How a kitchen makeover can transform your whole property

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Replacing your home’s kitchen can seem a costly, lengthy and disruptive process, writes DIY guru Julia Gray.

You must remember though, a nice kitchen will add value to your property, make your home instantly more sellable and – perhaps most importantly - become the room you spend most of your time in. Surely that’s an investment worth making?

Gutting the room and starting from scratch is a great way to create your dream kitchen, but only if you have the cash and are prepared to put up with upheaval. If this isn’t an option, there are easier and less expensive ways to update your kitchen.

The obvious starting point is repainting the walls, ceiling and woodwork. A new colour can make a big difference, especially if the existing paintwork is tatty – filler, sandpaper and paint work small wonders. For the walls and ceiling, use a kitchen and bathroom emulsion because they are specially designed to resist steam, mould and stains.

If repainting alone isn’t enough to make a difference, then new tiles, flooring and worktops can also transform the kitchen without breaking the bank. Providing the units are in reasonable condition, you can keep them and just change the doors for different ones (or paint the existing ones). With any luck, they’ll be a standard size, so it’s simply a case of swapping them in. If they’re not a standard size, you can make new doors yourself – MDF works well – or get them made by a joiner or online kitchen and wardrobe door company.

Sometimes you have no choice but to replace the units, especially if you want a different layout. Takeaway kitchen units, which are available off-the-shelf in DIY stores, tend to be the cheapest. Some come complete with doors and handles, while others are just the base or wall unit – you buy the extras separately, giving you more flexibility. Depending on the size and shape of your kitchen, takeaway units may not be ideal because they’re a standard size and so may not fit the space, but bespoke units obviously cost an awful lot more. Look out for offers - the Christmas/January sales in most stores aren’t too far away, and B&Q has regular 20 per cent off kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms (with a minimum spend).

One way to get kitchen units (and worktops, tiles, appliances, and so on) for a fraction of the usual price is to look on eBay. This is a good place to find ex-display kitchens and kitchens being sold off by homeowners.

You may also, of course, be able to find ex-display bargains in your local DIY store or kitchen retailer, but the problem with any pre-fitted kitchen is that the units are unlikely to fit the space you have exactly, so you’ll probably have to make compromises.

For the best bargains, try give-away websites, such as Freecycle ( and Freegle (, where, as the names suggest, everything is free.

Product of the week

The right lighting can make or break a room, but it’s often overlooked. The Hue LED range from Philips ( takes lighting to another level, letting you wirelessly control lights from your smartphone or tablet and personalise them in ways you wouldn’t even think possible.

The Philips Hue Connected Bulb - Starter Pack (£179.95, Apple Store UK) has everything you need to get started – three screw-fit light bulbs, which use 80% less energy than conventional bulbs, and a ‘bridge’ controller. The bridge plugs in to your home’s internet router, so you can wirelessly control the bulbs from your smartphone or tablet. Each bulb can display around 16 million colours, including different tones of white.

Hue is more than just light bulbs, though. To illuminate features, shelves and furniture, use Philips Friends of Hue LightStrips (£79.95, Apple Store UK), or the Philips Hue LivingColors Bloom Colour-Changing Lamp (£79.95, Apple Store UK). This small, round light can be used to wash a wall with colour or, again, highlight a feature. Both the LightStrips and Bloom work like the bulbs, giving you hours of fun finding and switching between colours.

How-to tip

If you’re painting inside a built-in cupboard or wardrobe, with both walls and wood to cover, don’t use separate special paints for each surface. It’s much quicker and easier to use a paint that can be applied to both, such as Colours Everywhere Matt Emulsion (from £13.98 for 2.5ltr, B&Q).