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How to renovate a kitchen on a budget

From second-hand kitchen cupboards to spay-painting your existing ones and laying vinyl flooring, there's lots you can do without breaking the bank.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


Kitchens are the heart of any home. The best parties happen in kitchens. And countertops will invariably be covered with homework, laptops, bowls of soggy cereal and, dare we say it, cats’ bottoms. 

This is a high traffic room. It features regular chopping, frying, splashing and dumping of stuff. As a result, our kitchens can quickly start to look a bit tired..

Now, the lived-in look is coming back on trend. But if the state of your kitchen is just shabby rather than chic, there’s plenty you can do to spruce things up on a budget.

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Let's take a look at some creative ways to bring joy to the interior of this important room without breaking the bank.

1. Kitchen cabinet wizardry

The style of cabinetry you select has a huge impact on the character of your kitchen. 

The design of the kitchen units themselves impact on price. For example a high line base unit is far less expensive than a drawer pack. 

“Using cupboards instead of drawers is also a great way of cutting costs and allows for lots of storage for your favourite tableware,” says Dawn.

“Opt for cabinetry that can be sanded down and repainted if you might want to experiment with colour in the future.”

2. Makeover your cupboards 

If the carcasses of your existing fitted kitchen are in good condition, but you’re not keen on the colour or the design, there are several options to update them.

You might get them professionally spray painted, or you can choose a hard wearing paint and give them sand down and a new lick of paint yourself.

Another option is to remove the doors of your cupboards and fit new ones. Check out the Kitchen Facelift Company for ideas.

3. Fit second-hand units 

If you buy your kitchen units second-hand, you could create a kitchen for a fraction of the price of a brand new one.

A good kitchen is built to last, so look for established brands made from quality materials that someone else might not need any more. .

Many people use social media to find discarded kitchens, or scour eBay and Gumtree.

The Used Kitchen Exchange sells kitchens second-hand for a good price. “We only list kitchens in good enough condition to sell,” says director Helen Lord.

“Each one is checked, stored, and transported as carefully as possible.”

4. Choose shelves not cabinets

It’s usually cheaper to fit a shelf than it is to buy new fitted kitchen cabinets. If you are removing wall cabinets, why not consider replacing them with open shelving?

Not only does this give you the opportunity to style it up and show off your fantastic collection of vintage china, but you could fill Kilner jars with pasta and pulses and create a pantry vibe.

There are some great high street options for shelves. But you could also add character by sourcing vintage pieces or shelving made from reclaimed scaffolding boards

5. Consider vinyl flooring

Broken tiles can look awful and be hard to remove without ripping your entire kitchen out. But there are some great options for flooring which can cover them.

Linoleum or vinyl flooring can be a brilliant option to bring freshness and colour into your kitchen. It is hard wearing, easy to lay and relatively cheap compared with tiles or boards.

It can be ordered to fit your room and rolled out under the kickspace of a fitted kitchen with minimal mess and hassle.

6. Elevate your worktops

If you invest in new worktops and manage to fit them without damaging your old cupboard carcasses, it can lift the entire room.

Look for materials which will brighten and contrast with your existing kitchen, adding a new and functional focal point for the room.

If replacing the worktops is not possible, you can give them a couple more years of life by covering them in Fablon vinyl. It comes in lots of finishes and is cheap to buy.

Similarly, TikTok and Instagram are awash with videos of intrepid DIY-ers who have achieved marble worktop effects using paint. Have a watch and see if you’re brave enough to try it.

7. Invest where it counts

If most of your kitchen is fine but not fantastic, work out the area that will be of most value to you if you were to splash out a bit.

Invest in the area or elements you care about the most and will get maximum use out of,”  says Dawn Filkins, head of creative at Smile Kitchens.

“If you’re a keen baker, think about the worktop quality. Equally, if you prefer to use your kitchen mostly for socialising, think about the furniture and dining areas.”

8. Keep things neutral

Even if your temptation is for maximalism, kitchens have been white, cream or linen coloured for a long time. Warm neutral walls and textures are as versatile as they come. 

So, if you’re planning on switching up your kitchen interior on a budget, it pays to keep the basics such as cabinets, tiles and flooring neutral. 

“A neutral kitchen has been the workhorse of several trends over the years, from Japandi to heritage style. They are a serene escape from the chaos of the outside world,” says Dawn.

“Warm neutrals are universally appealing and feel-good, making them a perfect choice when looking to achieve a long-lasting style.” 

9. Include pops of luxury 

It’s the little things that elevate a standard kitchen. Old kitchen sink taps and cupboard handles can be replaced with shiny new ones to add a bit of a statement.

Colourful taps in pastel shades, as well as brushed metals of various tones and shiny new chrome can add a pop of luxury in a neutral interior.

Similarly, if you’re updating old kitchen cabinets or investing in new ones, elevate them by buying vintage or luxury handles.

10. Tile stencils

If your splashback tiles are boring or outdated, you can bring a heritage-style pattern to your kitchen without having to rip them out.

It’s possible to buy tile stencils, such as these ones from Stencil Revolution, that will allow you to make your splashback look classic and colourful at minimal cost.

The stencils work best on untextured tile surfaces in plain colours, although you could always use tile paint in one colour before applying the stencil.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.