Reno Focus: Kitchen

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Redoing a kitchen can be a daunting task. After all, this room has so many purposes: it’s where we eat, mingle, socialise and entertain. Creating a space that is functional yet beautiful and suits the people living in the home is no easy feat.

With the kitchen being one of the most crucial rooms in a property, it can be a deal-breaker for many potential buyers and renters, which is why it’s essential to go into a renovation with a really solid plan.

One of the most challenging aspects of any reno is the initial planning process. Developing your vision for the space and determining the features that will bring it to life are key, even if – or especially if – you are working to a set budget.

It can be easy for those who have a little creative flair, but if you’re not a natural-born renovator, or if you don’t know which parts of the room to splurge on and in which areas you can save money, it can quickly become stressful.

During Sarah Megginson’s quest to reconfigure her own personal kitchen, she discovered that the best ideas come from a range of sources.

“We visited four different kitchen makers and got inspiration from each one,” she says. “The bonus of this is that we ended up with a design we never would have thought of on our own.”

Based on her experience, Sarah offers her personal top tips on renovating a kitchen creatively on a budget.

STEP ONE: DO SOME GROUNDWORK

Mental preparation is that all-important first step in any renovation project, because while sometimes you may know exactly what you want, at other times you need to do some research.

“Seek advice, and walk around kitchen warehouses,” Sarah suggests. This tip comes from her own success in gleaning design concepts by visiting kitchen makers.

By looking at how others develop their individual aesthetics, you’ll find yourself thinking of ways you can improve or modify those ideas to your own taste. You may also discover ways to save money; for instance, Sarah realised she could redeploy her existing sink-mixer tap from her old kitchen into her new one.

TOP TIP

Aside from exploring warehouses like Bunnings or IKEA, you can get ideas from the homes of friends or family. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting design elements like unique lighting or beautiful benchtops.

STEP TWO: SHOP FOR CHAMPAGNE ON A BEER BUDGET

Once you’ve finally put your ideal kitchen together in your head, it’s time to go shopping. It’s certainly a lot easier to dream than it is to execute, especially if the things you like may be out of your price range, so shop around for products that suit your budget.

“I wanted a black granite sink, as they stand out against white benchtops. Granite is also hardy and chip-proof, so it’s perfect for a rental property,” Sarah explains.

“But they are pricey! So I shopped around and ultimately found what I wanted online for $450 – far less than the $1,000 our kitchen installers quoted for a granite sink, which was actually smaller than the one we bought.”

TOP TIP

The best way to get a good deal on products is to pay attention to sales. Sign up to newsletters so you’re alerted to deals, and consider asking for a discount if you can pay in cash.

STEP THREE: GO NEUTRAL WITH CUPBOARDS

One of the easiest ways to save money on a kitchen renovation is to keep your cupboards simple, making them a complementary rather than standout feature of your kitchen.

“Basic matte white cupboards are generally the cheapest you can get, and they’re the perfect base for any kitchen,” Sarah says.

“I wanted a shaker-style Hamptons look, but it was $3,000 cheaper to get plain white cupboards. These would achieve a similar look with fancy Hamptons-style handles but save a packet. Because it was my own home, I splurged, but if it was an investment property I would have pocketed the savings.”

TOP TIP

“Consider going for premium finishes on the higher cabinets that are seen more regularly, then install a plainer style for the cabinets below,” Sarah suggests. “This adds style and impact, while keeping a lid on costs.”

STEP FOUR: HAVE ONE SHOWSTOPPER MOMENT

When designing your new kitchen aesthetic, Sarah suggests creating that one big centrepiece that becomes the main talking point when people walk into the kitchen.

“In our kitchen, it’s the benchtops – they’re high-quality stone in a Calacatta marble finish,” she says.

“In my mum’s kitchen, she opted for simple white benchtops contrasted against a bold, stylish marble splashback. In my friend’s kitchen, she splurged for expensive marble on the island bench – the part everyone sees first – but used basic neutral benchtops along the back wall.”

The rest of your kitchen should be built around that centrepiece so it doesn’t become cluttered with too many individual design elements.

TOP TIP

Maintenance is important to ensuring that your kitchen continues to look high-quality. It’s important to wipe down benchtops regularly and keep your splashback free of grease and grime.

STEP FIVE: BE CREATIVE WITH AN ISLAND BENCH

When it comes to kitchen benchspace, many renovators may think of island benches. However, Sarah notes that you don’t have to be limited to this option.

“If you want the function and aesthetic of an island bench, depending on the space and layout, you may be able to install a dining table in the kitchen – it’s loads cheaper and can look really effective!”

Kitchen tables are especially useful for larger family homes. They help make the room the ideal place to cook and wash up as well as eat and socialise, ensuring the kitchen remains the heart of the home.

TOP TIP

The key to picking the perfect dining table to use as an island bench for your kitchen is to ensure there is plenty of walking space around the table. Remove all of the chairs and consider adding stools to create a casual eating area.

STEP SIX: GO FANCY WITH HANDLES

When designing your new kitchen aesthetic, Sarah suggests creating that one big centrepiece that becomes the main talking point when people walk into the

kitchen.

“In our kitchen, it’s the benchtops – they’re high-quality stone in a Calacatta marble finish,” she says.

“In my mum’s kitchen, she opted for simple white benchtops contrasted against a bold, stylish marble splashback. In my friend’s kitchen, she splurged for expensive marble on the island bench – the part everyone sees first – but used basic neutral benchtops along the back wall.”

The rest of your kitchen should be built around that centrepiece so it doesn’t become cluttered with too many individual design elements.

TOP TIP

Doorknobs and handles come in various shapes, colours, materials and sizes, so this gives you the perfect opportunity to experiment. You just want to ensure that they stand out – and are, of course, durable!

STEP SEVEN: BUY THE VERY BEST BENCH YOU CAN AFFORD

There are aspects of the kitchen you COST should spend on, to ensure the highest quality and durability. For Sarah, her island bench was the non-negotiable.

“We opted for high-quality engineered stone in a Calacatta marble finish – the most expensive element of our renovation, but it’s indestructible. It can’t be stained or burnt and looks a million bucks,” she says.

“It was worth the investment as it really stands out as a premium bench.”

You don’t need to invest in the very best for your investment property, but go for the best quality you can afford. A cheap bench can let down a solid reno when it starts to chip a year later.

TOP TIP

Don’t try to save on stone benchtops, as poor-quality materials can chip, stain and get shabby all too quickly. If you’re looking to rent or sell and want a cheap and cheerful solution, consider laminate or timber.

STEP EIGHT: DON’T FORGET THE FLOORING

Flooring is a vital part of any kitchen COST reno, particularly if you do major work that reconfigures the space and impacts the existing flooring.

“We had to redo the flooring throughout our kitchen, living and dining after our renovation. Sometimes this can be the smartest move, rather than ‘patching up’ the existing floor,” explains Sarah.

“It can add value and appeal to have fresh floors, so weigh up the pros and cons in your budget.”

Stone floors are durable but the most expensive choice. For an investment property, vinyl is a budgetfriendly option and is also waterproof.

TOP TIP

For those looking for low-priced but still attractive flooring options, Sarah points out that “vinyl floors are increasingly affordable and look fantastic”. Vinyl can come in several designs, and because it’s waterproof it’s an ideal choice for kitchens and wet areas

CASE STUDY

This renovation had been a long time coming: seven years, to be exact.

“When we moved into the home we knew the kitchen needed to be updated, but we knew it was going to be expensive to do what we wanted, so we kept putting it off while we saved to do it properly,” explains Your Investment Property editor Sarah Megginson.


Before

“Over the years, it got worse: two cooktops stopped working. The oven only operated at 300 degrees, which made baking tricky. And then one day the rangehood collapsed onto the stove!”

They made the decision to demolish the existing fittings and fixtures and install a brand-new Hamptons-style kitchen, but the project would have knock-on effects. 

“Be redoing the kitchen, it meant we also had to redo the floors of the kitchen, entry and dining area, which added another $6,500 to the overall spend,” Sarah says.

“We also had to redo our front entryway to knock down a curved wall and install cupboards, which had to happen before we redid the flooring, so the overall renovation project became somewhat bigger than we had initially planned!”

With the guidance of Kitchen Connections, they reconfigured the layout from a “U-shaped” benchtop to a galleystyle space complemented by a big island bench, with an additional coffee nook against the wall.


After

Sarah’s biggest tip is to repurpose what you can. She adds that if your kitchen renovation is for an investment property and you’re going for the biggest “bang for buck”, try to keep the confi guration of plumbing, cupboards and electricals exactly where they are, and just update them.

“Our biggest budget blowouts were for unseen costs, like the additional $800 we had to pay the plumber to cut through concrete when we shifted the sink. Or the $700 we had to pay a welder to reinforce a wall that we were told wasn’t load-bearing,” Sarah says.

“It’s crucial that you have a budget for dealing with extra expenses that crop up, because they’re inevitable.”

 

Sarah Megginson is a keen property magazine investor and editor of Your Investment Property magazine 

Top Suburbs : artarmon , north lambton , lockridge , woolloongabba , goulburn

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