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How I Transformed My Rental Kitchen

First I want to say that the work on the subway tile is not completed. The reason is that some of the peel and stick tiles are white, and some are a gray-white.

Amazon is sending me more but they were not in stock and they’re sending them as soon as they get them in their warehouse.

We thought maybe it was just the light on Monday. But yesterday I looked at the walls in different light and dimness and the colors are definitely not the same.

My daughter is still working on the fine cracks around the sink. Yesterday she caulked again. She said she will keep adding layers of caulk and maybe it will at least be minimized. I think it’s looking much better. She’s a bit pickier than I am.

But I will still show you the kitchen today. Basically everything is finished but the remaining tiles and some caulking and maybe a little touch up painting. Get a cup of coffee or tea and sit down because there are lots of photos.

As you might be able to see, the tiles at the very end behind the far right white pitcher is not finished. That’s because we’re waiting on the new subway tiles to arrive before she does any more work.

No point in working with different shades of white when she’ll just have to turn around and take it down. Which, by the way, was her choice going forward.

Here’s the new dishwasher. I have not used it yet. And you can see the glossy countertop. It is nice and shiny. There are mistakes and imperfections, but it’s good enough for me.

Remember with DIY projects things don’t always come out perfect. You have to come to a place of acceptance and not be too upset when things don’t go exactly as planned.

My motto is to cover what bothers you that you can’t fix!

Below you see the new refrigerator. It fits the space better and I really like it a lot. Nothing fancy about it. But in my mind, that’s less stuff that will go out.

I don’t even have ice trays filled in the freezer right now because I typically get tea next door at Sonic during happy hour or drink bottled water.

Also note the gold drawer and door pulls that I changed out. The other ones were round and black.

In the above photo, you can see where she stopped with the peel and stick tiles when she had to leave Monday to attend to other commitments.

When she came over yesterday I told her about Amazon sending more tiles.

She has a lot going on right now and some family issues with their dad they’re quite worried about. Plus she has four closings this week. So it’s just as well we put it off a little longer.

I told her that I could live with the two variations of color in the subway tile, but my daughter is a perfectionist and she cannot. So this project is taking a little longer than initially expected as I let her make the decision to leave it be or change it out.

I really, really like the glossy surface of the countertops, imperfections and all. I also like the clean more streamlined look and the open shelving. I like things I can get to easily.

This all began when I took off the three cabinet doors and began to think about how I wanted the kitchen to look.

I made quite a few purchases for this kitchen redo. One is the thin coffee maker you see a few photos above. It was around $50 and takes up very little space and you can use both pods and ground coffee with it.

I also purchased a Simple Human trash can. The other one took up too much space and you had to keep it at least a foot from the wall.

I put the other one outside under the roof extension so I could throw things away outside instead of coming in with dirty hands and getting the door dirty and tracking dirt inside.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Simple Human products. But they get rave reviews. As you see it sits right against the wall and opens fine.

Also you can store the trash bags, sized to fit each size trash can they sell, in the back of the trash can so that the bags are right there. You just pull one out. This way you don’t have to go get one when you need to put in a new liner.

Another plus is that you can pull up the top and put the bag in and it fits very tight and will not sag.

These trash cans do not come cheap. But in a small space, you need to make the best use of your space. And to me that was worth the price. I had been looking at one of these on Amazon that was $139.

Then the day I went shopping with my birthday gift certificate to Home Goods, I found this one for $99.99. And I snapped it up. The woman working there told me they cannot keep these trash cans in stock due to their popularity.

The one I bought holds 45 liters and takes an “M” size trash can liner. I ordered those from Amazon.

I just now looked and the price of this trash can has come down a bit. Here is the link.

You can see above where the peel and stick tiles have yet to be added.

Everything in this part of the kitchen is basically the same but for the new countertop and the gold drawer pulls and fresh paint.

I didn’t put the red microwave back on the countertop. Instead now this is my cooking station on the kitchen cart I bought from World Market years ago.

The microwave and the Breville Smart Oven is where I cook meals. I have the Breville Smart Oven pans situated in the middle of the two where I can get to them easily.

My electric skillet is stored on top of the microwave. When I want to use it, I move it to the countertop.

My oven mitts are hanging on the wall right next to where I cook.

Everything in my kitchen has been relocated for efficiency.

I have my dishes and glasses in the open cabinets. The cutting boards are right below as well as the knife block, silverware and kitchen utensils.

The spices are on the wall above the cutting boards.

Then there is a house plant and next to that is the thin coffee maker that is the best size for this small space kitchen.

And next to that are the white pitchers I’ve had forever holding the rest of my various kitchen utensils.

The open shelves hold my white and red dishes. Those are my featured colors in the kitchen. With a bit of gold and black.

Just so you can see the difference, here is how my kitchen looked before, about a month ago.


The photo above shows the old dishwasher. Thank goodness that’s gone.

When he took it out, the maintenance man said he told the manager it was well beyond its expiration date.

My apartment kitchen

And below is how it looks now. Yes, I forgot to take the energy guide off the refrigerator. I will get around to that.

I’m going to attempt to break down the costs of my apartment kitchen redo.

The refrigerator, which I did not have to buy but chose to, was, after taxes and delivery fee, around $650. It is a Whirlpool.

I knew exactly what I wanted and walked into Appliance Solutions and said: “I want a white Whirlpool refrigerator that will fit within these measurements. It has to have a handle and plastic shelves instead of racks.”

The man said: “Well, we’ll have to order that.” I said fine. I paid for it, he ordered it, and it was installed a week later. I am very pleased with their service and the care the man took when he installed it last week.

The dishwasher was free courtesy of the apartment complex. About time I got something free.

The countertop kit from GianiGranite was $179.95 and I bought it on Amazon.com. Here is the link. I chose not to use the marble effect. I wanted plain white counters so I didn’t use the cans that would have created the marble look.

The drawer pulls were $38 and I had almost a full box left over. They came in packs of 10 and yeah, you guessed it, I needed 11. Here is the link to the drawer pulls. They had a five star rating.

I put a lot of stock in customer ratings. And I never buy anything that has less than four stars and then I’m picky about it.

The peel and stick subway tiles were $70 for the whole back splash wall. Of course now they’re sending me the replacements free due to the defect. We may not need them all, but I originally purchased two packets of 10. Here is the link to the peel and stick tiles.

The cabinet paint was $52. It pays to get quality paint. My daughter didn’t use much of the gallon I purchased. So I’ll be keeping it in the closet for touch ups.

The caulking used was courtesy of my daughter.

So the total for the supplies to DIY the kitchen comes to $330.00 (rounded up) if my addition is correct.

The other items, like the trash can, coffee maker and refrigerator comes to around $800.00. I don’t consider them necessary to the DIY project. But they’re new nonetheless.

If you live in a rental and hate it, do what you can to fix it up to your liking. There are many things you can do that you can take off should you move.

The peel and stick tiles are removable. Of course the drawer pulls you can remove. Just keep the originals, which I did.

The only thing that isn’t removable is the refinished countertop. But I’d rather lose my deposit than live with something I hate.



  1. This looks fantastic, Brenda! I love your open shelves/cabinets. Did you paint them inside? I am just now getting caught up on blog posts after being out of town.

    Wow, that’s one expensive garbage can! I have a Rubbermaid one hidden under our kitchen sink. Nowhere else to put a garbage can in our kitchen; at least not close enough to the sink/counters where all the cooking prep work is done.

  2. I have never seen a kitchen without an oven but I understand how your cooking appliances work for you.

    1. Yeah, I know people think it’s strange. But it’s worked for me for 6 years now. I see no point in having an oven in my case.

  3. Good morning Brenda, everything looks fabulous! I love the new kitchen design. It reminds me of kitchens in Europe, small, efficient and with the washer in the same room.

  4. Brenda your kitchen redo is amazing!!
    I love the open-ness of your cabinets & ive started adding red to my kitchen.
    Gr8 job & your daughter helped you so much. Counters look perfect Brenda!!

  5. Brenda the re do is absolutely amazing it feels fresh and modern! I especially LOVE the open shelveing nr the fridge. I think the only thing I’d do now is to change up those cafe curtains. I would get some blinds that would complete the more modern look! Apart from that I think you and your DD did an amazing job!

    1. I was thinking of doing just that. But I can’t get up there to switch them out so I will need to find someone to help me. My daughter is overrun with tasks of her own and her children to do and I don’t want to keep asking her. I was thinking something like I have in the living room. Simple bamboo.

  6. It turned out great! I’m with you on the countertops. I like the plain white. Nice arrangement of your dishes and things in the open cabinets.

  7. I have enjoyed watching you transform your kitchen. You’ve definitely given me some ideas on how to freshen up our kitchen on a budget. It looks fantastic!

  8. just absolutely LOVELY! and the happy pops of red… and black… and the new pulls…
    and I have ALWAYS loved open shelving. it’s ALL great! 😀 xoxo

  9. I love,love,love your new forever kitchen!!! It looks very professional. If you do ever move I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to live there exactly as is. Good job Brenda!!! Enjoy ?

  10. I will just second all the positive comments above. I think it all looks great. Tell me, though, do you just stick those tiles up without having to grout them? If that’s the case, I may very well try them in a couple of places in my house. I have a plant window in my main floor bathroom where I have painted the bottom shelf multiple times and the paint still peels. I even used oil-based paint the last time and still it has peeled. I use a bathroom ceiling fan to deal with the moisture from showers but I guess it’s not enough. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to tile that window shelf but putting it off because of dreading using the stuff for sticking the tiles down and then the grout between the them. If I could just stick them down and be done I would do it in a heartbeat. I suppose I’d still have to cut a few to fit around the window molding but I think I could manage that. Now I’m actually getting excited! I’m going to check them out and see what it would cost. Thanks for the inspiration!

    P.S. The one thing I really like about your kitchen overhaul is the open shelves. I wish I could have some in my kitchen but I have such a motley collection of dishes etc. that it would just look untidy and disorganized! I love how they look in your kitchen, though. Nice and orderly.

    Congratulations on having your kitchen close to finished. Enjoy!

    1. A motley collection of dishes is okay if you place them right and not too many at a time. These tiles are like stickers that are thick and very sticky. I’ve had some before in the bathroom that weren’t all that thick and sticky. These are REALLY sticky. You just measure, cut and place on the wall. Butt them up against one another along the “grout lines”. There are YouTube videos to help you. Just go to YouTube and put peel and stick tiles in the Search.

  11. Hi Brenda – Your kitchen looks absolutely beautiful!! I love the tiles and the way you have decorated it!! You and your daughter are so talented!! Sending hugs to you and your precious fur babies!!

  12. Your reno looks wonderful! I understand when you say even if you are renting, you have to like your surroundings. I would be the same. Great job!

  13. Everything is just beautiful ! You are so creative . I wish I was more daring to change things up here .

  14. I had no idea you could buy tile that was peel and stick, and remove it too,if you had to. I LOVE it in your kitchen, it just looks great!!! Well, actually, I love it all, the shiny counter top, the new fridge, that cute tiny coffee maker, the gold pulls, and the way you arranged everything in the open cabinets. Brenda, you never cease to amaze me. I am so happy you had your daughter help you. I can’t imagine taking on a big job like this alone…I’d be so nervous that I would screw up. BEAUTIFUL….what else can I say, but again, LOVE it!

    1. Yes, my daughter pulled down one of the 12 x 12 tiles that I put up wrong and it comes off easily. I tell you, it sure sticks to the wall well too! There’s been absolutely no problem with that. She just smoothed them on with her hands and they stuck well.

  15. Stunning! I lived with an outdated kitchen for 10 yrs. I am beyond frugal and pay cash for everything! When I remodeled my kitchen I re-used all my old golden oak cabinets. I removed the fronts and sprayed them white(Sherwin- Williams White Duck). I reconfigured my kitchen and only have a pot rack, custom built range hood and artwork on my walls. I’m not a fan of uppers much; but needed them for storage. I had my contractor build taller bases for all my cabinets (42″ tall + counter top). I used the uppers as lower units and made a huge island. I do a lot of canning(blueberries and cherries and apples from my gardens). My husband and his friends fish and hunt so a group of us do large scale seafood(salmon and dungeness crab) and deer and elk home processing and canning.
    I love your color palette- it’s hard to go wrong with white because of it’s versatility and cleanliness! I like your touches of red and black…..I wonder if your red and white curtains played a part of your color choice? You did a fabulous job!

  16. Your transformation look so nice. The counter tops are so pretty and glossy and I love the subway tile look. Your new dishwasher (being all white) sure looks good in its space. And the gold drawer pulls add pizzazz. An amazing job — but we all knew it would be.

    Have a great afternoon.

  17. it really looks great Brenda! It is so light and bright now and not so busy – though I loved your last look too.. but I’m into a lighter and less busy look now. For some reason, bunching things together has really made a difference! and I’ve gotten some good ideas from you. I too like things where I can reach them easily, so love your silverware in the pitchers. I did that for awhile.. used some clear glasses, but after awhile, I put it all back away in the one drawer I have, as gave me less counter space for cooking. I keep my spoons in a little stonewear jar as use spoons more than anything!

    From where we stand, we can’t see any imperfections in the counter…… the counter looks wonderful! So do the tiles. Also.. the open shelves look great and I love how you’ve placed your dishes and pops of red here and there. I’m now inspired to do that to our cabinets that hold our dishes! I even showed this photo to my husband and he liked it! We have dark brown cupboard doors which I want white!

    I have a few questions on things I see and maybe you could let us know where you got them: the lights under the cupboards, the white wooden trays I see used in 3 places (love those!), and the board that holds all your cutting boards.

    Now I’m more excited to get our kitchen painting underway as I love the brightness of the all white.. and again, the counters look fab!

    Oh.. one more thought. I love the open shelving above your washer and how you’ve placed everything you use there. One thought I had would be to put all the boxed items into clear Ikea or Tupperware (or whatever you can find) canisters with red lids! The red lids would look so neat there, holding your cereals or rice or nuts or whatever. Just a thought.

    It all looks great! Marilyn

    1. The lights under the cabinets I bought at Lowes years ago. I just kept forgetting to get new batteries for them! The white wooden trays I bought as a trio off Amazon.com a few months ago. I’ll see if they still have them. And the board that holds the cutting boards I picked up at Tuesday Morning one day. I don’t recall exactly what I paid but it was under $10.

  18. It is absolutely beautiful, Brenda…and the best part is that a great lot of it can be taken elsewhere if you move!! I thought the previous setup was pretty too…you are indeed fabulous at these things!!

  19. It’ fantastic. I know you must be very pleased with it. So happy your daughter has been able to help you out, too. I’m going to ck that coffee pot out.

  20. You could use your extra pulls for maybe in your bathroom or dresser? I just know how it is to have to purchase items and then you do not use them. I hope this help. The kitchen is really awesome and LOVE the way the cabinets look.

  21. Your decorating projects are by far the best posts in my opinion. I love your kitchen.

  22. Brenda, I just love the new look of your kitchen! Isn’t it refreshing to change it up once in a while? I have a new kitchen but I still get bored with it sometimes, so the canisters go into the pantry for a while, then they come out again. Sometimes I like my cake stand, other times it needs to go away. I go from minimal and bare to adding red pieces back in. I also will look for your coffee maker and put the big Mr Coffee in the pantry until I have houseguests. It’s a shame you had to pay for this look yourself, but I agree that it’s important to love your home. Now rest your body for awhile lol!!

  23. So impressed with your upgrades and the clever use you have made of the space available to you. My Mom rented for many years.and always possessed the pride in place that you demonstrate Brenda. Enjoy your lovely new look and thank you for the example you set for the rest of us!

  24. I like the open shelving. I may buy that coffee pot. I like the small size. You really transformed the space. It looks wonderful. Lovely that you and your daughter are collaborating on this project.

  25. You did a great job!!!! Everything looks fresh and bright. I’m glad the new dishwasher has white instead of black near the controls. Very impressive!

  26. Wow! I love the countertops, they look brand new! And the open shelves too. You did such a beautiful job staging them.

    1. There are many mistakes that I made with the countertops. Lots of air bubbles and cat hair that drifted in while the epoxy was drying. But I’m satisfied with it and love it. You only have a certain amount of time to smooth out the epoxy before it begins to set and air bubbles were a pain to try to get out.

      1. Yes, I have learned about cat hair. It floats through the air. I have two air cleaners and I still have cat hair everywhere. Who knew?

  27. Wow! it looks great! What a difference a few changes can make! Your floor looks like mine. Mine is vinyl planks which I chose because it is easy to keep clean and doesn’t scratch with all the pets I have.

    1. Before I moved in to this apartment there had been a fire and they had to remove all the flooring. I told them I personally would prefer NO CARPET anywhere. I truly hate carpet.

  28. The kitchen looks lovely. Love the red!
    May I ask what you do for a dryer? I have a tiny under the counter European style ‘washer/dryer in one appliance’ at the cottage. While some things do come out completely dry, the queen size sheets never do. I drape them outside on the lawn furniture and it is a pain.

    1. I drape things over chairs and lamps and tables, etc. Doesn’t bother me to do that. And my things will last longer. Nothing comes out completely dry. But I’m so glad I don’t have to do my laundry somewhere else that that’s fine.

  29. What a lovely makeover. The open-shelf cabinets and monochrome white palette sure create a feel of roominess.

  30. Looks fabulous Brenda. I love peel and stick tiles. Sorry you found them to be different shades of white. Your open cabinets look so much brighter and makes the space feel more open and bigger. Great kitchen re love.

  31. It looks really nice! And I’m glad that you got a new dishwasher, which was bought by the apartment complex. It’s about time they did something, even though it sounds like there won’t be anymore of that. Can you share the coffeepot brand? I’m looking for a smaller one that I can use grounds in.

  32. It looks great. It is so clean and fresh looking. I do miss having a dishwasher, but I have learned to live with out it. I also have a lack of counter space. I am very restricted with what I can do, but basically I am satisfied with what I have. Now I just need to get busy and spring clean it. xo Laura

  33. Brenda, it looks wonderful!! Of course I expected nothing less from you, your home is always so cozy and welcoming. What a wonderful refresh and right in time for spring! I have two simplehuman products in my home – my shower tower that holds all my shampoos, body wash, lotions, etc. Love it so much. And I have a small trash can in my guest bath….which was necessary when my Lily was around, as she would go in and drag out all the garbage with the previous trash can, which did not have a lid! I love both items, they still look like brand new after 5 years.

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