We've found that when a home renovation project is underway, most people dread the price tag of the kitchen. Kitchens are renowned for being a tad on the expensive side, but it's also a space that is important not to cut corners. So, how do you get a stylish and functional kitchen that also boasts loads of personality and character without completely blowing the budget?
Haters will say you can't have it all, we're saying you can. We've collated 12 custom updates that you can apply to more affordable kitchen companies, such as IKEA to give you that designer finish that you've been dreaming of.
1. Build out the island
Image credit: Instagram @joannagaines
Kitchen islands are great extra worktop space and storage, but they also give the perfect opportunity for additional seating and a sociable breakfast bar area. If you build out the island, extending the worktop, then you have just enough room to slot in a couple of kitchen stools and suddenly, your storage, workspace, seating, island, entire kitchen has been upgraded. No need to thank us (until the end of the blog post!).
2. Polish with paint
Image credit: hellznails
We talk about this a lot, but paint really is transformative. By adding a fresh lick of paint to a wall, a ceiling, furniture, anything really, it gives it a new lease of life - kitchens aren't any different. Painting the kitchen can make your tired and dated cabinets suddenly look brand new and completely on trend. Brighten and lighten the room with a gorgeous off-white, soften with pastels or make a statement with a bolder colour.
3. Upgrade your cabinets
Image credit: 30s magazine
Want a slightly more dramatic change than just a new paint colour? That's fine, you can do that too! You don't need to replace the entire kitchen, just the cabinet fronts! There a specific companies such as Superfront (the higher end of the market ££) or Plykea that are dedicated to making and selling beautiful doors (and other fittings) to fit IKEA kitchens to take your kitchen from cheap to chic.
4. Splurge in small amounts
Image credit: Stace King
You're already saving BIG with the affordable kitchen, so allow yourself to splurge a little on the smaller, finer details. By doing this, you're giving your kitchen a designer edge, and that finish of a designer kitchen, but for only a fraction of the price. For example, treat yourself to some Buster and Punch handles or some Fired Earth tiles for the backsplash.
Image credit: Jillian Lare
Building in your kitchen gives an ultra bespoke finish, as it ensures the cabinets look made to fit. By crown-moulding you achieve that beautiful traditional element that is perfect for classic properties or farmhouse cottages. This is a perfect solution for those in more traditional homes that want their kitchen to be in keeping with the style of their property, but not with the bespoke price tag!
6. Replace the worktop
Image credit: design milk
When updating your kitchen and trying to stay in-budget, you need to know where is best to save and where is best to splurge. If you want an expensive finish, the worktop is a great focus. Real granite, marble or corian are a bit pricier than the laminate 'effect' worktops, but you can see the different. Don't get us wrong, there are incredible more affordable options that give a similar effect, but for an ultra expensive finish, you're going to want the real thing.
Pushing you slightly out of budget! Don't panic. Outsourcing your worktop is still beneficial even if it isn't 100% pure marble that weighs 34752 tonnes, as you will get a completely unique finish that people won't have seen patrolling the IKEA showrooms, therefore giving you a custom finish.
7. Change the hardware
Image credit: Coco Lapine Design
This is such a small upgrade that makes such a big difference. Just adding or changing the handles or knobs can completely transform the look of your kitchen. Have a real think if you want brass accents, to stick with chrome, an organic wood finish or some industrial black metal. Ornate brass fittings change to geometric shaped black metal knobs can take your kitchen from traditionally beautiful to on-trend industrial quicker than you can say 'IKEA Hack'.
8. Split tone
Image credit: Sarah Sherman Samuel
Two-tone instantly add that 'je ne sais quoi' that you didn't know you wanted. Having a split tone kitchen, i.e. painting the island a different colour to the rest of the kitchen, or having the top cabinets a different colour to the bottom, add depth, character and style. Plus, you have more creative freedom and can narrow down your paint options to two rather than one, that makes things easier, right?
9. Consider statement lighting
Image credit: Kate Marker Interiors
Try to avoid 'spotlight acne' and just throwing a load of spotlights up there and not thinking about how the kitchen will be used, this will definitely cheapen the look. Think ahead, are you having a dining table? A breakfast bar? A kitchen island? You will inevitably need task lighting so that you can see where you're chopping (it would be a painful lesson learnt if you don't think about this!) but consider some statement or decorative lighting to really zone the space and add ambience.
Pendants above a dining table or kitchen island always look gorgeous, are super practical and zone the area beautifully. Want to add more depth to your kitchen? Add some LED strips to open shelving or display cabinets.
10. One size doesn't fit all
Image credit: Cate St Hill
What we think is paramount, is making sure your kitchen looks like it fits your room and it's made for you. Often, cheaper kitchens have standard sizes in which their cabinets can come in, and therefore leaves awkward gaps between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, or between the side and the wall.
Make it a floor to ceiling job and continue your kitchen right to the top and extend it so it slots perfectly from wall to wall (if that's the design you were going for). This will give you extra closed storage, ensure the finished design looks super sleek and cohesive, give that bespoke finish and also gives you less places to dust and clean!
11. Invest in appliances
Image credit: Dwell
Buying an affordable kitchen doesn't mean that you need to compromise on your appliances. If you're handy in the kitchen, you're going to want an appliance that does the job and does it well. Many brands such as Bosch build their appliances to a standard size and therefore will fit in your cabinets.
You can cook to your hearts content and your kitchen will look super high-end.
12. Tiles and backsplashes
Image credit: Zoco Home
You can have so much fun with tiles. Trust us. If you add a pattered tile, a texture finish, add a splash of colour to just go for a classically stunning yet plain tile then you're kitchen is suddenly going to look 10x more designer. This is also an opportunity to add your own personality and character to the kitchen and really define the style you're going for. A kitchen could be a completely blank canvas before you get tiles and backsplashes involved!
So there you have it, 12 ways to achieve a designer kitchen look at a fraction of the price. Love a good IKEA hack? Check out our previous blog post on updating your favourite affordable furniture options.