Before & After: A $30 DIY Project Adds Rental-Friendly Maximalism to a Blank Kitchen

published Oct 29, 2023
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About this before & after
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Rental Friendly

If you’re a renter, you might be looking for ways you can transform your space in a way that can be easily undone when it’s time to move out. Temporary floor tiles, removable contact paper on cabinets, or extra shelving are just a few go-tos for customize your rental — and there is quite a range of offerings. Some materials, of course, are pricier than others.

Illustrator Gica Tam knew that installing wall decals was going to cost her. In this bohemian New York City apartment, she thought outside the box to create a cost-effective, custom, renter-friendly wall design for her kitchen. 

“I was heavily inspired by Memphis and post-modern interior styles, as well as DIY interior projects,” Tam said. “I wanted to purchase decals but found them too expensive, so I made my own.” And she took her kitchen from bland to breathtaking.

Credit: Gia Tam
Credit: Gica Tam


All it took was a pair of scissors, a pencil, and peel-and-stick wallpaper.

Just looking at the (absolutely stunning!) finished product might make you think it took a lot of effort, but Tam didn’t even go in with a plan. She simply ordered three rolls of solid-colored peel-and-stick wallpaper — in light green, lavender, and gray blue — from Amazon, which cost less than $30 total.

Once Tam had the wallpaper, she started mapping out the shapes, then cut them out with scissors. “I didn’t have a plan and just went with organic shapes that could flow nicely in the space,” Tam shares. “I do suggest taking a photo of your space and sketching out a plan when you can.”

Credit: Erin Derby

These DIY decals are easily customizable.

What’s nice about peel-and-stick wallpaper is that you can sketch on the gridded backside, so you can measure, stencil, and finalize the shapes you want before cutting. Plus, at less than $10 per 10-foot roll, you can afford to experiment a little.

Tam loves the final result because it “made the space better and complemented the kitchen tools and decor,” which are also super colorful. If you’re planning to take on this project, she reminds you not to overthink it because it’s removable. 

This hack isn’t the only clever design aspect in Tam’s apartment. If you want to see more of Tam’s gorgeous apartment, visit the full house tour on Apartment Therapy.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: This $30 Kitchen Makeover Transformed a Plain Space into a Whimsical Sanctuary