How to get a designer kitchen on a tiny budget.


The following is an excerpt from Cherie Barber’s book, Renovating For Profit.

So, we’ve come to the kitchen, which just happens to be the most important room in your home for adding value … no pressure! The heat is on because this room has so many elements and is heavily used every day. Given how hard this room has to work, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a well planned and executed kitchen will add enormous value to a home. Basically, this room is your money maker, according to bank valuers – it’s the one room they pay particular attention to (along with your bathroom). These two rooms also happen to be the most expensive to renovate, and rightly so. They have a lot of stuff in them!

Budget brains

For your kitchen, allocate a budget of no more than 2 per cent of your home’s current property value. Not what you bought the property for, but what it’s worth today. If you don’t have any idea what your property is worth, simply look at real estate websites for local comparable sales.

For example: if your home is currently worth $600,000, your kitchen renovation budget should be no more than $12,000, fully finished, inclusive of all materials, fixtures and fittings and trade labour. Everything, basically! If you’re disciplined enough to stick to this formula, you’ll greatly minimise your chances of overcapitalising.

The Marsfield kitchen before. Image via Cherie Barber.

Once you’ve set your budget, breathe easy … I’ve got some great money-saving ways to make your kitchen look great, without costing the earth. I’m all about maximum impact with minimum spend. And that doesn’t mean bad quality either. You should take immense pride in the quality aspect of any place you’re renovating. It is, after all, someone’s home.

Believe it or not, you can transform an entire kitchen for less than $2000. I’ve even done a fully finished kitchen makeover for just $991! See my kitchen reno on pages 124 and 125 for a kitchen that was transformed for just $2021. So I don’t want to hear any excuses, OK?

In with the new

The cost of a new kitchen can spiral out of control pretty quickly. It can balloon past $10,000 to $30,000, without you even blinking an eyelid. So, it pays to be a good researcher, or at least buy a book by a good researcher: me!

Three ways to get a kitchen installed:

1. DIY, and bring in specialist trades as needed.
2. Get a cabinetmaker to do most of the installation.
3. Hire a kitchen showroom company to handle the whole process for you.


Option 1 is the cheapest option, option 2 is middle of the road and option 3 will be the most expensive (at least double or triple the cost of option 1; but it may be the safe path to go if you’re completely clueless about construction).

I’m a big fan of a flat-pack kitchen. And there are plenty of good ones around in your major hardware stores or at some big furniture shops. There are now online companies that have whole businesses dedicated to flat-pack cabinetry alone!

The Marsfield kitchen after, completed on a budget of $1000. Image via Cherie Barber.

You can save money by assembling the cabinetry yourself (if you can assemble Ikea, you can assemble any other flat pack) and then paying a carpenter to professionally install all your cabinets and benchtops. An experienced senior carpenter should be able to do the work in two days. Most carpenters are on $40 to $65 per hour inclusive of GST. Eight hours a day multiplied by two days = 16 hours × $65 per hour, so budget around $1000 for your carpentry bill.


And be aware that there are two kinds of flat-pack kitchens to choose from.

  1. Standard sizes, which generally come from large hardware stores or large retailers.
  2. Made-to-measure flat packs, for more precision. Have a look online for options.

Listen: Interior design guru and mother-of-three Megan Morton speaks about her parenting philosophies, and how a made bed can change a home. (Post continues...)

Cherie's tips for flat-pack fabulousness

  1. Measure, measure, measure. The whole project depends on your digits, so get it right. Get it as precise as you possibly can and always get a second person to check your measurements before you order.
  2. You’ll still need professionals. Have a good carpenter, plumber, electrician and tiler (for your splashback) ready to go. These tradespeople are worth their weight in gold. Plus, they’ll get it done faster than you possibly can.
  3. Buy yourself an electric drill. You will be able to assemble your cabinets in a fraction of the time spent doing it manually with a screwdriver or Phillips head.
  4. Flat-pack kitchens are well suited to any home under $750,000 in value. Any property over this amount warrants custom-made cabinetry with snazzier surfaces on your cabinetry doors.
  5. Finally, if everything starts to go wrong, call in the professionals before you go any further.

You can buy Renovating for Profit, by Cherie Barber, (Hardie Grant), RRP $39.95 here.