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18 Rent-Friendly Ways to Give Your Kitchen a Total DIY Makeover

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Will Southall

Will Southall

7 months ago - 9 minute read

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Landlords aren’t always known to splash the cash on making a rental property look modern and homely, especially when it comes to the kitchen. Since a kitchen can be one of the most expensive home renovation projects, your rental likely has an old, tired cooking space that could do with some heavy TLC.

While most landlords won’t let you renovate a kitchen (nor would there be much financial benefit for you to do so), and many have strict rules about decorating, that doesn’t mean you have to live with your tired kitchen for the whole of your tenancy.

Rent-friendly decorating is becoming a trend – and we’re on board! That’s why we’ve researched some of the best, rent-friendly ways to give your old kitchen a total DIY makeover and make it feel more like a place you’re proud to cook in.

Keep reading to learn our tips, tricks and worst-kept secrets on how to modernise an old kitchen in a rental.

How to Modernise Kitchen Cabinets: 5 Tips & Tricks

Kitchen cabinets usually take up most of our eye space. So, if they look bad, the whole kitchen can look bad! Here are five tips and tricks if you want to know a few quick and easy ways to modernise your kitchen cabinets (without losing your deposit).

Apply Sticky Vinyl to Doors

Sticky back vinyl is a renter’s best friend (when they want to decorate, at least!). It’s water-resistant, heat-resistant (to an extent) and can quickly give an old rental kitchen a spruce up. Plus, they come in all different colours and styles, like sleek whites, glossy navies and matte pastels.

To apply, simply prep the surface, stick down the plastic, smooth it out and trim. At the end of your tenancy, you just need to peel the plastic away, and it’s like it never happened!

Cover Cabinets With Removable Wallpaper

If sticky vinyl coverings aren’t to your tastes (or budget!), covering your kitchen cabinets with removable wallpaper can achieve similar results. Plus, these products can be even easier to remove at the end of your tenancy.

To apply, simply peel back the plastic and stick the wallpaper onto your cupboards. You can even use this stuff to line the inside of your cupboards, too, which can make your kitchen look even more fab!

Change the Handles

Circular wooden handles on kitchen cabinets are common in rentals because they are inexpensive for landlords to replace. But there’s no denying that they look basic. Switching out these old-fashioned handles is a quick and affordable job that can make a big difference.

Shell handles, Taipei t-bars, or Chrysler handles in rose gold, polished brass or matt black are some modern choices that can transform an old kitchen cupboard.

Just make sure, if you do switch your hardware, you keep the old handles somewhere safe. That way, before you move out, you can swap them back and keep your nice ones for your next rental!

Related article: A renters’ checklist: first things to do when moving into a new rental

Add Under-Cabinet LED Lighting Strips

There’s nothing fancier than under-cabinet lighting in a kitchen. While your landlord will almost certainly restrict you from rewiring your electrics to fit under-cabinet lights, you don’t need to bother with all that hassle anyway!

Battery-powered LED lighting strips usually have sticky backs that can easily be fitted under your cupboards without damaging them. Usually, you can turn them on with a remote control. But, if you want to go all out, opt for motion sensors, so all you need to do is reach for the kettle, and the whole worktop will light up. It’ll be beautiful!

Remove Doors Entirely

An even cheaper way to modernise an old kitchen is to simply remove some (or all!) of the cabinet doors entirely. Opening up your rental kitchen like this can make it look bigger, brighter and cleaner. Plus, you can use the new shelves for plants, cookbooks, baskets and other fashionable items that’ll make your kitchen look more Pinterest-worthy.

Simply keep the old doors stored somewhere safe in your rental (like in an airing cupboard or loft hatch), so you can fit them back on when your tenancy comes to an end.

Related article: How to extend or renew your tenancy agreement

How to Cover Kitchen Worktops in a Rental

A kitchen worktop is another area that takes up the most eye space, so it’s important that it looks good! Rental kitchens can often feel tired, with highly scratched work surfaces or just an outdated vibe.

Thankfully, you can temporarily cover kitchen worktops in a rental to make things look modern. Here are two of our favourite ways to cover kitchen worktops temporarily in a rental.

Apply Self-Adhesive Vinyl

Self-adhesive vinyl and contact paper aren’t just for kitchen cupboards. They may get scratched more easily than a proper worktop, but since they don’t cost much, you can cheaply replace them if they get too damaged. You can easily use these products to cover kitchen worktops in a rental, too.

These plastic films come in all kinds of designs, from white-and-gold marble to rustic wood effects (some even have a raised grain effect!).

To apply, simply prep the worktop, stick on the plastic, smooth it out and hairdryer the edges to curve it around. Before you move out, just peel it off and clean up, and your landlord will never know!

Related article: A renters’ ultimate guide to end of tenancy cleaning

Scatter Large Chopping Blocks

Instead of covering up your old worktop with sticky things, there’s an easier way to make your rental kitchen look more modern.

Large, wooden chopping blocks are highly fashionable, relatively inexpensive (especially when compared to the cost of a new worktop!) and are even more rent-friendly than applying self-adhesive vinyl.

Just buy yourself a couple of these rustic blocks (that can, naturally, also be used for chopping!), and it can breathe new life into your tired cooking space.

How to Temporarily Cover Kitchen Floor in a Rental

A kitchen floor in bad condition can make an old kitchen look even more tired. If your floor is a bit “meh” in your rental, there are ways to temporarily cover it up and make the whole room look better. Here are some things you can try.

Fit Peel & Stick Tiles

If you want to temporarily cover the kitchen floor in your rental, peel & stick tiles are designed for home-décor-loving renters. As the name suggests, you simply peel off the backing and stick them onto your floor. Most designs are durable enough to last your entire tenancy but won’t be so secure that they’ll be too difficult to remove when needed.

Just make sure you always read the label to check whether the adhesive is likely to damage certain flooring when removed. This is particularly important if your rental has hardwood flooring, as this can be very expensive to replace and, if damaged, will almost certainly lose you your deposit!

Related article: How to get your rent deposit back in full

Add Vinyl Floor Tattoos

Instead of laying peel & stick tiles across your entire kitchen floor, you can just jazz up a few of the existing floor tiles instead! Vinyl floor tattoos are just as easy to lay and remove, but they can add a different kind of décor to a kitchen.

Some designs come in mosaics and hexagonal effects that can be laid onto all tiles, while others are block colours that you simply stick down on a few tiles in a pattern.

Lay a Kitchen-Proof Rug

If you don’t want to risk sticking things onto your kitchen floor, another excellent rent-friendly way to cover kitchen flooring is to simply lay a kitchen-proof rug. Some rugs are big enough to cover an entire kitchen floor, while others work as runners or cover smaller areas for a little bit of fashion.

Testament to their name, kitchen-proof rugs are usually durable and stain-resistant. They tend to be made from things like nylon, foam, bamboo or polyester. Most of these are easy to clean or are machine-washable in case of spillages (which is very likely in a kitchen!).

How to Cover Plain, Ugly Kitchen Walls in a Rental: 3 Tips & Tricks

Plain, boring walls can look ugly, especially in a kitchen. It can be hard to know what to do with a plain wall, but this decision can be even more challenging if the kitchen isn’t yours and you’re restricted in what you can do with it. To help you out, here are some rent-friendly ways you can try to cover any horrid walls you have.

Paint

If your landlord has given you permission to paint their property (or you’re prepared to repaint before you leave), a splash of colour on an ugly, empty wall can easily transform the whole vibe in your kitchen!

A dark colour (like a deep navy, green or grey) can look fab with light cabinets, while a light, pastel colour (like pink, yellow, green, grey or white) can look beautiful with dark cabinets.

Related article: Top 10 questions to ask when viewing a rental

Install Shelves

Adding shelves to a dull kitchen wall can create an aesthetically pleasing area to place your cookbooks, houseplants, herbs, jars, and spices. If your landlord has permitted you to fit shelves, take full advantage in the kitchen! If they haven’t, you can still install them, as long as you patch up the holes nicely before you leave.

You can even use shelves to get creative with your kitchen storage. For example, you can use shelving units to store wine glasses, mugs, pots & pans, and even chopping boards. It’ll be convenient and aesthetically pleasing!

Hang Fabrics

Some landlords are very strict about tenants’ decorating. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with a plain, ugly wall in your kitchen! We know some won’t even allow tenants to paint walls or hang shelves, even if you’re prepared to fix everything before you leave.

Hanging fabrics with rent-friendly sticky tape (or tac) is an easy way to cover up an ugly kitchen wall and make it look more like your own! Tapestries in block colours or tribal patterns are excellent choices to give your rental kitchen a much-needed lift.

Other Cheap & Easy Ways to Update Your Kitchen When Renting

If you want some more ideas about how to decorate a rental kitchen, here are some other cheap and easy ways to modernise your space.

Install an Indoor Herb Garden

Fresh herbs growing on a kitchen windowsill can make your rental look (and smell!) like a dream. To give your kitchen a finishing touch, consider creating space for an indoor herb garden.

If space is limited along your kitchen windowsills, consider hanging your crops along a floating tension rod. Simply expand the rod across your window, and you’ll have access to a temporary rail (without needing to drill holes into the walls).

Just make sure the rail is secure, and it can hold the weight of your houseplants – otherwise, that’ll be a real mess!

Add Plants

Having plants in the kitchen is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to brighten things up. Even if you don’t have much natural light in your cooking space, faux houseplants can sometimes look just as good as real ones! From dangling Pothos to statement Snake Plants, you can modernise your rental kitchen with a whole host of different houseplants.

Related article: How to arrange plants in a living room

Modernise Appliances

If your rental is unfurnished and the appliances are your own, switching these out for something more modern and colourful can have a big impact. A shiny new kettle with a matching microwave and toaster could be just the thing your rental kitchen needs to make it look modern!

If your landlord has provided the furnishings in your kitchen, you could ask their permission to update the appliances for them. Or, if you have the space, you can buy your own new stuff and hide their (presumably) ugly stuff in the cupboards.

Related article: Renting furnished vs unfurnished: what are the pros & cons?

Use Stick-On Wall Hooks

Sticky wall hooks are a renters’ dream when you’re not allowed to drill holes in the walls. When your rental kitchen is old and tired, you can get creative with these wall hooks and make them an aesthetically pleasing storage solution.

For example, you can stick a line of wall hooks on your kitchen walls, cabinets or tiles to hang utensils, dangle small houseplants, hook tiny baskets or wrap your tea towels around.

Accessorise!

One of the best ways to modernise an old kitchen (without needing to renovate or lose your deposit by painting things) is to simply get creative with your kitchen accessories!

There are so many ways to accessorise a bland kitchen to make it look more attractive. Plants (real or fake), spices, ceramic jugs, teapots, a lazy susan and cookbooks are all things you can use to transform a kitchen from drab to fab!

Conclusion

Just because you rent, that doesn’t mean you have to live with a tired, outdated kitchen. There are so many creative, rent-friendly ways to modernise a kitchen, temporarily cover ugly surfaces and make your rental feel more like a home.

For more renting or decorating advice, check out our other guides for renters.

About to rent a new home?

If you’re preparing to move to a new rental, have you already started saving to pay for your tenancy deposit? At Fronted, we know that making an upfront cash payment can be tricky – especially if you have to pay your new deposit upfront before getting any of your old ones back.

Lifetime Deposits are a perfect solution for renters like you where your deposit moves home with you. Check out the details of how our Lifetime Deposits work or join our waiting list to be the first to use them when they launch.

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Will Southall

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Will Southall

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