Whether you are planning a new kitchen or redesigning an old one, designing a kitchen on a budget is really not difficult. All you need to do is balance what you need with what you want (these ideas aren’t always the same), and then establish how you can achieve your aims as cheaply as possible.

For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that you are starting with an empty shell of a room. You will need to work with the dimensions of the room as well as all the other physical aspects including the position of windows and doors.

If you are revamping a kitchen, you can still follow these very same guidelines, only you may be able to utilize some existing items, kitchen cabinets and lighting for example.

The first step will be to decide what type of kitchen you want, both in terms of its style and decor, and what it will offer you in practical terms. An excellent way to assess this is to make a list or lists. Here’s an example:

  • lots of storage space behind closed doors,
  • a dedicated cupboard for brooms and cleaning equipment,
  • a dedicated cupboard for foodstuffs,
  • easy-to-clean counter tops with a marble-topped section large enough for rolling pastry,
  • a built-in wooden chopping block,
  • a double sink as well as a prep bowl,
  • wall-hung plate rack for drying (wooden cottage style),
  • an electric eye level oven,
  • centre-island with a gas-powered hob,
  • built-in microwave oven,
  • combination refrigerator-deep freeze,
  • above counter lighting as well as general lighting,
  • tiled floors (terracotta to fit the style),
  • tiled splashback (maybe feature tiles in yellow and blue),
  • all other walls painted with a good quality paint that provides a surface that can be scrubbed (pale lemon),
  • pretty blinds,
  • open shelving for the recipe book collection, and
  • enough space for a small freestanding table for family meals (look for colonial style or bentwood chairs to fit the cottage style).

Remember that this is your list, so you can change anything if you wish. For example, you might find some glorious old red and green tiles for the sink splashback and then decide that a stone-washed wall color will be better than pale lemon. You might also decide that the style you first thought would work doesn’t, and so opt for another look completely. The point is that you need a starting point from which to start working on designing a kitchen on a budget.

Once you have a good, basic idea of where you are going, you can start concentrating on specifics. Since storage is top of the list here, an important priority will be to find cupboards or cabinets that will work within your design scheme. Your budget will determine to a large extent what you choose. If you can do a lot of the work yourself, or persuade family or friends to help you, then you will save a lot of money by buying all the separate elements and putting them together yourself. You will need to establish the correct sizes (based on the basic dimensions of the room) and make sure that you have everything from hinges to handles. A slightly more expensive option will usually be to buy knock-down units that you assemble yourself. Here, the manufacturer will have included everything you need in the pack, but you will have to do much of the work yourself.

Whichever route you take, you will need to ensure that you meet your own needs, for example of a broom cupboard and food cupboard. To do this you need to decide on a suitable layout for the kitchen as a whole. The sink units will need to be plumbed in, so this is one of the first considerations. Electricity and gas supplies are equally important. Draw a layout to scale on graph paper that shows where these supplies and services are, and also show where all the door and window openings are. Make absolutely sure that the measurements you take are accurate. Mistakes can be extremely costly. Then make templates of the units you want and play with them on your layout. Don’t forget to include wall-hung units as well as those that will be fixed to the floor. Also include freestanding items (table and chairs) and open shelving like that required for recipe books.

When you are designing a kitchen on a budget, be sure to remember the kitchen triangle. This is an extremely simple concept that links three main service areas:

  1. cold storage (your refrigerator and deep freeze),
  2. wash-up (your sink), and
  3. cooking area.

As old fashioned as some people consider this to be, it does work. But it isn’t always as simple as a three-point (triangular) plan. Go back to the list and you will see that there are three cooking appliances required, as well as two sinks, and the refrigerator and freezer could be separate appliances. But the important thing is to make them work together. Also, it is never a good idea to locate cold storage next to cooking appliances – the one heats and the other cools, so they don’t work well right next to one another. Keep cooking units close by each other, but don’t worry too much about the other appliances. For instance a freezer can be located away from the main working area and a prep sink can be closer to the living area than a sink used for washing dishes.

You will also need to accommodate the required marble slab and chopping block within whatever counter tops you choose. If this isn’t possible, you can always use loose slabs or blocks. Shop around for off-cuts and remember that someone else’s throwaways can be bought for a song! For example some people install marble counters throughout the kitchen and there will often be slabs left over. Otherwise look for what suppliers call seconds; items with scratches and dents or dings that aren’t likely to worry you since you are designing a kitchen on a budget.

It is also possible to find appliances that have been marked down because they are shop-soiled. Remember that you don’t have to compromise quality, a scratch down the side of a refrigerator won’t matter if it is going to be lodged between cupboards.

Another basic element will be the floor tiles, and you can save a bit of money here too, by looking for special offer goods at cheaper prices. You shouldn’t be tempted to buy lesser quality products, but end of range or special promotion products can help you cut your budget considerably.

Once you have worked out all the basics, you start looking at other details. The best way is to work progressively through your lists until you achieve a finished product you will be happy with. Do as much as you can yourself, and enjoy the challenge.

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