Before & After: This Mind-Blowing Rental Kitchen Makeover Took Just 5 Days and Only Cost $2,000

updated Aug 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Ana Kamin)

Name: Ana and Patrick Kamin
Type of Project: Kitchen Update
Location: San Francisco, California

When we moved to San Francisco and started looking for apartments, 85% of the kitchens we saw were not acceptable by my terms. On the one side, you have the ones that are newly updated, but the landlord chose the countertop and cabinets straight from the ’70s.

Or you have the kitchens that are totally rundown — and the renovation will cost a fortune. My husband and I tried to find something in between the two, so we could keep our options open in case we would want to renovate in the future. So happened that the kitchen in our apartment delivered on both sides: not too shabby, but could use a freshening up.

(Image credit: Ana Kamin)
(Image credit: Ana Kamin)

We had waited three years before we pulled the trigger to get something done. But we had worries. “It’s not yours.” “You are investing money in somebody else’s property.” ” Should we really invest in this?” and so on.

(Image credit: Ana Kamin)
(Image credit: Ana Kamin)
(Image credit: Ana Kamin)

But by the end of the day, I see it as an investment in our daily life. It’s us who are using this kitchen everyday, and if moving is not on the immediate horizon, I think renovating a rental if you can is totally fine. Sure, we didn’t want to go overboard and spend too much money. So we set a budget of $2,500 and started planning.

(Image credit: Ana Kamin)
(Image credit: Ana Kamin)

Things we wanted replaced:


When we moved in the tiles were off-white with a yellowish spiderweb-like pattern, which I didn’t like at all, so I painted it over with white glossy paint. Maybe not the smartest move, since cleaning the tiles became a real chore.


The countertop and the backsplash were both covered in eggshell white tiles, which were okay, but the old grout on the countertop was super difficult to clean. We would replace it now and then, yet it wouldn’t hold for long. Kitchen counters should be there for cooking and not cleaning after every tomato soup spill.


It was covered in so much paint. I think it was never cleaned from grease, only overpainted. And it didn’t work well.


We also wanted the cabinets replaced since they are old, but that would have blown our budget.

(Image credit: Ana Kamin)
(Image credit: Ana Kamin)

We asked our landlord, and luckily he was in. At least, he gave us the permission to renovate, but he didn’t invest any money (though he gave us new wonderboard panels he already had). He also recommended an affordable tile/countertop guy we ended up working with.

The style we were going for was a clean, white kitchen. We decided to go with simple subway tiles for the backsplash, quartz countertop in white and white 2″ hexagon tiles for the floor. I really wanted to have some kind of patterned cement tiles on the floor, but everything I liked wasn’t in our budget. Still, I was so sold on the idea of a patterned floor that we got some extra black hexagon tiles to add to the white ones. We didn’t want a regular pattern, so we just sprinkled them in between.

We also exchanged the pulls on the cabinets. Instead of the silver handles, we got the same ones in matte black. This totally added that modern touch to our kitchen.

I repainted the side wall one more time with black chalk paint and bought some new runners. And I must say I’m super happy with the outcome. The kitchen looks almost like new, cooking is much more fun and even cleaning the floors is not a chore anymore.

Budget Breakdown

Labor: $850

  • We had a contractor demolish the old kitchen and install the tiles, countertop + backsplash.

Countertop: $400

  • We purchased an 8’3/4 quartz countertop in snow white from Cornerstone Home & Design in San Francisco. We needed a bit longer slab, and fortunately, our contractor had a leftover piece he perfectly incorporated.

Floor tiles: $250 (for 36 square feet)

Backsplash: $200 (for 12 square feet)

Appliances & Fixtures: $276

  • Range hood – IKEA, $120
  • Kitchen sink – IKEA, $105
  • Faucet – our landlord bought it, $0
  • Cabinet handles in matte black, 3 inches, 10 Pack – $28 ( 2x)

Decoration: $56

  • Small Rug – Old Urban Outfitters, discontinued
  • Runner grey –, $56

Total: $2,032

Project time

Day 1: Demolition + Installing wonder boards on the backsplash and floor
Day 2: Countertop + sink installation
Day 3: Backsplash tile installation
Day 4: Grouting the backsplash + Installing floor tiles
Day 5: Installing range hood + grouting floor tiles

See all of Ana and Patrick’s gorgeous rental: Ana & Patrick’s Bright & Organic “California Casual” Apartment

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before & After: A 5 Day, 2K Rental Kitchen Makeover (With All the Budget Details!)