I Doubled My Rental Kitchen’s Storage and Counter Space for $1,500

published Apr 22, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
N/A
Project Type
Style
N/A
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
N/A
Kitchen countertop before renovation.
Credit: Geraldine Campbell

We fell in love with our apartment for its roomy, pre-war layout and for the light; on a sunny fall day, the 6th-floor home was flooded with sun and difficult to say no to. What we didn’t love so much was the galley kitchen. It was roomy enough, sure, but the limited cabinets and counter space left a lot to be desired for two avid home cooks. Still, the pass-through window from the kitchen to the dining room got us thinking — before we knew it we were signing the lease, arranging for movers, and planning our very own rental kitchen renovation.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

How We Decided to Update Our Rental Kitchen

As ill-advised as a rental kitchen renovation sounds, we decided it was worth it for a few reasons. First, the math worked. By moving in together, my partner and I would be saving $900 per month. We reasoned that was money we could earmark for home improvements — including an updated kitchen.

Because we conferred with our landlord before making any changes, we also felt confident that we wouldn’t have to undo our renovations when we eventually moved out. Possibly most importantly, though, we knew that cooking was such an important part of our home lives that we couldn’t imagine not upgrading our kitchen.

So, we started looking into our options.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

Our Rental Kitchen Renovation: IKEA Cabinets and Formica Countertops

We knew straight away that we wanted IKEA cabinets. Affordable, versatile, and easy-to-install, IKEA cabinets are the way to go for so many kitchen remodels. We chose the SEKTION line and, because our existing storage was mostly cabinets, we went with all drawers, a decision I would make over and over (and over) again.

We also knew that we wanted to create a breakfast bar on the other side of the pass-through window. There was a small countertop already there, but we wanted something more substantial.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

What we didn’t know was what kind of countertop we wanted. We thought about butcher block, we looked at marble and quartz remnants, and then we decided to go with Formica. If it hadn’t been a rental kitchen, we wouldn’t have even considered Formica. But it had a few things going for it.

For starters, it was cheaper and faster than the other options out there — by a lot. For a previous kitchen, I had rescued a rectangular piece of marble for around $600, cutting and installation included, so I thought we might be able to find a salvage yard in Brooklyn that would do it all for around $1,000. I was wrong. Our estimates were in the $1,500 to $2,500 range for remnants and butcher block, and the wait, while not offensively long, wasn’t insignificant.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

Our Formica countertops cost $700 all-in and we could get them installed in a week. Of course, Formica is a cheaper material, but another reason the Formica countertops were cheap and fast was because our landlord had a ready supply of Formica on hand and a go-to crew ready to measure and install.

We also liked the idea of our countertops matching, even if they wouldn’t have been our first choice, and we liked that our landlord was part of the process.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

The final touch was adding knobs and pulls (to match the new knobs and pulls) to the old cabinets to try to tie everything together even more.

Credit: Geraldine Campbell

Ultimately, we doubled our counter space and our cabinet space for around $1,500 (a little bit less if my calculations are right). A year later, after many breakfasts eaten, cocktails served, meals prepped, and kitchen essentials stored, we would 100% do it again.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before and After: A Rental Kitchen Doubles Its Storage and Counter Space for $1500