Kitchen cabinets for rentals

Source: Skonahem

This is not a post about deceiving your landlord. This post is about updates you can make to your rental that more than likely don’t need your landlord’s permission. My husband and I are landlords. Rentals are a part of our full-time job; so here are some things WE wouldn’t mind you doing if you lived in our rentals … and I bet your landlord might feel the same way. If you’re sick of ugly apartment cabinets and want to cover them, or just can’t stand the light fixtures in your space, here are some simple ideas for you.

1. Create your own walls with pieces of furniture. Need more rooms or spaces? Create them with furniture.


2. Change up the kitchen cabinet or bathroom vanity hardware. New knobs can change a bathroom or kitchen, and they are really easy to change. I would buy some fun ones that you might use again … maybe in your new home or on a piece of furniture. Make sure you store all the old knobs with all the screws so you can easily put them back on when you leave.

Don’t do: Don’t drill new holes. You do need to ask permission to drill any new holes. Don’t switch the hardware out with something you would need to drill a second hole or a hole in a different place. If your cabinet does not have hardware then you need to ask to drill holes.

Source: House and Home via

3. Remove your kitchen cabinet doors. If your rental has ugly doors and you happen to have some awesome kitchenware that needs to be displayed, then go ahead and remove them. Make sure you store your kitchen cabinet doors in a place where they will not be damaged. Make sure you are extra careful if they are painted just to be thoughtful. Don’t want to remove the doors? You can make temporary cabinet covers by concealing ugly doors with removable adhesive paper (contact paper).

Don’t do: Don’t lose all the hinge hardware or putty fill the door holes. Remember, kitchen cabinets are a very expensive fix so store them well. Not storing them well will probably cause you to have to pay a hefty price.

Source: Tempaper; Domino

4. Do use temporary wallpaper. If you have a landlord with a “no paint policy” check out the paint-able and totally removable wallpaper from Tempaper. There are many brands of temporary wallpaper and as long as it is installed and removed well it will more than likely be okay with your landlord.

Source: Vintage Revivals; Etsy; Huffington Post

5. Install plug-in pendants. If you are allowed to drill into the wall then there should be no problem with installing a hook into the ceiling. This is an easy way to make your rental look custom and then take that custom look with you when it’s time to go.

Don’t Do: Use the wrong hook or hardware to install into the ceiling. Doing this will make the hole bigger than it needs to be and a not so easy fix for your landlord.

Source: The Heathered Nest

6. Do switch up the shades or bulbs of your light fixture. There are so many ideas out there to spruce up existing fixtures. Make sure your store the original shade or bulb so you can return it when you leave.

Don’t Do: I think changing the light fixture without permission is a bad idea. It never hurts to ask but don’t be mad when your landlord says no. My husband is a general contractor and even he won’t install a new light fixture in one of his rentals. Why? If the licensed and insured electrical company installs your fixtures, then if something goes wrong, only they are liable. How do I, as your landlord, know you know electrical work? If something happens then I am liable. If you are that passionate about it, tell your landlord you will pay for his electrician to come install it and then re-install the original one when you leave. Safe people are happy people, right?


7. Do take the closet doors off. Again, as long as you store them well and put them back on when you leave then your landlord should have no problems with this removal.

Source: Apartment Therapy

8. Do use rugs to cover ugly floors. Whether it is gross carpet or really ugly vinyl … a rug can right some wrongs. If you have ugly kitchen vinyl, buy a vinyl sheet remnant and cut it as large as you need it to be. Turn it over to the white side and paint it. Use rug tape and you have a water friendly and mop-able way to cover some serious ugly.

9. Do install outside mount roman shades to hide ugly or broken blinds. In this living room makeover I hid the white blinds by pulling them all the way up and installing this bamboo roman shade over the window trim. You didn’t even know they were there did you? The family uses the roman shades when they want privacy and the broken white blinds are completely hidden.

source: Blogher; Ruffles and Stuff

10. Do use contact paper. You can contact paper on walls, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, your door and so many other places. You can even use frosted glass contact paper on a window to give you privacy.

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Your rental can feel like your home with these simple updates. On another note, while I would be fine with all of these updates, if you are not sure…go ahead and ask your landlord anyway. A trusting landlord will let you do more but you do have to gain the trust at first. Love this post and want more? You’re in luck, because we’ve got lots of great posts planned specifically for all you renters so stay tuned.

A DIY Kitchen Cabinet Makeover (Even if You’re Renting)

Your home is your castle, no matter the size (or if you’re renting). To help you feel at home in your home, we’ve partnered with The Home Depot to bring you DIY home renovation tips, tricks, and hacks.

I like the puzzle aspect of DIY projects, plotting how to skirt constraints to achieve an aesthetic result. When it comes to execution, though, my workspace is limited and my enthusiasm exceeds my skill (as my sloppy painting technique in the video will no doubt reveal).

When I signed a lease on a new rental apartment in March, the landlord was in the process of making some minor improvements. He added a dishwasher, enclosed the hot water heater, and replaced the oven. Since he was open minded about further improvement (as long as I stuck to a budget) we worked together to source an inexpensive sink and countertop, retile the backsplash with square subway tile, and tuck a pull out spice rack into a 5-inch gap. I contributed a fancy faucet I bartered from a design client, and installed my own (modern) light fixture.

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The improvements elevated the kitchen, but the cabinets still irked me. The maple veneer and paneling wasn’t objectively bad, it just didn’t track with the clean-lined look I favor. The arches on the upper cabinets, a traditional motif, vexed me most. Stirring sauce on the stove, I would stare at them, disappearing into a fantasy of renovating my rental kitchen with sleek, lacquered cabinets with a slab front. To actualize my fantasy would be financially irresponsible and in violation of my lease.

But, I could change the doors.

Change your cabinets, change your life (or at least the way you feel about your kitchen). Photo by Mark Weinberg

I discovered from a quick probe with a screwdriver that the doors pop on and off with just two screws per hinge, with each hinge sitting in a drilled out cup in the door front. The trouble was that cutting the doors with precision would require access to table saw, and drilling the hinge cups (though possible with a handheld drill and steady hand) would be better done on a drill press. My railroad apartment has no wood shop.

But, I could paint the doors, if someone else fabricated them.

I recruited woodworker Aaron Black to cut the medium-density fiberboard I was using and drill hinge cups according to the specs of my old doors. To limit costs, I replaced only the upper cabinet doors, and drilled 1-inch finger holes into them instead of purchasing new hardware. To visually streamline the lower cabinets, Aaron suggested 1-inch maple pulls turned from Brooklyn Brewery scrap wood. (That unplanned detail turned out to be one of the most impactful changes in reconciling upper and lower—the 1-inch circular face of the wood pulls echoes the 1-inch negative space of the finger pulls.)

If I did it again, I’d amp up the gloss in the paint for greater grease-resistance. The eggshell finish looks great, but requires a wipe down every time I use the stove. Still, there’s something liberating about a temporary fix like this one—I can pop the old doors back on in seconds when I move on to a new apartment in a few years. If I stay longer, I can repaint in satin or semi-gloss. But for now, I can stir soup and stare up, satisfied.

To paint your own custom cabinet faces, you’ll need:

  • A dropcloth, to protect your floors
  • Painters pyramids or sawhorses, to keep the painted surface elevated from the ground
  • Mini paint roller, like Wooster’s 4″ and Sherlock Roller Frame, with foam cover
  • Paint tray
  • Gentle sanding sponge, like 3M’s Fine Grit Sanding Sponge, for smoothing out texture between coats
  • A clean rag, for dusting the surface of the cabinet face after sanding
  • A small angled paint brush, like Wooster’s 2″ Polyester Angle Sash Brush, for cutting the edges of the cabinet face and painting inside the finger hole
  • A heavy-duty primer that will adhere to and smooth out the surface of the MDF, like Kilz Premium Water-Based Interior/Exterior Primer
  • Good quality paint, like BEHR Premium Plus Ultra, in a finish with some gloss to it (the color featured in the video is Pale Cornflower in Eggshell, but I recommend a finish of satin or semi-gloss for ease of cleaning)
  • A measuring tape

Follow along with the video for a step-by-step breakdown. You too can transform your kitchen!

With a few tools and a bit of inspiration, your home (whether house, apartment, or room) can feel like, well, a home. We’ve partnered with The Home Depot to bring you DIY home renovation tips, tricks, and hacks so you can make your home the home of your dreams.

Contact Paper Picks to Cover Ugly Cabinets

I love my apartment. It’s not perfect, but I love it. The building is well-managed, the floors are hardwood, and there is plenty of light.

My kitchen, though, needs some love. Yes, my kitchen is functional. The tile contractor that the landlord hired did a good job installing the kitchen floor. The plumbing (mostly) is hassle free; I’ve only had to call a New York City plumber in once. Yet despite all that I have to be grateful for, I have some of the ugliest cabinets you can imagine, which is a bummer since it is otherwise a great kitchen.

The cabinets are functional, but the doors are ugly. It’s a rental, so I am hesitant to spend money to replace the cabinet doors. If a whole bunch of pretty cabinet doors just fell in my lap, I would install them and paint them. However, that hasn’t happened. The cabinet facing is white laminate, which is peeling and stained. It has chipped in some places, and the fiberboard or whatever is under it shows through. The cabinet doors are heinous.

Since you can’t really paint over plastic laminate, I’m thinking of covering the cabinet doors in contact paper. Remember contact paper? I went looking for cool contact paper, and I found it. If you want to know where to find hip-looking contact paper, then here you go!

1. DesignYour Design Your Wall has the best selection of funky and interesting contact paper that I found. They stock self-adhesive vinyl (my material of choice because the contact paper will have to withstand water, since it is in the kitchen) contact paper in about 90 (!) different styles. Their basket weave patterns are particularly realistic looking, and would add a rustic appeal to my plastic kitchen cabinets. I also really like their “grasscloth” contact paper, which you’d swear was the real thing.

2. The Container Store Cork Self-Adhesive Drawer and Shelf Liner: If you are maintaining an industrial-chic style, then this is the contact “paper” for you. The Container Store’s self-adhesive cork drawer and shelf liner is a means to turn all of your cabinet facing into cork boards. I picture recipes tacked up on it. I also like that it is a natural material which could transform my plastic cabinet facing into warmer-looking surfaces.

3. Chic Shelf Paper: Chic Shelf Paper offers legitimately fresh-looking contact paper. I especially like their Blooms & Whirls pattern, which is a modern take on psychedelic flowers. Although some of the patterns they offer are a bit fuddy-duddy, there are a few real gems. I also like their Damask prints, an embossed-looking print called “Cross Me” that has a plus sign motif, and their “Hexagon Highway” print.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

Updated March 20, 2018.

10 Ways to Spruce Up Tired Kitchen Cabinets

Add Storage With Kitchen Cabinets

Photo by David Carmack

When This Old House contractor Tom Silva started his carpentry career over 35 years ago, he often built the kitchen cabinets he installed for his customers. “Back then, it was still cost-effective for small shops to build them,” he recalls. “Today, manufacturers assemble them faster and more economically than we can.”

The goal is to take this collection of boxes and bring them together to make a beautiful piece of built-in furniture. The basic installation sequence is straightforward: You want to get everything straight, plumb, and level. But more often than not, the room itself lacks those attributes. Not to worry! We can help you get the job done right.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Hang Kitchen Cabinets.

Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Photo by Kolin Smith

Your cavelike kitchen feels that way because the dark cabinets have sucked all the light out of the room. But a brighter makeover doesn’t necessarily mean replacing those gloomy boxes with all-new ones. As long as the frames and doors are structurally sound, you can clean them up and brush on a fresh coat of paint—and within a weekend take that kitchen from dreary to sunny.

All you need to update your old kitchen cabinets is some strong cleaner, sandpaper, a paintbrush, and a little elbow grease. What you don’t need is a whole lot of money, as the transformation will cost you a fraction of even the cheapest new cabinets. And that’s news that should sure light up your day.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets.

Reface Kitchen Cabinets

Photo by David Carmack

That sweet old woman you bought your house from is truly wonderful—really, she is—especially the way she gave out homemade cookies during the holidays. But, that kitchen where she baked them—it’s ugly. What’s old may be new again, but those grease-caked, kid-scratched cabinets have to go.

We’re not saying you must gut and rebuild. Instead of spending, say, $5,000 on new cabinets, save some serious cash and reface the ones you have for under $1,000. It’s amazing what a little veneer and some new doors can do to brighten an aging space. Both are available through woodworking companies, and some manufactures offer peel-and-stick veneer to make the task simpler. Just be sure to measure twice and cut once. Work carefully, and your kitchen will look brand-new in no time.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Reface Kitchen Cabinets.

Install a Pull-Out Cabinet Shelf

Photo by Kolin Smith

Make the most of your kitchen’s existing storage space by installing a pull-out shelf in one—or all—of the base cabinets. The shelf resembles a shallow drawer that glides out for easy access to items stored in the back of the cabinet.

Our shelf was built for a standard 24-inch-deep by 33-inch-wide base cabinet, but its design is adaptable to virtually any size cabinet. It has a 1×4 pine frame and ¾-inch birch plywood bottom. If you’re only building one or two shelves, you can save some money by going to a home center or lumberyard that sells quarter or half sheets of plywood. And in most cases, they’ll even cut the plywood to your dimensions.

If you’ve never attempted a woodworking project as seemingly complex as this one, don’t worry. TOH Master Carpenter Norm Abram created a simplified, straightforward design that can be easily constructed with ordinary tools.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Install a Pull-Out Cabinet Shelf.

Put in Undercabinet Lighting

Photo by Kolin Smith

There’s a missing element in most American kitchens, and it’s not a $7,500 range or a 4-acre refrigerator. No, it’s simply good lighting. The hidden fixtures of undercabinet task lighting, which are fairly easy to retrofit beneath upper wall cabinets, bathe the countertop in bright white light—a boon for everything from dicing veggies to reading recipes. Connect the fixtures to a dimmer switch, and you also have the key to dramatic accent lighting or a night light for midnight snackers. If you’re a bit tentative about working with electricity, don’t worry. This installation is simple and shock-free, as long as you cut the juice at the breaker box first.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Install Undercabinet Lighting.

Build a Butcher Block Island

Photo by David Carmack

If you’re going for homey and cozy in your kitchen, skip the built-in cabinet-base island and instead make the central work area a furniturelike table with a butcher-block counter. Because these thick wood-slab tops have their edge or end grain exposed, they are stronger than wood laid on the flat. That means they resist warping and nicks better than laminate and almost as well as stone.

Butcher-block islands mimicking 19th-century worktables are perfect for toning down the coldness of stone counters and metal appliances in modern cook spaces. You can bring this classic aesthetic to your kitchen by constructing a prep island from easy-to-buy materials or choosing one of the dozens of styles available through retailers and furniture makers.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Build a Butcher Block Island.

Build a Sideboard

Photo by Wendall Weber

Dishware, serving pieces, table linens—a sideboard packs a whole lot of storage space into a relatively small footprint, making it a handy addition to any household. A sturdy, high-quality one can leave a thousand-dollar dent in your finances, but as TOH general contractor Tom Silva demonstrates, you can enhance a few stock kitchen base cabinets with molding, furniture feet, and knobs to produce a handcrafted piece for a fraction of the cost of buying one ready-made. Opt for unfinished 15- or 18-inch cabinets fitted with doors and operable drawers (not the fake drawer fronts used for sink cabinets) and take a day to put all the pieces together. Your handsome creation will turn heads at dinner parties for years to come.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Build a Sideboard.

Build a Window Seat

Photo by Thomas-Rouchard Studios

As attractive as window seats are, only a few older homes with deep dormers seem to have them. And adding a window seat has always been considered impractical. First, you need a niche that features a window. Then, the seat has to be custom-built by a cabinetmaker or trim carpenter to fit the exact width and sill height of the window. Not surprisingly, this approach is expensive and time-consuming.

This simple, do-it-yourself approach provides both the “niche” and the window seat, and an abundance of storage space. This seat was built under a 6-foot-wide kitchen window, but its design can easily be adapted for any size window in almost any room. The seat is made up of six kitchen wall cabinets and two 48-inch-tall bookcase units, which are trimmed with decorative crown molding. The window seat itself is composed of two 15-inch-tall, over-the-refrigerator cabinets set side-by-side.

For full step-by-step instructions, shopping list, and tools list, see How to Build a Window Seat.

Add a Plate Rack

Photo by Stephen Karlisch

You could leave your dishes tucked away behind closed doors. Or, if they’re interesting and vibrant, you could create a place to display them, freeing up precious storage space and adding a splash of color to your kitchen.

See how to make simple slotted storage from a kit, in How to Build a Plate Rack Cabinet Insert.

Add Cabinet Crown Molding

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Nothing screams, “I spent lots of money on custom cabinets!” like crown molding. The trim transforms your kitchen storage into a seamless design.

Make adding extra personality to your cabinets simpler by mounting molding on a hardwood frame that sits above cabinets. Using a frame allows for doing the detail work on a bench—much easier than from a ladder—then you can attach the crown from the back side, so there are no nail holes to fill. Once the frame and crown are attached, you install the whole assembly in one go.

See how to nail the clever trick, in How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding.

As an editor and writer, I spend a lot of time looking at words, clarifying words, adding words, subtracting words and sometimes even making up words. At the end of the day, I like to go home and look at sugar and butter at room temperature. Add it, stir it, eat it. Baking is how I zone out — mixing dry ingredients into an egg mix or stirring chocolate chips into batter. I always Instagram my creations afterward. My motto is: You make it, you get to Instagram it. Don’t be shy about it.

Closely cropped, overhead shots are helpful in hiding a not-so-cute kitchen. Devin Tomb

But up until recently, I had a dirty secret: My kitchen sucked. The counter space was great, but to look at it was to stare at a brown blob. To touch its cabinets, without hardware, was to grasp onto years of built-up grease and God knows what.

My kitchen before the refresh. Devin Tomb

So before the weather turned too sticky and humid in New York to paint, I painted. I had to get permission from my landlord, which I finally received at 2:15 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. By 3 p.m., I was at the paint store like a sugar-riddled kid at Toys ‘R’ Us. My boyfriend joked, “I hate when you get like this,” and had to keep telling me to calm down.

You wanna see the final result?

My kitchen after the refresh. Devin Tomb

I’ll spare you the gory details (just imagine a short brunette with a full body paint tattoo), but here’s what I bought:

  • 1 gallon of Benjamin Moore Advance Interior Paint Primer
  • 1 gallon of Benjamin Moore Advance Interior Paint in Satin “White” (the Alkyd finish on both of these is good for kitchens because it helps repel water and grease for easier clean-up)
  • 2 gallons of Benjamin Moore “Linen White” for the walls (I painted my living room and entryway too)
  • 2 drop cloths
  • 1 paint tray
  • 2 rollers
  • 2 paint brushes

TOTAL= $182.17 at my local hardware store

  • Door knobs
  • Drawer pulls
  • Brown spray paint (to make the drawer pulls match the knobs)

TOTAL= $92.46 at Lowe’s

  • A bamboo dish drying rack
  • A white jar for spoons and whisks
  • Other random “essentials”

TOTAL= $51.13 at Bed, Bath & Beyond

GRAND TOTAL: $375.76

I bought the herbs and planter base shortly before I decided to makeover the space, but I purchased those (which included basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme and mint) at a local nursery in Katonah, New York, for about $40.

And here are a few tricks I learned along the way:

1. Number cabinet doors as you unhinge.

As my boyfriend and I removed each cabinet door, we assigned a number to the back with a black Sharpie and put its hardware in a plastic bag with the same number. This made it so much easier when we re-assembled, tired and anxious to finish!

2. Tape!

I don’t even want to include this as a tip because I still think it’s slightly unnecessary, but my boyfriend kept reminding me to put down the brush and line the walls with painter’s tape so we’d get clean lines. I guess it worked out well.

3. Put a trash bag around the paint dish.

And pour the paint in that. Keep the roller in there overnight so it stays wet, and when you’re done, the cleanup is super easy. Just throw the paint bag in the trash like a used coffee filter!

4. Finish with a roller, not a brush.

Ben also taught me to use a brush for the corners, but to fill in the rest with a sponge roller, that way the surface doesn’t end up with brush lines.

5. Try the thumb nail trick to see if your doors are ready for a new coat.

Giving each coat of paint ample time to dry was difficult for me, because as you know by now, I’m hyper and like to get things done quickly. I let each coat of paint dry overnight — one layer of primer, and two coats of white paint — and it was worth it for the final result. But if you’re on a tight timeline, a trick I learned at the hardware store is to take your thumb nail and run it hard against the side of a cabinet door. If it makes a mark, there’s still wet paint underneath the surface, even if that’s dry to the touch. Keep waiting until you press hard with that thumbnail and still can’t make a mark.

6. Use a DIY template instead of measuring for each door knob.

I used this tutorial and she was right — you can totally do it in your PJs!

7. Instagram it afterward.

You worked hard.

Next, I’m going to stalk my co-worker Lauren’s kitchen for her organizing tips.