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Creating a kitchen on a shoestring





Very few kitchen projects don’t have a budget; it’s the size of the budget that varies widely.

Kitchens in New Zealand can range from $5,000 to $100,000 and beyond. The trick is getting value for your money. A big budget doesn’t necessarily guarantee good design or value for money, so there are a few things you can do to make sure your kitchen is going to be all it can given the amount you want to spend.

Seek the help from a professional kitchen designer. If your budget is under $20,000 you may want to use an in-house designer from the company you intend buying the kitchen from. The alternative is an independent designer who will charge you for their services.

If you use an in-house designer then technically they own the design and you will need their permission or pay a design fee to take it away for alternative quotes.

If you are on a tight budget a good idea is to select your kitchen company based on reputation and referrals and then commission them to design your kitchen. Part of the ‘client brief’ will be setting a budget and it is then you can dictate the maximum you wish to spend. This ensures a reputable company will be undertaking the project at a price you can afford. Approaching a National Kitchen & Bath Association member is a good start, as these companies have already been vetted and will provide a professional quality service.

I often hear comments about certain companies being too expensive; these are the companies you should actually target as they obviously have high standards and use quality hardware. If you provide them with your budget then you’ll know that your kitchen will be of good quality and affordable.

Creating a good-looking kitchen on a shoestring budget is always going to be difficult. Magazines and showhomes that we use for inspiration are full of beautiful kitchens but most have been designed with reasonable budgets. So what is an acceptable budget for a new kitchen? This can depend on where you live, how big the kitchen is and, of course, material and design choice. Two of these factors are almost out of your control but the material and design is where you do have some control. There is a theory the kitchen, including appliances, should be eight-10 per cent of the value of the house, excluding land. But a budget kitchen is probably around the five per cent mark.

Listed below are some cost saving ideas that you may want to consider when designing your budget kitchen. At this stage I must point out that like a lot of things “you get what you pay for”. Economising on material and design may save you some money upfront but you need to consider the longer term. More often than not, it can turn out to be a false economy.

Benchtops
Benches are your most expensive element, only specify them where they will be effectively used. High Pressure Laminate, or HPL, is still the most economical but some engineered stones are becoming very comparable.

Don’t specify coved upstands, apart from looking old fashion they add extra cost to the top and can cause difficulty when installing.

Square clashed edges are more economical. Either make them very thin or pump them up in thickness.
The thickness change will have very little effect on the HPL cost but will provide a distinct design element.

Waterfall ends have done their dash. Don’t be tempted to include one as it will add cost and place your kitchen in the early-2000s bracket.

Minimise joins and corners. Straight galley kitchens are the best designs to achieve this.

Don’t design anything that has a curve in it.

Top mount your bowls, undermounting, although far more practical, adds cost to the bowl installation.

Cabinetry
Specify more cupboards than drawers. Drawers are certainly a better storage option but they contain more hardware and labour to produce.

Don’t be afraid to void out corners, corners are costly to make cabinetry for and unless you spend a lot on hardware they will always be a difficult area to access.

Choose a Low Pressure Laminate, or LPL, that doesn’t have a directional grain. This allows for better optimisation of the board when cutting. Having said that, some of the timber grained LPLs on the market would be easily mistaken for very expensive veneers. 

Any pull-out accessories will increase the price. Carefully evaluate the need for them.

Tall cupboards don’t need to be 600mm deep. Reduce the depth to 400mm as a design feature and take a financial saving.

Corner pantries do not offer value for money. Apart from being ugly they are expensive, inefficient and difficult to use.

Wall cupboards or over cupboards are making a come back, not only in modern design but also they are very practical and economical to make.

A white LPL for your doors etc will take your eye off the cabinetry and focus it towards the darker colours on splashbacks or the handles. 

Prioritise your appliances; don’t spend thousands on an oven you may only use twice a month.

Colour
Use colour, or the lack of, as your design feature.

We are fortunate that there is a minimalist trend happening within kitchens, so if you are on a budget it’s easy to design a modern kitchen without too much compromise. A good designer should always be your first step, no matter what your budget. Some of the most economical cabinets on the DIY market can offer an exceptional kitchen if designed and installed professionally. Just because a company sells kitchens doesn’t mean to say they know how to design kitchens, so check their qualifications.