This Rental Kitchen Got a $300 Makeover and Is No Longer Recognizable

published Apr 16, 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.
Post Image
Credit: Dabney Frake

This is what Tara’s kitchen looked like when she moved in this past year. Not too pretty, eh? With her landlord’s approval, we did a light reno that didn’t cost a lot, but made a major difference in both appearance and function. Spending money on a rental isn’t for everyone — but for those of you who love to cook, have a horrible kitchen, and plan to stay put for awhile, then a little investment may well be worth the time and expense.

If you missed the earlier posts in this series:

See all the design options → Visualizing Possible Changes With Photoshop

Credit: Anna Spaller

Here’s what we did:

#1: Painted Cabinets Black: Painting the cabinets made the largest impact, for the least amount of money. The dark paint covered up all the weird “wood” laminate and is pretty timeless and sophisticated. And, unlike before, the now “vintage” brass cabinet pulls actually look nice against the black.

Credit: Anna Spaller

#2: Lowered Cabinet Trim: Wood strips were added to the bottom of each upper cabinet, which made the kitchen look a little more custom and covered up the naughty cords from the undermount lights. Although you can buy something called light rail at the hardware store, for just this purpose, we used some basic pine wood cut to size and painted to match the new cabinet color. They were installed with just a little caulk.

Credit: Anna Spaller

#3: Installed A Checkerboard Floor: VCT tiles were stuck right on top of the existing linoleum floor, so there was no need to rip out the old material. The black and white pattern is classic, and the durable vinyl tiles won’t need to be updated anytime soon, making them a good option for a rental.

Credit: Anna Spaller

#4: Hung Removable Wallpaper Backsplash: The one pseudo-expensive indulgence was the botanical print wallpaper, which just adds so much interest and texture that it was completely worth the cost. It’s removable, so if Tara, or the next tenant, wants to take it down at any point, no problem. Plus, this re-positionable wallpaper is easy to wipe down and works well as a backsplash.

Credit: Anna Spaller

#5: Added Smart Storage: A series of quick projects made Tara’s space more functional, making use of vertical space and previously unused surfaces.

Credit: Anna Spaller

#6: Rearranged and Reorganized: Once we had more storage options, we went to town shifting things around and giving them a new home. We pushed the kitchen island up against the brick wall next to the fridge, which opened up the room and made it feel bigger. Lastly, we made use of the space above the cabinets, putting less-used things up above and out of the way —wine bottles, linens in a basket, etc…

Credit: Anna Spaller


  • Paint & Supplies: $57.29
  • Wallpaper: $120 plus shipping
  • Flooring & Supplies: $35.79
  • Metal Rails & Bars: $43.94
  • Wood for Shelf & Trim: $22.67
  • Miscellaneous Hardware & Supplies: $43.28

Grand Total: $322.97

Credit: Anna Spaller


  • Cabinets: Benjamin Moore Onyx
  • Wallpaper: Springtime In The Butterflies by Peacoquette Designs from Spoonflower
  • Floor: Armstrong Imperial Texture VCT Standard Excelon Commercial Vinyl Tile in Classic White & Classic Black from Home Depot
Credit: Anna Spaller

Want more ideas for improving the look of your rental kitchen?

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: $300 Later, This Rental Kitchen Is No Longer Recognizable