Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Reality of Refurbishing a House on a Budget

Semihandmade doors on IKEA cabinets via Smitten Studio
Nineteen months ago we moved into our lovely little Victorian house; our heads full of ideas for how we would improve it. Nineteen months on, the reality it quite different. We have ripped out a cupboard and replaced the boiler (expensive and dull), had a fireplace made and half decorated the living room (we didn't remove the radiator as we want to replace it, same with the windows). And that's about it. The reality of refurbishing a house is that tasks need to be completed in a certain order and there's only so much you can do to a place before the money you have spent on it cannot be recouped on selling, let alone a profit made. We have really struggled to make decisions regarding what to change and what we can live with versus what is 'not worth doing'. As a perfectionist, this has been particularly difficult for me!

Two rooms we always knew required more major work are the bathroom and kitchen. We were gearing up to replace the bathroom, when the kitchen started deconstructing itself. Tiles fell off the walls, shelves collapsed and drawers fell off. Apparently the kitchen would be first. 165 Pinterest 'pins', multiple showroom visits, two trips to IKEA and many, many hours of research later we are nearly ready to start.

I always had in mind we might use IKEA cabinets with custom, painted MDF fronts. However, after our first trip to IKEA to inspect the new Metod kitchen range, I was not impressed. Instead, we visited all the 'big box' kitchen showrooms and got prices from local small businesses. After a £7000+ quote from a local kitchen maker, and a £4000 estimate for the Cooke & Lewis 'Carisbrooke' taupe kitchen (B&Q) that we quite liked, we decided to rethink. The thing about low- to mid-range kitchens is that they are all basically the same: particle board carcasses with foil-wrapped (melamine) cabinet fronts. I personally do not like melamine and its shiny finish and always had my heart set on painted doors (with dreams of a 'Plain English' kitchen on a budget). Back to IKEA we went. Having compared the interiors of many more kitchens I now thought their cabinets were fine for our purposes. The low prices, plus all parts being easily replaceable and the added bonus of so many organisational nicknacks sealed the deal.

Our kitchen is quite small: we are changing from a u-shape to a galley, putting French doors in leading to the garden, bricking up one doorway and moving another. There is also ongoing debate about taking the floor level down to match the adjoining room. By saving money on cabinets, we're able to complete this other work. We're not hiring a builder either. Instead, my electrician brother, my boyfriend and I will attempt to carry out the project with just the help of task-specific tradesmen such as bricklayers and carpenters. I have started clearing out the kitchen and we are setting up a temporary one in the dining room. Luckily, we also have a large under-stair cupboard where we can house our washing machine and tumbledryer. I will have the new dishwasher and fridge freezer we've bought set up in the dining room along with a microwave, toaster and kettle. Deluxe!

I intend to blog about the refurb process, so I hope you won't mind this type of 'interiors' content. Wish me luck and please cross your fingers that I have a new kitchen by around August/September. Here's some of my ideas and my Pinterest inspiration to keep you going until the before and afters! Please let me know if you have any tips for surviving a kitchen renovation.

The Look
Galley layout
Pale painted fronts
No uppers
Drawers not cupboards
White subway tile
Oak worktops
Engineered oak floor
Ceramic sink
Bespoke French doors


  1. beautiful.. Please feel free to check out my blog for some awesome makeuptips and advice! Dont forget to follow! Thanks.

  2. I COMPLETELY know where you’re coming from, and I feel like I could have written this post myself as we did the same with our home – refurbed the bathroom and then the kitchen (we went months without a bathroom and almost 2 years before we installed a kitchen!!)
    It’s certainly not glamorous work in the beginning, but I tell you what, when it’s finished it will be so great to look back at your messy work and know you’ve done it yourself :)
    Looking forward to reading the progress! Karen x

    1. Hi Karenanita, thanks for your lovely comment. I've had a look at your blog and Instagram and your house is looking fab! Congrats on the baby too. I think over-exposure to house magazines and blogs had me thinking the process would be a lot more straightforward than it is. For example, we've had to wait weeks just to get the quotes back for some lintels. It's really delayed everything. It's like some companies don't want to make money! Good luck with the rest of your project and your pregnancy. Couldn't believe the post about your kitchen floor! We are looking at engineered oak for ours and I won't be buying from them! xx

  3. Its really nice way to refurbish home.

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