Renovation Rescue: How To Do A Major Kitchen Makeover That Won’t Break The Bank

By Leanne Moore
Photo / Getty Images

In our new renovation series, design writer Leanne Moore goes from room to room offering tips and inspiration for a makeover on a budget. From paint to fixtures, furniture to accessories, she’s rounded up the latest ideas to add flair and focus to any interior. Plus, find practical pointers for

Future proof

A classic dark and light kitchen will stand the test of time ahead of a colour that is currently on trend. Keep your cabinetry white and benchtop dark, or vice versa, and your flooring neutral. A well-designed kitchen isn’t just a place to cook – it’s a focal point for your social life, a welcoming space where you can relax, entertain and enjoy the rituals of everyday life. Create a paper template of your kitchen and experiment with to-scale cut-outs to find the best design solution for your lifestyle. The more power points you have the better. Think about where you will use your various appliances before you have the power points installed.

Dusty-hued cabinets and a collection of plants lend a difference to this Scandi-style kitchen. Photo / Getty Images
Dusty-hued cabinets and a collection of plants lend a difference to this Scandi-style kitchen. Photo / Getty Images

Style secrets

Display space adds instant personality to any home. Add collections of things that look good, from a stack of well-used cookbooks to your favourite herbs in pots and even some art. Use food as a design element. Fill a bowl with vibrant oranges and lemons or arrange a cluster of vine tomatoes in a contrasting coloured dish, then put them in a sunny spot to ripen. If you have room, a cluster of bowls full of vegetables and eggs always add character and colour. Kitchen cabinets painted in dusty hues are a nice alternative to white and still work beautifully with all sorts of materials. Try Resene Quarter Delta, a soft, misty grey, or Resene Bud, a lovely pale green. If you have glass-front cupboards, bring some additional flair to what’s displayed inside by adding a designer wallpaper to the back wall.

Photo / Cave Bureau
Photo / Cave Bureau

Minimum work/maximum return

Before you start your kitchen makeover, the first question to ask yourself is whether it needs a substantial renovation. If your kitchen has a good layout it may take only a change of cupboard and drawer handles and a coat of paint to bring it up to date. There are companies such as that are experts in spray-painting kitchen cabinetry. If you decide to go ahead with a new kitchen, adopt a minimum intervention approach — keep the plumbing in the same place to save money. A new kitchen layout will increase the cost significantly.

Getting a new kitchen can be complicated. If you want to streamline the process, specialist companies offer a tailor-made service. As well as being up-to-date with all the latest products, they will ensure everything important is covered, including getting the right ventilation for your space.

Purchasing a flat-pack kitchen is another option. But remember, flatpack is code for DIY so there will be building involved. Putting the cabinets together can be less challenging than the installation, which often requires moderate carpentry skills. It might pay to find a tradie for this part. Integrated appliance options are limited with flatpack kitchens. Use the opportunity to install statement appliances as a design feature.

For flatpack kitchens, try: Mitre 10 and Kaboodle.

Wall-mounted storage. Photo / Cave Bureau
Wall-mounted storage. Photo / Cave Bureau

Smart storage

Look out for op shop bargains that will add style and storage to your kitchen. A wall-mounted vintage plate rack is perfect if you are on a budget and inclined towards a more relaxed style of decor. And the beauty of adding this kind of storage is that you can take it with you when you move. Repetition is the key to creating attractive displays on open shelving in the kitchen. Choose design classics, such as retro ceramics or colourful glassware, then line them up neatly in a row.

Wall tiles and an island are practical additions to this kitchen. Photo / Getty Images
Wall tiles and an island are practical additions to this kitchen. Photo / Getty Images

Practical pointers

1. Wall tiles are a far more user-friendly option for a splashback than stainless steel or glass, which tend to show every splatter and splash. Many kitchen designers believe the ideal kitchen floor plan is based on a ‘golden triangle’ between the sink, fridge and oven.

2. Ideally, the layout should not require more than a step or two between these essential zones, especially when you’re carrying cooked pasta in a pot of boiling water. Classic layouts are the galley kitchen with two parallel benches, the U-shape and the L-shape.

3. The kitchen island has also become a popular option. If you don’t want to be staring at a blank wall while you do the dishes, position the sink in an island designed for social gatherings, or put the sink under a window.

5 must-haves for a social kitchen

Together: A kitchen island is what most people want when it comes to creating a gathering space, but this adds significant cost. Think about if you really need one or if a low-cost table will do the trick.

Seating: Make sure you have enough comfortable seats for your guests, whether it’s chairs to pull up at the table, or barstools for an island.

Lighting: Don’t forget to add mood lighting, as well as task lighting. If your budget doesn’t extend to dimmers, borrow a table lamp from another room for social occasions. Light some candles for added ambiance.

Sounds: Cue up a Spotify playlist of your favourite songs to ensure you have the right vibe when your guests arrive.

Personal touches: Add personality and charm to your kitchen. It’s all about surrounding yourself with colours and objects that you love. If you take time to create a warm and welcoming space your friends will always be keen to come back for more.

Add to cart

Beldi jug, $69, and glasses, from $12, all from Father Rabbit.

Citta baskets.
Citta baskets.

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