Fitting a Stylish Kitchen on a Tight Budget

Kirsty Doolan looks into the options for creating your dream culinary zone without overspending
by Kirsty Doolan
29th July 2021

Planning and designing a kitchen that offers great value for money doesn’t mean you have to settle for less.

Instead, it’s all about clever planning, smarter shopping, knowing where to cut corners or make sacrifices, and deciding on the key features to invest in for maximum benefit.

Our expert tips will help you get the best kitchen for your budget.

Kitchen planning: where to start

When creating a new kitchen, consider extraction, lighting and zoning early in your design scheme. Planning properly now will help you to avoid spending your budget on moving things around later in the process. If it’s your first major project, involve a specialist from the start to help you think of these practical issues.

Look at your existing storage and draw-up an essentials list – cutlery, pots and pans, crockery and so on, plus items you currently don’t have space to stash away. Calculate roughly how many cupboards and drawers you think you’ll need.

Consider the work surface space you have now; do you need more preparation areas or a better layout? In some cases, worktop materials can cost as much as all the cupboards put together, so work out whether function, aesthetics or longevity is your priority here.

You might be able to integrate cupboards you already own. “A sideboard makes a great place to store crockery and means less cabinets, handles, and worktop space,” advises Clotilde Passalacqua, interior design manager at Ikea UK & Ireland.

Do a little research and put together a rough, but realistic budget allocating a cost to core items – cupboards, worktop, appliances – and stick closely to the numbers while you’re sourcing. If you’re renovating and the layout already works, then don’t needlessly spend to move the gas and plumbing outlets, for instance.

Shop around for kitchen savings

You don’t have to buy the whole kitchen from one place. Many specialists offer a free planning service (like Ikea’s online tool) allowing you to design your dream space.

Use this, but then shop at a variety of retailers to find the items you need. Don’t forget that the tradespeople you hire, such as builders, plumbers and electricians, are often more than happy to recommend items that offer the best quality for your budget, based on their experience. Especially as they will be the ones working with the elements you choose.

Luxurious sink

Splashing out on a good-quality sink, like this one from Abode, will make a cheaper kitchen look more luxurious

Seek out clever bargains, too. Ex-display fitted kitchens and end-of-line appliances can considerably reduce the price tag of more luxurious products.

Also, freestanding furniture like traditional farmhouse dressers are pricey, so scour charity shops, auctions, antique stores and eBay for an affordable item that will give your kitchen a unique style.

You can sand them down and repaint them to look completely different and fit in with your chosen decor.

The right kitchen range

High street kitchen shops are a fabulous way to get ideas, but the overheads of a showroom mean it isn’t the most cost-effective way to buy. DIY stores, such as B&Q, Wickes and Homebase, have kitchen sales a couple of times a year, where freebies are often thrown in.

Going to a builders’ merchant tends to be good value, too, as companies like Benchmarx, Jewson and Howdens Joinery only deal with trade. The best deals are through kitchen fitters who regularly buy from their local branch.

Your local hardware store won’t have attractive kitchen displays, but may have samples and a stack of brochures to browse through competitive prices. Companies like Wren Kitchens cater for all budgets; their Infinity range is the best value without compromise to quality.

If you’re confident about measuring up and doing your own design, then online retailer DIY Kitchens has a huge selection of fully-assembled cupboards in 200 styles, colours and finishes with bespoke options.

Plus, they’ll send samples before you buy. They’re currently developing an online planning tool, too.

Ikea is budget-friendly with a high-end look. If you’re after something more bespoke, buy their cupboard carcasses and ask your joiner to make the doors.

white shaker kitchen from IKEA

The bevelled doors of Ikea’s Bodbyn off-white shaker kitchen start at £46 each and come with a 25-year guarantee

Fake it ‘til you make it

High end materials instantly make a kitchen feel more grand, but of course are expensive. Select elements that have the look of an opulent finish without the same price tag.

“One idea is to opt for a granite transformation worktop, which is simply a thin layer of granite placed over your existing surface,” says Kunle Barker, property expert and TV presenter on ITV’s Love Your Home and Garden and Renovate Don’t Relocate.

“Once fitted, it is almost impossible to tell that it’s not a solid granite worktop, so you get that high end finish at just a fraction of the cost.”

Consider the durability of the elements you’re buying. For instance, timber-effect surfaces will usually be lower maintenance than solid wood.

cost-effective kitchen from Kutchenhau

Kutchenhaus uses niche cladding as a fashionable and cost-effective alternative to tiling

“To clean it, you simply wipe it down with a damp sponge and mild detergent, then dry with a clean cloth,” says Sinead Trainor, kitchen category manager at Lochanna Kitchens.

“A real wood worktop needs regular oiling every few months to prevent it from drying out and splitting. A timber-effect kitchen door or worktop can save you approximately 20%-30% on your kitchen bill, yet you won’t miss out on design and quality.”

Reuse & recycle materials

If you are extending or renovating, think about how some materials from your previous space can be given a second life, before you hire that skip.

Worktops can be resized and shaped to fit a new scheme, cupboard doors can be fitted to the kitchen and repainted to look completely different and old appliances can be sold on to help contribute towards buying new ones.

Statement Kitchen on Modest Budget

Modern kitchen with island

This couple were lucky enough to stumble upon a local company, whose core business is doing all the floors at Gatwick airport, but – almost as a sideline – they do a poured-resin concrete-like floor for residential properties. The quote given for this kitchen floor was a much more affordable figure and the couple were very happy with the results.

Read their blog

Relocating electric or plumbing points will add to costs as this is a bigger job, so try to keep lights, sinks and appliances in the same spot where possible.

Spend your money where it matters

Work out what’s essential for your kitchen and where you might be able to make savings. For instance, an affordable off-the-shelf kitchen immediately appears much more lavish by investing in a pricier sink and beautiful worktops.

Handleless designs can also be a more cost-effective option. “Expensive end panels aren’t always necessary; using colour-matched kitchen cabinets instead will mean more of the budget can be put into your dream features,” says Sean Ford from Kutchenhaus.

Pare back your kitchen quote

Many companies offer a free design service because they want your business. You’ll likely find the first quote is too pricy because it includes absolutely everything you want, but this can help you prioritise.

Perhaps one of your ‘must-haves’ isn’t as expensive as you thought, or you’d rather keep the quartz worktop, but swap in cheaper appliances.

You could also consider things like replacing wall cupboards with open shelves for glassware and crockery, or swapping drawers for cupboards, which are cheaper. Another hack is choosing double cupboards instead of singles units to save on handles, hinges and installation.

Plan your kitchen layout properly

Understand how you can achieve an open plan kitchen for the best price. “Extending isn’t the only option to get more square footage; consider knocking down partition walls to create a welcoming kitchen-diner, or incorporate other areas of the house into this zone,” says Sean.

“Making better use of your existing space can also resolve frustrations. For example, knocking down a wall could add extra capacity for storage or a utility room.”

Corner pantry from Masterclass

This cross-corner pantry from Masterclass is a cost-effective and practical option for tight spaces

However, this is a big job, so if it is a real possibility for you, make sure to factor it in as early as possible, so that you (and your budget) are properly prepared.

Do your homework on tradespeople

Even if you’re buying a kitchen from a reputable retailer, it can sometimes be cheaper to find your own workers to fit the units. Bear in mind that fees can vary wildly, and not always for good reason.

When hiring an electrician, plumber, or kitchen fitter get at least three different quotes to compare. Then, read reviews and ask to see photos of previous work before you hire anyone for the job.

Be clever with kitchen storage

Use integrated solutions to enhance the efficiency of your cabinets – a kitchen island can offer discreet storage, and combining cupboards and drawers will help you maximise this.

“This not only enables a streamlined, high-end look and feel in the kitchen, it also means you make the most of a smaller area,” says Steve Tough, commercial sales director at Masterclass Kitchens.

“A cross-corner pantry system is a more cost-effective option than carrying base and wall units and a worktop around a corner. The result is a setup with more usable space for storage,” says Steve.

Wood effect kitchen from Lochanna

This Lochanna kitchen uses wood-effect materials, giving the desired look at a fraction of the cost of the real thing, whilst requiring less upkeep

“Similarly, tall pull-out units offer much more usability than an equivalent cupboard.”

Also consider investing in kitchen furniture that doubles up on its function.

“An island or breakfast bar can work as a storage area as well as a place for dining. And you may be able to fit your hob or sink on it too – utilising every inch of surface space,” says Sinead from Lochanna.

DIY where you can

You don’t necessarily need to hire professionals for every aspect of your kitchen build or overhaul. Consider whether you can do some of the jobs yourself. If you’re updating an existing kitchen then the tasks might be suitable for you to complete yourself.

“Updating handles is a very quick way to give your kitchen a makeover, as is painting the doors,” says Kunle. “Both of these can be carried out by you quite easily, so if you’re looking to save, this is a potential plan.”

Know your kitchen appliance options

Look into what appliances offer energy-saving credentials to lower your future bills. Another option is going to online-only retailers for large machines. These often have more competitive prices due to lower overheads. Or, consider purchasing own-label brands.

“Many leading suppliers will also produce another range that is more keenly priced,” says Sean. If the appliance is going to be hidden from view or tucked away in a utility room, then a more affordable, less flashy, option might be preferable.

Main Image: A pair of multifunctional kitchen islands from Mulberry are the perfect choice for discreet yet capacious storage in this project

Additional content by Jane Crittenden

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