9 easy and affordable budget updates to make a kitchen more family friendly

Make your cooking space functional for the whole family with these easy and affordable switches

Shaker kitchen with built-in bench
(Image credit: Ruggable)

Whether you’re about to welcome a little one into the world (and into your kitchen) or you’ve realised your family space isn’t functioning as well as it could, there are so many budget updates to make your kitchen more family friendly.

There’s no denying it, kitchens are designed for adults. From the height of kitchen storage and worktops, to cupboard mechanisms, finishes and placement of items, we build our kitchens around what works best for us.

But, add children into the mix and you begin to see your space through a fresh pair of eyes. The doors they can’t open, the hazards they could stumble into and the surfaces they could easily destroy quickly become very apparent.

If like many of us you don’t have the funds to replace what you have, there are many budget kitchen ideas you can incorporate to make your space more family friendly.

1. Introduce a blackboard wall

Blackboard wall next to sink in kitchen

(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

A blackboard wall is a simple and inexpensive way to add both fun and order to a busy family kitchen.

‘We all love blackboards, both super useful to leave messages on for other family members or to create shopping lists,’ says Jayne Everett, creative director at Naked Kitchens. ‘Blackboards are also great for keeping kids entertained – they can draw while you cook and it keeps everyone happy.’

You can either buy a blackboard and attach this to your wall or fridge, or you can buy specialist blackboard paint (like this Rustins one from Amazon), and apply this directly to your walls or units. ‘It's so easy to add a blackboard by simply painting a wall in the kitchen in chalk board paint,’ says Jayne. ‘This works especially well where there is a pop of black colour within the kitchen as this then helps tie in the blackboard into the overall design to create a useful and aesthetic feature.’

2. Incorporate a bench seat for meal prep chats

Shaker kitchen with built-in bench

(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

A bench seat can bring so many benefits to a kitchen. If you’re looking to incorporate this into a brand new kitchen design, swapping out a few cabinets in favour of a seat can transform how you and your family use the space. Or, upgrade your existing kitchen by choosing a freestanding bench seat and give a new lease of life to an empty wall.

‘Bench seating makes a great, fun place for the children to sit out of the way while you’re cooking,’ says Jayne. ‘Plus, you can include drawers or cabinets within your seat, making it a great place for extra kitchen storage or kids toys.’

Cosy up your bench seat with cushion and throws, and it’ll become a sacred spot for you too. ‘A bench seat provides a cosy, cocooning nook, where you can sit alone and enjoy a quiet moment with a cup of coffee,’ says Jayne.

3. Add a coat of hardwearing paint

Pink kitchen with burgundy painted wall

(Image credit: Earthborn)

Paint is the quickest and cheapest way to dramatically upgrade a space, and in a family kitchen that takes a lot of wear and tear, a simple lick of paint can make the world of difference. There are many kitchen paint ideas to choose from, but it’s always important that you choose the right finish.

‘Family kitchens are prone to marks and scuffs, says Bailey Oates, Colour Expert at Earthborn, ‘so opting for a practical emulsion is key for a hardwearing and suitable long-term solution.’

Not all paints are made equally, so it’s crucial to choose finish that will stand up to scrapes, steam and splashes. ‘Choose a finish which can easily be wiped down time after time, whilst ensuring the colour looks great all year round,’ says Bailey.

While some finishes will require specialist cleaning products for removing stains, some will not. ‘Ensure fingerprints and marks can be efficiently removed with soap and water, removing the need for harsh chemicals and ensuring a better environment for your family,’ says Bailey.

4. Layer a washable rug to keep little toes warm

White shaker kitchen with runner rug

(Image credit: Ruggable)

Kitchen flooring is often hard, and if it’s real stone or concrete, it’s likely to be cold underfoot. Ensure your kitchen is a comfortable place for little toes (and bigger ones for that matter) by laying down a large kitchen rug.

‘Placing a rug in the kitchen adds style and function, helping to create a calm, cosy environment and protecting your floors, while also adding a soft warm cushion underfoot,’ says Liza Garrison, director of product at Ruggable.

The rugs at Ruggable can not only be thrown in the washing machine if you spill you spag bol, but they are also non-slip, really durable, and they have so many patterns and textures to choose from, that you’re sure to find a design that amplifies your scheme.

5. Add peg hooks to keep a busy kitchen tidy

Kitchen with light green tiles and hanging utsensils

(Image credit: Claybrook)

Family kitchens can be chaotic, or should we say, lively. An easy way to keep things in order, and to keep the things you all use the most within easy reach, is to install peg hooks. This is a great way to introduce extra storage into a small kitchen.

‘A peg rail makes a real statement,’ says Jayne. ‘Install hooks across part of or all of your wall and not only will it look fabulous, but it’s also super useful. It works really well in many different positions and room styles.’

Use hooks to display everything from chopping boards and ladles, to baskets, pans and even bunches of dried flowers. If you don’t use it regularly and it doesn’t look pretty, stow it away. But for daily use, attractive items, let the hooks become their stage.

6. Lay decorative tiles to protect your surfaces

Green kitchen with red and pink checkerboard tiles

(Image credit: Claybrook)

Decorative kitchen tiles – be it metro tiles, square tiles or penny tiles – are a great choice for family friendly kitchens for many reasons. Not only do they look great, but they can also be very inexpensive, and they work to protect your surfaces from splashes and scuffs.

A tiled splashback can become a statement focal point. ‘Splashbacks ensure your kitchen strikes the perfect balance of stylish and practical,’ says Richard Furguson, room solutions buying manager at Homebase. ‘They can protect your kitchen wall from dirt and grime, while also providing you with a sleek and stylish look.’

Robert Whitaker, creative director at Claybrook Tiles, suggests that tiling your front of your kitchen island’s breakfast bar is a great solution for family kitchens. ‘Practical as well as eye-catching, the tiles can withstand kicks from wayward feet alongside creating a new design focal point. Use tiles in linear rows, or pair two tiles to create vertical stripes in alternate shades,’ he says.

7. Fix on easy-to-grab cabinet handles

Kitchen detail with butler's sink with brass taps, marble worktop and splash-back and white walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/Davide Lovatti)

If you want your little ones to be able to get their own spoon, and then pop it in the dishwasher themselves (hurrah for independence) then make sure to choose cabinet handles that their little hands can push and pull with ease.

While handleless units and J-handles look sleek, they can be tricky for kids to navigate. And while cup handles look classic and elegant, they can be hard for little fingers to grab.

A simple bar cabinet handle may be your best bet, and with a huge range of budget styles and colours to choose from, there’s sure to be a design that complements your kitchen too.

8. Keep chemicals and knives out of reach

Mustard kitchen with latch style handle

(Image credit: deVOL)

Cleaning products, knives, pet food and medications are all stored in our kitchen cupboards, and these must never reach the hands or mouths of little ones.

To keep your mind at ease, install a safety lock, or catch on certain cupboards (particularly lower cupboards) to make it harder for toddlers to accidently stumble inside.

You can choose between very secure cabinet locks which will ensure that no one (of any age) will get into your cupboards, or cabinets latches, as shown here, which will ensure your cupboard stays closed, but can be opened with a twist of the knob.

‘This unique and rather ornate looking catch was inspired by an old catch found on a vintage cupboard,’ says Helen Parker, creative director of deVOL.

9. Self-install shutters for top-notch hygiene

A kitchen window with a sink underneath it

(Image credit: Future PLC/Bridget Peirson)

Depending on the size of your kitchen window, self-install shutters are a great budget option for family friendly kitchens. Blinds gather dust and stains, and the chain can be a choking hazard if not placed correctly. Shutters remove this risk and it’s possible to clean them thoroughly, just as you would other surface in your kitchen.

‘Shutters are extremely easy to clean and maintain compared to curtains or blinds,’ says Sam Tamlyn, managing director at California Shutters. ‘Stains or marks left by children’s hands are easy to remove using a damp cloth with water and dish soap. Each slat can be individually wiped to remove any dirt, followed by a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture or dust.’

Installing shutters yourself at home can go a long way in making shutters more affordable. ‘As they are DIY, you save a significant amount on installation costs - while they still provide the same bespoke made-to-measure fit,’ says Sam.


How to update kitchen cabinets on a budget

There are many ways to update your kitchen cabinets on a budget. The most impactful way to update them is to paint them in a new, fresh colour. You must clean, sand and prime wooden units first, and apply two or three coats of specialist kitchen unit paint. A waterproof sealant will help to lock in the colour and protect your units from splashes.

Another key way to update kitchen cabinets on a budget is to upgrade your handles. There are so many styles to choose from, including contemporary, traditional, bar design, cupped designs and knob designs. It’s surprising what a difference new cabinets can make to the overall look and appearance of quality of a kitchen. You can buy whole packs of handles at a low cost, and you can attach them yourself at home.

How to modernise a kitchen cheaply

An old kitchen can be modernised on a budget with a few clever hacks. If your worktop looks old fashioned but is otherwise solid, you can cover this in a vinyl wrap. Available in many look-a-like patterns, such as marble-effect, wood-effect ad stone-effect, vinyl wrap is cheap to buy, you wrap it yourself at home, and it gives an instant upgraded look.

Also, decorative wall tiles and splashback don’t always age well. If you’re happy with the shape of your tiles and they’re in good condition, you can paint over them in a colour of your choice with tile paint. This is a quick and easy way to get a brand new look. Alternatively, you could also apply tile stickers – a great choice for adding a splash of pattern to your space.

With these easy to implement tips, your kitchen will be fit and functional for your family in no time.

Amelia Smith
Freelance Writer

Amelia has worked in interiors journalism and home styling since 2016. Having edited Real Homes magazine, and worked across titles including House Beautiful, Homes & Gardens and Gardening Etc, she has written about everything from the bricks and mortar of a renovation, to kitchen design and gardening know-how.