Update your kitchen for less

You can create a kitchen that will suit your lifestyle, stand the test of time and add value to your property, whatever your budget.

A new look for your kitchen doesn’t need to mean major changes. In fact, the easiest way to save when you’re renovating your kitchen is to keep your current layout. Moving pipes and wires calls for replastering and possibly even building work, which in turn equals higher costs.

So, keep what’s still working for you and invest the savings in new cabinetry or more energy-efficient appliances. And, if your appliances are still in good working order, simply incorporate them into the new design.

Read on for more budget-friendly ways to style up your kitchen.

The Shaker-style Lingfield kitchen is one of 21 design by Lifestyle Kitchens featuring soft close drawers as standard. Priced from around £3,000.

Update current cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are in good condition, simply replace the doors. Check your cabinets inside carefully before you choose this option: if they’ve seen better days, updating the doors will be a false economy.

Going for new doors? Look for manmade materials to save costs. Get a wood or stone look with replica products: advances in technology mean they look realistic and are available at reasonable prices. Gloss looks good too, as demonstrated by the Benchmarx kitchen below.

This Benchmarx Soho kitchen in gloss cream starts from £1,225 for an eight unit kitchen.

Fall in love with laminate

A laminate worktop is hard to beat if you’re on a shoestring budget: it’s high performance and easy to clean, so will stand the test of time. “Enhancements now include built-in antibacterial protection, so you really can get a lot for your budget,” says Stuart White, managing director at Bushboard.

You can easily bring a low-cost natural look into your kitchen with reproduction stone, granite and wood created with high-definition printing. Alternatively, go for a more minimalist-style laminate: “The new, square-edged profiles give the material a fresher and more modern look for contemporary and traditional kitchen styles,” says Stuart.

Laminate worktops tend to come in fixed lengths and can be cut onsite to accommodate any hobs and sinks. Measure up carefully before you start to avoid costly mistakes.

A Bushboard Omega laminate worktop in Tobacco Oak comes in a choice of sizes. Expect to pay from £40 per linear metre.

 Up the ante

Given that worksurfaces play a starring role in the kitchen, it can be worth cutting costs elsewhere so you can invest in a top-quality surface. Hardwearing engineered stone (also known as quartz) is one option: it’s made from a mix of crushed quartz and resin to produce a material that resists scratches, stains and heat.

Some thinner engineered stones available from companies such as Granite Transformations can even can be installed over existing worktops.

Solid surface should also be on your radar. It has a high acrylic content so it can be thermoformed into almost any shape. With no joints, grooves or dirt traps, it’s super-easy to clean and maintain.

“Solid surface is a practical and highly durable material that’s resistant to knocks, abrasions, burns, steam and stains and is also 100 per cent waterproof,” says Stuart. “It’s the only worksurface material that can be repaired to pristine condition in the unlikely event of damage or scratching.”

Engineered stone and solid surfaces often need templating before fitting. Your cabinetry will be installed first, then the worktop supplier will make a home visit to measure up and work out exactly where the holes for sinks and hobs need to be. The worktop is then cut to size offsite. You can usually have a temporary worktop fitted for use in the meantime.

However, the good news is that material technology and fitting techniques are advancing rapidly and some companies are taking the ready-made route. This means that some engineered stone and solid surface worktops can now be fitted onsite in just a couple of days.

Stuart estimates that these surfaces could make you savings of up to 30% against traditional template-and-fabricate brands. “To stretch the budget even further, you can achieve high-end looks by pairing a engineered stone or solid surface worktop with a laminate splashback in a complementary design,” he adds. “Only you would know the difference.”

An installer-ready Bushboard Encore solid surface worktop in Espresso Glass is priced from around £178 per linear metre excluding installation. It’s paired here with a Bushboard Tobacco Oak laminate splashback, from the Omega range, priced around £40 per linear metre.

Save on your splashback

It’s not surprising that tiles are often used for splashbacks. After all, they’re relatively quick and easy to install, they’re water- and heat-resistant, they’re easy to wipe clean and they don’t scratch easily. Plus, if a tile gets damaged, you can simply remove it and lay a new one.

If you’re working to a strict budget, tiles have even more benefits. To start, they vary in price so you’re sure to find one that fits your finances. Plus, thanks to advances in printing technology, tiles can be produced to look like your favourite natural materials. You can now have a stone- or wood-look splashback without the associated maintenance issues.

Other materials are surprisingly budget friendly too. “Both glass and stainless steel deliver great performance,” says Tori Summers, head of design at Benchmarx Kitchens. “However, if you’re on a tight budget then the latter is marginally cheaper. Despite this, it’s worth bearing in mind that glass splashbacks are available in a variety of different colours and can therefore enable you to be more creative.”

Steel and glass both have pros and cons, so think carefully about how you use your kitchen before making a decision. Stainless steel, for example, is affordable, heat resistant and hardwearing, but it’s tough to keep looking spotless. And although glass is durable, naturally antibacterial and easy to clean, it’s heavier than other materials and may not be suitable for walls requiring lighter loads.

You could always opt for a laminate splashback. Remember, it’ll be easy-to-clean, hard-wearing and designed to look like real wood or stone. Plus, the look and feel of laminate has advanced dramatically recently, making it an affordable alternative to more expensive surfaces.

These ceramic brick-shaped Pistachio Aquarelle tiles have a green hue and a gloss finish. They’re priced £29.95 per square metre at Walls and Floors.

Opt for a upstand

Upstands create a border between your worktop and wall that can be wiped down after cooking. They’re cheaper than splashbacks because less material is used. Plus, you can paint the rest of the wall in a colour of your choosing.

“Upstands are especially useful for refurbishment projects when just the worktop is being replaced,” says Stuart. “Once the worktop is pulled out, it often leaves a ragged edge on the wall where the adhesive has pulled off the plaster. An upstand offers ample scope to conceal any unsightly areas and provide a tidy solution. The same advantages of easy access and low-cost maintenance apply for any future remedial work or design upgrades to the worktop.”

This Biography kitchen features a 20mm thick Strata White Venato quartz upstand, priced from £300 per linear metre.

Update outdated appliances

If you’re buying new appliances, look at entry-level ranges from the big-name brands. They may not boast the same number of features as premium offerings but they won’t compromise on quality. Research the market thoroughly by using price-comparison websites and checking Which? reviews to see which brands score well. Then look at manufacturers’ sites for in-depth information on features.

Your next step should be to take a look in person. Luke Shipway, product manager at Caple, points out that there’s nothing quite like being able to touch and feel an appliance to determine its quality.

“The best place to go to see an appliance in the flesh is to your local independent retailer, as this way you will see first-hand the quality of the appliance,” he explains. “The kitchen designer can give you expert advice on the functions and programmes available so you can make an informed decision and choose an appliance that complements your lifestyle and family needs.”

Many of Caple’s appliances are sold through kitchen retailers who will have working models on display, so you can see a demonstration on how these appliances are operated. Think about your needs in advance: would you benefit from pre-set recipe timings in a multifunctional oven, for example, or rapid washes in a dishwasher?

This Biography kitchen features a 20mm thick Strata White Venato quartz upstand, priced from £300 per linear metre.

Cut costs underfoot

Luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) are popular and for good reason: they’re durable, low maintenance and excellent for heat and sound insulation. Unlike their inspiration, the tiles are soft and warm underfoot, and recent developments in digital technology mean they can mimic the look and texture of real wood or stone at a fraction of the price.

A competitively priced alternative to LVTs is laminate, which comprises a photographic image of wood or stone applied to a synthetic base. A “wear layer” on top protects the floor from damage. Laminates are looking increasing realistic and they’re easy to install and maintain.

With intricate detailing and distinct colouring, Noche Travertine LVT from Amtico is an authentic stone look. Part of the Spacia collection, it’s priced from £39.99 per square metre.

Perk up your kitchen with paint

Painting your cabinetry can be time consuming but it’s also a cost-effective way to give your kitchen a brand new look. The secret to success is preparation: you can paint almost anything in the kitchen as long as you prepare the surface properly and use the right paints.

Your kitchen is a high-traffic area, so look for specialist options that resist moisture, heat and grease, and that you can wipe it clean without fear of colour fading or surface damage. Don’t skimp on quality or your walls won’t look good for long.

Whatever material your cupboards are made from, start by cleaning all the surfaces to be painted with a sugar soap solution to remove dirt and grease. For previously painted or varnished wood, after you’ve cleaned the surface and it’s fully dry, rub it down with fine sandpaper to create a key for the paint to stick to. Next, apply one or two coats of primer followed by two coats of the colour of your choice.

For trickier surfaces such as laminate and high-gloss lacquer, prepare the surface with an adhesion primer before applying a couple of coats of satin or eggshell finish paint in your favourite colour.

Want to learn more about paint? Check out this guide

This kitchen by Middleton Bespoke is painted in Charterhouse and Bond Street. Sample pots (100ml) are available in all 120 of Mylands‘ colours, priced £4.25 each.

Open up with shelving

Another simple way to get a new look is to replace some of your old wall units with affordable open shelving. You’ll be able to show off your favourite items and stow more mundane items out of sight in base units. Remember: open shelving only looks good when it’s organised, so be prepared to channel your inner stylist.

Build your own, personal shelving system with the String system from Skandium, seen here in grey and priced from £52.

When it comes to choosing a window dressing for the kitchen, there are lots of options available. Which one is best for you?