Updated: Nov 21
Fed up with your dated kitchen? Use these tips to complete a kitchen makeover on a budget.
Firstly, I'm sorry for telling you a big, fat lie! I wrote a blog post at the start of the year promising that I would work fast on this kitchen makeover on a budget and wouldn't keep you waiting for ages on a progress update and here we are months later and I'm only just getting round to it. In my defence, I have squeezed in quite a few other DIY projects in between and the DIY kitchen project itself kept getting more and more involved. If you follow me on Instagram or TikTok, you'll have seen lots of progress pics, but it's not easy to share the detail on social media, so here's the skinny...
Why did I complete a kitchen makeover on a budget?
If you haven't read my original post or if you read it months ago and need a reminder, here's what the old kitchen looked like...
The main issues I was trying to resolve without spending a fortune (the budget was hundreds not thousands) are listed below and all the work had to be DIY-able...
1. Lack of natural light
The downstairs of our house was extended by the then-owners back in the 1980s. They simply stuck an extra room on the back of the house (no, literally! They didn't even add heating or remove the external UPVC window, and instead left it in place as a very odd barrier between the kitchen and extension). We had the window frame removed when we bought the house but didn't have the budget to open up the space fully, which would require a giant (expensive) piece of steel. The extension offered extra space but created issues by making the middle room feel like a corridor between the original front room and the new back room and because they didn't add any side windows, the extra distance to a natural light source meant the kitchen area could be dark at times. We installed some bifold doors a few years back which helped the light issue, but there was still work to do.
2. Floating fridge
The freestanding fridge was located in the only place with enough room to house it, the far corner and it worked from a practical perspective, but it was ugly and looked a bit lost (to me, anyway). The other issue was that the top of it was a clutter magnet and usually home to a collection of junk which was clearly visible and drove me mad despite me being the main cluttering culprit! (I find living in an untidy house stressful, but I'm not very good at keeping it tidy so have been on a big mission to declutter.)
3. Bland bland bland
The off-white kitchen units were extremely plain and uninspiring. With the kitchen being quite dark, white units should have helped by bouncing the light about a bit, but the blandness worked against us and it all just merged into a sea of meh!
4. Uninspiring cabinet door handles
Despite numerous previous attempts, I'd never found handles that 'worked' aesthetically. In hindsight, that was probably because I hated the doors, so handle swaps would never fix the bigger issue.
Although lovely to look at and easy to clean, the black worktops looked quite dated and really didn't help with the light
So, that was the list of issues and here’s what I did to resolve them…
1. Painted the kitchen cabinets
One of the main improvements in this kitchen makeover on a budget was painting the kitchen cupboards and drawer fronts with Rustoleum kitchen cupboard paint in the shade Tea Leaf.
How to paint kitchen cabinets - top tips
Be sure to leave enough (more than you think) time I’m between coats that the paint fully dries.
Once painted, leave the doors off for at least 24 hours even if they seem dry as I wasn’t patient enough on the first couple and they scratched a bit initially as the paint hadn’t fully cured.
You'll need to paint the infill panels and other non-removable components in-situ, so be sure to tape off around them with painter's tape and remove the tape while the final coat is still wet.
I painted some large tester patches of the three colours I'd narrowed it down to and lived with them for a few days and ended up going for a darker shade than I initially thought. If I hadn't done the large tester patches I would've inevitably ended up having to repaint as would've chosen the wrong shade! (Not the first time that has happened, as my husband will tell you!)
For a quick 'kitchen makeover on a budget' win, I swapped the cupboard and drawer handles for a modern, sleek alternative. I’d seen lots of gorgeous expensive ones, but I was really keen to do this revamp on a small budget so I plumped for these bargain ones from Amazon in the end which were only a couple of pounds each but have transformed the space and I love them. They are also easy to fit and keep clean once in place. I love how the Matt black finish looks against the new colour of the units.
An obsession with microcement begins...
I used on off-white polished concrete microcement kit from Concretelab.co.uk to completely transform the worktops and added a backsplash and ledge shelf in the process. You can read the detailed step-by-step that I wrote here… The tubes on the side of the peninsula are one of my favourite things about this kitchen and people are always shocked at how strong and resilient they are, especially after I painted them with Rustoleum cupboard paint as they are waterproof and scrubbable too. If anyone is interested, I'll write a whole separate post on the tubes as I've incorporated them into a few of my interior projects.
DIY Microcement Fridge Surround
I was really fed up with the fridge looking so out of place in the corner of the kitchen so I built a unit to go around it and coated it in microcement to match the worktops and backsplash. You can read the step-by-step instructions for this one here…
You can also watch the insta reel I shared which shows the process here
It solved all the problems (ugly, floating, clutter magnet) and helped this side of the kitchen feel more connected with the opposite side which was looking decidedly more loved!
Bespoke units like this can run into the thousands from kitchen manufacturers, especially with less mainstream finishes like microcement so I was really chuffed to have done it for £150.
We don’t have a huge space for a dining table so I added this cool mirror to the wall above the table. It has an antique / distressed style finish and was another bargain from Homesense costing £40. The mirror gives the illusion of more space and creates a feature which helps the area feel more considered. I like seeing the reflection of the more interesting side of the kitchen in the reflection & I’m going to add a funky wall light in the LHS corner above the mirror so will update once I’ve found the one! You don't have to buy new every time you fancy a styling update. I highly recommend shopping your home and reusing, rotating and revamping your decor to save money.
Minimalist bar pendant
I updated the light above the peninsula because the old pendant wasn’t in keeping with the new style. I found this lovely minimalist bar pendant on the John Lewis website and it has 3 different settings which are selected using the wall switch so it can set the required mood. I knew I wanted a sleek, minimalist design and was really pleased with how this turned out. This change really helped the light situation and I’ve added another bar spotlight above the worktop opposite which I’m going to put remote control puck lights in.
The shelf (of dreams)
Oh how I love this ledge shelf! This is by far my favourite new addition. I created it using some old picture shelves from Homebase which were about five or six pounds each. I flipped them upside down (to give a slightly deeper ledge for styling) and covered them in microcement. I love how you can change the feeling of the whole room by updating the ornaments & accessories on the shelves. Some days I feel like going more Japandi / minimalist so I style with stoneware and foraged twigs whereas other days I prefer a more modern twist so I go for my bargain Homesense monochrome print. I like the challenge of finding items small enough to fit on the ledge too as it’s only 8cm deep. In case you are thinking, 'but she's lost so much cupboard space, it's so impractical', fear not! the cupboards that were there were tiny so held very little indeed, in fact, one of them was a fake cupboard as the large boxing in the corner meant there was only room to place a door without any actual storage. In short, yes I sacrificed a couple of shelves where I stored my glasses (which have since been rehomed happily) and the first aid kit (also re-homed), but I've gained so much in extra light, the open, spacious feeling and the complete style transformation which more than makes up for it.
The one expensive item was the super cool original artwork by Sskirl shown in this picture (I'll try and get a better close-up). I love it and think it works really well with the reeded glass film and the texture from the tubes on the peninsula. I think it’s important to have a mixture of old, new, basic, bespoke and meaningful items when creating a room scheme; these elements work together to create a unique space which personal to you.
DIY crittal-esque faux reeded glass door
Believe it or not, I've actually done another DIY kitchen makeover on this space since I wrote this post so have a read if you're looking for more inspo. I've also written about 15 creative ideas for decorating the space above your kitchen cabinets if you are looking for some good home storage and organisation options.
Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page).
Why not check out some of my other posts...
Interior decorating and styling