Our kitchens can be a joy to occupy and use, or a hellish and frustrating daily annoyance – and everything in between.

We expect a lot from them! They need to be really functional. We need to be in them and still feel connected to our family. Open plan living means they need to look great (because they’re usually on display) and be easy and quick to clean up. And they need to handle everything from a speedy and chaotic brekkie routine, to a quiet chat and wine with a girlfriend, to a punishing toddler or several, to afternoon homework and dinner prep, to an excited party crowd.

If you’re like most families, you need every dollar to stretch as far as it can. Whether you’re doing a small cosmetic reno, or creating the brand new one you’ve always dreamed of, here are five proven ways to get bang for buck in your kitchen makeover or new build.

1. Know your dimensions

So much of a kitchen’s functionality depends on the dimensions you use to arrange it overall. So here are some critical dimensions to help you:

  • Benches are generally 900mm high, and minimum 600mm deep.
  • Overhead cupboards sit 600 – 700mm above the bench and are 300mm deep.
  • Check the requirements of any rangehood you use for its recommended setout.
  • In a galley kitchen, 1200mm between benchtop and island bench is ideal.

2. Work Within the Standards

Working with standard material and product dimensions makes sourcing and fabrication easier and faster, and is a great for stretching your budget.

Generally I recommend working in multiples of 300mm … so 600mm, 900mm, 1,200mm as sizes for cupboards.

If you’re squeezing your kitchen into an oddly sized space, then use standard sizes for most of your kitchen, and make up the leftover space with a custom sized, individual unit or cupboard – rather than making every cupboard a non-standard size.

This will give you flexibility in how you source the components of your kitchen – which leads me to my next recommendation.

3. Consider Alternative Delivery Methods

DIY may not be for everyone, but there’s certainly ways a build a kitchen that can save you big dollars without seeing you get out a screwdriver.

If you think about all the components that go into a kitchen … the assembly of cupboards, the installation of appliances, putting the benchtops on, installing splashbacks, the electrical and plumbing work, and building work required to rectify or create the space that the kitchen is in … there are lots of opportunities to save money in how you source the labour or materials for those components.

One trick we have used is to buy flatpack cupboards, and assemble and install them ourselves. We then have paid various tradespeople to install the rest of the components required to finish off the kitchen. We’ve coordinated and managed their work directly. That step alone saved us thousands.

 

4. Focus on Function and Durability

Honestly, there are SO many options, gorgeous materials, funky gadgets and clever storage solutions we can spend oodles on when it comes to our kitchens. It is difficult to not be seduced.

Instead, choose materials and items for their durability. Kitchens take a lot of punishment. If choosing a ‘trend’ item, then select it where it can be replaced easily in the future. A neutral base colour scheme can be made unique through a special tap or a feature tile, which can then be changed later when trends and your taste do.

5. Shop The Sales

You can save LOTS of money by taking your time to source what you need, stockpiling, and being flexible about your choices. End of line and discontinued items, such as tiles and appliances, can save big bucks. You can even buy entire kitchens from displays being disassembled, or at places like Home Shows. Watch online auctions, but make sure you are happy with the warranties being provided, and that your selections still meet Australian Standards.

Kitchens can be a big investment in any renovation or new build. They play an important role in helping our homes feel great overall, and be simple and enjoyable places to live. Use these five ways to stretch your budget, and make your kitchen be that functional, liveable space you dream of.

Author

Amelia Lee is the Undercover Architect, your secret ally in getting it right when designing, building or renovating your home – so it works for your family now, and always.

2 Comments

  1. Some great ideas, limited but still very good reading. It is such a shame we do not all live in huge monstrous houses. I am still hoping and waiting for the same kind of indepth stories and trade tricks methods/ideas that are dedicated to us 2 bed room small unit dwellers. Our 56 m2 unit is smaller than some kitchens we have seen. I have renovated but left the kitchen with lots of ideas, and few updates including multi coloured 2nd hand cupboards and doors, including a bathroom slider door as a benchtop on the brekky bar, temp of course, until the right plan and info comes along.

    I have maximized storage throughout the other rooms, and that in itslf is an artform to achieve. It was very disheartening to see a budget go through the roof because of what some overpaid designer says is trending, compared to what is actually functual, stylish and at a fair price. Manufacturers and retailers have to hold their heads in shame as well, as, as soon as you mention, wedding, baby, bathroom or kitchen, suddenly the price doubles or more.

    One day my wife will have a single coloured, same design, fully functional kitchen. And in a perfect world, it will have adjustable bench heights. 750mm for the shorty, and 1000mm for us cloud guys.

    Dave.

    • Hi Dave

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s great to hear the work you are doing in creating a great home in your space. I’m a big believer that your home doesn’t need to be big to be well-designed. Having worked in apartment design during my career also, getting kitchens to work well in compact floor plans, can be a brilliant way to make a unit feel functional and fun to live in.

      As you may be aware, flexibility is the key when you’re working with 56m2. Everything you have and own in your space needs to do more than one job so you can max out its functionality. Kitchens need to act as dining areas, studies, home offices, entertaining zones … as well as food storage and meal cooking areas.

      LifeEdited (website) is a great resource for compact living (living better with less is their mantra). Ikea has actually created a “Concept Kitchen 2025” which is an amazing study in what the kitchens of our future may be – especially in compact living spaces. ApartmentTherapy is another resource you may want to check out.

      I would recommend looking for design inspiration from Japan, Scandinavian countries and New York … where apartment living is the majority of homeowners’ choice.

      The smallest kitchen I’ve designed was a single bench that was 3.2m long, with an island that doubled as the dining table (and provided prep space). I could have written a lot more in this article, but was working to a word limit!

      Best wishes with your home and renovating it on a budget. It can be challenging, but I find the sense of accomplishment is awesome when you pull it off (and don’t get railroaded by the ‘trends’ and ‘premium price’ options).

      Warm Regards
      Amelia Lee – the Undercover Architect

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