Before & After: An $80 Rental Kitchen Makeover


BEFORE: Particleboard cabinets, dingy backsplash, colorless.

My husband and I moved into our current rental apartment one year ago, and while we loved the fact that the kitchen was separate, roomy and had stainless steel appliances, we were underwhelmed by the cheap particleboard cupboards, dingy and warped linoleum floors, and ugly countertops. So, with limited options (our landlord won't let us paint and we can't replace anything) and resources, I set out to make it brighter and warmer. See the After photos below.

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The biggest changes I made were taking off the upper cupboard doors and putting up pretty paper from Kate's Paperie ($24 = about 6 sheets at $4 a sheet). All I did was literally tape it up... not glamorous, but it's working for now. This simple task accomplished a number of things: a) the less particleboard you can see in the kitchen, the better, b) it showed off my colorful Fiestaware, which I love, and c) it really made the kitchen feel more alive and spacious. I realize it's a much "busier" look (which is certainly not for everyone), but I'd much rather see bright colors and pretty containers than fake wood cabinet doors... and I think it'll work for now!

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I already had a number of unused frames I'd bought at IKEA a long time ago, and I pulled food photos I liked from books and magazines (like the now-defunct Gourmet) to frame and use as a semi-backsplash. I debated all kinds of real backsplash ideas — sticky tiles, fabric-behind-plexiglass, removable wallpaper — but this was the quickest, easiest, and cheapest option since it didn't require buying anything.

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I've been collecting my empty food jars for my bulk pantry items, but I added a few more glass jars and canisters from IKEA ($15 = 5 IKEA Slom jars at $3 each) so that I could get rid of any plastic food packaging. Tin canisters ($3 for a set of three from IKEA) serve as pretty storage for items that I keep in their packaging.

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I bought a wood dish drainer and cutlery caddy for the counter and got rid of the ugly metal and plastic dish stand ($8 = $5 for IKEA dish drainer and $3 for cutlery stand). I also put all of our Christmas tree lights (5 strands?) on the top of the cabinets to provide some ambient light in that empty space (since the florescent kitchen light is hideous and we don't like to leave it on).

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The bottom cabinets (*blush)

For the bottom cabinets, I left the doors on but, as I wrote about in my Green Cure post, they desperately needed organizing of their own. I donated unused containers, dishes and appliances which really helped cut down on the mess.

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Regarding the floor, we settled on a big red cotton rug on the floor to cover up the ugly linoleum ($30). Having a rug in the kitchen presents its own problems, yes, but the red color warms the space considerably, and we wash and vacuum it regularly.

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The $80 I Spent:

IKEA tin canisters, $3
IKEA dish drainer, $5
IKEA cutlery caddy, $3
Paper from Kate's Paperie, $24
IKEA Slom jars (5), $15
IKEA Erslev cotton rug, $30

It's always a work in progress, but I feel happy that with little money and a lot of clearing out, rearranging, and repurposing of items I already had, I was able to turn the kitchen into a place I like to be... and cook!

Images: Cambria Bold

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