Kitchens can be a source of anxiety for renters. Unless you’re one of the lucky few renting an apartment with a gleaming, new kitchen, you might have to deal with cramped storage, outdated cabinetry or lighting befitting a prison cell.
You don’t need to pursuade your landlord to do major renovations. Small changes can have big payoffs in terms of how much you enjoy the space — and can help you put your own stamp on the apartment. “The kitchen is one of my favorite places to go to personalize,” says designer Marika Meyer of Marika Meyer Interiors.
Not Enough Storage Space
Nothing makes a kitchen less appealing than clutter. If your kitchen has little or no storage space, clip The Container Store’s undershelf baskets onto existing shelves to create extra nooks for storing small items.
You can also mount floating shelves on your walls for storage and display, although you’ll want to get your landlord’s permission before drilling holes in the walls.
Or take a page out of Julia Child’s book and use a pegboard to hold pots, pans, utensils and even kettles. Frequently found holding hammers in the toolshed, these wooden boards have pre-drilled pegholes in which you can hang just about anything. To make your pegboard kitchen-friendly, consider painting it an interesting color.
“You can lean it right up against the wall, or you can wall mount it with some simple screws,” Meyer says. Just remember if you make holes in the walls, you’ll have to patch them before you move out.
This requires keeping your pots and pans presentable. “If it’s gonna be on display, it better be good-looking and clean,” says Nestor Santa-Cruz, an interior designer in D.C.
If your cabinets lack personality, freshen them up with unique knobs and pulls. Check out Anthropologie and World Market for colorful options.
Just don’t lose the originals. “Save the ones that you had before, and then you can replace them when you need,” Santa Cruz says.
Another option for cabinet-haters: Remove the doors altogether to create a open-air look. This technique should only be applied to upper cabinets and nothing low to the ground. Remember to keep the doors somewhere safe, so you can put them back in place before you move out.
If you go this route, it’s best to have nice-looking stuff. “Have a simple collection of plates,” Meyer says. “Keep things very neatly stacked and ordered.”
You can also improve the look of your floors — even if previous tenants had a tendency to spill red wine and spaghetti sauce.
Don’t be afraid to put a rug in the kitchen. Yes, it will have food spilled on it, so look for something that’s easy to clean, such as a flatweave, seagrass or indoor-outdoor rug. Bolon makes easy-to-clean, vinyl rugs that can be cut to fit your space (available at Sisalcarpet.com).
Be sure to put rubberized backing on rugs to prevent slippage.
If you aren’t crazy about rugs, consider cutting linoleum floor tile sheets to the shape of the floor and laying them over the old floor to make a temporary cover, Santa-Cruz suggests. Secure them with hot glue or another removable sticky substance.
Are your kitchen’s flickering fluorescent light makes your eyeballs hurt? The first step is switching out the fluorescents with incandescent bulbs wherever you can.
If you need more light, buy plug-in light fixtures so you don’t have to deal with messy wiring. Save floor space by using hanging lights or sconces that plug into an electrical outlet (Ikea.com and Lampsplus.com sell a variety).
A backsplash is the stretch of wall that starts below the cabinets and ends at the countertops. It’s a small area that can make a big difference in the feel of the room.
You don’t have to make permanent changes to liven up a backsplash. Home Depot sells peel-and-stick tiles in a range of colors, styles and materials, including stainless steel, that you can stick on the backsplash and peel off later.
“You might just want to add a fun punch of color,” Meyer says. “It could have a really high-level impact.” STEFFI FELDMAN (for Express)