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How to upgrade your kitchen without breaking the bank

NEWSFLASH: You don't have to rip out your entire kitchen to get a brand new look. Here are my top budget-friendly kitchen upgrades that are easy on the pocket - and the planet.

Behold, the mighty kitchen. Often - and rightly - referred to as the heart of the home and probably the subject of around 87% of your Pinterest activity, because everyone dreams of a beautiful kitchen, right?

Kitchen renovations can be costly ("how much?" I hear your cry! Well, how long is a piece of string but I don't usually estimate a bespoke kitchen at less than AED 70,000 excluding appliances). But the good news is, you don't need to rip out your entire kitchen and start again to get a new look. If it's functioning well and the frames are good, give it a facelift instead.

Here are my top cost-effective kitchen upgrades that will give you a brand new look without a big fat bill.

Your pockets, and the planet, will thank you.

#1 - Repaint your kitchen cabinets

In my opinion, painting your kitchen cabinetry is a better option than the increasingly popular wrapping solution, and the colour options are endless. For a uniform finish, get your doors sprayed with PU paint - your contractor can colour-match to any paint code you provide but PU paint often turns up a tad lighter, so ask for samples first.

If you're not entirely happy with the style of your doors, you could also consider getting new ones made for your existing frames.

#2 - Treat yourself to some new hardware

Found yourself living with some big chunky plastic kitchen cupboard handles? Yep. I feel you. Do everyone a favour and get your cupboards the new arm candy they deserve. If you're having the doors painted as well, ask your contractor to fill in the existing screw holes and fix the new handles - so no need to worry if your new handles are not the same size as your old ones.

Etsy has some amazing options for budget-friendly kitchen handles.

#3 - Look at your lighting

Getting the lighting right in a kitchen is essential, in my book. Nowhere else in the house do you really need such a range of lighting types - ambient lighting for general use, task lighting for cooking or working at the island, and accent lighting to create the perfect ambience for hosting and enjoying - because there's nothing worse than standing in a kitchen under bright lights after a couple of glasses of wine right?

The bad news is, standard issue kitchen lighting is usually pretty awful. The good news is, it's easy to fix.

Got an island? Hang some pendants over it - also great for a bit of zoning if your kitchen is particularly open-plan.

Got upper cabinets or wall shelves? Add some light strips or spots underneath for some nice mood lighting. There are some great wireless solutions on the market that you don't need to hard-wire in.

And take a look at your existing ceiling lights - are they too bright? Too white? Just plain ugly? You can change the fitting, warmth and brightness to suit.

#4 - Upgrade your backsplash

If there's anything you take away from this list, let it be this... upgrading your backsplash is such an easy fix it's almost criminal not to. The cost-to-impact ratio will very much work in your favour. The area is usually pretty small so don't be afraid to splash out on those fancy tiles you've had your eye on for months... go on.

"Upgrading your backsplash is such an easy fix it's almost criminal not to."

It's also an area of the kitchen that you can get a little wild with, if you're that way inclined, so if you want to go bold in your kitchen, do it here - because it's easier for you (or a potential buyer) to change the backsplash rather than all the cabinetry.

#5 - Consider your countertops

If you have some budget leftover, you could opt for all-new kitchen tops. Look at porcelain rather than stone for more budget-friendly countertop options.

If you're working to a lower budget, wrap your current kitchen countertop. As long as you avoid hot pans and cutting directly on it, I've seen kitchen countertop vinyl wrap last pretty well.


Need help planning your new kitchen? From bespoke consultations to full renovation support, we've got you covered. Get in touch to find out how we can help.


Studio Van Oliver is a UAE-based interior design studio, specialising in residential design, home renovation and styling.

We love creating spaces that - quite simply - feel like home. Warm and welcoming spaces that evoke that ‘ahh’ moment. The feeling you get when you flop into bed after a long day; the glow of a lamp at night; a cup of tea in a quiet house.


Little moments of peace, comfort, reflection.



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