Before & After: A Drab 1980s Rental Kitchen Gets an Update for Just $250

updated Sep 1, 2020
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.
Before: Kitchen with beige cabinets and black and white floor
Credit: Ashley Alongi

Even the most beautiful vintage buildings can suffer from less-than-charming later “upgrades.” Ashley Alongi’s New York City apartment building, for instance, was built in 1900 — an architectural era that brought plenty of charm by way of moldings, woodwork, and more. But her apartment’s kitchen? That was all 1980s, with oak and melamine cabinets and checkerboard vinyl flooring. “Everything about it felt old, but in a dark and dingy way, not a cute vintage way,” Ashley says.

“When I was looking for a new apartment I had two big requirements: that it be in a specific neighborhood and that the kitchen wasn’t the size of a closet,” Ashley says. So even though this cook space wasn’t dreamy, she was ready to make the sacrifice because it was so roomy. Fortunately, Ashley says, “I watch a lot of makeover videos on YouTube so I knew I could make a big impact on the space with renter-friendly changes.” Hear, hear!

Credit: Ashley Alongi

Before Ashley moved in, she’d dreamed of painting the cabinets black and prepared to make a case to her landlord. But when she got the keys to the apartment, she realized the lower cabinets were broken or rotted beyond repair. The landlord sent someone to replace them, and Ashley asked if they could paint the uppers to match the new base cabinets. That’s when the project really got rolling.

With just $250, Ashley gave her whole kitchen a rental-friendly refresh with tons of personality. Ashley started with peel-and-stick wood-look counters and added a Moroccan star wallpapered backsplash, too. Then, she traded the generic silver knobs that came with the cabinets for dainty gold hex-shaped ones from CB2.

Credit: Ashley Alongi

While Ashley had ordered peel-and-stick vinyl flooring at the outset of her makeover, she put off installation for a few months. “Really they’re meant to be permanent and I got nervous about installing it,” Ashley says. “Then after three months of work from home I got so sick of seeing the checkerboard floor I could never get clean no matter how much I scrubbed that I finally took a day and laid it all down.”

While it was a risky move, Ashley was happy for the long-term payoff: “I plan to stay here for a while and when I do move out I’ve decided my security deposit is worth it!”

“I just love how much brighter and fresher the space feels now,” she adds. “The kitchen is the first thing you see when you come in the apartment and all the color now puts me in a great mood.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A $250 Update Perks up This Drab 1980s Kitchen