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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

10 Affordable Kitchen Makeover Ideas to Transform Your Space

Updated: Feb 18

My kitchen makeover - a tale of two parts!

Regular readers might think, ‘Hold on, is she fobbing us off with the same kitchen makeover post again?!' The good news is that, no, I am not. The truth is, I love a kitchen makeover so much that I did another one in the same kitchen. 

Kitchen makeover - the brief for part 2

As I had already done one kitchen makeover, the ‘before’ pics don’t have the huge contrast of the first time around. The kitchen was modern, light, and bright and was ticking a lot of the boxes (well, all of the boxes from the original kitchen makeover brief, in fact, but I’d added some new ones in the interim). 

I was super happy with the microcement worktops and the extra features that I had added (namely, the tall microcement backsplash, ledge shelf & waterfall ends that you can read the step-by-step for in my Real Homes article) and the built-in fridge enclosure that I DIYed was still going strong. There weren’t any features of the original DIY kitchen project that I wasn’t happy with, but I felt it needed softening a bit, less of the super minimalist clean lines and a bit more ‘stuff’, stylishly arranged, of course! On the subject of stylishly arranged stuff, be sure to check out my pantry ideas post - 15 creative ideas for improving your kitchen storage.

5 ideas to steal from my kitchen makeover

1. Add fluted mdf panelling

Ok, so fluted MDF sheets are amazing. They transform spaces and take the stress out of home DIY projects; it’s fair to say I’m slightly obsessed. You can read my post about all the places I’ve used fluted mdf around my home if you fancy giving it a go!

I used strong postal tubes to decorate the side of my kitchen worktops in the first kitchen makeover. They looked fab, were cost-effective and sustainable, and, once painted with kitchen cupboard paint, were scrubbable and practical for the kitchen environment. 

The only slight issue was that because the overhang of the kitchen worktops was only a couple of centimetres before the tube install, I couldn’t use whole tubes as their diameter was too large and they wouldn’t fit under the overhang, so I had to cut them in half longways. This was a manual process (I cut each tube with a handsaw as I didn't have an electric saw at the time), while the cardboard wasn’t difficult to cut through, it was tricky to get a perfect cut and it also meant that the tubes lost some of their strength. You could only tell they weren’t perfect if you looked really closely, but it bothered me. 

I researched textured 3d wall mouldings and cladding & there are lots (Orac decor, Decwood to name just a couple), but they are expensive, so back to the drawing board I went. Then I discovered fluted mdf sheets from a seller on eBay. 

The sheets are massive (2.4m x 1.2m) and come in various thicknesses (3mm, 6mm, 9mm &18mm). I ordered a 6mm thick sheet to replace the postal tubes with and the DIY kitchen part 2 was on!

I’ll write a separate tutorial about how to install these magical mdf sheets as there are obvious precautions you need to take to ensure they will stand up to the tough environment of a busy family kitchen, but you basically just cut them to size, sand lightly to smooth off any mdf fibres, prime them, glue them onto your chosen surface, fill any gaps and caulk the joins then paint. 

It’s a very achievable process, even for DIY novices and allows you to achieve a high-end style, bespoke-looking finish on a realistic budget. I have a discount code you can use for the place where I bought the sheets use code CLAIRE15 for 15% discount at the following Etsy shop...

Buoyed by the success of the fluted peninsula in part two of my DIY kitchen, I went on to add fluted detailing to the window reveals of the aperture between the kitchen and our living room, underneath the DIY breakfast bar (we’ll come to that in a moment) and above the kitchen cupboards. Oh, nearly forgot I also added them to the IKEA hack DIY coffee station - let’s look at that next…

2. Construct a DIY coffee station

The little kitchen alcove had upper wall cabinets initially. I have a habit of removing kitchen cupboards, you can read more about the reasons why here in the blog post I wrote. I decided that by removing yet more kitchen cupboards, I could create an inviting alcove by adding some open shelves and making a coffee station. 

For some, coffee stations are probably a bit of an American idea, but they are basically just somewhere to store/display all your tea and coffee-making ‘stuff’ and turn it into a kitchen feature or focal point rather than just jamming it all in a cupboard and I’m a fan. I wrote a detailed step-by-step process about how to make an IKEA hack DIY coffee station, so won’t repeat in detail here, but let me know if you have any specific questions. 

3. Fit a skirtain to cover unsightly appliances

This is the second time I’ve made a skirted curtain, aka a skirtain for the kitchen. I wrote a step-by-step for the process here, so won’t go into that again here, but I will just say how handy they are for hiding a multitude of sins or, in this case, the washing machine.  

I actually had a cupboard front for the washing machine originally as it’s an integrated model but there are a lot of cupboards over that side of the kitchen (a whole wall of them) and it looked quite severe, so when I installed the DIY coffee station above the washing machine I decided to fit a curtain underneath to soften the area and break up the run of units. I’ve kept the door, so can put it back on if required, but for now, I love the look of the fabric next to the contrast of the microcement and black granite worktop.

4. Create clutter-free cupboard tops

white concrete kitchen with fluted detailing

One of the issues I had with the kitchen cupboards after the first kitchen makeover was that they were a prime target for clutter. There was a sizeable gap between the cupboard tops and the ceiling and it was just the right height to fill with random objects that didn’t fit in the over-stuffed cupboards. The truth is, we have too much stuff and I really need to have another ruthless decluttering session, but even after a good sort and sell (this is the first step in my bespoke on-a-budget process that you can learn in my online course), this space was a clutter magnet. I had tried putting wicker baskets and various storage containers in the gap, but it looked untidy as the cupboards were modern and it just didn’t flow. 

The obvious option was to fill the gap, and one day, I had a lightbulb moment and decided to use fluted mdf (I did warn you that I was obsessed!). Using fluted strips of mdf in the gap created a feature and drew your eye up to the ceiling, so it gave a feeling of greater height and more space, which I loved as we do not have the luxury of high ceilings in our house. It also gave a feeling of continuity by continuing this unusual material in various locations around the kitchen. To my mind, it felt more like a considered design choice than if I had stopped after using it on the peninsula. 

I’ll write a detailed tutorial for this step in the kitchen makeover but here’s a summary of the process. If you prefer to decorate the space above your kitchen cabinets, then I've written a post with 15 creative ideas for using the space above your kitchen cabinets.

How to fill the gap above your kitchen cabinets

  • Create a template for the strips of fluted mdf required to fill the gap above the kitchen worktops using card.

  • Use the template to mark and cut the mdf.

  • Attach batons on wood to the ceiling and top of the kitchen cupboards to hold the mdf strips in the right place.

  • Sand, prime and paint the mdf strips

  • Attach mdf strips to batons

  • Fill along join lines with decorator’s caulk

  • Admire your handiwork 

5. Install a faux antique brass hanging rail

I love brass hanging rails in kitchens and am particularly fond of under-shelf fancy-pants (technical term) antique brass utensil hanging rails and decided to install some in round two of the kitchen makeover. That was until I saw how expensive bespoke ones are (I needed a really long one to run the length of the ledge shelf above the worktop. I had a bit of a think and decided the best approach was a bit of creative kitchen DIY. 

I used a wooden dowel and two kinds of spray paint (brass and oil-rubbed bronze, as you asked) and created a faux antique brass finish. I also sprayed the brackets to hold the rail in place. This was a brilliant DIY hack (if I do say so myself!) and I wrote a DIY tutorial for the whole process which you can read here

6. Build a DIY breakfast bar

breakfast bar built from concrete

Breakfast bars are a great tool for a kitchen makeover as they can be fashioned easily from basic materials, don’t need to take up a lot of space, can be positioned in a tricky area to optimise the space and can be made a brilliant focal point to distract the eye from less attractive kitchen features should you have any.

The DIY breakfast bar I built from timber and microcement really made the kitchen makeover for me. I’m yet to finalise the tutorial for this one but it will be posted soon, so don’t forget to subscribe if you want it.  

In a recent blog post that is available here, I wrote about the background to the DIY breakfast bar, why it worked so well in that location and why there was a gaping hole in the wall in the first place. I also included the research i did for bar stools (with product links) and details about the breakfast bar stools we chose and why.

7. Add an accent chair

minimalist chair in modern concrete kitchen

In part one of the kitchen makeover, I positioned the dining table next to the new built-in fridge enclosure. It fit the space perfectly and meant the living room at the back of the house could be clearer as didn’t need to house the table, dining bench (another IKEA hack that you can read about here) and chairs (brilliant IKEA furniture finds that you can read about here). In the second part of the DIY kitchen, I decided to put the table out in the back room and create a sitting area in the space next to the fridge. I found a fantastically good value minimalist accent chair on Amazon and watched it until the price dropped below £100 (it’s based on a much more expensive chair that would set you back in excess of £800) and nabbed one. It works really well in the space and makes the kitchen feel less cramped.    

8. Add microcement to kitchen cupboard doors

white concrete kitchen

The final kitchen makeover idea we’re going to look at today (no doubt there will be a kitchen makeover part 3 when I inevitably get bored and start faffing again!) is the run of kitchen cupboards that I microcemented. This was quite an experimental DIY as I hadn’t used microcement on cabinets or cupboard doors before, but luckily, it worked really well and gave a subtle textured finish that adds another layer of interest to the DIY kitchen. 

9. Paint uPVC door

painted upvc door

I painted the uPVC door in the last kitchen makeover and added reeded glass film too. This time round I just changed the shade of the door to match better with the new kitchen makeover. I opted to paint the uPVC door the same shade as the green lower run of cabinets and drawers as it was softer and gentler on the eye than the black from the first makeover.

I include a detailed step-by-step on how to paint uPVC and add reeded glass film in my online course.

10. Add charity shop finds

charity shop art find

One quick trick that added some character to the kitchen makeover was to add a picture that I found in a charity shop that turned out to be a really good find! It only cost £15 and is a beautiful oil painting that really catches the eye and feels very unique and special.

Top tips for a successful kitchen makeover

  • Shop around - look for a mix of materials to incorporate natural texture and interest into your kitchen makeover eg: reclaimed tiles, natural wood, marble

  • Don’t overlook lighting - layered lighting is essential in kitchens which need to be truly multi-functional spaces. Ideally, you’d be looking for a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting.

  • Look out for pre-loved kitchens; there are lots of companies who sell amazing quality, used, luxury kitchens that can be resprayed and jazzed up so you get great ‘bones’ rather than cheap particle board carcasses on a budget. is one option.

  • Avoid clutter - keeping your worktops free from clutter not only helps with aesthetics but makes cleaning easier too.

  • Create a mood board of all your kitchen makeover ideas and test paint colours all around the kitchen at different times of the day and night as they will look different in different lights.

  • Buy a good tap! Skimping on quality is a bad idea, as you’ll end up spending more money in the long run on replacements and plumber call-outs.