Before & After: This $100 Rental Kitchen Redo Has a Million-Dollar Personality

updated Sep 17, 2020
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Before: Plain white rental kitchen
Credit: KC Cibran

It can be hard to figure out how to make a plain rental kitchen feel welcoming — especially on a tight budget. KC Cibran (@thecasaverde) knows the struggle. She lives in a pre-war rental apartment in New York City, where the appliances are “ancient” and the kitchen “looked old and dingy,” KC says. “I really didn’t like the overwhelming white and dreaded cooking in there.”

But she couldn’t afford to go all-out on decor. “I’m on an assistant’s salary in New York City, so almost everything in my apartment is very low budget!” KC says. So in redoing her apartment’s kitchen, she challenged herself to stay under $100 for the whole thing and use items she already owned whenever possible. “My main goal was to just put my personality into this rental kitchen,” KC says. “My apartment building is very strict on changes — we can’t even paint. So I also wanted to make sure everything was reversible and most importantly, low budget.”

Credit: KC Cibran

KC started by adding a faux backsplash she scored on Amazon (similar to this set) for the look of tile without the commitment. “When I moved in, the kitchen had the signature whitish yellow tint that old apartments have, so I wanted to modernize things a bit,” KC says. “Applying the tiles was tricky, and definitely tedious, but once I got the hang of it, the installation flew by. Reading the directions on how to apply these was key. I only ordered one package and ran out halfway through and had to order more.”

Next, she took off the cabinet doors to get the look of open shelves. “I had seen videos of renters removing their cabinet doors and decided to try it,” she says. “I was nervous at first, but it was as simple as it looked. I just unscrewed the doors with a drill and they came right off. Due to limited storage space, they live under my bed now so I can put them back up when I move out.” So smart!

Credit: KC Cibran

Of course, with open shelves, organization is key. “I took everything out of the cabinets and laid it on the floor. And then I just stared at everything I had and the cabinets back and forth thinking, what on earth am I going to do here??” KC says. Baskets and crates she’d gotten previously at TJ Maxx came in clutch for storing pantry goods and spices. Shelf risers from IKEA helped KC effectively double her cabinet space.

Credit: KC Cibran

After that came the finishing touches, including postcards, artwork, tin signs, and plants that KC used to help add some color and interest to the open shelves and the walls. (Also: the tiniest, most adorable microwave you ever did see.)

Organizing the cabinets was probably the hardest part, KC says. Thankfully, she had help from afar. “My best friend Bailey lives across the country and also loves home decor, so I balanced her on a teapot over FaceTime while I moved things around and shouted “how does this look?” With open shelves, it’s very easy for things to look cluttered and messy so it took multiple tries to find the right balance,” KC says.

Now this rental looks totally custom and original. “I think the best part of this new look is that it fits my style more,” says KC. “It’s still a very functional kitchen, but it shows off things I love like my cute dishware, tchotchkes, and art. I love that there’s a splash of color and that everything is so easy to find.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A $100 Rental Kitchen Redo with a Million-Dollar Personality