Here's evidence that you can absolutely make the most of your rental kitchen or bathroom — either by making just a few affordable, reversible changes or taking up a notch and investing a little more time and money — either way, you are investing in your current happiness. It all depends on you, your budget and, of course, your landlord. Here are of handful of renters who did it, and show you what's possible.
First, the narcissist in me demands you take a look at the makeover I did of Joseph's bathroom last year. He got some added shelving, new floor, lighting and a mirror for under $500. Since he held onto the old fixtures, all of the changes are reversible when he moves out.
Ana Kamin's San Francisco rental kitchen needed work, and since it's a vital part of their home, she justified a $2,000 expense to make it palatable for her to live there. She added a custom tile floor pattern that's a really nice touch.
After living with her old basement kitchen for five years, Autumn Hachey decided to brighten it in a major way. She and her boyfriend split the costs with the landlord and, by doing all the work themselves, and choosing basic materials, kept it super affordable for all. And the end result is amazing. (The image at the top of the post is also from this project.)
Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch didn't bother getting her landlord's permission to tackle her guest bathroom: she used Command Strips in each corner to hang the wallpaper. It distracted from some not-so-pretty fixtures, and made the room feel much more "her" and ready for out-of-town friends who were coming to visit.
And then lastly, Tara's super affordable $300 makeover entailed painting cabinets, laying VCT tile over linoleum, adding in some small space solutions, and hanging removable wallpaper as a backsplash.
Another happy result: Jane painted the walls in her Noe Valley kitchen black, which made the white cabinets really stand out. She also replaced the heinous stained linoleum with relatively inexpensive laminate. It completely transforms the room and can be easily popped off if the landlord does not wish to keep it.
The moral of this story is: think about what you can easily improve on your budget and then talk to your landlord - you'll never know until you ask!