The One-Step Makeover That Transformed My Dated Kitchen Cabinets

published Feb 23, 2024
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Old condo kitchen with oak cabinets, tile countertops, gas stove and green flooring.  Unchanged since 1988.
Credit: trekandshoot/Shutterstock

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by your rental kitchen. I don’t know about you, but for me, my apartment kitchens have been one of the hardest spaces to personalize. Give me a blank canvas and I’ll use rental-friendly decorating to sprinkle my personality here, there, and everywhere — but rental kitchens are not blank. Usually, you’re forced to work with pre-selected finishes that would require permission (and lots of $$$) to reverse. 

I’m on my third rental kitchen now, and for the first time, I can say that we’ve developed a somewhat loving relationship, thanks to this one life-altering invention: peel-and-stick wood grain wallpaper. 

Credit: Rachel Otero

My biggest issue with the kitchen was the cabinetry. Let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with oak cabinets (and there are plenty of ways to integrate them into a spectacular design) but this particular stain simply didn’t match the rest of my apartment, and felt very orange against my butter-yellow walls. 

A quick Google search for renter-friendly solutions brought me to this surprisingly affordable Amazon find with very detailed reviews. “Easy to clean” was a big selling point for me because messes are bound to happen in the kitchen, and the faux wood grain texture looked so realistic in customer photos that it made the project look convincingly permanent.

There was only one problem: My cabinet doors aren’t flat. They have a bevel trim, which could be tricky to cover. 

Because this was my first peel-and-stick rodeo, I decided only to cover the flat portion of my cabinets and leave the trim exposed for a two-tone effect. This made the measuring and cutting process so much smoother, and my utility knife had an easy guide to follow when trimming the edges.

Credit: Rachel Otero

Limiting my coverage to just the insets of the cabinet doors made the wood that did peek through look a little less jarring, and the wood grain texture of the peel-and-stick wallpaper helped it look less like a sticker and more like an integral part of the cabinet door.

Most peel-and-stick projects involve covering entire surfaces, which does look wonderful — but it’s also time-consuming and not necessarily beginner-friendly, especially if your cabinet doors look like mine. But using peel-and-stick just to cover up the flat part of the cabinet doors could not have been more straightforward, and the effect totally transformed the look of my kitchen from a dated 1980s style to something I call “utilitarian romance” — vintage-leaning with dark academia vibes.

I’ve had this peel-and-stick wood grain wallpaper on my cabinets for over a year now, and I’m happy to report that it’s held up great. I haven’t experienced any peeling corners, and the wipe-down is just as easy as described. I was actually so impressed by the durability that I decided to peel-and-stick my floors shortly after (more on that later!). If you’re a novice DIYer like myself, this is the one simple-yet-impactful kitchen upgrade that’s worth your time.