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Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean your kitchen has to lack personality, style, or warmth. While major renovations like replacing floors or cabinets might be off-limits, there are plenty of small, renter-friendly upgrades you can make to transform your space.

While it is unlikely that the landlord will allow you to remove the floors or change the cabinets, you can still make some small renter-friendly kitchen upgrades that can greatly impact your space.

These affordable changes are easy to implement and can make a big difference in your kitchen’s look and feel. Just remember to return everything to its original state when you’re ready to move out.

Rental Kitchen Makeover Ideas

1. Replace kitchen cabinet hardware

updated kitchen knobs

Think about the number of times you closed your kitchen cabinets on a daily basis. Now couple that with how many times the tenant touched it before you, dating back to the 90s – maybe even the 80s. The likely answer is – a lot. Well, it may be time to spruce up those worn cabinets by changing out the cabinet hardware for new shiny knobs or handles.

You can update the color to this oil-rubbed bronze knob finish or this modern gold handle. The color finishes you choose will give your kitchen an instant update. No money? No Problem. Just spray-paint the existing handle for a fresh new look.

2. Remove cabinet doors

open shelving
Image Credit: Swoon Worthy

Okay, so you want a more dramatic change to your kitchen cabinets but can’t paint them or remodel them. Try removing the cabinet doors to create the illusion of open shelving.

Since open shelving is trendy, you can temporarily get this look with a screwdriver to remove the hinges and some elbow grease. This will open up your kitchen, making it feel bigger.

Display your cute dishware, glassware, and appliances, and make the open shelves the kitchen’s focal point.

3. Speaking of open shelving

Open shelving is a modern yet trendy kitchen staple that is popular in homes right now. You can purchase ready-to-install floating kitchen shelves like these or DIY your own to give your space even more storage. Floating shelves will help to modernize your home.

open shelves

4. Retro and cute appliances

So you can’t replace the major appliances in the kitchen, but you can add cute ones. Mix in new appliances such as this fancy new sage green coffee maker, stainless steel toaster, retro microwave, or this funky color air fryer.

drew barrymore kitchen appliances

5. Upgrade the countertop

Contact paper is a great inexpensive way to give your kitchen countertop or cabinet a facelift. Contact paper comes in various styles and colors, from wood grain to faux tile and marble.

And the best part is that it will hold up over time with regular wear and tear that comes with water, heat, and humidity. And all you have to do is peel and stick to create your brand new countertop.

6. Accessorize your countertop

kitchen hardware and countertop styling

Round out your countertop space with beautiful accessories. Incorporate a charming cutting board like this thick bamboo butcher block cutting board and display your pretty cooking utensils in this Natural Teak Wood Cooking Holder Set. Then organize your kitchen knick-knacks with a pretty basket.

7. Decanter your pantry essentials

pantry with decanter items

Find a storage container or mason jar to store and decanter some of your favorite or most used pantry items like sugar, rice, flour, and oatmeal.

Display those beautiful jars and containers on the countertop with identifying labels or in the snack pantry closet. This will provide more functionality to your space with a clean and streamlined look.

8. Spice things up

spick rack in kitchen

Spice racks are a great way to store, access, and serve your most commonly used spices. Grab yourself an adorable countertop spice rack like this Wood Spice Rack to showcase your spices.  The spice rack design will add flavor to your kitchen decor.

9. Create a coffee bar station

coffee bar on counter top

A coffee station is a cool and fun idea that is great for the coffee lover in you. You can take a cute little nook in the kitchen or that extra space on the laminate countertop.

Stock it with your favorite coffee maker and other coffee necessities such as ground coffee, a grinder, a mug, creamer, and a sweetener.

10. Window treatments

Time to replace those ugly broken blinds or sunburned greasy curtains and give your kitchen windows texture and visual interest.

Wake up your kitchen with contemporary window treatments like these sheer curtains or bamboo roman shades. Whether a small window or a big window, new window treatments can make a big difference in the kitchen.

11. Kitchen faucet to the rescue

kraus kitchen faucet in matte black

It is unlikely that the kitchen faucet you have in your space is from this century. If it’s functioning, it’s the last thing the landlord will change.

However, a stunning kitchen sink faucet can add beauty and sophistication to a kitchen – especially a pull-down faucet. Opt for a unique color like gold or matte black for a big impact. You can also install it yourself with this easy DIY kitchen faucet installation guide.

12. Hanging pots and pans

hanging pots and pans
Image Credit: Ugly Duckling House

If you don’t have a lot of cabinet space in your kitchen, consider hanging your pots and pans. Hanging your pots and pans is a trendy and hip way to use up your wall space instead of the cabinets.

For a more cohesive look, hang your pots and pans side by side and mix up the lengths and colors. Use this easy-to-install pot rack hanger for an organized and tidy kitchen.

13. No more ugly fridge

stainless steel refrigerator renter friendly kitchen

Nothing screams dated apartment more than those old white crummy refrigerators that have been refurbished repeatedly for multiple tenants. Try concealing that ugly thing with appliance-specific contact paper like this stainless steel or navy blue style.

14. Paint it

A fresh coat of paint will make the kitchen come alive. Painting is one of the easiest ways to refresh and re-energize a space. Bright colors such as green, yellow, and grey are popular for painting kitchens. If you prefer not to paint the entire kitchen, then paint an accent wall with a splash of color to give it new life.

15. Removable peel-and-stick backsplash

peel and stick removable wallpaper
Image Credit: Heart Filled Spaces

It’s time to fake it till you make it. Peel and stick removable kitchen backsplash is a fantastic option while renting. This fake backsplash will make your rental kitchen look like luxury.

It will give your kitchen lots of character and elevate the kitchen’s beauty. You can have fun with it now and remove it without damaging the wall. So go with a funky style like this, or keep it timeless and simple with these subway tiles.

16. Removable wallpaper

Not interested in painting? Then add removable wallpaper. Removable wallpaper is an excellent alternative to painting the kitchen. Removable wallpaper is a less intrusive, temporary solution. You can stick wallpaper to a door, an accent wall, or inside or outside of the cabinets.

17. Artsy light fixtures

While we’re on the topic of lighting, switch out that old antiquated light fixture for an artsy light fixture. You can pick up a super cute lighting fixture like this Farmhouse pendant chandelier and have someone from task rabbit install it.

farmhouse style light fixture

18. Outlet cover switch

Not too long ago, I learned that switch plates come in various cool colors besides the traditional shades of white and off-white. So, grab a small head Phillips screwdriver and replace those old switch plates with these floral switch plates or electric Canary Talavera switch plates made by artists in Mexico.

19. Install under the cabinet lighting

Under-cabinet lighting can instantly change the mood of your kitchen. Under the cabinet lighting are typically small lighting fixtures that help to brighten your countertop workspace. It can also help to give additional lighting to areas with limited lighting.

And they are super easy to install. From light bars, puck lights, and tape lights, there’s an array of under the cabinet lighting to choose from that will blend with your kitchen style.

20. Kitchen bar cart or island

Need somewhere to store and display your cute appliances? Opt for a useful utility kitchen cart to house your appliances or store other kitchen essentials. They are great for adding extra kitchen storage space and counter space.

21. Dreamy artwork


Decorate your kitchen with unique artwork. Artwork will add visual interest to your kitchen. Hang the artwork on a bare wall or a shelf.

22. Line the cabinet drawers

Think about all the people who have used your kitchen cabinets over the years. No amount of cleaning will make it feel completely sanitary. So go ahead and line your kitchen cabinets and drawers with liners to make your cabinets look clean and refreshed.

23. Greenery galore

plant from ikea

Bringing plants and greenery into your space can add a touch of nature and freshness to your kitchen. It is also a great way to update the space without making permanent changes.

Plants can add color, texture, and life to your kitchen, and they also have the added benefit of purifying the air. Just make sure to choose plants that are suitable for low-light environments.

You can place a cute plant on a countertop or a herb potted plant on the window sill. If you lack a green thumb or cannot care for real plants, consider a realistic-looking fake plant for an easy update.

24. Add a modern rug

Adding an area rug or runner is a quick way to update your kitchen and cover up ugly tiles. It sounds super simple, but it can make a huge difference.

Go with a bold color or this cute multi-color washable rug. It will make a great addition to your space.

25. Floor stickers to the rescue

If you’re not feeling your floor tiles, then cover those ugly floors with peel-and-stick tiles. Choose from stick floor tiles like this retro green medallion pattern or this multicolored peel and stick to this bold black-and-white design to show your personality.

Floor tiles make your kitchen look like you just finished a complete gut renovation. They are also super durable, easy to clean, and removable.

26. Declutter, reorganize, and clean the kitchen.

coffee station

This one might seem quite obvious, but sometimes our kitchen needs some decluttering and a little scrub down of all surfaces, including cabinet doors, around the handles, etc. We often don’t realize how much stuff we pack into our cabinets that we don’t need or no longer use.

We also use our kitchen so often that we don’t always notice the gunk buildup, the splatter of food on the wall, the stains on the floor, and the food hiding behind the appliances. So grab some wipes, rag, and all-purpose cleaner spray and start cleaning, degreasing, and uncluttering the kitchen.

kitchen collage

So there you have it – a solid renter-friendly kitchen makeover with clever, impermanent upgrades in your beautiful home. I hope you found these renter-friendly hacks useful. These quick upgrades will make a noticeable change in your kitchen.

Just remember to take before and after pictures of the house. It is important that you return everything the way you initially found it. So try to store everything in a safe and central place, like under the bed, in a cabinet, or the living room closet.

For additional renter-friendly space makeover ideas, check out 7 Best Small Apartment Decorating Ideas on a Budget and 12 Renter-Friendly Bathroom Makeover Ideas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this article, so leave a comment below. Feel free also to follow me on my social media pages – Pinterest and Instagram or subscribe to my mailing list for other design inspiration and home decor ideas.

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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