Before & After: This $30 Kitchen Makeover Transformed a Plain Space into a Whimsical Sanctuary

published Sep 22, 2023
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grey tile floor with light wood cabinets and white walls in a galley kitchen
Credit: Gica Tam

If you’re a renter, you may be looking for ways you can transform your space in a way that can be easily undone when it’s time to move out. Temporary floor tiles, removable contact paper on cabinets, or extra shelving are just a few common ways to customize your home — no matter how temporary. Some projects, of course, are pricier than others.

Illustrator Gica Tam knew that installing wall decals was going to cost her. She used to live in this bohemian New York City apartment, where she thought outside the box to create a cost-effective, custom, renter-friendly wall design for her kitchen. 

“I was heavily inspired by Memphis and post-modern interior styles, as well as DIY interior projects,” Tam said. “I wanted to purchase decals but found them too expensive, so I made my own.” And she took her kitchen from bland to breathtaking.

Credit: Gica Tam

How Tam Created Custom Wall Decals in Her Kitchen

Just looking at the (absolutely stunning!) finished product might make you think it took a lot of effort, but Tam didn’t even go in with a plan. She simply ordered three rolls of solid-colored peel-and-stick wallpaper — in light green, lavender, and gray blue — from Amazon, which cost less than $30 total.

Once Tam had the wallpaper, she started mapping out the shapes, then cut them out with scissors. “I didn’t have a plan and just went with organic shapes that could flow nicely in the space,” Tam shares. “I do suggest taking a photo of your space and sketching out a plan when you can.”

What’s nice about peel-and-stick wallpaper is that you can sketch on the gridded backside, so you can measure, stencil, and finalize the shapes you want before cutting. Plus, at less than $10 per 10-foot roll, you can afford to experiment a little.

Credit: Gica Tam

Tam loves the final result because it “made the space better and complemented the kitchen tools and decor,” which are also super colorful. If you’re planning to take on this project, she reminds you not to overthink it because it’s removable. 

This hack isn’t the only clever design aspect in Tam’s apartment. If you want to see more of Tam’s gorgeous apartment, visit the full house tour on Apartment Therapy.