Smart kitchen design could add up to $100,000 to the value of your house, so it pays to get it right. Follow our kitchen renovation tips and transform your home from less to luxe on any budget.

Media coverage of Sydney’s housing market is unrelentingly grim, with some pundits declaring the current situation “property Armageddon”. It’s enough to get real estate agents quaking in their tight blue suits and pointy shoes. However, more sober-minded economists are calling this a mere property slowdown, an inevitable consequence of the monster price run-ups of 2017. And apparently, we have seen the worst of this slowdown already here in the Harbour City.

You would be a brave renovator to not worry about overcapitalising on your Sydney home. That’s why it pays—literally—to use smart tactics for your kitchen design and fit-out. Real estate pundits claim a well-renovated kitchen can add up to $100,000 to the value of your house. Consider that installed custom cabinetry can put you back as little as $10,000, and you have one of the most beneficial home improvements you can make in terms of return on investment.

Beware budget blow-outs and missed opportunities, though. A badly planned renovation can result in expensive retro-fixes and make sure you explore all the possibilities while you have trades on site. Bringing them back once you realise you really needed that skylight, for example, means extra call-out and set-up costs.

Be meticulous in your research and design, however, and it should be smooth sailing for your kitchen renovation. Get the expert edge with the following tips…

Scope out the space

First, clarify what it is you’re working with. Will you be keeping the existing location of the kitchen and merely giving it a cosmetic makeover? Or will taking down walls and tweaking the layout make it more useable? Would relocating the kitchen altogether improve a home’s footprint, or moving it into an extension suit your family’s lifestyle better? How do you explore what’s even possible?

Enter your friendly neighbourhood building designer. An architectural draftsman, such as the experts at Design Plus Drafting, will perform a site visit to photograph and laser-measure your entire property and discuss your ideas. This forms the basis of floor plans (overhead views) and elevations (side views) that provide a clear picture of the physical site. We also review constraints imposed by council, heritage conditions and the site itself.

With this specialist knowledge, you are ready to plan and research exactly what you want from your renovation. And because we work with state-of-the-art 3D software called Revit, we can help you visualise your dream kitchen in three dimensions.

Lighten up

Design Plus Drafting is based in Newtown, which makes it no surprise that a lot of our building design work is for properties in Sydney’s Inner West. This area is renowned for its character-filled terrace houses and Californian bungalows, mostly dating from the 1850s to the 1930s. One thing we’ve noticed about these charming unrenovated homes during site visits is: boy, are the interiors dark!

Often the kitchen is still located where the original cook’s outbuilding was—built when kitchens posed such a fire risk that they were often tacked onto the back of the main house. This means that the kitchen (and in most cases the bathroom, too) blocks the view from the living room to the backyard, and prevents a source of natural light reaching inside the house. Resolving this issue makes your home much more attractive to future buyers.

Knocking through walls and building an extension, to create an airy, alfresco living/dining kitchen area that flows through expansive glass doors to a sunny deck, is on many a wish list. Sadly, not every budget can accommodate such a list, and not just because of the structural build costs. Creating an extension, or altering the exterior of a home that falls under heritage restrictions, can mean the difference between your project qualifying as a Complying Development or needing a full DA. And there’s a big time and potential dollar difference between the two.

However, if an ambitious renovation is out of reach, you can still introduce natural light into a dingy kitchen space with some clever tricks. If any wall of the kitchen faces north, exploit this with windows if at all possible. Clerestory windows are placed above eye level so are great for walls that host cabinetry below. And if the kitchen already has a poky window overlooking the backyard, consider expanding it to create a wide servery accessed through bi-folds.

If the kitchen sits directly under a roof, then skylights are an option. There’s the traditional ‘roof windows’. Then there are bright ideas like reflective tubular technology, which lets homeowners maximise the benefits of sunlight while minimising the impact on the structure of the roof and ceiling. Some products can even snake from the roof, through cabinetry such as a wardrobe and to a lower storey—feeding natural light into windowless areas that have a floor above. Or you can even fake sunlight with solar-powered ‘Ambient Light Technology’ panels.

Know your limits

Without a doubt, money causes the greatest anxiety among homeowner renovators. Budget blow-outs can creep up on the most experienced project managers, so it’s inevitable that rookie renovators will occasionally fall foul to unforeseen problems. The good news is there are ways to give yourself a better chance of staying within your financial limits and avoiding overcapitalising.

Start by expecting the unexpected. Build in a contingency of 15 to 20 percent more that your builder’s initial quote, as a just-in-case Plan B. While planning your kitchen design, also give some thought to a Plan C: finding smart ways to use cheaper alternatives to your first choice of materials.

Imported encaustic tiles hand-crafted by Andalusian artisans make a gorgeous splashback, but you cut costs dramatically by using them selectively as a feature panel among complementary cheaper tiles. Swap out your preferred flooring with a product with a similar look and durability but smaller price tag. Do the same with your tap ware. Fingers crossed you’ll never have to put Plan C into action. However, just preparing yourself for the possibility lessens the emotional blow of substituting that exquisite Carrara marble bench top for Caesar stone.

Another Plan C stalwart is for the homeowners—and any mates and family they can rope in—to provide ‘free’ labour, although it’s vital to know your limits here, too: i.e. the limits of your home improvement skills. Are you a veritable Tim The Tool Man, or do you have problems distinguishing one end of a hammer from the other? If you’re more the former, then DIY kitchen cabinetry such as Kaboodle at Bunnings or IKEA is an option for straightforward floor plans. Tiling, however, is a skill only gained through training and experience – it’s much, much harder than the professionals make it look.

Renovating the most important room in your home can be an intimidating prospect, but here at Design Plus Drafting we make it less overwhelming. With our immaculate 3D kitchen design plans we help you create your ideal kitchen. We’ll pimp your floor plan and can even let you visualise colours and textures with bespoke rendered images—like we did for this Bellevue Hill project.

Get kitchen confidente–call the home designers at Design Plus Drafting on (02) 9565 or email