Tips from The Kitchn

3 Simple Style Lessons to Steal from This Colorful Rental Kitchen in Queens

published Sep 14, 2022
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Orange living room leading into kitchen
Credit: Billie Michael

After living in cramped conditions during the height of the pandemic, Billie Michael and her boyfriend moved out and found a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens.

We took the tour of the couple’s New York City home and picked up three simple design lessons from their 660-square-foot digs. Come with us, and we’ll show you what we mean.

Credit: Billie Michael

1. Change up your space with peel-and-stick tiles.

Kitchen upgrades all start with a little imagination. Michael and her boyfriend tapped into their creativity and didn’t let renting stop them from making the space their own. “It was definitely kind of a blank slate, though, since it also had white walls, white cabinets, and not much personality,” says Michael, an illustrator and designer.

So, how did they do it? After painting the walls, they upgraded the space using inexpensive, peel-and stick tiles to create a colorful kitchen backsplash.

Michael adds, “I might not be in this apartment forever, but the cost and time of painting or putting up peel-and-stick tile is more than worth it to me. I enjoy my space every single day.”

2. Use furniture to “divide” up your space.

The living room, office, and kitchen are one big open space all rolled into one. To create an illusion of zones in the home and add a little privacy, the couple tried to strategically place furniture to divide up the “rooms.”

For example, Michael says, “the couch defines the living room from my workspace and a table separates the kitchen, while also providing much needed counter space.” Without resorting to building a wall, you can also use bookshelves, or try rugs, fabric drapes, or even another paint color to build dividers.

3. Fill your home with things you absolutely love.

Michael enjoys curating her space to be as fun and colorful as possible. Her maximalist style means she adds plenty of pizzazz and personality to the rental.

She explains her design strategy: “I like to fill it to the brim with stuff that my boyfriend and I love, from tasteful to tacky: old Halloween decor, vintage thrift-store finds, B-movie posters, a Big Mouth Billy Bass. It’s all on proud display!”

What upgrades have you made in your rental kitchen? Tell us your tips in the comments below.