How to Improve a Rental Kitchen On the Cheap

Most residential rental housing units are required to have a “kitchen,” however, even in jurisdictions where this is the law, the definition of “kitchen” is murky at best!

If your apartment’s kitchen is a little too “vintage” for your taste or you’re dealing with an outdated or under-equipped apartment kitchenette, you may be struggling to prep your favorite homemade meals and no-bake desserts. However, with the right appliances and life hacks, you can improve your rental kitchen on the cheap with these apartment kitchen ideas for renters!

Add or Change Lighting

Do you have a dim kitchen? An overhead fixture that you hate? Change it! Switching out an overhead light fixture really isn’t complicated or expensive. Many inexpensive home decor stores have great options. And so many people forget about under-cabinet lighting, which is a mistake. Given that you can’t magically install floor-to-ceiling windows to let light flood in, the next best fix for a dark and dreary kitchen is installing lighting under your cabinets. Whether that’s with puck lights, LED light bars, or fluorescent light bars… LET THERE BE LIGHT!

Make Pots and Pans a Focal Point

While we could be wrong, it’s probably safe to assume that your rental kitchen is lacking in the storage department. If that’s the case, you’re probably looking for the most efficient way to maximize your storage space. The solution? Set up a handy wall-friendly pot rack or install a pegboard on an empty wall. While this works best when your cookware is something that you actually want to show off, regardless of your pots and pans, it saves on storage space while decorating things up a little.

Remove Some Cabinet Doors

Speaking of cabinets and storage, another easy way to makeover your rental kitchen is by temporarily removing your cabinet doors. The best part? It’s basically free to take off the doors, line the insides with pretty paper or paint them an attractive color, and neatly stack your dishes. It adds a bit of vibrancy and that personal touch. Just be sure to save the doors and the screws so you can put them back on when you eventually move out.

Add a Rug

This is so simple you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before — add a rug, especially if you want to hide ugly, crumbling, laminate floors that your landlord won’t let you replace. It not only hides what you don’t want to see but can also brighten up your kitchen and add a bit of personality.

Update the Backsplash

Do you know that space between the counter and cabinet? It’s often a huge focal point, but it’s also probably something your landlord won’t let you completely replace. No problem! Just because you can’t fully commit to the expensive backsplash of your dreams in your rental kitchen doesn’t mean you’re stuck with what you have. If there are ugly tiles, use tile stickers for an upgrade or even velcro to attach a cloth backsplash.

If your landlord allows it, use a bit of paint or removable wallpaper to make it your own. You can always paint it back when you move out.

Change Drawer or Shelf Liners

This is so simple but so effective. Old drawers are not attractive drawers, but you don’t have to live with that insanity any longer! An easy way to upgrade your rental kitchen is to line your drawers and cabinets with a pattern of drawer and shelf liner that you actually like.

While the usual suspect is patterned contact paper, if you don’t want to leave adhesive behind, consider a non-adhesive version or use oilcloth or another thick fabric that can just fit in the bottom of your drawers. If you’d rather not mess with cutting and inserting liners, consider just changing the hardware with stylish pulls and knobs that work with your lifestyle.

Cover the Countertops

Because you rent, you probably think you’re stuck with ugly countertops forever, given your landlord won’t let you make any permanent changes. But have no fear! First, your landlord might be on board with options that include covering them with vinyl or painting them, which would be a bonus. But if he’s not, top a portion of your countertop with a big, pretty cutting board. It’s practical and good-looking!

Hang a Mirror

There’s a reason that smaller restaurants strategically place mirrors throughout their dining area. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book to make the space appear larger! Take a page out of that book and add a statement mirror to your rental kitchen. Not only will it brighten up the room by reflecting the light in your kitchen, but it will also provide that same space-maximizing illusion at an affordable cost and minimal effort.

Ready To Move On From Your Kitchen?

Did your previous apartment’s kitchen leave you with trust issues? Don’t commit to an apartment with underwhelming or outdated features. Instead, look for an apartment that’s equipped for everything from hosting friends to meal prepping!