Kitchen Renovation: A Beginners Guide To Success

Nadia Hursky on April 18, 2013

Your household is not like any other, so don’t settle for a cookie-cutter kitchen renovation. Customise your kitchen to your family’s unique needs. Following these dos and don’ts will help you innovate and avoid the many pitfalls of average kitchen renovation.

Understand Your Kitchen Renovation Needs

A kitchen renovation is a significant investment. Make sure your new kitchen lasts the test of time. Be clear about your needs upfront by asking yourself:

  1. How many people will be using the kitchen and how will they use it? This impacts on thoroughfares, the amount of bench space and appliances needed.
  2. Where will you position that side-by-side 700L fridge? Will a single door 321L fit your needs and your space better?
  3. How often will you be entertaining? Will a standard 60cm oven suffice or would a larger 90cm oven be better for your lifestyle? And would a four ring cooktop suit your cooking needs or do you need five rings?
  4. How often will the kitchen be used? If you’ll be cooking every day or have children, consider more durable materials like Quantum Quartz or Caesarstone. Marble is stylish but its porous nature can attract stains. Likewise, while stainless steel can look sleek, it scratches easily.

open plan kitchen with island

An open design with spacious bench space, a large oven and kitchen stools can make entertaining easy and sociable.

2. Dare To Be Different

Your new kitchen won’t just add value to your home, it can also really lift the décor. Aim for an exceptional kitchen renovation, not just a safe one. Creative design solutions can express your style and make the most of the space. Injecting colour into your splashback or bench top can make a tight kitchen look larger. And bold or unusual light fittings can transform a kitchen, giving it flair. Consider how including imaginative design elements in your flooring, ceiling, splashback or lighting could take your kitchen renovation to the next level.

Kitchen Trends 2014

Don’t forget about the floor! Its large surface area can impact your overall design considerably.

3. Consider Storage Space

In all the fun of picking a new design, it’s easy to forget about the practicalities. Make sure you plan your storage solutions up front. Outside of your dinner sets and cookware, you need to think about your appliances. You’ll probably want the appliances you use daily (like your microwave or coffee maker) to have a place on the bench top or within a custom made alcove. But what about other appliances—toaster, slow cooker or bread maker? Make sure the depth of shelving in your cupboards will cater to your needs. If you have limited space, utilising drawers and pull out pantries will multiply your storage.

blum inner drawers | small kitchen ideas | Blue Tea

Drawers, whilst more expensive, will increase your storage space by up to 30%.

4. Get Savvy With Your Budget

Your dream kitchen renovation comes with a pesky anchor: your budget. While it’s important to consider all costs, there are always ways to make your money go further. Some things to consider are:

  1. Kitchen design – Ask the pointy questions. Does your kitchen company charge for design? Are the designers paid a wage or a commission? What is their margin on the manufacturing and installation costs?
  2. Cabinetry and materials – Sometimes small modifications can bring the cost down but still achieve a great look and the right functionality. Leave out fancy pull-out items if you are aiming to keep the cost down. Ask your designer for options and then decide which elements you’d be happy to compromise on.
  3. Appliances – You’ll be using these daily. You don’t need to go for top-end appliances, but it’s worth spending a little extra for trusted brands. Find out what their servicing policy is and whether you can pay for an extended warranty.

5. Insist On Custom Manufacturing

Every space is different and there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to kitchen cabinets. When planning your perfect kitchen renovation, be sure to check that your kitchen will be custom manufactured to fit your space. There is a difference between custom manufactured kitchens and “custom designed kitchens”. Some companies use modular cabinets that need fillers or panels to adapt them to your space. This not only looks bad, it’s also a waste of space.

Your kitchen renovation will look best when it is made to fit your space precisely.

6. Plan Your Bench Space Carefully

Nothing is more frustrating than feeling cramped and disorganised in your kitchen. Consider what works and what doesn’t about your current bench space. This is your chance to improve it. Try to allow work space on each side of your cooktop – around 800mm each side is a good guide. Plus you’ll want a larger work area for food preparation – at least 1200mm if you can.

While it is not always possible to control the amount of bench space in your kitchen, there are a few practical things you can do to make it function better. Keep the microwave clear from the bench top and use a smaller sink if you are tight on space. You can also consider forgoing a pantry a traditional pantry to maximise your bench space.

Suspended shelves in a small kitchen

A small sink will increase bench space in your new kitchen design. There are other solutions to standard and sometimes bulky over-head storage solutions such as these open shelves.

7. Remember Your Waste Disposal

It’s easy to overlook small but important things like waste disposal. Depending on your budget, out of sight functional solutions work best. A small slide out bin under the sink works well, as it utilises otherwise wasted space. Dedicating a whole cabinet to garbage disposal, however, may be too excessive if space is limited.

hafele slide out bin

This Hafele bin is perfect for under-the-sink waste solutions. 

8. Remember Lighting!

Your kitchen renovation should make the most of natural light. But because natural light isn’t always available, you can use LED lights in your wall cabinets to brighten your bench space and add ambiance to your new kitchen. Preparing meals is easier if the light falls in front of you so no shadows are cast.

lighting inexpensive

Get clever and creative with your lighting solutions to provide both practical and ambient lighting for your kitchen renovation.

9. Don’t Forget Ergonomics

Your custom kitchen should be a joy to use. But a sink, cupboards and benchtops that are at the wrong height can cause unnecessary strain on your back. A good reference point is your current kitchen – is it comfortable to use? Would it make your life easier if the surfaces were a little higher or lower? The right height can and should be factored into your new kitchen design. But remember, slight differences make a big difference when you are changing the bench height so err on the side of caution.

kitchen ergonomics

Also consider the space between your bench tops and vertical surfaces. Allow enough space for thoroughfares through-out the kitchen.

10. Functionality Is The Key To A Successful Renovation

While your new custom kitchen should be stunning, it’s nothing if it’s not practical. Before finalising your kitchen renovation design, ask yourself:

Is there enough space to stand directly in front of the oven with the door open?

Can I open the fridge without hitting a wall or blocking a walkway?

Are the cooktop, fridge and sink intuitively positioned to make food preparation easier?

Can you access your fridge easily without cupboards or appliances, such as the dishwasher or oven, getting in your way?

Planning a positive and successful kitchen renovation is easy if you remember a few key points; design your new kitchen to be beautiful and functional, choose a supplier that custom makes your kitchen, listens to and understands your needs.




  1. Nicci says:

    Awesome tips – so many things i wouldn’t have thought of for my kitchen renovation. Thanks!

    1. nadiah says:

      Thanks Nicci, really appreciate the feedback.

  2. Joshua says:

    We Just finished our kitchen, wish I read this before I had started mine. some great tips.

    1. nadiah says:

      Hey Joshua

      Thank you for the kind words. Hope we can help you on the next one 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    Hi there,
    I am in the planning phase of renovating. I have a large U-shape kitchen, but I am thinking about knocking out the wall and opening up the space. Even though I love the idea of an open planned kitchen with an island, I am just worried that I will lose bench and storage space. What are your thoughts, advice?

    1. nadiah says:

      Hi Susan

      While technically you may lose some cabinet space, your new kitchen layout will be more functional and easy to use. You will avoid corner cabinets by having a galley/ island design, so all of your items will be easier to reach.But you also need to consider how you use the space, do you like your kitchen to be private and a little messy, or do you want a space that is open and multi-functional?

  4. Jayne says:

    I’m thinking of renovating our kitchen and this was such valuable content. Thank you for sharing such great tips! Bench space is particularly important so I’ll be using your advice when planning!

    1. nadiah says:

      Hey Jayne

      Great to hear you found the tips useful.
      On a separate note loving some of the recipes on your cooking blog 🙂

  5. Jeremy says:

    Hi Nadia

    I’m wondering if you could share any info regarding the average cost of disposal units, and perhaps some you would recommend for under the sink.

    1. nadiah says:

      Hi Jeremy

      The cost for built-in waste disposal units vary quote alot. You can get a basic swing bin attached to the door for around $90. A more sophisticated slide-out model (as pictured) is around $175. Full height pull-out bins get more expensive. Hope that helps… 🙂

  6. Lex says:

    What are your best tips for selecting a trade person?

    1. nadiah says:

      Hi Lex
      The first thing you can do when looking for a reliable tradesperson is to do a search online to see if there have been any registered complaints with Fair Trading. Spend time talking to your selected builder to see how invested they are in the details of your project. If possible speak to previous clients or try and see their work.

  7. steven jones says:

    Great tips I must say. Hope I came across this article before renovating my kitchen. I will definitely suggest my friends if they need any.

    1. nadiah says:

      Hi Steven, thanks for the feedback.

  8. Sam says:

    Awesome tips. How much time should one typically allocate or look forward for the renovation process?

    1. nadiah says:

      Hi Sam

      This earlier blog post on Kitchen prices, may be useful. Also we are working on an update which should be available in the next week or so.

      Hope this helps