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Where to Spend and How to Save When Designing Your Kitchen

Follow these tips to achieve a kitchen that looks great, functions impeccably and comes in on budget

Nicola Sanders
19 July 2017

The kitchen can be one of the most expensive spaces in your home to renovate, and you often get what you pay for. However, you can create a beautiful kitchen without breaking the bank by knowing where to rein in your spending and where to splash out. Follow this guide to realise your own dream kitchen without blowing the budget.

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Spend… time on planning and budgeting
When you’re putting in a new kitchen, it’s likely that 40-50 per cent of your budget will go on building and labour costs. By being realistic about affordability at the outset, you’ll avoid costly mistakes (not to mention disappointment) later on.

Start planning early on, make a list of your must-haves and keep a spreadsheet. Allow room for a contingency fund, as big builds tend to include unforeseen spends. Even if yours doesn’t, an emergency fund will allow you a little breathing space if you see something you can’t live without. Shop around and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts, and if your heart is set on a hand-built, top-of-the-range wood kitchen, but it’s not in your budget, consider finding a top-quality carpenter that can make something similar.

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Save… on quantity of units
One of the best preparatory tasks you can undertake before you plan your project is to make an audit of all your kitchen goods. Donate or sell anything you don’t need or don’t use, and then plan your storage based on your new, edited collection. There’s no point paying for extra units to store items you no longer want, and fewer units will mean a lower spend. A good planning tip is to eschew all eye-level cupboards in favour of open shelves, plus one full-height double cupboard along with your standard base units.

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Spend… on piped underfloor heating
Although this is undoubtedly easier to do when you’re extending your kitchen, it’s not impossible to retrofit it either. As well as freeing up valuable wall space from radiators, it results in a space that is as cosy in winter as it is in summer, and is less expensive to run than cheaper-to-fit electric heating pads.

Check out this expert guide on underfloor heating

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Save… on appliances
This doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of individual items, but how many items you actually need. When planning your dream space it’s easy to get carried away, but remember to assess your individual requirements.

You’ll, of course, need the basics of a hob and oven, fridge-freezer, washing machine and possibly a dishwasher, but anything else is a luxury so think about everything in terms of the value it will add to your life. If you’re a keen wine buff then a wine fridge might be a practical option, similarly an avid baker could benefit from a warming drawer – the key is to be realistic about how often the appliances will be used.

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Spend… on worktops
It’s always a good rule of thumb to invest in good-quality work surfaces. Install superior worktops on cheaper units and you will elevate their look immediately. Don’t dismiss a mix-and-match approach if it suits your budget better. You could use stone worktops on your peripheral base units and a wooden one on the island, as they’ve done here for a look that’s fresh and modern.

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Save… on splashbacks
While splashbacks need to be durable (in terms of both heat and moisture), it’s probably not an area where you need to blow your budget. Sheet metal (consider stainless steel or copper) or a plain, low-cost tile will give you a clean, finished look that will allow your more costly design decisions to really show their worth.

While the kitchen shown here is undoubtedly part of a high-end project, the stainless-steel splashback is a budget-friendly solution that gives a streamlined, industrial edge.

Discover how to choose the perfect splashback

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Spend… on taps and hardware
The items that you touch and use on a daily basis need to be good quality and able to withstand years of wear and tear. Budget-friendly units can be enhanced easily with great-quality handles, and it’s always worthwhile spending a little more on high-quality taps that will stay the course. By keeping all your hardware in the same material, like the brass handles, taps and lighting shown here, you immediately create a sleek, upscale look.

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Save… on sinks
By paying attention to the look of the rest of your kitchen, you’ll be able to spend less on a sink. This kitchen is sleek, sophisticated and beautifully planned, so the budget-friendly stainless-steel sink looks like a considered choice.

If you do want to go for a more expensive ceramic sink, check out eBay or reclamation yards rather than paying extra for a brand-new piece. Again, a little time and research often pays off when it comes to your budget.

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Spend… on lighting
Your kitchen is one of the most used spaces in your home and the lighting can really make a difference to how it feels. Think about adding layers with LED task lighting under the wall units, as well as practical overhead fittings. Try to find a little give in your budget to accommodate great-quality, statement light fittings, such as a beautiful pendant. Special features, like the light-washed walls in this airy kitchen, are also worth considering during the planning stages.

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Save… on flooring
If you have your heart set on expensive flooring like limestone or engineered wood, then you should follow your instinct, but if you’re open to other options it’s worth hunting around. A good-quality slate tile or poured concrete are comparatively inexpensive choices that look just as striking as more pricey flooring materials.

Where have you spent and saved in your own kitchen? Share your experiences in the Comments section.
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