6 DIY Kitchen Upgrades Any Renter Can Make

Take, for instance, the kitchen. If yours could use some flair, here are five fixes you can make to customize it without breaking the rules of your lease — just make sure your property manager approves before you get started!

1. Paint cabinets or walls

paint cabinets

Your Pinterest board abounds with images of a modern kitchen — bright, white and airy or sleek and full of stainless steel. Unfortunately, your rental unit probably doesn’t flaunt such style. Instead, you likely have basic cabinets in a dated or otherwise plain shade, such as honey oak or cherry.

A very flexible landlord might let you paint them and, if so, you’re in luck. You can choose the color and make the kitchen look like it’s of this decade instantly.

Even without the ability to change the cabinets’ color, though, you still have options. You can paint the walls a bold hue that freshens up the old-school cabinetry. Painting the walls around your honey cabinets in midnight blue makes such a stunning contrast that you’ll hardly remember you dislike the wood finish.

2. Temporary cabinet updates

cabinet hardware

One of the reasons renting is so appealing, is that you’re not responsible for the costs of home improvements. Homeowners typically spend at least $4,000 on cabinet replacements, and that’s not accounting for custom installations, which can exceed $15,000. Rather than spending money on a kitchen you don’t own, try a short-term fix that gives you beautiful cabinets at a low cost.

For a temporary change any landlord would allow, you can apply contact paper in the shade of your choice to your cabinets’ exterior. This will change their color while you inhabit your rental, and you can peel it off when it’s time to move out. You can even take the doors off and make open shelving, though you should safely store the doors and screw them back into place when your lease ends.

Another way to change up the cabinets is by swapping outdated hardware for a more modern alternative. Choose handles or knobs that’ll fit the holes already drilled into your doors and drawers. Save the old pieces in a drawer and put it back in when you move out.

3. Light it right

lights under cabinet

Rental property owners seem to love overhead fluorescent lighting, but the bulbs can make your kitchen look more blah than it already is. This one’s an easy fix, even if you can’t swap out the fixture for something a bit more eye-catching.

Start by installing some under-the-counter lights, which will give you just the right amount of glow while you prep your meals. You might also have space to place clamp lights on the sides of your cabinets, which can further serve as task lighting.

Then, try out traditional table lamps in a few corners of your kitchen. You’ll be surprised at how effectively these accessories can warm up the whole place. We promise, with the right combination of lighting, you won’t miss that big fluorescent box overhead.

4. Improve your storage options

hanging storage

Rental kitchens don’t always have the best layouts, nor do they flaunt the storage you’d want in a more permanent property. However, one of the best ways to revamp a small kitchen is with smart storage.

A hanging pot rack would kill two birds with one stone, in terms of utility and personalization. You could put your kitchenware on display and remove it from your cabinets, freeing up more storage for plates, glasses and appliances. To that end, a strangely placed or shaped drawer or cabinet could become home to your trash can or recycling bin, so it doesn’t have to sit out in the open.

You can artfully display your kitchen utensils, too. For many people, this means buying a cool jar or container to hold them all on the countertop, rather than hiding them in a drawer. You might also hang some magnetic strips beneath your cabinets, onto which you can stick metallic utensils. This will spruce up a boring backsplash, too.

5. Camouflage the countertops

countertop camouflage

Photo by Mitchell Henderson on Unsplash

Here’s another common problem with rental properties — the countertops match the cabinet in terms of their basicness. You can’t install that shiny natural stone you want, so do your best to camouflage the simple tile or Formica countertops you’ve got.

You might try a contact paper application here, too. You can find patterns similar to stone, and you can easily apply and remove the material when you leave.

Others go for an even simpler method of decorative trickery. Invest in a tray or two and place them on top of your counters to keep eyes off the boring material below. You can also buy an extra-large wood cutting board, which will be both useful to you as a home chef and as a decorator. The gorgeous grain will distract from the countertops you dislike.

On average, homeowners spend$3,000 to install new kitchen countertops. With these temporary methods, renters can beautify their apartment kitchen without a massive investment. Contact paper, trays and gorgeous cutting boards can easily be switched out over time without wasting thousands of dollars.

6. Use a pop of color

pop of color

We already mentioned how paint on the walls can make your cabinets look better. A unifying color can also make your rental kitchen look cohesive, even if it contains a hodgepodge of materials.

Choose the shade you’d like to incorporate and use it in as many places as you can. For instance, you might find a rug to lay on the floor, a mixer to display on the counter and curtains to hang over the sink, all in the same color.

Even if the rest of the apartment around your accessories looks a little mismatched, don’t fret. A bit of cohesive color can really bring the place together, even making it look bigger and brighter. Better yet, if you choose a hue you love, it’ll feel all the more personal to you.

Renting doesn’t have to be boring

In the end, you probably won’t stay in your rental forever, so you’re not married to its less-than-desirable kitchen.

However, you want any place you live to feel like home in some way, and these five tips will make it easy for you to do just that — until it’s time to move on to a new abode and make that kitchen your own, too.

Header Photo by Rustic Vegan on Unsplash
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Holly WellesHolly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update, where she shares tips on making the most of any space. Her work can be found on Homes.com, Porch and other places around the web.

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