house to do up; but there are creative ways to economise, if you know your way around DIY stores, second-hand shops – and your toolbox. Consider it a rejuvenation rather than a renovation, and you’ll save both time and money.
Cabinets are often the most expensive element of a new kitchen, so you could try revamping the ones you have instead of replacing them. “If your kitchen needs modernising but you’re happy with the layout, shop around for new cabinet doors or create a focal point with new worktops – you’d be surprised what these changes achieve,” advises Charlie Thomas, senior designer at online interior design service Homewings.
Often, base carcasses are in reasonable condition, so you don’t have to replace the whole thing. “There are online companies that make affordable replacement doors, which come in a wealth of styles, and the colour choices are endless,” says interior designer Mariama Janneh.
If your doors simply look tired, there’s no need to replace them. “For a budget facelift, paint the doors: use an appropriate primer to ensure the paint will stick and the correct paint for the material that you have,” says Zannah Harding, founder of Style Your Space.
Create impact by painting top and bottom cupboards different colours, says Thomas. “You can also opt for re-existing cabinetry to be foil-wrapped in a huge selection of colours, designs and finishes.”
Handles can transform doors too, adding a higher-end look on a low budget, says Thomas.
“Coloured glass makes cabinets stand out without overwhelming the space: a pop of bright colour goes a long way,” adds Janneh.
The upcycle path
Upcycling classic kitchen furniture creates a new look for less, and gives a fashionable retro look. “Bring in a mixture of old and new,” says Thomas. “Instead of opting for an expensive island, use a Welsh dresser instead – available on auction sites or at local charity shops for very little. With a lick of paint, shabby vintage furniture can be transformed.”
The key to upcycling, says Harding, is the right paint. “For free-standing furniture, use chalk paint or mineral paint, which are hard-wearing, usable on most surfaces and for which preparation is minimal.”
You can upcycle planking, too. “Source wood from reclamation yards to make open shelves,” suggests Janneh. “The same principle can be applied to worktops.”
A fresh coat of paint can also work wonders on walls, but acres of magnolia won’t provide a wow factor. “Decide which features you want to emphasise and use paint to do it – above a worktop, next to a dining area, highlighting beams, or inside archways,” says Harding. “Paint a rectangle to frame artwork using a colour from the picture. Or just paint skirting boards and doorframes in a contrasting colour.”
Rather than buying new paint, you can use up leftover paint, or source part pots from your local recycling centre or reuse network. In low-wear areas, wallpaper can add interest – try creating a feature wall using leftover rolls from other people’s projects on eBay, perhaps.
The cost of tiling adds up, so if you’re covering large areas with designer styles, it pays to shop around for deals on bulk buys. “Search the clearance sections of tile suppliers, or look for outlets or sales at designer tile shops and you can pick up some bargains,” recommends Harding. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles in the same room.”
Only tile where necessary, says Janneh. “Tiling behind the hob and painting the rest of your walls enables you to create a simple, stylish look.” And don’t go all the way. “The half-painted wall is very on trend and can easily be achieved with half-tiling finished with wooden edging painted to match the wall above,” says Harding.
“If your kitchen needs modernising but you’re happy with the layout, shop around for new cabinet doors or create a focal point with new worktops – you’d be surprised what these changes achieve” - Charlie Thomas, senior designer, Homewings
Look down as well as up when thinking tiles: fresh flooring changes the entire feel of a space. Clean grouting between floor tiles will lift them. “Use specialist products or get someone to do it for you and seal the floor to help prevent staining,” says Harding. “Or just retile worn areas in a complementary style.”
Alternatively, lay an inexpensive new floor over the old one. “Vinyl flooring used to be seen as a bit naff. Not any more: there are many quality designs to choose from without a hefty price tag,” says Janneh. “It’s easy to clean, durable and warm underfoot. Fit to just under the units and any visible areas to help save money.”
Making cosmetic changes can have a huge impact, and replacing your worktops is one of the easiest ways to alter the look of a kitchen. “Try a laminate stone look to add a luxe feel, or wood to create a homely look,” says Janneh.
“You might get cheaper worktops by going direct to a stone yard or purchasing online,” adds Harding. “You can also find bargains on eBay if you know what you’re looking for.”
Rethink the space, too. “If you have a large, open-plan kitchen, use furniture or rugs to zone it,” suggests Harding. “Even if the space isn’t big, you could find a corner for a chair, table and lamp to make a reading spot. Or add a shelf and bar stool to provide an extra work area.”
Accessorising is an inexpensive way to stamp your style on a kitchen. “Accessories pull together a scheme and can even create it,” says Thomas. “Consider each item’s visual impact alongside its function – pick decorative pieces that are also practical.”
“A table lamp on an island adds atmosphere, a wall lamp adds brightness where you need it. Or adapt a pendant light with a plug, then hang it from a ceiling hook wherever you’d like to create ambience,” suggests Harding.
Bring art as well as light, says Janneh, to make the most of blank walls. “A few well-placed prints add interest, while mirrors give the illusion of extra space.”
And don’t forget the soft furnishings, adds Harding. “Use fabric off-cuts to replace seat covers or make cushions. Drape sheepskins over the back of chairs to add texture and warmth. Even new tea towels help!”
Expert tips for giving the kitchen an affordable facelift
- Mariama Janneh: “Add good quality touches to certain areas to give the illusion of expense. By choosing a beautiful tile for the hob area, you’re creating an interesting focal point that will draw the eye to it, without spending a fortune.”
- Zannah Harding: “If you add interest and personality to your kitchen, people won’t notice if the cabinets aren’t perfect. Find a vintage dresser or wall cupboard with glass doors to display cookware or your favourite china.”
- Charlie Thomas: “The key to rejuvenating kitchen cabinets is to take your time prepping and painting. Remove drawers and doors; clean, sand and prime the woodwork – and give yourself enough time to do all this.”
New doors for old cabinets: Kitchen Magic, Superfront, Dream Doors
Quality pre-loved kitchens: Used Kitchen Exchange, Used Kitchen Hub
Good-value worktops: Worktop Express
Kitchen paint: Annie Sloan, Fusion Mineral Paint, Little Greene
Vintage furniture: Vinterior