How to get a stylish kitchen on a budget

It is possible to create a kitchen that has a luxurious, high-end feel on a tight budget. Discover how with our expert guide, which includes bespoke, handmade designs

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When it comes to planning a new kitchen, there is often a huge gulf between budget and expectation. An installation is made up of many smaller elements, aside from the units, that when you start adding on the price for labour, appliances, worktops, tiles and other extras, costs quickly escalate.

To add to the confusion, ‘off the peg’ suppliers and bespoke manufacturers can offer similar-looking cabinets for wildly different prices (as much as £5,000 versus £50,000), which makes it difficult to know where to begin.

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How much should I budget for a new kitchen?

As a very rough guide, it is sensible to spend a maximum of five per cent of the overall value of your house on a new kitchen, to avoid losing money if you sell. Fitting a cheap and cheerful kitchen can have a negative impact on value, which makes your choice of cabinets and finishes so vital. You will have to invest carefully to get a beautiful finish on a limited budget.

On any budget it is wise to first factor in the cost of any known quantities. These include appliances, decorative finishes and necessary electrical works to add extra sockets and lights etc; deduct these from your total budget before choosing how much to spend on the units and fitting. You could save over £1,000 by installing the kitchen yourself, but you will compromise the finish if your DIY skills are not up to scratch.

What do kitchens cost?

When pricing up your furniture and worktops, be aware that estimates will vary quite widely depending on the quality and level of design you are after.

  • From £17/m² for standard off-the-shelf units and work surfaces
  • Up to £144/m² for bespoke units and design service

Old Creamery Harvest kitchen

Harvest painted pine and tulipwood kitchen, around £5,000 for furniture supply at Old Creamery Kitchens

Which type of kitchen cabinets should I buy?

If you have a total budget of between £5,000-10,000, you may be surprised at the quality of cabinets you can afford. The majority of kitchens within this price bracket will consist of flat-pack carcasses with doors mounted on to the front using hinges screwed into the chipboard. The units are generally all the same on the inside – although some are made sturdier than others with an 18mm frame – with the look dictated by the style and colour of doors and decor panels.

The cheapest way of getting a kitchen with a solid wood finish is to buy affordable off-the-shelf carcasses, such as from Ikea, and then get a joiner to make solid wood door fronts. You can even order them online – try Shaker Doors Oxford.

The beauty of this type of kitchen is that it can recreate the look of a more expensive in-frame design for less, which can then be dressed up with luxurious fixtures and finishes, such as a beautiful Belfast sink and bridge tap. Smart storage solutions, such as pull-out carousels, can also be installed into the units at a fairly low cost.

Ikea s Hittarp Scandinavian style kitchen

Ikea offers a great range of stylish cabinets at affordable prices. Get the look of this design with Hittarp door fronts; priced £52 with a Metod 60 x 60cm base cabinet

It is possible to purchase a bespoke solid wood, traditionally jointed in-frame kitchen, where the doors sit within the frame, for about £5,000. Try Old Creamery Furniture and Pineland, which offer painted, solid wood freestanding units at a very reasonable price. As there are no units to put together, this reduces the time, and cost, it takes to install too.

Also look at British Standard Cupboards from Plain English (which sells bespoke kitchens with an average price of £50,000-60,000), launched in recent years to offer a more affordable range of quality cabinets – from £5,000 for a complete setup. These have solid wood doors and carcasses made from white melamine faced European birch ply, with beech shelf lippings and traditionally dovetailed drawers.

British Standard kitchen

Kitchens from British Standard Cupboards by Plain English are made using traditional construction methods, but are produced to standard templated designs and available off-the-shelf, making them a more affordable option. A standard base unit measuring 56.5cm x 60cm costs £500

Buying worktops

When it comes to finishes, premium worktops will lift the look of the whole kitchen. Granite and quartz surfaces are a real investment, at several hundred pounds per 3m run, but durable composites, which replicate their intrinsic character and sparkle, are much more cost-effective.

Solid oak work surfaces can be ordered online for as little as £100-120 per 3m run (try If opting for a high-quality laminate, choose a good depth with a squared edge, and overhang it slightly at the end of unit runs.

Mix and match worktop materials, for example a granite island against timber topped units, for a bespoke finish. This also allows you to use a cheaper and more durable material where you do most of your work and prep, then inject a bit of luxury with a breakfast bar or plinth in something more high-end such as quartz.

Click here to see our top 10 ideas for kitchen worktops

Pineland Shaker style solid wood painted kitchens are a great choice if you re on a tight budget

Pineland’s kitchens are made bespoke to order from solid pine using traditional construction methods. They can be left unfinished or spraypainted at extra cost. The average kitchen costs £4,500 for furniture supply and delivery. You’ll also need to budget around £1,500 for worktops, sink and tap, plus extra for tiles, appliances and installation, although the units come ready to install

How to choose a sink

The style of sink you choose will be dictated by how much space you have available and what will work with the look of your kitchen. Most sinks are inset into a hole cut in the worktop, so they are easier to fit and tend to be cheaper. Sinks can also be under-mounted (fixed to the underside of the worktop) which creates a cleaner finish and works well if you choose to have draining channels cut into the adjoining work surface.

When it comes to choosing a material, you main choices are stainless steel, stone/composite or ceramic.

  • Stainless steel is low-maintenance and tends to be the cheapest option.
  • Composite sinks can withstand high temperatures and come in a variety of finishes. They can be pricey, but are a good investment as they are hardwearing.
  • Ceramic sinks tend to come in styles most suited to period homes. However, they are prone to staining and chipping, but still a good choice if properly cared for.

Devol Real Shaker kitchen on a budget

The base cupboards, sink and brass fittings in this Real Shaker kitchen cost just over £5,000. Thanks to a bit of clever upcycling for the taps and worktops, the owners were able to work with kitchen manufacturer Devol to create a truly beautiful kitchen for a very affordable price

Kitchen tiles and splashbacks

Luxurious tiles are an obvious way to lift the look of a budget kitchen. Use hand-finished tiles sparingly to give an artisan look to the space. You can then use less-expensive tiles for greater expanses. Try mixing in plain tiles in two or three different tones, such as grey or sage with cream, for a characterful country look.

Stainless steel or glass splashbacks are easy to clean and add interest to a tiled wall. Kitchen suppliers have a number available, but consider looking online too. Some companies provide made-to-measure splashbacks at a fraction of the cost you would expect.

Tile Trader Country Sage wall tile

These characterful Country wall tiles in Sage are priced just £24 per m² at Tile Trader

Click here to see our advice on choosing tiles

Affordable ironmongery options

Do not neglect smaller details: ironmongery makes an enormous difference to the overall look and feel of a kitchen. Invest in characterful cup handles for drawers, and mix with elegant nickel knobs on doors. Alternatively, turned wood knobs are a more affordable option that look perfect in a traditional Shaker-style kitchen.

Caple s Stratford kitchen is a great budget option

Caple’s Stratford classic cream kitchen with Alabaster vinyl wrap doors costs from £8,000

Top tips for saving money on your kitchen renovation

  • Plan the order of works well so that you don’t have to redo or undo work. Wiring and plumbing issues need resolving before you start installing cabinets, flooring and wall finishes.
  • Salvage as much as you can from the existing kitchen. Sometimes the carcasses of your cabinets might be fine, but just need new doors.
  • Antique shops or even charity shops are a great place to find old Welsh dressers and other freestanding furniture. These can be refreshed with a lick of paint or varnish.
  • Take on DIY tasks that you feel confident with, but leave anything that involves the cutting or adjustment of expensive materials to a professional.
  • Ahead of your project, keep an eye out for deals on big-ticket items such as worktops and appliances.