The Art of Compromise: My tips for a budget kitchen update

As you may have seen from my Instagram stories recently, I’m refurbishing the kitchen on a limited budget at the moment.  We all know kitchens and bathroooms are the most expensive rooms in the home and also the most disruptive when we want to make them over.  But there are ways to make even these pricey rooms over on a budget.  The trick is the Art of Compromise.

What can you compromise on and what should you spend the money on?

Once you’ve got the budget in mind,  you first of all need to decide on what you’re going to do in the kitchen.  Are you ripping out the cupboards, are you just updating the doors?  You’ll be surprised how far a small budget can take you.

Ripping Out Cupboards

If you’re ripping out the kitchen, or even ripping out a couple of cupboards and starting again, there are ways to add cupboards for a reasonable price.

Take a look on Gumtree or eBay or your local selling sites, many people sell an entire kitchen before they get a new one fitted and usually for only a couple of hundred pounds if you’re prepared to take it apart and take it away.  Sure, the cupboards may be a few years old, but as long as they are structurally ok, you can work around it and make it work with a lick of paint to the doors or look for new door fronts.  And whatever cupboards do you don’t use, you can sell on yourself.

There are also specialist businesses that sell second hand kitchens such as the Used Kitchen Exchange where you can get a great deal on kitchens.  Perhaps a little pricier than Gumtree or eBay but they will remove and deliver it for you.  Also they sell ex-display kitchens, so it’s definitely worth a look.

Changing, upgrading  or removing the doors

Changing the door colour is an instant win – it’s the greatest impact you can make to the kitchen.

In my kitchen makeover, we’ve decided to paint the doors as buying new would be too expensive.  This is one of the compromises we’ve made.  There are specialist businesses that sell new doors, or of course you can head to IKEA to get some cheap doors to makeover yourself.  However, if you have odd size doors or lots of doors, this starts to get pricey.

So we have decided to paint the doors in our kitchen.  You can buy specialist products, such as Ronseal Cupboard paint, or you can prime the doors and use an eggshell or satinwood paint.

The Cupboard Paint is easy, no priming required, just a good clean, and you’re ready to go. However, you’re limited in the number of colours available and the pots are about £20-25 for a small pot and despite the claims for ‘one coat’ on the tin, my experience in a previous kitchen has told me you’ll need two.  For my last kitchen we used four small pots of the Cupboard Paint.

The second type of painting is more time consuming but potentially cheaper and more colour options.  Here you can clean and prime the doors, then get a large tin of the satin or eggshell paint in your chosen colour, so you could do your whole kitchen for under £100!   Here’s my kitchen early in the removating and painting process.  We’ve gone for two tones, lighter grey on top and darker on the bottom.

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If you don’t want to paint, you could wallpaper them, or use contact paper or sticky back vinyl.  Again both of these are relatively cheap options (depending on the wallpaper you choose !) and will make an instant impact.

If you want to go for the on-trend open shelving option, you can remove the doors entirely and paint inside the carcass of the cupboard, or remove the cupboards entirely, sell them and get some industrial style shelving.  This makes your kitchen feel more open and light, without upper cabinets, but I’m not tidy enough to keep it all in order on the shelves!   But it’s a brilliant look.  You can buy shelves for reasonable prices if you buy a sheet of MDF and get it cut for you.  Then a lick of paint and it’s looking great.


Worktops are a really expensive part of a kitchen, especially if you’re after real stone.  I know laminate worktops have got a bad rap in the past, and the older laminate worktop we’ve just removed was an example of the cheapest, nastiest type.  However, if you’re prepared to look at the higher priced laminate you can get yourself a great looking worktop for a fraction of the price of stone.

The worktop we’ve chosen is called White Mirror Chip (I know, not the most catchy of names!) from Howdens (so you’ll need to know someone with a trade account) but you can get similar ones in Wickes, Homebase or B&Q.  It’s a stone effect laminate that is high gloss. It also has the look and cold feel of real stone and prices are in the £140-£200 for a 3m length.  This is much better than real stone for a few thousand pounds.

For me this one is a compromise that’s easy to make.  Here’s a couple of pictures of the kitchen (still unfinished obviously!) with the new worktop installed (but not fully finished) – I think you’d struggle to see it’s laminate once it’s all finished:


We’ve decided to keep the silver toned handles in our kitchen but if you really hate your handles you can either replace them, or for an even more cost effective option, why not prime and spray paint them?  If you’re looking for the gold or copper look, you can get them from a spray paint for a fraction of the price!


Sockets are pricey aren’t they, especially if you’re looking for statement ones such as those from the brilliant Dowsing & Reynolds or Buster & Punch.  Both of these businesses do beautiful sockets but you will pay for the beauty and the quality.  My plan for the kitchen is to have the white worktop and white tile, so I’m planning to keep the sockets white for now, so they blend into the background and don’t disrupt the white lines.  At some point I might decide to go for a metallic socket if I think that it’s too much white, but for now I’m happy to compromise on this.


Gosh taps can be expensive can’t they!  I’ve always wanted a tap with a pull out hose attachment so I wasn’t prepared to compromise on this.  Also, we needed a tap with the lever at the base of the tap so that it’s easier to reach from the wheelchair.  I found a great one at a great price in Screwfix and whilst it might not be the on-trend gold or brass (some of which can run to several hundred pounds!) this was exactly what I was after and the price was great for me.  Again here’s a picture of the unfinished kitchen:

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Tiles are another really pricey part of the kitchen.  Here I have had to compromise.  My original tile choice was about £45-50 per square metre, which as we have to buy about 4 square metres, becomes pricey on a budget.  So I had to change my plans.

Metro tiles are usually the cheapest option for a tile (usually around £9-11 per square metre) and unless you’ve been living on the moon, are THE tile of the moment.  They are cheap, smart, and come in a range of colours, although white with black grout appears to be the favourite of the moment if you look in my instagram feed.

I do love the look of the metro tile but wanted someting  a little different.  So I’ve gone for a tile called Cosmopolitan by Wickes and it looks like a Metro tile but it’s flat, not bevelled.  I’ve gone for this because I want to have the tiles in a herringbone pattern, and I think the bevelled edge of the Metro doesn’t look as nice as in a herringbone.  I’ll go for the dark grout and I hope it will look as this picture:

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Photo Credit: Walls And Floors

So I’ve had to make some compromises, from the tile to the painting of the doors and I’ve even gone for cheaper light fittings, but I’ve made sure I didn’t compromise on the tap or the sink.

Sometimes you have to realise where you can compromise and where you want to splash out, this way you can get the kitchen you want for a fraction of the price.

What other ideas have you got for compromise in a kitchen design?



14 thoughts on “The Art of Compromise: My tips for a budget kitchen update

  1. It’s looking really good so far. I like the fact you went for flat metro tile, more versatile than the bevelled one. Looking forward to seeing the final reveal!

  2. Read with interest as I recently tried to paint my guest bedroom laminate furniture using laminate primer and satinwood. It didn’t go so well. So keen to see what you use, what paint technique (brush, roller, paint pad?) and what you’d recommend. I now know how NOT to do my kitchen – that’s progress, of a sort. Love your kitchen tap!

    1. Ah yes my tap was a real find! Thank you! I used a multi surface primer and used a brush around the edges (I kept the brushes the same direction where I could) and a gloss roller for the larger areas. There’s three coats of paint (Dulux satinwood) on there. I would have preferred only two coats but three seems to have given the right coverage. Another idea for laminate furniture is chalk paint. I’ve done a few posts about chalk paint but my bedroom chest of drawers is 3 years on and still looking good. Good luck!

  3. Yes I did think about chalk paint! Wanted something a bit more polished though. I have been researching how to make my own chalk paint though, so that might be the next experiment!

      1. That sounds fab. I had a search of your blog and couldn’t find a pic, can you point me in the right direction? (I’ve also tried umpteen times to put a pic on my gravatar, and it’s just not having it for some reason 🙁 )

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