Kitchen Tour

This Renter Transformed Her Tiny, Lackluster Kitchen (and Added a Ton of Storage) for Only $500

published Feb 27, 2023
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If you think being a renter means being stuck with whatever kind of kitchen is in your rental apartment, this great DIY rental kitchen redo is proof that that’s simply not the case. Gretchen Raguse, who rents this 615-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Portland, Oregon, wasn’t too impressed with the kitchen when she moved in three years ago.

Name: Gretchen Raguse
Location: Portland, Oregon
Rent or own: Rent
Kitchen size: 9’x11.5′, roughly 103.5 square feet

The kitchen was “lackluster” with very little storage and hardly any counterspace.

“The kitchen was lackluster to begin with,” Gretchen explains. “The original cupboards and countertops only lined one side of the room, leaving just a stove and a small set of recessed shelves on the opposite wall. I wanted the stove to feel more integrated and needed more storage in general, so I built a series of freestanding kitchen cabinets and counters using mostly secondhand materials.”

Getting creative with secondhand finds added much-needed storage and surface area in the kitchen.

Gretchen was able to find a cabinet base for $20 at a reuse store, and squeezed it into place to the right of the stove for the right cabinet base, also found at a reuse store. She found an old dining room buffet to use as the peninsula at an estate sale for only $40 and nestled that to the left of the stove. Another Facebook Marketplace find, this time for $20, was an old bathroom cabinet that Gretchen turned into an upper cabinet.

“I rehabilitated a discarded lower cabinet to function as my coffee bar, food prep area, and home for my microwave. This floor unit is tucked into the right side corner and gives the stove a built-in feel,” she writes.

“On the left side of the stove, I sourced an old dining room buffet, which I purchased at an estate sale,” Gretchen shares. “By turning this piece sideways, and aligning it to the recessed wall shelves, I created a small kitchen peninsula. This added counter space and divided the kitchen into a cooking area on the right and a small office area on the left. “

The front side of the buffet has two doors, which gives Gretchen easy access to ample storage for her office supplies. She also had a brilliant idea for making the counter even more multifunctional. “With a little more effort, I also replaced the top and added lift-up hinges to create an optional standing desk.” Brilliant! 

Unfortunately, this orientation exposed the buffet’s unfinished backside near the stove and required extensive cosmetic work.” But after Gretchen finished the backside, it gave her a place to hang her cutting boards — win, win.

“To complete the kitchen design, I repurposed an old bathroom storage cupboard, salvaged from a remodel, and secured it to the wall directly above the stove,” shares Gretchen. “It was shallow enough to allow room for cooking to happen underneath, and its extra height mimicked the original built-ins.” Gretchen then used a variety of open-air shelving to fill out the remaining wall space. “With all of these upgrades, my kitchen now shines and the space feels functional, dual-purpose, and complete,” she adds.

Gretchen’s Kitchen Renovation Cost Breakdown

  • $20 for the right cabinet base, found at a reuse store
  • $40 for the left peninsula base, found on Facebook Marketplace
  • $20 for the upper bathroom remodel cabinet, found on Facebook Marketplace
  • $20 on lumber for both countertops, from Lowes
  • Roughly $50 on white paint and wood stain supplies
  • $20 on the lift-top hinges, from amazon
  • Roughly $25 to replace all the kitchen hardware, from Home Depot
  • $5 for metal wall shelf/mug rail, found on Facebook Marketplace
  • $40 recycled denim rag rug, found at an antique store
  • Roughly $30 on supplies for the beadboard/fabric wallpaper accent wall, from Lowes
  • Vintage, upcycled desk was free, found on Facebook Marketplace
  • $8 for the ergonomic office chair, found at goodwill
  • $75 for the IKEA cart with three wooden toppers I stained to match

“Along the way I’ve sourced countless vintage knickknacks and kitchenwares to fill out the space,” Gretchen shares. “So while the above totals $353, I’d say a closer guess for the cost of everything in the kitchen/office is closer to $500 or so.”

See more of Gretchen Raguse’s clever renter’s solutions in her Portland apartment.

This kitchen tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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