renovate rental kitchen


The kitchen is the most important room in a home to most people — as it should be! This is where we gather together with loved ones in the midst of our busy lives. We cook with love and share food and conversation here. Sometimes, the kitchen is the only place we find time during the week to spend time with our friends and family. Naturally, we want this to be the most special room in our homes.

Home-owners have the freedom to personalize their kitchens, and even when the renovation costs run into the thousands, they can rest assured that they’ve made a good investment. But what about those of us who don’t own our homes or who live in apartments? We know the importance of having a beautiful kitchen too! What’s a renter to do?

For some reason it’s almost always the kitchen in a rental that needs a major facelift. Often, ugly tiles are the problem. Unsightly or worn kitchen cabinets are pretty typical too as are cheap-looking or chipping countertops your landlord insists don’t need replacing.

Even if you’re willing to dish out the money to make your kitchen an amazing place, your landlord may not be very understanding. You may even get penalized for making improvements to their property without getting approval first.

You should definitely ask permission from your landlord first if you’re ambitious enough to, say, replace the tiles and never see a return on your investment. But do you really want to do that?

If your landlord doesn’t allow you to make any permanent changes to his/her kitchen, that doesn’t mean you can’t make temporary renovations that will completely uplift your home. That’s right — you can still have a dreamy kitchen that looks, feels and smells inviting without a complete re-haul.

The best part of all this is that there are many tricks to turning your kitchen into a sanctuary without having to spend thousands of dollars. Many of the hacks we’re sharing with you are dirt-cheap but durable enough to last for months. Most importantly, these changes can be undone when it’s time to turn over your keys and move out.

Ugly kitchen floors and cabinets, dreary walls and fixtures will soon become a thing of the past with some clever tricks that will disguise and delight.

Check out our 20 renovation hacks that will make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

20. Plug Outlet Covers

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You’d be amazed by how much a plug outlet cover can change a room. They not only come in stainless steel but in different colors and textures. Or, you can buy white ones and make a special project of painting them according to your tastes. You can draw intricate designs or geometric shapes using tape. Get creative with these fixtures that usually turn yellow and nasty over time. There’s nothing worse than an outlet cover with fingerprints! You want your kitchen to feel clean, so start here. You may even decide to expand the project throughout the entire home.

19. Faucet


Your kitchen sink may not look like much and changing the entire thing is way too expensive and may tick off your landlord. But, you can always change the hardware on these without spending all that much money. Most people can even do the installation on their own. If your kitchen is bland get something super funky to bring the room alive. If you have a very old-fashioned kitchen, work with that instead of fighting it: There are really cool vintage faucets you can find online. Even if you end up hiring someone to install these, it’s well worth the cost. You wash dishes every day — what’s wrong with loving your faucet?

18. Contact Paper


Are your cabinets the pits? They may be made of wood that’s way too worn to improve upon or they may be made of synthetic material that just looks cheap. If you don’t have the option of painting them (ask your landlord first before whipping out the paintbrush), make friends with contact paper or shelving paper. You’ll have to get the dimensions just right so it doesn’t bunch up and look shabby, but if you take care to be detail-oriented in cutting the pieces to fit exactly, you can achieve a sleek, chic or funky look. Don’t add glue or anything that will make it hard to remove it when you’re ready to move.

17. Light Fixtures


One way to achieve a personalized look in an otherwise bland or ugly kitchen is to add light fixtures. Whether you like track lighting or prefer a more shabby-chic vibe by adding an assortment of hanging lights you fall in love with, you can wake up your kitchen with a whole new look. You’ll be amazed by how a centerpiece like this will distract from the less-than ideal features you are stuck with in your rental. Plus, there’s nothing worse than the lighting in most rental apartments.

16. Ceilings

Don’t underestimate the power of the ceiling! What better way to bring a kitchen alive than to paint it a funky color that you absolutely love? Kitchens are fun to paint because unlike larger rooms, you can get really creative here. After all, this is the room where your senses come alive. So, why not paint it tomato red, green like a bell pepper or blue like the sky? If you’re really ambitious, you can invest in tin ceilings, but remember to remove them unless your landlord approves them first.

15. Ceiling Fan

There’s nothing better than a ceiling fan in a kitchen. Not only does it work better than your oven’s overhead fan, it just adds a touch of hominess in a rental. Pick one that matches your cabinets or paint it to match whatever funky color you’ve painted the walls. Your kitchen will feel cozier and it’ll smell alot better too!

14. Large Cutting Board


If you have really crappy countertops, one way to cheat and make it look a 100 times better is to get a large wooden chopping block that entirely covers or nearly covers your countertops. If you are really married to the idea of making the wood fit over the old one exactly, visit a local lumber yard with exact measurements. Hopefully, someone will help and cut a block or two to your specifications.

13. Knobs and Handles


After you paint your ugly cabinets or cover them in contact paper you love, it’s time to add on new fixtures like knobs and handles. Rentals almost always have the really cheap ugly ones that make it impossible to love the cabinets, even after you achieve the right color that brightens up the room. You can choose modern hardware for a minimalist look or funky glass ones if you want to achieve a vintage feel. It all depends on you, and you can find just the right stuff you want if you do a little research online. The best part is that you can take all these with you when you’re ready to settle into a new place.

12. Shelves


There’s always a little space in the kitchen where you can build shelves. These shelves can be small and decorative or you can build sturdy ones all across one wall and place your prettier dishes and bowls, vases and fruit! Shelves are easy to customize too, with just the right color. Or, if you want to make your kitchen a fun space you can paint each shelf a different color.

11. Hanging Cookware

Hanging your pots and pans from the ceiling not only clears up space on countertops and in shelves, but it can look really cool too. You can order one of these from several retailers online. Just make sure to clean and polish all your cookware first because no one likes to look at grease spots hanging above their heads.

10. Spice Shelves


The amazing thing about spices is that they are so colorful and pretty to look at. Instead of the typical spice rack, add color to your walls by creating spice shelves. If you’re like most of us, each of your spice bottles is from a different manufacturer so they don’t all look uniform. Invest in some bottles and change your spices containers to make them look uniform. You can also make your own labels for the new containers. Again, it looks more clean and tidy to have the same look for all your bottles.

9. Remove Cabinet Doors

This trick will make your kitchen look more modern and absolutely fabulous! If you’re especially proud of your dishes and cups, you’re going to love this hack. It really is the best way to get rid of those ugly cabinets! You can simply remove the doors and store them away and re-attach them when you’re ready to move to a new place. Now, how clever is that?

8. Tiled Backsplash or Wall


While you may not be able to tile a while or backsplash that’s there now, you can buy some sheet rock according to the right dimensions and tile the sheet rock.  Use a super powerful glue or supports to keep the sheet rock in place. Chances are that once you’re read to move and go to remove it, you’ll have to sand down the wall and repaint it, but if you’re planning on staying in your rental a good long while, it’s worth the effort. The fun part of doing this project is that you have so many different kinds of tiles to choose from. You can stay basic with white tiles or design a mosaic using a whole rainbow of colors.

7. Labels


Colorful labels and uniform bottles or jars are a beautiful way to keep all your basics visible without creating a cluttered look. Again, staying uniform with the size and color of the labels is important. You don’t want to create a messy look with this project. You can even create your own labels online, using a service like

6. Fresh Countertops

Buy super durable contact paper or even wallpaper to redo your countertops. It may be a sticky mess to take off when you’re ready to move, but chances are there will be no permanent damage left behind. This is a super clever way to achieve the look of a new countertop. If, by chance, your landlord will allow you to replace the countertop, you can go to a place like HomeDepot or Lowes with exact measurements and get a new one installed. It’s actually not as expensive as you’d think (a few hundred dollars) if you do your own measuring and opt for the cheaper materials that come in fun color.

5. Add a Bookshelf


Why not add some books to your kitchen? Certainly, we’re not thinking you should display War and Peace but cookbooks and books on nutrition. As with all bookshelves, the one in your kitchen can also showcase your prettier vases and bowls. Add some fruit for a pop of color!

4. Floor Cloths

We know what you’re thinking: “Why have I never heard of floor cloths before?” It’s a good question since this is an old method of beautifying ugly floors. In 18th-Century England, this was how most people covered their kitchens. While this option is definitely cheaper than re-tiling, which your landlord may not allow you to do, there is a sizeable cost here: $1,000 to $2,000 to cover just one small kitchen. For many, however, these canvas floor cloths are well worth the price.

3. Hanging Out


Yes, if you clean and polish your spatulas and serving spoons, you can create a kitchen-centerpiece. Not only will you be happy if you’re short on drawer-space, you’ll be thrilled by the modern look. If you only own wooden stirring spoons and such, you may want to invest in some silverware before taking on this project.

2. Chalk Talk


Did you know that there is such a magical thing as chalk paint? No, really! It comes in black or the standard classroom green. The kitchen is the perfect place to paint a patch. You can write sweet notes to each other or keep your shopping lists on the wall. Pretty clever!

1. Snap Tiles

Okay, if you just can’t get over how hideous your kitchen floor is and you’ve tried all kinds of throw rugs and area rugs, then you may want to invest in snap-tiles that simply sit over your existing floors. You’ll end up spending a couple of thousand bucks at minimum, but if you have a long lease and a deep hatred for kitchen floors, this may just be the way to go!