Ten Kitchen Improvements for Renters

2009_02_11-Kitchens.jpg2009_02_11-Thumbs2.jpgIt's DIY Month, and we're encouraging you to take care of all your projects around the house, even in the kitchen! We get lots of questions from renters who want to spruce up their kitchens without breaking the bank (or their lease agreement). When you rent you rarely have permission or resources to renovate a cramped or ugly kitchen. But there are simple, inexpensive, and creative ways to make your kitchen brighter and better.

As we move through DIY Month and our February Jumpstart event, here are ten ways to help you make your rental kitchen more beautiful, healthy, and organized.

None of these ideas are rocket science. There's no one-fit answer to making a rental kitchen prettier and more fun to cook in. But take a critical look at your space, see what you need, and mix it up. Don't be afraid to make changes like moving the fridge to a better spot, or swapping out a hanging light. A little work and creativity can make big differences.

Add Storage

1. Hang a pot rack or pegboard. Take storage into your own hands. Hanging a pot rack or pegboard is usually well within the scope of renters' rights, and they can open up much more storage in the kitchen. Look for inexpensive racks on Craigslist and at IKEA. Pictured: How To Make a Bicycle Wheel Pot Rack and Christine's Kitchen.

2. Hang a shelf or wall storage. Again, like the pot rack, shelves and other wall storage systems are removable and hung easily. You don't have to do major surgery to your kitchen in order to hang shelves like Dana's or a storage system like Kyle's. Get some help, and patch any screw holes when you move out. The work and small expense is worth the extra storage for kitchen tools and accessories. If you paint the shelves you can also have a major color accent in the kitchen.

3. Bring in new furniture. Some kitchens are big enough, but bare. There was very little counterspace in my old eat-in kitchen, so I brought in a small kitchen cart for the microwave, cookbooks, and other extras. This kitchen island is inexpensive and useful in an open kitchen. Also consider a tall storage unit like the one in this bright orange kitchen.

Also consider more unusual furniture, like a dresser for baking trays and table linens or a card catalog for wine and silverware!

Change the Look

4. Paint the cabinets. This is a big step for a renter, and it may not be allowed by your landlord. But it never hurts to ask. Look at the lovely way Derek and Rena's kitchen (before and after pictured in gallery above) was transformed by a little paint. It went from boring white box to gray and subtle space. If he won't let you paint the outsides, see if you can at least paint the insides and then...

5. Take the doors off the cabinets. We talk about open storage a lot (see another gallery of open storage ideas here) and we think that temporarily removing your cabinet doors is another easy and temporary way to make your kitchen over. It's free, after all. Take off the doors, line the insides with pretty paper or paint them, and stack your dishes neatly. Pictured: Tara's Tiny Yet Powerful Rental and Jeanine's Sunfilled House.

6. Put down a new floor. New floor? Isn't that expensive? Not necessarily. If you hate your kitchen floor, try temporary vinyl tiles like in this New York apartment, or be brave and put down a rug.

7. Use pattern on the walls. If you can't paint or do major kitchen redecoration, how about removable vinyl wall patterns or removable wallpaper. Blik and other adhesive patterns were all the rage last year, and we think that there are many good ways to use them in the kitchen. Pictured: Amber's Yellow Kitchen and Adam and Alison's London Terrace Masterpiece.

8. Add your own personality. The huge fly in this kitchen (on the microwave) may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly adds a jolt of personality! Don't forget to hang art, display a treasured collection, and use textiles to bring in colors and patterns you love. Pictured: Violetmarsh's Colorful Collection. The curtains, bust, and unusual furniture choices make this kitchen feel lived in and unique.

Improve Functionality

9. Update the backsplash. The backsplash running behind the counter and stove is sometimes the biggest stretch of open wall space in a kitchen. If you can't paint it, put up a temporary backsplash of metal so you can stick magnets to it, or hang pretty objects there instead. Also, the backsplash is paintable; it's such a small space it's easy to paint over later when you move out. Pictured: Rachel's Bungalow of Bright Ideas

10. Change the lighting. Don't take your lighting as the status quo. If you don't like the fluourescent lighting in your eat-in kitchen, put a small lamp on the table for when you dine. Change out ugly glass lamp covers for inexpensive replacements (found at Home Depot and other hardware stores). Pictured: Jeannine's Smooth and Soulful. The paper lanterns could look dorm-room-esque, but Jeanine makes it work. Also pictured: Lisa's Bright, Rich Rental. Hanging lamps like vintage one here can be added for little cost and trouble.

One last tip: Work with what you have. Don't try to make a cramped galley kitchen look modern and sleek; work with the colors and textures already in place, even if they aren't your ideal style. Harmony helps. For instance, when I lived in with a rather bare eat-in kitchen with scant counter space and teal-green appliances, I went with it. I added a temporary metal backsplash of vintage-looking metal, put up aqua color accents, and covered the table with a pretty tablecloth. The kitchen was more granny-chic than my preferred style, but at least it felt warm, homey, and harmonized.

How have you made your rental kitchen your own? Without the ability to do major upgrades, how have you made yourself feel at home and comfortable in the warmest room of the house?

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