A stylish kitchen is at the top of many people’s checklist, not least because it can be a major selling point for your home. But with rising building costs, along with the increasing cost of living, a full-on renovation can feel out of the question.
Even a budget kitchen renovation can provide huge gains, however. A recent study by Magnet found that, when done well, even a budget kitchen renovation costing around £7,000 could increase your property price by almost £16,000. “We certainly find that well-designed and carefully planned kitchens make a difference when people are considering buying a house,” says India Alexander, head of appraisals for estate agents The Modern House and Inigo.
It seems to be a sweet spot for spend versus financial payback: the Magnet study found that while a £7,000 investment in kitchen upgrades produced, on average, a 5 per cent increase in house price, spending more money didn’t produce a corresponding increase in gains: a £15,000 kitchen renovation saw an average increase in house price of 6 per cent.
“A kitchen renovation can be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Amanda Pollard, senior editor at the home-improvement website houzz.co.uk, which found in its own survey of its members that one in six homeowners decided to renovate the kitchen to improve the resale value of their home. “Small tweaks and cosmetic changes, or even focusing the budget on one bigger change, can all dramatically change how a kitchen feels and functions.”
Sketch it out first
The first thing to do with any type of revamp is consider your floor plan – and the ways you might redesign it. “The most popular kitchens with our buyers are those that have some social space incorporated into the design,” Alexander says.
But you have to be careful from the start of the project. “I have made expensive or annoying mistakes in the past by not planning out the room carefully enough,” says Louise Roe, founder of homeware brand Sharland England. “You have to think, how do you use the room at different times of the day, where do you need a plug socket or phone charger (which might be hidden inside a cupboard), and how do you want guests to filter in when they come over for drinks and hang out with you while you cook? It all takes thinking about in advance. Room planner apps are a great tool to move things around on a screen before you commit in real life.” She advises using roomstyler.com or planyourroom.com to help visualise the space.
For interior designer Sophia Ayrton-Grime, founder of Studio Raff, the visual appeal of symmetrical design, as well as its practicality, is important: “Symmetry creates a sense of equilibrium and harmony, which is essential in the kitchen, where most of the chaos and havoc happens.” She thinks that as well as adding harmony, it adds value: “Potential buyers often appreciate a kitchen that is visually appealing, functional and well organised.”
That’s not to say you need to do a big remodel to achieve a sociable space. It could simply involve your choice or placement of freestanding furniture: Alexander advises considering “a big old dining table, or a stool placed under a sunny window for someone to perch alongside the cook”.
Invest in appliances
There are areas where you should focus your budget, and Alexander suggests that one of them is appliances. “Many of our buyers and sellers are keen cooks,” Alexander says, “so we often find that people have chosen to invest in good-quality ovens, hobs and fridges. As always, tastes are eclectic, but the common theme is functionality and durability, and classics like the Aga remain favourites.”
Don’t be tempted by undercounter fridges, advises Fleur Marston, a sales manager at estate agency Foxtons. “A few vendors have put in small half-sized fridges in favour of having more worktop space, but we have found that this has been a deterrent to buyers.”
Reshuffle your cabinets
The thing people coo over the most when looking around a home is the storage. In the kitchen, the trick is to maximise storage, without the room looking too full of identikit cupboards. Tom Corbett-Winder, founder of building company Blockhouse Build, advises mixing up the cabinetry. “I try to use as many drawers as possible. They look smart and are much more practical, as you’re less likely to lose things down the backs of cupboards.”
He also adds that a built-in pantry or larder is worth considering – even if you have to sacrifice space elsewhere; in his own home, he used part of a former cloakroom next to the kitchen to create one. “It’s still a tiny space, but with clever shallow shelves up to ceiling height, we can hide all the clutter and keep the kitchen tidy.”
It’s a shrewd investment: pantry areas – even if they are tiny – are “now top of the must-have list, beating a kitchen island, which came in second place”, according to a recent kitchen trends report by Houzz, says Pollard.
Switch up the colour
If there’s not enough budget for a full overhaul, “You can refresh a kitchen by painting the front of the cabinets or changing old and damaged ironmongery, including the handles or the light switches,” says Candy Murray, interior style manager at Soho House. “Adding brass finishes can really elevate a look and even these small changes can make a huge difference to how the kitchen looks and feels.”
When it comes to colour, some property experts advise against bold shades if you’re looking to sell any time soon; however, Alexander finds the opposite is true. “We love kitchens with colour,” she says. “It’s often a space in which sellers can experiment, and some of the lust-worthy kitchens in houses we have sold have used deep hues on the cabinetry or painted the walls a shade that works well in low light for morning coffee or late-night dinner. In general, when buying a special or old house, people will fall in love with it for the very reasons it’s different from the rest.”
For a modern take, consider a colour drench, where you paint the skirting and doors the same colour as the walls; or, for a quicker job, try painting just the kitchen island in a contrasting colour to the rest of the cabinetry.
Upgrade the worktop
Changing tired worktops can have a huge visual impact. Interior designer Emma Shone-Sanders advises spending on natural materials for a luxe feel: “A stunning marble worktop and splashback can make all the difference to an inexpensive kitchen,” she says.
To save on costs, a top tip from Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL Kitchens, is to visit a stone yard: “See if they have any offcuts of stone, as you may be able to use them for an economical worktop while still getting a high-quality finish.”
Layer your lighting
The right lighting can transform a kitchen; and it’s wise to think about the different level of light you’ll want at different times of day: bright in the morning, but softer in the evening, for instance. Hanna Walter of lighting brand Heathfield & Co suggests layering your lighting with wall lights and lamps, instead of just relying on overhead lights. “Use bright task lighting to illuminate work spaces, then softer ambient lighting can be used over a dining table to set an intimate mood,” she says.
Try some DIY tiling
Replacing or adding tiles will instantly smarten up a kitchen; and while it might look tricky, it’s actually one of the more straightforward DIY kitchen jobs. “If you want to try tiling yourself, there are some great YouTube tutorials online,” says Grazzie Wilson of tile company Ca’Pietra. “Remember, the larger the tile, the easier it will be to install and will require less grout too.”
Remind yourself: you don’t have to do it all at once
While the instinct to want your kitchen instantly to look finished can be strong, “Sometimes it is better in the long run to start your project with a few items, and add to it as you save up some more money,” advises Parker. “Use an old vintage table instead of installing a new island; concentrate on getting a good cooker and some hard-wearing worktops. Go to antique fairs and buy old art to make your kitchen look unique, and try for a real bargain.”