How to renovate a kitchen with out breaking the financial institution | Kitchen DIY | Life and elegance


Splashbacks, soft-close drawers, built-in home equipment, breakfast bars … If you’re grappling with a kitchen renovation on a good price range, these are all options which have the capability to induce panic and/or complete apathy. What’s extra, most high-street suppliers will cost upwards of £8,000 for a fitted kitchen (which can or could not embrace elimination of your present set-up). Forget about bespoke, shaker-chic models: realistically, yours is a bland selection of laminated worksurfaces and lacklustre fitted models that swallow up house and encourage stockpiling.

But I feel I may need discovered another. When my companion and I moved into our Victorian terrace, we determined to method our kitchen as we’d every other room in the home and fill it with used furnishings. Having lived with it for 2 years now, we all know it’s potential for a free-standing, secondhand kitchen to carry out the identical features as a fitted kitchen, for a fraction of the value. Here is how we did it …

Think about structure

Get all of the boring-but-vital stuff discovered first. Decide the place the sink should go, the boiler, the oven and the fridge. Once you could have house allotted for the necessities, you’ll know what you could have left for storage, surfaces and seating.

We inherited a pokey, L-shaped kitchen fitted with MDF models, a built-in oven, and a mock-granite worksurface. It solely made use of 1 finish of the room. The house was dissected by a chimney breast fitted with a fuel range. This appeared like an apparent place to begin, so we opened the chimney breast to create room for a free-standing oven (our greatest funding). By inserting the oven within the centre of the motion, we may deliver the opposing ends of the room collectively.

A freestanding oven with spanish tile splashback, some steel shelves and old school locker cupboards.

By inserting the oven within the centre of the motion, the opposing ends of an L-shaped room had been introduced collectively. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Limit your choices

Once you’ve determined towards a fitted kitchen, you’ll have a wider selection of the fabric, color, form and dimension of your cabinets and surfaces. If you’re in a rush to get cooking, this may appear daunting, so restrict your choices. Pinterest might help, as can inside magazines and on-line assets ( is certainly price bookmarking). Spend a few evenings (actually, no extra) choosing pictures that enchantment and also you’ll rapidly discover they’ve a standard theme. We gravitated in the direction of chrome steel. It’s straightforward to wash, warmth and waterproof and it sat comfortably with the furnishings we already had, which means we may combine and match items from our outdated home – an outdated oak desk, a set of college lockers – with our “new” (ex-kebab home) kitchen.

As luck would have it

A visit to a storage yard unearthed this steel surface with a couple of drawers at each end, a shelf below for pots and pans.

A go to to a storage yard unearthed this metal floor with a few drawers at every finish, a shelf beneath for pots and pans. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Once you’ve narrowed down your search you’ll be able to scour eBay/auctions/vintage markets for gadgets that match your aesthetic and – importantly – your measurements. International Antiques and Collectors Fairs ( maintain 39 gala’s in seven places all year long. If early mornings and brazen haggling isn’t for you, then you may attempt a reside on-line public sale, similar to Criterion (, which allows you to bid for tons remotely. The inventory modifications weekly, so it’s wealthy pickings.

Keep your search broad, however your measurements exact: linen cabinets, reclaimed science lab worksurfaces, retro kitchen pantries can all work. (In our earlier kitchen, we discovered an outdated oak door for £50 that served as a worksurface for a lot of a 12 months. Our open shelving was an exquisite slender shutter that was held up by porcelain brackets that when supported a Victorian cistern.)

There is all the time a specific amount of serendipity at play when shopping for secondhand. We discovered an eBay vendor specialising in used chrome steel models. He was promoting a sink unit we preferred for £340. A go to to his storage yard unearthed a 2d piece that fitted exactly into the house on the opposite facet of the chimney – a two-metre lengthy floor with a few drawers at every finish, a shelf beneath for pots and pans, and a half-shelf above for easy-to-reach cutlery, spices and such like. It was ours for £200. In 1 afternoon, we’d discovered precisely what we would have liked for £540, a value barely elevated by an hour or 2 with a plumber to hook all of it up.

Similarly, on a day journey to Sunbury antiques market ( I discovered a field of outdated Spanish tiles for a tenner. I didn’t comprehend it on the time, however they fitted exactly within the house behind the freestanding oven. Splashback sorted.

A coffee pot on top of the hob with a spanish tile splashback in the background

The Spanish tiles had been discovered for £10 in an antiques market. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

‘Where are your beans?’

The kitchen we’ve got doesn’t have huge quantities of storage. There are not any cavernous nook cabinets or overhead models stacked with teacups and Tupperware. We have 1 large floor-to-ceiling linen cabinet we purchased for £200 at Sunbury antiques market. It homes all of our dried, jarred items, plates and bowls. (We eliminated the again of it so it additionally hides the boiler.) Our cutlery sits on an open shelf, our teacups and glassware fill a easy £70 glass cupboard. When a buddy visited for the primary time, he stated, “But where do you keep your baked beans? Where’s your cereal?” I opened the secondhand college lockers and confirmed him how completely an enormous field of bran flakes slotted into the 5th door alongside. Serendipity, once more.

cupboards storing cereal and books

These second-hand college lockers had been simply the appropriate dimension to carry containers of cereals. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

The faff issue

For all the cash you save on eschewing a shop-bought fitted kitchen (our reclaimed models and surfaces value spherical £1,000 in complete), you must be ready to spend a bit of (OK, rather a lot) extra time on seeing it by way of to completion. There’s analysis, looking and transporting to be accomplished – and a whole lot of heavy lifting. We quickly came upon that, though our shiny broad sink unit labored completely within the house we had assigned it, it didn’t match by way of our slender kitchen door. We spent a day eradicating a just-painted bay window sash with a purpose to publish the sink in by way of the facet of the home. Ouch.

Our freestanding kitchen does power us to reside with much less. It has really fostered a well-honed orderliness: we eat and use every part, on a regular basis. We match our kitchen and our kitchen matches us. Just about.

  • Nell Card is a contract meals and interiors author primarily based in London; @nellcard

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