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How to create a chic kitchen without breaking the bank

By Rachel Wallace

A greatkitchenis more than just expensive finishes and coveted hardware. It’s packed with smart storage, stylish touches and a well-considered layout.

Whether designing a kitchen or giving it a reboot, you don’t need to break the bank for a five-star space. Designer Martine Cooper says no matter what your budget is, functionality should come first.

“Consider how you live, your workflow and who uses the space,” she says. “It should suit how you live, cook and clean.”

Want a relaxing modern kitchen that is good-looking and functional? Read on for hot trends and budget-friendly tips for creating a dream space with true staying power.

Include storage galore

The Block’s storage queen, judge Shaynna Blaze, was in awe of Kyle and Leslie’s organised kitchen. “Storage galore and drawers for days,” she marvelled. She was equally impressed with Kristy and Brett’s tandem pantry unit and James Bond-style rise-and-fall splashback concealing secret storage space.

Luckily, there are more inexpensive ways to incorporate storage, from drawer dividers and pretty canisters to shelf risers that allow you to stack to the height of the shelf.

Block contestants Kyle and Leslie were praised for the storage in their kitchen. Photo: Nine
inspired by TRENDII

“Keeping pantry shelves shallow brings everything to the front and keeps items stacked two to three deep so they don’t disappear,” says designer Angie Rogers“Ensure there are plenty of drawers that separate goods into sections so you can pull out the whole drawer and look down onto its contents.”

Designer Sarah Elshaug suggests installing a system into tricky corner units to ensure all space is utilised. “The Le Mans system is the best solution, and store-bought lazy Susans are great for smaller corner cupboards,” she says. 

Make good use of all available “vertical real estate”, Cooper says. “The splashback and side of cabinetry is great for knives and spices and frees up drawer space,” she says. “Use a non-permanent kitchen trolley as an additional benchtop with storage underneath.”

Try custom colour and details

Great styling is vital when creating a beautiful space. A case in point is Kristy and Brett’s kitchen stools swathed in luxe boucle, and Steph and Gian’s seamless mesh of Scandinavian and Japanese styles.

Custom colours also feature heavily, with Eliza and Liberty’s vibrant orange oven and Leah and Ash’s hot-pink powder-coated coffee machine both standouts.

“You have to be brave!” Cooper says of the vibrant trend. “Personal taste evolves, so you may not want to be tied into a red mixer tap or coffee machine. Try smaller items like coffee cups, planters and vases in your preferred colour to ensure you are ready to commit to being bold. It’s a fun way to add some personality without breaking the bank.”

Eliza and Liberty incorporated a pop of colour into their kitchen. Photo: Nine

Rogers says beautiful design detail also elevates a kitchen. “Choose big pendant lights to create a focal point and wallpaper your pantry,” she suggests. “A splashback is a smaller surface area, so spend your budget on beautiful handmade marble tiles.”

You can save money on cabinetry finishes without sacrificing style. “A 2pac paint finish on door and drawer fronts is nice, but laminate is more affordable with many gloss levels, timber texture and colours available,” Rogers says. “Stone benches vary considerably, so shop for cheaper offcuts with your stone mason that might work.”

Make your kitchen a sensory place to spend time in, splurging on extras with longevity. “Invest in quality cabinetry handles, tapware and benchtops, along with soft-close hinges and drawer runners,” Rogers suggests. “You’ll touch and feel them daily, so you want them to feel good and last for years.”

Butler’s pantries don’t have to be expensive

There were butler’s pantries galore on The Block this season, with Steph and Gian’s declared “exquisite” by judge Neale Whittaker. Now, more than just a place to leave functionality out of sight, the butler’s pantry is a luxe overflow space to be coveted.

“Create a complementary colour and materials palette but down-spec materials, using a laminate benchtop with a stone-look finish,” Cooper suggests.

In a plain space, paper the walls or add vibrant colour to the insides of cabinetry, and choose hardware that acts like jewellery.

“Create plenty of storage affordably using modular carcasses from IKEA that come in set sizes and are flat packed,” Elshaug says. “Open-carcass drawers and shelves are a great option too, and less expensive than decorative cabinetry fronts.”

Creating an all-white kitchen is also very affordable. Photo: Supplied

Keep it fresh and simple

Whittakerwas thrilled with Kristy and Brett’s fresh, pristine space and said it was “refreshing to see an all-white kitchen”. Regarded as a safe colour scheme for the better part of the last two decades, now we see the sleek white kitchen emerge as a space to shine.

Luckily, creating an all-white kitchen is also very affordable. “Add paint, crisp blinds, a freshly tiled splashback or island bench, or a new laminate benchtop,” Rogers suggests.

“Apply VJ panelling over existing walls and update furniture or feature lighting. To ensure it doesn’t look stark, style it with warmer materials like brass, timber, rattan, handmade tiles and jute.”


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