Kitchens are a perpetual problem for renters. The finishes are often generic, basic, and downright ugly, but like it or not, you're stuck with them. Over the years, we've dedicated a lot of ink (or pixels, I guess?) to talking about how to improve rental kitchens- just check out the keyword search here if you don't believe me. Below you'll find some of my favorite ideas, as well as links to other suggestions, in case your rental kitchen demands some serious TLC.
1. Use the space above the cabinets. With some wine holders and a spare board, Megan Pflug of One Kings Lane instantly added more space to her friend's tiny rental kitchen. It's a quick, simple fix, and it will disassemble easily without leaving any damage when she moves.
For more great ideas about how to handle this typically wasted space, check out 7 Things to Do with that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets.
2. Remove some cabinet doors. I know that open shelving is controversial, but removing just one door and lining the cabinet with some vibrant paper or putting some colorful dishes on display can make your kitchen feel more personal and alive. Emily opened up two of her cabinets in her small Houston home, and they add a lot of color and energy to the space. Be sure to save the doors and the screws, though, so that you can replace them when it's time to move out.
For another example of a kitchen without cabinet doors (and some other clever ideas), check out Before and After: An $80 Rental Kitchen Makeover.
3. Add a rug. My first few apartments had ugly, crumbling, laminate floors, and they made my kitchen feel cheap and old. Adding a rug brightened up the room and distracted from the depression underneath. Sure, I had to vacuum it regularly, but that was a price I was willing to pay. Similarly, Marti and Jerrod consider the oak-colored cabinets in their rental kitchen to be one of the most embarrassing features of their home. By adding a bright rug that complements the warm wood tones, they've managed to pull attention away from the generic elements they hate.
4. Cover the countertops. Even if your countertops are ugly, it's not likely that you'll replace them in a rental. Some improvement options include covering them with vinyl, getting permission to paint them, or any number of other solutions, but these seem kind of like a headache. Danielle had a smart and quick solution to her ugly counters, though. She writes, "I keep pretty cutting boards on the kitchen counter." As you can see above, a large marble or wooden cutting board can take up just as much visual space as the counter itself, and it's just as practical.
5. Update the backsplash. There are all kinds of things you can do to make that bare space between counter and cabinet your own. Use tile stickers if there are ugly tiles, or use velcro to attach a cloth backsplash (which you can always wash and reattach). If your landlord allows it, use a bit of paint or removable wallpaper (the vinyl kind is easy to clean). Whatever choice you make, this is one quick way to make your kitchen distinctive.
6. Line your drawers. I'm going to guess that it's not just me who gets icked out by old drawers. Even when I clean them, I can see the stains and dirt from the many renters who came before me. An easy way to overcome this ick-fest is to line your drawers and cabinets with a pattern you like. Contact paper is traditional, but if you don't want to leave adhesive behind, think about using oilcloth or another thick fabric that can just lay in the bottom of your drawers. Homelife has a quick tutorial.
For modern drawer liner suggestions, check out Good Questions: Cool Drawer/Shelf LIners?
7. Add some work space. If you have the floor space for an extra little cabinet or rolling cart, then by all means buy one and put it to good use. Or buy a cutting board that you can leave on top of the burners when you aren't using your stove. But if you don't have the permanent space or the money to spare, I love this tip from Food52 featured on The Kitchn: use an ironing board as temporary counter space. It's designed to withstand heat, so put your hot cookie sheets on it with abandon!
7. Keep plants, flowers, and produce displayed where their colors shine through. Unless you're blessed with a large kitchen window, rental kitchens can feel sterile and lifeless, with their expanses of cabinetry and countertops. Even a small bud vase, like the one seen in Courtney and Michael's home here, will add some vim and vigor. By making sure that there's always something living on display, your kitchen will never feel too dead.
For 75 more ideas, tips, and tricks, check out these past posts:
- 10 Easy, Low-Budget Ways to Improve Any Kitchen (Even a Rental!)
- 11 Ways to Add a Little Style to Your Rental Kitchen
- 10 Common Rental Kitchen Frustrations, and How to Fix Them
- Cooking with Gas: 10 Smart Rental Kitchens from Our House Tours
- 10 Kitchen Improvements for Renters
- On the Cheap: 8 Rental Kitchen Upgrades Under $100
- 7 Ways to Rescue a Rental Kitchen
- The 9 Best Kitchen Updates You CAN Do (When You Can't Renovate Your Rental)