Designer kitchen on a budget

kitchen2.jpgPhotography: Christina Simons

My kitchen was about a big suck.

At least I didn’t have much of a suck and I wanted a big one.We were forced to revamp it after a so-called friend managed to flood the house. I’d long been railing again our mushroom coloured units, specified by the previous owner and colour matched to some German automobile.

I’d also been pissed-off about the extractor fan, which actually only recirculated through the ceiling. It meant that if I wanted to cook anything more ambitious than an omelette the smoke alarm would fire-up.

So we built this new kitchen around the extractor hood, which has a vast 300mm diameter pipe snaking up across the ceiling and through our wardrobe skywards.You can check out the before, in between, and after pics here.

We also felt that the A$15,000 that for cabinet making was a bit rich. So we opted for a couple of thousand dollars worth of Ikea cabinets and spent the rest on a flash worktop and accessories.

We drew inspiration from John Pawson’s kitchen (pretentiously minimalist UK architect) and added a few non-minimalist fripperies of our own.At the pinnacle of flat pack kitchen is Ikea because it features flash, Blum drawers – usually the preserve of only the rich and famous. The best thing about these drawers is that they are damped so you can push them in without slamming. One cabinet maker wanted $5000 just to fit these drawers into our kitchen.

At Ikea we spent less than that on 10 metres of cabinets plus installation. To give you an idea of costs: the top of the range white lacquered doors are A$450 per 60cm wide cabinet featuring the Blum drawers (see inset picture).Our idea was to mix the flat pack with posh accessories – the super efficient Qasair rangehood, Miele cooktop and oven, glass splash back and a donkey’s knob of an extendable Italian tap from Gessi, a really posh Jacob Jensen scale (far left on wall) and some flash designer lamps.

Polished concrete has a whimsical beauty only enhanced by its imperfections. There are nearly 10 metres of it, half on the kitchen bench and half on a bench seat with storage underneath, in the Tomato kitchenIt doesn’t like onion or lemon juice, although they will wipe off. The cost for 10m of 60mm thick concrete (on the leading edge) is shy of A$6000 excluding installation from Made in Concrete (annoying music). It came in four sections and took six hulking blokes to heave each section into place. Concrete is bloody heavy so we didn’t need to glue or screw it into place and thankfully Ikea units are solid enough to take the weight.CookingFor the oven and cooktop we chose Miele.

We could have bought cheaper and at a discount with Smeg but somehow the no discounting policy of Miele drew us into the plot.The thing with stainless steel appliances is not to let a scouring pad in the same room as them. All it takes is a misplaced scrub from a well-meaning visitor (you know who you are) to leave it with the finish of a well worn skating rink.

Use a specialist cleaner with a soft cloth.SuckingWe had one requirement for our reno: to vent through the roof rather than into the ceiling void. After months of research we discovered the power of suck from Qasair, a local rangehood manufacturer which offers joined-up thinking. Most companies allow the plumber to figure out the specifications to maximise air extraction.

Qasair offers its specially trained team on installers – experts in fluid dynamics and air flow volumes. These guys custom design the piping – near 10m in our case – to ensure maximum suck. And we can report we are now griddling with abandon while our smoke alarms are enjoying a well earned break (as are the neighbours’ jangled nerves).


  1. It’s aged very well, if fact almost looks like new. In our utility room under the sink there is a bit of water damage (we are always overflowing) after four years but other than that brilliantly. But the beauty of Ikea is that if we want to we can cheaply replace the door. The concrete is high maintenance though. I’venoticed they have some good innovations now such as 800mm draws and sinks moulded into stainless steel tops.

  2. How has the kitchen aged? I love the look of the flat pack cabinets but i worry about how they will wear. How about an update?

  3. You did a good job. It looks great!

  4. We bought a Cubopac kitchen It is made in Italy, superior quality to Ikea and really great prices. It is easy to put together as well.

  5. Really wish I hadn’t goe for Miele. The nobs – plastic as it turns out – have all broken off the hob.

  6. I found that you can get really great discounts on Smeg and its really great value. I would have gone for that but I had the luxury of an insurance claim to spend ( or lose) so went for Miele. I even think Smeg may be better for ovens.

  7. The new kitchen looks great! Like the colour especially. The kitchen I want involves Aga/Smeg but budget might prevent that.

  8. I must say I love your kitchen! My dream worktop is lime stone by the way…

  9. To answer all the questions: No the counters aren’t always so clean but we do have a utility room as well for washing up big stuff. The concreate counter tops are great. BUT: Our cat, in a huff, knocked a frying pan off the top of a cupboard and took a chip out of the edge which I have to mend. and they do stain. generally with concrete you need to keep acid away from it – onions and lemons. With the dark concrete water does leave marks.

  10. I’ve always admired poured concrete countertops. They’re gorgeous.

  11. Very nice remodel! I think that is what we’re going to have to do to ours. I’m bookmarking you so I can be inspired.

  12. Beautiful kitchen. Are your counters always so clean? It was very fun seeing the before and after photos. I wish I had taken some before photos from my own remodeling, but I didn’t think of doing it until it was too late. I did get some in process photos. Thanks for sharing your kitchen.

  13. Sometimes sucking is good. Great looking kitchen.