Thursday, July 19, 2018

How I Redid My Rental Kitchen For Under $200

When Sean and I were apartment hunting, we fell in love with this little condo. The only thing that really gave me pause was the kitchen (see before picture at the bottom of this post). It was very dark, outdated, and the countertop had a big burn mark that made me cringe every time I saw it. I didn't mind the dark oak stain, but it just didn't go with the light, breezy way we decorated the place.

My landlord said the cabinets needed to be sanded and painted, but didn't really offer a timeline for when it could get done, so I asked if she minded if I did it myself. I got the green light, and we were off to the races. I read up quite a bit on how to paint kitchen cabinets, and according to the internet, it's insanely hard. Take them all down, remove hardware, wipe everything down, sand them, paint the primer on the backs, let it dry, prime the front, and then repeat on the other side.
I turned my research toward how I could cut down on some of those steps. First, did I really care about the back of the doors? I don't, and it is a rental, so skip. I also decided I was willing to spend a little more money to skip the sanding step, my least favorite part. I found Valspar Cabinet Enamel Paint at Lowe's for $50 for a gallon. This paint can be mixed in any color, just like regular paint, and is designed to go over existing finishes. Score! I bought a gallon in CafĂ© Blue.

First step was to take down all of the cabinet doors from the frame...I think what was bothering me the most about the existing cabinetry was the hardware, which had been stained over once already and was clunky looking. I removed all of the knobs and filled the holes with wood filler, then sanded those over for a smooth surface. I got new handles that fit into the existing holes for the drawers. I had plans to drill holes in the corners and add new knobs, but I decided I liked the plain, minimal look best, and the cabinets have little lips on the bottom to grab anyway. Another step skipped!
In one long afternoon (that stretched into the evening), I was able to paint all the cabinets and the frame. I did one coat with a brush and a second with a small roller. It wasn't easy, and by the end I was all blistered and covered in blue, but I did it! After I rehung them the next day, I used a teeny brush to touch up any dings or missing spots that occurred in the process.
For the countertops, I used marble contact paper to cover the entire surface, which is completely removable on laminate. Read: You don't have to ask your landlord! I read up a lot on this process as well, and knew although the material was temperamental, I could make it work. (You can too! It just takes a little lot of patience.) I followed the advice from Make Do and DIY on this post and bought DC Fix paper on Amazon, as Linda recommended. Since her post explains things pretty well, I just have a few extra pieces of advice to add from my experience: 
  • Buy more paper than you think you need—I had to go back and order a second set of three rolls. (Thank you Prime and two-day shipping.) If you have extra, you can keep it on hand to replace any spots that need to be redone down the road. 
  • Get a wide, flat spatula intended for spackle. A lot of posts recommend using a credit card to smooth the paper, but the spatula is only a few dollars and makes it much easier to smooth a larger surface area.
  • Don't get hung up on matching the seams perfectly. They really aren't that noticeable, as long as everything's covered, so let the edges overlap a bit. It's easier than trying to get the seams to line up exactly. 
  • Be okay with imperfection. In the end, I did have a few bubbles, but they aren't a big deal. It's pretty near impossible to make these 100-percent perfect, but if your countertops are like mine, anything is an improvement on the original! And the overall result has a big "wow" factor.
In my family, no home is complete without a braided rug. My mom handmakes them, and the craft was passed down from my Grandmother (who hand-painted the little toleware dish I use to hold my rings while washing dishes, below). My mom made this one for our Upper West Side apartment, but it fits perfectly in our new space. And, of course, Truman approves. If you're interested, you can shop my mom's braided rugs in Etsy or order a custom design!
The best part about our new space is being able to enjoy all of the wonderful gifts we received for our shower and present them in the best light. It warms my heart every time I use them to think about all the great people in our life and such a beautiful time. Most pieces are from our Crate & Barrel registry, but if there is anything you are curious about in particular, ask me in the comments!
Last, but not least, the before


  1. I absolutely love it! Truly an incredible job.

  2. WOW it looks amazing! You have a great eye for design and decor!

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

  3. I LOVE it! It looks gorgeous! :)

    Shoot for the stars | ☆ ☆ ☆ | Facebook page | ☆ ☆ ☆ | Instagram

  4. well done
    such a lovely post
    thank you for sharing dear

  5. Wow, the kitchen looks amazing! I can't believe the difference between the before and after. It's incredible. You did so much work and it really paid off <3

  6. It looks sooo good! I love that blue color! And wow, never would have guessed that marble wasn't real!

  7. This is amazing! I’m so happy I read this because I was just planning this same thing and needed tips! ��

  8. really great post honey! :)
    kisses from Poland :*

  9. You did s great job with your kitchen.
    Looks really good.


  10. What a transformation! It looks really great, and it's remarkable that you managed to create such a change with so little cash. I bet you're mega proud and happy with it!

    Have a great weekend :)
    Amy x Wandering Everywhere

  11. Wow, I'm so surprised the counters are just covered in contact paper! I got some of that and used it to cover a poster board for taking instagram photos, haha. The cabinet came out great, and it's nice your landlord let you do it. (of course it was your money and time for a rental, but worth it to have a space you love being in).
    Chic on the Cheap

    1. Genius that you made a board for Instagram photos with it—I never thought of that! I have some extra and may just do that, since my counters are pretty full haha. But those were my thoughts exactly, we signed a two-year lease and it's so worth it to love it for that time or longer! xx

  12. Omg! It looks really amazing!

    I follow you <3 MY BLOG

  13. Wow! Great job ... you out-DIY'd everybody!

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  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this topic. This is really helpful and informative, as this gave me more insight to create more ideas and solutions for my plan. I would love to see more updates from you.

    Elcometer 224

  16. Thank you soooo much now I know what to do with my countertops

  17. This is great. what is the color on the cabinets?


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