“Since the kitchen is the heart of the home, and the room that probably gets the most use, nothing says fresh like a quick coat of paint,” says interior designer Sam Allen. “Unless you select some crazy color, most landlords would be okay with your painting project, especially if you’re willing to paint it back before you move out.” If your landlord approves and you plan on living there for a while, you can take it one step further and revamp those dull kitchen cabinets with a new paint color as well.
If you don’t want to take on a DIY project, you can still dramatically change the feel of your kitchen by adding accessories. “Using indoor-outdoor rugs is my favorite way to add a bit of color and pattern. They can be coordinated with dishtowels, teapots, or storage containers,” says interior designer Abbe Fenimore. And try bringing a touch of nature indoors. “Display both decorative and edible plants in your kitchen to add a happy vibe,” says interior stylist and author Jason Grant.
A cluttered counter can make an already drab space look worse. “Remove everything from your counters (except for daily essentials) and corral it all on a tray for maximum tidiness,” says interior designer Timothy Brown. Invest in stylish kitchen organizing products, like containers or drawer dividers. To free up cabinet space, hang pots and pans from a wall rack, or install a pegboard with hooks to store cookware and essentials, suggest interior designers Jennifer Beek Hunter and Georgie Hambright.
Put Up (Temporary) Wallpaper
Swap Out Hardware
“An easy way to customize a rental kitchen is by changing the knobs and pulls of your cabinets and drawers,” says interior designer Trip Haenisch. To avoid losing your security deposit, keep the original hardware so you can re-install it before you move out.
Add Extra Storage
Haenisch suggests investing in a rolling kitchen island with a butcher-block surface. This way, you have more cooking space but can also easily move it out of the way. Hunter and Hambright also suggest adding a small cart or hutch to store your small appliances, knife block, wine bottles, and cookbooks. This helps clear out your counters and add much needed space.
Disguise an Ugly Fridge
You might not be able to do anything about the vintage fridge in your rental, but you don’t have to live with it either. Interior designer Sara Story suggests covering the offending door with removable wallpaper—or drape it with happy mementos. “Sticky 9 is an awesome website that will turn your Instagram photos into square prints,” says Barfield. “Use these to make a collage of your favorite pics.”
“If you have a blank wall in your kitchen, hang a large-scale art piece to create a focal point,” says Fenimore. If you can’t choose just one favorite, try the gallery wall technique. “Frame everything in the same type of frame with a mat, so that the collection feels clean. West Elm has great frames already fitted with mats,” says Barfield.
Install Decorative Lighting
There’s nothing worse than dim fluorescent lighting in the kitchen—it’ll make you never want to cook. “You’ll need an electrician to change out an overhead fixture, but it’s relatively straightforward and can really transform the vibe of a space,” says Story. Just make sure to hang onto the original piece, so you can put it back when it’s time to move, Allen advises. If that seems like too much work, try adding table lamps, plug-in sconces, or battery-operated task lighting. Wayfair has a ton of attractive options.