Easy ways to design a stylish kitchen on a budget

Want to create a kitchen that has a high-end feel at a low cost? Our expert guide tells you how to design a stylish kitchen on a budget and even includes bespoke, handmade designs

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Designing a stylish kitchen on a budget takes some skill. After all, 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.

So, we are on hand to help. We explain what you can expect to pay for various elements, how to get the best quality for a good price, and why you aren't restricted to buying from budget brands when planning a stylish kitchen on a budget. 

And, if after all that you still need more advice, you will find everything you need to know in our ultimate guide to planning and designing a kitchen

How much does it cost to design a budget 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. 

At the lower end of the kitchen cost scale, expect to pay upwards of £3,000 for good quality units for an average sized kitchen. On top of this, you'll need to add worktops, which cost upwards of £100, appliances and fitting, which can vary from a few hundred pounds to more than £2,000, depending on the kitchen's complexity.

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, but expect to pay f rom £17/m² for standard off-the-shelf units and work surface and up to £144/m² for bespoke units and design service

blue kitchen with white aga and white units

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

On any budget, it is wise to first factor in the cost of any known quantities to help you cut the cost of your new kitchen. These include appliances, decorative finishes and necessary electrical works to add extra sockets and lights, for example. Deduct these from your total budget before choosing how much to spend on the units and fitting. To cut the cost of your new kitchen, you could paint the kitchen cabinets yourself. 

You could also save over £1,000 by installing the kitchen yourself, but you will compromise the finish if your DIY skills are not up to scratch. 

Budget even lower? Check out our feature on designing a kitchen for under £5,000 (yes it's doable!).

Bear in mind that fitting a cheap and cheerful kitchen can have a negative impact on a home's 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. 

high shelf in a period kitchen with green cupboards


(Image: © Darren Chung)

Which kitchen cabinets should I buy on a budget?

If you have a total budget of between £5,000 to £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 Superfront, which makes doors, handles and legs for Ikea frames, or Shaker Doors Oxford.

Use our kitchen cabinet design ideas for inspiration and advice.

Patterned grey tiles in a small shaker style kitchen


(Image: © Tile Giant)

If you want to achieve the look and feel of bespoke plywood units, while working from a flatpack budget, Plykea , an upscaling service that transforms Ikea Metod Kitchens with the help of bespoke and stylish plywood fronts and worktops, could be the service for you. 

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 kitchen storage solutions, such as pull-out carousels, can also be installed into the units at a fairly low cost.

grey kitchen by fritzfryer

(Image: © FritzFryer)

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 by Plain English. Plain English sells bespoke kitchens with an average price of £50,000 to £60,000 but, through British Standard, offer a more affordable range of quality cabinets – from £5,000 for a complete set-up. These have solid wood doors and carcasses made from white melamine faced European birch ply, with beech shelf lippings and traditionally dovetailed drawers.

Buy an ex-display kitchen

An ex-display kitchen can be an absolute bargain – and in top notch condition. The used kitchens on sites like The Used Kitchen Company and The Kitchen Exchange are fully inspected to check that they are in great condition so your second-hand kitchen won’t come with second-hand scratches, scuff marks or moisture rings.  

Plus, if you are buying an ex-display kitchen, it has essentially never been used. Everything is pretty much already assembled and ready to go with a recycled kitchen, so no time is spent matching fittings and fixtures. Providing you have the right measurements, your new kitchen can just slide into place; you could of course also hire a kitchen fitter just to make sure everything is exactly as you want it. 

Period Living magazine modern rustic kitchen


Buying the best types of kitchen worktops on a budget

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The best types of kitchen worktops can make or break the look of a budget kitchen.

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 to £120 per 3m run; try Worktop Express

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 for an elegant finish.

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.

If you want any more advice on choosing the best types of kitchen worktops make sure you have a read of our guide. 

How to choose a kitchen sink on a budget

The style of kitchen 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 – here's how to clean stainless steel.
  • 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.

For more tips on choosing a kitchen sink, check out our dedicated feature. 

Pastel mint shaker kitchen with marble worktops


(Image: © deVOL)

Choose the best budget flooring

Choosing kitchen flooring? Ideally, you might pick out beautiful kitchen floor tiles, but if these are beyond your budget, it's really worth investigating the latest laminate flooring and vinyl flooring designs. 

Both can be created to mimic wood flooring or tiles convincingly, both are tough and suitable for kitchens, and both are budget-friendly.

Laminate flooring in a light kitchen

(Image: © Carpetright)

Kitchen tiles and splashbacks for budget kitchens

Kitchen splashbacks needn't be expensive but, since they cover a large area of wall, will make a big impact. Beautiful tiles are an obvious way to lift the look of a budget kitchen – and needn't be expensive. 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.

Check out these splashback ideas for more inspiration and remember you can always save money by tiling a splashback yourself – just check out our guide to find out how. 

Kitchen splashback tiled with pattern tiles by Original Style


(Image: © Original Style)

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 traditional Shaker-style kitchens.

Bespoke kitchen in extended Victorian home


(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

Choosing window treatments on a budget

Kitchen window treatments needn't be costly to be good looking. Roller blinds are a cost-effective choice that allow you to add colour, texture and pattern to your room and make lots of sense, particularly in a small kitchen, since they take up so little space. Window film is another affordable option that takes up no space while allowing light to flood in. 

Shutters needn't be out of your price range – choose DIY design and fit options that cost a fraction of those that a designer measures up for and an installer fits. 

Window shutters at French doors in a kitchen by Shutterly Fabulous

California Shutters' DIY design and fit options make shutters affordable for anyone on a tight budget

(Image: © Shutterly Fabulous)

Shop cleverly for cheap but chic kitchen furniture

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. Look out, too, for butcher's blocks, which can make great freestanding islands.

If you are planning on up-cycling your finds with paint, check out our step-by-step guide to painting furniture. Look in on our pick of the best furniture paints too. 

gorgeous wood and fabric dining set from the cotswold company

(Image: © The Cotswold Company)

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.
  • 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.

More tips for creating the best kitchen: