10 Brilliant Ways to Improve Your Rental Kitchen

updated Jul 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

If you feel like you’re handcuffed to your laminate countertops and two-toned cabinetry, and that you generally have to tip-toe around your rental kitchen because it’s not quite yours, we’re here to change your mind. Even though you’re just borrowing this kitchen for now, there are things you can do to make it your own!

Here are 10 little ways to make your rental kitchen the best and brightest that it can be.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

1. Add a rug.

Rugs are an easy and small way to add a punch of personality to your rental kitchen — not to mention hide an ugly floor. But before you just go ahead and get any ol’ rug, here are four things to consider when adding one to your space.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

2. Make pots and pans a focal point.

We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that your rental kitchen is slightly lacking in the storage department. If that statement speaks to you, don’t let your pots and pans take up valuable cabinet space. Get a handy wall-friendly pot rack or install a pegboard on an empty wall. It helps if you have a set of cookware that you actually want people to see.

(Image credit: Reagen Taylor)

3. Install under-the-cabinet lights.

LET THERE BE LIGHT. Short of magically installing floor-to-ceiling windows to let light flood in, under-the-cabinet lighting is the best fix for a dark and dreary kitchen. There’s more than one way to get the same effect: Choose from puck lights, fluorescent light bars, or LED light bars to brighten up your space.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

4. Embrace house plants.

A fun way to liven up your rental kitchen is to let the outside in. Stock up on succulents, fret over your fronds, ponder life over your potted plants. For starters, check out our suggestions for the best house plants to grow in your kitchen.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

5. DIY an open shelving unit.

If you’ve just about had it with your less-than-visually-pleasing cabinetry, we give you permission to just tear it all down. Well not all of it. Gently take the doors off and revel in the new open shelving units that you’ve unleashed. Here’s our favorite no-reno kitchen makeover from our sister website, Apartment Therapy, which expertly nailed this technique.

(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

6. Use stick-on tiles or wallpaper as a backsplash.

When you can’t fully commit to the expensive backsplash of your dreams because your kitchen is a rental, I have three words for you: peel and stick. It’s a temporary upgrade that will completely change the look of your kitchen. Some brands we love: Smart Tiles, Tempaper, and StickPretty.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

7. Buy brightly colored stools.

For an inviting pop of color, consider squeezing in some fun bar stools for extra seating at the counter or island. (Everyone hangs out in the kitchen at a party anyway, right?) Plus, they’re super portable, so you can bring them from room to room when you have company. Hint: Search “Tolix” on Amazon.

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

8. Paint the walls.

We can’t tell you how many stories like this suggest painting your kitchen cabinets. And while we think that’s a great idea if you own your place, it’s not a great idea unless you have permission from your landlord. (And actually, even then … it’s a time-intensive project!) Instead, just paint a wall or two around the cabinets. Look at all the difference it makes in this kitchen!

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

9. Hang a mirror.

The next time that you’re in a tiny restaurant, take a look around. Chances are, they have strategically placed mirrors to make the space appear larger — it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book! Take a cue and add a statement mirror to your rental kitchen. It’ll give off that same space-maximizing illusion and reflect the light in your kitchen, brightening up the space.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

10. Display your favorite art.

The best way to make a borrowed kitchen feel more like your own is to hang a few pieces of art. No, we don’t mean Rembrandt. We mean your kid’s school art projects, that yard sale find you picked up because it caught your eye, or the landscape your mom painted back in college. Whatever tells your story!

Do you have a rental kitchen? What are some things you’ve done to make it feel more like your own?

(Image credit: The Kitchn)