DIY Budget Rental Kitchen Makeover

As renters, my husband and I had pretty much given up on having the kitchen of our dreams until we owned a home of our own. On a whim, I decided to ask our landlord if she would be okay with us doing a few things to spruce up the kitchen. Surprisingly, she said "YES!" She even offered to help chip in for paint. What a blessing! We got started almost right away.

Our kitchen has an interesting design, to say the least. It is a square room (closed off from the rest of the house), and has almost everything in one corner of the room, leaving the other corner almost entirely blank (but with some big, beautiful windows). When we moved in, we put up some open shelving on one wall, and brought in a couple IKEA dressers that serve as more storage (and make up our delightful coffee bar). We also got a counter height table to increase the work surface and to make use of the other side of the room.

Before: our makeshift pantry, countertop, and coffee bar.

Before: lots of medium brown, peach, and speckled laminate counters. Not my fave, to say the least.

Before: obviously not the worst kitchen in the world. But it had SO much potential, we just couldn't resist!

Unfortunately, the dated cabinets, back splash and counter tops left a lot to be desired. Since we're renting, we obviously couldn't rip everything out and start again (although if anyone wants to nominate us to be on a home reno show, we'd be ALL about that!) We got permission to paint the cabinets a refreshing white to bounce the beautiful natural light that our big windows provide. We decided to use contact paper for the counter tops, and adhesive tiles for the back splash. (PSA - If you loved collecting stickers and filling up sticker books as a child, this DIY project will fire you up like nobody's business! Giant adult stickers that make your kitchen look better?!?! Can life get better?!) We also replaced the hardware on our cabinets, and Paul installed a beauuuutiful new kitchen faucet. (I was told that the definition of "adulting" is when you get excited about a new faucet. I was disappointed that I now classify as an adult, but the joy of this new faucet was well worth it).


- white paint (this one from Cloverdale in Benjamin Moore 'White Dove') & all necessary painting supplies

- adhesive tile back splash (these ones from Home Depot)

- contact paper counter top (this one from Amazon)

- cabinet hardware (these ones from Rona)

- kitchen faucet (this one from Canadian Tire - was on sale when we got it!)

- IKEA curtains & rods

- various decor items from Homesense and around the house

We started the project by removing the cabinets, and sanding every surface we could find. I'm pretty sure all of our meals throughout this week were served with a side of dust, but the end result was worth it, I promise. After sanding and cleaning the wood, we painted 3 coats of this miracle paint on all the framing and cabinets. It went on like a dream, and provided the perfect semi-gloss finish. No need for priming or sealing... which is pretty much the dream, amiright?

After: the white cabinets of my DREAMS, you guys.

Next, we applied the back splash. When I say we, I mean Paul. We've learned throughout our marriage that some tasks are to be done together, and some are to be done alone. This back splash was the latter. Two people who love putting stickers on things and keep trying to pick the fun task was just not working. I took one for the team, and went out to the garage to keep working on cabinets while Paul applied the sticker puzzle. He did a fabulous job, I must say (although I am still a bit jealous).

After: can you believe this gorgeous back splash is STICKERS? I still can't.

Our counter tops were next. Most people are shocked when I tell them that our counter is covered in giant stickers... because it looks so good. Seriously. I just want to put marbled stickers on everything. We had used this same contact paper in our last rental, so we had experience with what worked and what didn't work. This is definitely a two person job.

After: for real. Is this even the same space?!

Once the counters were covered and the back splash was in, it was time to put on the finishing touches. The hardware was pretty self-explanatory, and Paul was able to install the faucet in about an hour.

We also removed the ugly blinds and replaced them with some light and airy white floral curtains. We brought in a shorter shelf to replace the cabinet we were using as a pantry, and recruited many houseplants to decorate the space.

After: this black and white shelf used to live in our office - I thought it would work better than the previous pantry, as the open shelving flows better and doesn't clutter the space vertically like the pantry did.

After: this counter height table works as additional prep space, or as a cute lil breakfast bar.

After: This black and white shelf was given to me as a hand-me-down from my brother-in-law... I've always had a soft spot for it, and now, I think it's in its zone!

All in all, the project took just over a week to complete. We were so thankful to be able to make this space a little brighter and more modern, and didn't feel overwhelmed by the task. We are suuuuuper happy with the results - it's a wonder what a little paint (and elbow grease and giant stickers) can do! In total, we paid about $700 for supplies. YUP. That's it!

Hopefully this inspires you to make some small, meaningful changes to create a space that reflects you and what you love!

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