Before & After: A Drab, Builder-Grade Rental Kitchen Gets a Luxe Cottagecore Makeover for $300

published Mar 5, 2023
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About this before & after
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Project Type
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Rental Friendly
Kitchen before renovation with wooden cabinets and black countertops.

The kitchen is a shared pain point for a lot of renters, simply because any upgrades are notoriously expensive. It’s not usually where you want to dump your money, even if your landlord were to approve the project. But this $300 makeover by Chelsea Angelos (@cityloveletter) is proof that you don’t have to choose between an unnecessary expense and a drab, builder-grade kitchen. 

While there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with Chelsea’s kitchen before this project, she describes it as a “landlord special”— essentially, a look that favors affordability over anything else. The kitchen had basic orange-toned cabinets paired with large-format white floor tiles and white walls to match. Not the worst, but not great, either.

To give the room a fresh face, Chelsea sought permission from her landlord to paint the cabinets. Once she had the go ahead, Chelsea selected a bright white shade from Benjamin Moore’s Advanced line, which is a special type of paint that doesn’t need a sealant. 

“We don’t have a garage or basement, so I could only work on a few cabinet doors each evening after my kids went to bed,” Chelsea says. “I also couldn’t sand, because the sander was very loud and would make a mess, so I opted for liquid sandpaper before the primer coat.”

After the cabinets were complete with a shiny finish, Chelsea decided to add contrast with the wall color to give off a sophisticated, designer-ready vibe. “I love the mood that the dark walls bring in,” says Chelsea. 

The rest of the makeover was all about styling. Chelsea added ornately-framed pictures to the area between the ceiling and the cabinets, as well as the backsplash between the upper and lower cabinets. She also layered wooden cutting boards and decanted her soaps and placed them on a natural wood pedestal. The finishing touch? A fabric Roman shade on the window that instantly makes the room feel entirely complete. 

The next time you’re looking at your apartment kitchen and wondering how to personalize it on the cheap, remember this $300 one. Now the space looks far for builder-grade, without breaking the bank.