Ways To Update Original '50s Kitchen in Rental (on My Dime)?

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Q: We are renting a house (built sometime in the '50s) and I would like to make some changes in the kitchen so I don't feel like I'm in a cave while I'm cooking. When we moved in the landlord said we could paint/change whatever we wanted, but it would be completely on our dime. I can't spend a lot and I am having a hard time finding a color that will go with the green granite counter top and brown stone tile back splash and floor. Help!

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The hardware and hinges need to be changed out too — suggestions welcome on that front as well. The cabinets are solid wood and seem to be original to the house. I would rather not paint those because painting cabinets sounds like a lot of work and I don't know that I'm ready to take that on right now.

One last thing — the space in front of the window, where the dogs are hanging out, is too small for our dining table, but I would love to put some kind of a breakfast nook in there, maybe with a bench or something, but I cant seem to find a table that would fit in there. The available space is about 5'x4'.

Thank you! I can't wait to hear your suggestions.

Sent by Erika

Editor: Leave your suggestions for Erika in the comments — thanks!

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Regina is an architect who lives with her husband and children in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.