Before & After: This $500 Rental Makeover Was All Possible Thanks to IKEA Hacks and Contact Paper

updated Oct 1, 2020
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Sourya Venumbaka's kitchen before

Even though she’s comfortable reupholstering furniture and flexing her DIY muscles with custom woodworking projects, Instagrammer Sourya Venumbaka of Sové Home wasn’t thinking her Philadelphia kitchen necessarily needed a drastic makeover. “I had only planned to add storage,” she says. “But after living with the kitchen for a few months, I felt like the space needed some character.” Thanks to a healthy dose of creativity and a string of smaller DIY upgrades that made a big impact, Venumbaka’s kitchen, filled to the brim with charm and functional details, is now almost completely unrecognizable. If you’re looking to take a builder basic kitchen to the next level, this transformation is certainly worth noting.

Venumbaka kicked off the redo by installing a couple of hardworking IKEA storage products. First, she hung IKEA’s BEKVAM spice racks, which she had used in a previous apartment and updated with black spray paint to go with her new space’s aesthetic. Simple spice jars keep the racks looking streamlined and neat. She then placed another IKEA product, the MALERAS picture ledges, right above the cabinets to corral pantry goods decanted into pretty thrifted jars. These ledges allow her to easily make use of dead over-the-cupboard space.

Then she turned her attention to the kitchen peninsula. Instead of outfitting the space with stools like many people would, Venumbaka maxed out her storage space with a smart IKEA hack: sliding two IKEA IVAR cabinets right under the counter’s overhang. “I added cane and new brass hardware to the doors to make them more current,” she says. Though Venumbaka DIYed her own cabinet doors, IKEA now sells a similar style, designed specifically for the Ivar. To finish off the peninsula, she put marble contact paper down on the countertops, which ended up bringing about more than just an aesthetic change. “The contact paper is easier to clean, since the old countertops were porous and stained easily,” Venumbaka explains.

With the peninsula now sporting pretty cabinets and finishes, the cupboards elsewhere needed a little TLC, too. “I wanted to turn my boring laminate cabinets into Shaker-style cabinets,” says Venumbaka. “I did that by covering them with clear matte contact paper and gluing pieces of poplar wood on top to create the trim.” This turned out to be a genius idea: The contact paper is easily removable and protects the cabinets’ original doors. Venumbaka painted over the contact paper with Sherwin-Williams’s Cool Beige and switched the old hardware out for new matte black pulls.

Then came the backsplash, which Venumbaka says brought that final “wow factor” to the whole kitchen. “I created a graphic backsplash with removable vinyl paper and cut it out using a Cricut machine,” she says of the geometric, black-and-white tile-look design. A simpler pattern could probably be cut out by hand, or you could try temporary wallpaper or peel-and-stick vinyl “tiles” for a similar look.

It may seem difficult to believe, but Venumbaka completed the entire kitchen makeover in just a week’s time for just $476.70, proving that with the right amount of thoughtfulness and determination, it’s easy to transform a space in a short period for a smallish budget. Renters shouldn’t be afraid to take on such a project either. All of the changes Venumbaka made are reversible, meaning it will be easy to return the kitchen to its original state in advance of a future move. “I honestly love how cozy and welcoming it is,” Venumbaka says of the finished room. “It has made cooking feel a lot less tedious!”