How to make your kitchen look expensive on a budget

We asked the experts how to create a luxury kitchen without breaking the bank

Black and white kitchen with black tap on kitchen sink
(Image credit: Future PLC)

A luxurious kitchen can often feel like a pipe dream, something we wistfully long for but don't see as an attainable reality. We've all probably brainstormed ideas around how to make your kitchen look expensive before, but given up at the prospect of having to break the bank in order to achieve the dreamy aesthetic we want.

The wonderful news is that you can learn how to make your kitchen ideas look expensive on a budget, and create the illusion of a rich designer kitchen without spending loads of cash. 

'Working to a budget does not mean you have to forgo thoughts of a designer kitchen,' says Ruth Lavender, Design Expert, Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery. 'Simply choosing clever combinations of cabinetry, worktops, lighting and appliances make it possible to create an expensive feel without overstepping on costs.'

'You don’t have to spend a lot of money on making your kitchen look more expensive,' agrees Ben Burbidge, Managing Director, Kitchen Makers. 'It’s all about choosing the right touches in the right areas.'

That's music to our ears, and if we can find a cost-effective way to update our kitchens so they feel luxurious and new, we say bring it on.

Pale pink kitchen cabinets in light kitchen with bay window

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to make your kitchen look expensive

We asked the experts to dig deep and come up with the best - and most affordable - ways to make your kitchen look more lavish. Whether you want Scandi kitchen ideas or an eclectic mix of decor styles, keep reading to learn how to make your kitchen look expensive even when on a budget.

1. Hang your curtains high

Patterned curtains hanging in front of kitchen window

(Image credit: Terrys)

Expensive kitchens will typically have high ceilings and large windows, but there's a simple trick to emulate this if your kitchen doesn't have these. Hanging your curtains or blinds up high will instantly give your kitchen a more grandiose appearance. 

'Simply hang your curtains up high, as close to the ceiling as you can to create a spacious effect,' says Gareth Coxall, Creative and Marketing Director, Terrys,. 'Doing this will draw the eye upwards, making the room appear both larger and taller, increasing the value of the space.' 

2. Update your taps

Black and white kitchen with black tap on kitchen sink

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Upgrading your taps is an easy hack for how to make your kitchen look expensive. Taps can make a surprising difference to a space, and stylish designs provide an opportunity to turn the functional into decorative. Gold taps add a splash of opulence, where brass fixtures bring a touch of vintage charm. Sleek black matte taps are a great choice for modern kitchen ideas.

You can find plenty of options to choose from for around £30, and you can also learn how to change a tap yourself, making this a budget-friendly job. 

3. Luxurious lighting

Forest green kitchen with glass pendant lights above breakfast bar

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It's no secret that lighting can transform a room, and a well-lit kitchen looks a lot more expensive than a poorly lit one. There's plenty of kitchen lighting ideas to choose from, but linear pendants and chandeliers are perfect for hanging above the dining table, and wall lights can flood the room and help open up the space.

'Adhesive strip LED lights are perfect for creating a sophisticated atmosphere in your kitchen when you are hosting,' says Mike Head, Director, Atlas Ceramics. 'You can place them above your hob, or under your cupboards for a cheap alternative to installing downlighters.'

4. Paint the kitchen cabinets

Deep pink kitchen cabinets against pale pink walls

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

If your cabinets are looking tired, learn how to make your kitchen look expensive by refreshing them with a lick of paint - you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. The cabinets are a big chunk of the kitchen's overall look and feel, and if you're not ready to install replacement kitchen doors, re-painting them is a cost-friendly alternative.

Our guide will teach you how to paint kitchen cabinets step by step, and you can have fun picking a colour that will make your kitchen feel more luxurious. 'Soft pinks and sage greens pair gorgeously with white countertops,' says Mike from Atlas Ceramics. 'Or if you're looking to be more experimental try a sleek black or earthy terracotta.'

5. Realise the power of wallpaper

Black kitchen island with pendant lights next to green and black wallpaper wall

(Image credit: Metals4u)

'Kitchen wallpaper can go way beyond what can be done with paint,' says Avalana Simpson, Interior Designer, Avalana Design. 'Colour, patterns and hand-drawn scenes can add interest and the notion of expense to a small kitchen, delighting the home owner and wowing guests.'

Covering one of your kitchen walls in wallpaper is a go-to solution for how to make your kitchen look expensive, and can even create the illusion of more space. Opt for open patterns in light colours or ombre walls to make a space feel bigger and add depth, or rich, dark, large patterns to make a large room feel more intimate.

6. Bring in artwork

Black and white kitchen with wooden stools and artwork on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Artwork can make any room look more expensive, but it's often neglected in kitchen decor ideas. Don't get hung up on the price either; there's lots of beautiful artwork out there that doesn't cost the earth. A framed painting of your favourite place would bring a nice personal touch to the kitchen, or you can incorporate several pieces and create your own gallery wall.

Alternatively, why not bring some family photos into the kitchen for an extra special touch. You could have these printed in black and white so they feel a little more design-savvy. 'Using your own photography will not only save you money but make your kitchen truly unique and personal,' says Lucy Henderson, Head of Design, My Bespoke Room. 'A great little hack is to use leftover paint samples to paint the frame mount, which will make it look 10x more expensive.'

7. Consider glass cupboards

Blush pink and white kitchen island in front of glass storage cabinet

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

'If you have a small kitchen, we’d recommend glass cupboards rather than closed cupboards,' says Mike from Atlas Ceramics. 'Glass cupboards can maximise the natural flow of light in your kitchen, as well as add depth and dimension to add space to a smaller room.' 

You don't have to switch out all your kitchen doors to glass ones, just consider adding one or two and place them symmetrically to each other. Use the cupboards with glass doors to store your nicest glasses and dinnerware, and consider installing lights on the inside of the cupboard if your budget can stretch. 

8. Swap out branded bottles for glass

Black and white simple kitchen with good and glass bottles on countertop

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Nothing can ruin the look of a kitchen more than plain, plastic bottles of washing up liquid or soap. Consider transferring any liquids sitting on countertops into permanent glass bottles for how to make your kitchen look expensive. This will turn those practical items into part of the decor. 

'Brown glass remains a highly popular option that’s neutral enough to suit most aesthetics,' says Anne Haimes, Design Director and Founder, Anne Haimes Interiors. 'Alternatively, look to amber or recycled sea green glass bottles for more colourful options that are right on-trend.'

9. Use vinyl

Vinyl wood look counter tops and cupboards in marble floor kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Vinyl is an easy, cost-effective way to update kitchen worktops, but you can also use it on drawers, cupboards, tiles, and floors. It's a great option if any areas in your kitchen are in need of an upgrade, and it's a material easy to maintain and keep looking fresh. 

'Vinyl flooring is a reliable choice if you’re looking for an option that is lavish in design but not in price,' James Mellan-Matulewicz, CEO, Bobbi Beck. 'You can rest easy knowing that you’ve chosen a material that won’t cost you a fortune.'

10. Switch out door handles

White kitchen cabinets with gold handles beneath pink tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Investing in new handles for your kitchen cabinets is an easy way for how to make your kitchen look expensive by adding a touch of luxury, particularly with the detailing that they can offer. You can mix and match your handles across different shapes and finishes, or go for a full matching set. 

'Brass and brushed brass finishes are becoming increasingly popular for kitchen cabinet handles,' says Ben from Kitchen Makers. 'Their warm and lavish look brings sophistication to any kitchen, and suits both neutral and bold colour schemes.'

How can I make my kitchen look rich?

Learning how to make your kitchen look expensive can often be centred around transforming the functional elements of the room into statement decor pieces. For example, choose opulent lighting fixtures so you can experience the benefits of a well-lit kitchen in style. 

'Working plinth, under counter, or cabinetry lighting in from the outset may seem like an extra investment at the time, but it is these features which often stand designer kitchens apart,' says Ruth, Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery. 'They also make a huge difference when it comes to being able to highlight key features of the kitchen, and mean you can change the ambience when required.'

If you're considering adding kitchen splashback ideas, use a low sheen tile with matching grout. 'You can get a lightly textured tile, and pair with a hidden LED strip in your over-counter cabinets', suggests Karl Mok, Founder, Friends Studio. 'When the light is on in the evening you get a gentle illumination picked up by the texture of the tile.'

Other ways to make your kitchen look rich include updating the metalware. Handles of kitchen cabinets, door knobs and taps can become a seamless part of the design if you opt for stylish fixtures rather than purely functional ones. You can choose from brass, gold, or matte black finishes depending on your taste.

How do I make my kitchen look like it's brand new?

Pale pink kitchen cupboards in white marble kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC)

An easy way to make your kitchen look brand new is to repaint the kitchen cabinets. Either top up with the same colour they're in now, or give them a new lease of life with a completely different colour scheme, and your kitchen will feel instantly transformed. 

Updating more prominent aspects of the kitchen will have a dramatic effect on the rest of the room. For instance, you can learn how to install a kitchen splashback or re-tile an existing splashback area yourself with the right equipment. You'll need adhesive, tile spacers, a cutter, spirit level, a trowel and safety goggles.

'The splashback is an ideal space to go bold, so don’t be afraid to experiment with colour or shapes', says Mike from Atlas Ceramics. 'If you have a small kitchen, we’d recommend mosaic tiles or bold-coloured geometric tiles to give the illusion of dimension and space.'

Consider re-wrapping the countertops in vinyl as well, you can pick up vinyl wrap from £6.99 on Amazon

'You can purchase a range of patterns and colours from mosaics, marble and terrazzo', says Mike. 'It’s a great way to try a new design you may be considering for a renovation later down the line.'

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.