This May Be the Most Creative Way to Use Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper in Your Kitchen

published Mar 30, 2023
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.
Living room in colorful Brooklyn apartment
Credit: Erin Derby

Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a stylish, affordable solution to make your kitchen cabinets unrecognizable in the best possible way — especially if they’re looking worse for wear. Some people choose to remove their cabinet doors to fake an open-shelving look, and install a favorite pattern over their shelf backs for a zippy, custom touch. Others apply the wallpaper to the doors and frames as an alternative to painting. If you have cabinets with panels that could use a little facelift, though, I’d challenge you to follow in the footsteps of one savvy renter, who came up with an ingenious way of applying temporary wallpaper that could cut your total install time — and your project cost — in half. 

Caity Birmingham is a production designer and prop stylist, who lives in a 680-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn, New York, that’s quirky, colorful, and full of character. “I treated decorating the place like it was my job,” Birmingham says in her house tour. “I actually used a lot of tricks I use in my job, like scouring Facebook Marketplace and figuring out how to transform spaces in a temporary way.”

Birmingham considers her design style to be eclectic and “a little wacky with equal parts glam and humor.” More specifically, she loves everything pop art-inspired and vibrant late ‘70s/early ‘80s color palettes. She was able to translate these style references successfully into her home decor choices, and her kitchen is a prime example of this. In fact, she owes a lot of this success to temporary wall coverings.

“I’m a big believer in contact paper, vinyl, and removable wallpaper for temporary but bold changes in a rental,” Birmingham says. To that end, she came up with a really unique way to install contact paper on her cabinets: She cut and applied pieces to fit inside the arched and raised panels on her doors. 

Credit: Erin Derby

The warm finish of Birmingham’s cabinetry leans traditional, and that didn’t necessarily fit with her eclectic style. So she chose an Etsy peel-and-stick removable wall covering with a colorful geometric pattern to make them pop and feel more like her. The coolest part of this installation? Not only did she let the architecture of her individual doors and drawers dictate her cuts and coverage, but she also decided to go totally random with her pattern. It’s impossible to tell what this pattern’s repeat is here, and that’s by design. This decision also allowed Birmingham to order as little paper as possible for covering her panels and still have a cohesive, high-impact look in the end because she didn’t have to worry about lining up any seams. Sure, you could use this paper to create one seamless, continuous mural-like pattern, but you certainly don’t have to. 

Simply covering your kitchen cabinet panels (versus the entire fronts and frames) also can potentially provide the opportunity to use leftover peel-and-stick or contact paper from another project. All you have to do is trace templates from your doors (or drawers) and carefully make your cuts with an X-acto blade. It’d be a little tougher to do this project on slab-style doors, since you wouldn’t have an inset panel to use as a pattern for your cuts. If you stuck to a simple rectangle shape, though, it’d be doable to create your own template. 

“Most contact paper goes up easily and comes off without any damage,” Birmingham says. “You can do a wall, a whole room, or just some cabinet fronts like I did in my kitchen.” If you’ve got older kitchen or bathroom cabinets that you want to refresh but don’t want to paint them, this is a viable option. And according to Birmingham, “It’s a very fun, cheap way to change a look.”