The College Housewife » lifestyle » Before & After: A Small LA Rental Kitchen Makeover

Before & After: A Small LA Rental Kitchen Makeover

I am thrilled to share with you my assistant’s small rental kitchen makeover reveal! Abbie’s small LA rental kitchen makeover was begging for my attention. With a little paint, a few rental hacks and a ton of personalization, we transformed her kitchen from bland to beautiful!  

A huge thank you to Sherwin- Williams ® for sponsoring this post, we couldn’t have done this makeover without you! 
Mustard yellow cabinets with gold hardware.White stove and knife magnet with pan racks.

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For the last couple of years, I’ve really taken a love of fixing up my rental houses. When I say fix up, I’m talking rental friendly upgrades that make a big impact. I truly believe that if you’re going to live in a house for longer than a year, it should feel like yours whether you own it or not. It’s not just a house, it’s your home.
small table with 2 wooden chairs and bench with colorful pillows. Bar cart with bottles of rosé on it.

It’s no surprise that younger people (yes, Millennials) are taking a bit longer to buy a home as the prices are becoming more and more competitive. Here in southern California, we compete with huge price tags and all-cash offers. Our rental home alone is worth 750K! The down payment alone will set you back a few years. I definitely fall victim to this, as well as most of my gals. I’ve learned to love all my rental homes despite any stipulation. Each of my rentals have all felt like, home.

I started with my teeny tiny college apartment, moved into my first real apartment with Jared and still continue to fix up the small craftsman house we’re in now. They all were rental homes and had a ton of character thanks to some super simple rental friendly upgrades.

before photo with white cabinets and a silver sink.

Things like a fresh coat of paint, hardware changes, and personalized furniture and textiles go a loooong way. I’m no interior designer but the whole makeover process makes me giddy. I have been itching to get another room project under my belt and I knew that my assistant Abbie’s Pasadena kitchen would be my next venture.

Abbie is my full-time assistant and we have also been friends since we were 12. We were on the photo team together for Yearbook club in high school and now take on huge photography productions together. Her kitchen deserved to be something special! She loves to cook and entertain and I wanted her space to be equipped to do that. We had a variety of plans that really helped this rental kitchen makeover stay budget-friendly, semi-permanent, and totally match Abbie’s style…
Before photo with white stove with and poorly painted walls. New light fixture with coral walls and a knife magnet.

So, what’s the design process like on a rental?!

My first step was to make sure that I totally and 100% captured the look and feel of exactly what Abbie wanted. This is a rental, after all, so choosing ‘upgrades’ doesn’t always mean you will get exactly what you want but I wanted to come as close to ‘dream kitchen’ as I could.

Small dinning room with no table and old light fixture. Small dinning room with a wooden table and bench with a rug and bar cart.

I asked her a few questions that would help me get the overall look and feel, she came back with adjectives like: 

Comfortable | Clean | Eclectic | Funky | White | Personalized | Modern 

“I’m so excited about this makeover! I’m hoping for a clean, comfy space that my roommates and I will actually want to make dinner and hang out in! I know Elizabeth understands my style and will make it beautiful.” 

Mission accepted!
Abbie sitting in her new kitchen happy with a candle lite and a vase of flowers.
Paint brush with a can of yellow mustard Sherwin Williams paint.


We were starting to get somewhere but I had one more idea up my sleeve to truly grasp the look and feel of what reflected Abbie’s personality…

I had her take the Sherwin- Williams ColorSnap ® Color ID quiz. It’s a short quiz where you answer fun questions that reflect your personality (I love a good online quiz!). Afterward, you receive a personality-based color collection (which was a perfect tool for me when designing Abbie’s kitchen!). Abbie ended up being a ‘Free Spiritwhich described traits of Abbie’s personality – unique and daring, walking to the beat of their own drum. The palette has 16 colors that were perfectly coordinated, inspired by world travel and defined by bold blues and greens, with balancing tans and pinks which allowed us to mix and match with confidence.

Once we selected her colors, I dove deep into the mood board and planning process (my FAV part!)

This is the mood board for her kitchen…made very formally in powerpoint 😉 


Kitchen Colors:
Kitchen Cabinets (lowers): Tassel SW6369 
Kitchen Cabinets (uppers) & Walls: Greek Villa SW551 
Stove accent wall: Rojo Dust SW9006

Elizabeth in the finished kitchen gathering a bunch of greens for the final touches. Paint brush with a can of Sherwin Williams paint in front of yellow mustard cabinets.

How did you work with her existing kitchen?

The bones of her kitchen were very workable. Her space is small, but luckily has a ton of natural light flowing into the kitchen and dining room areas. The trick with rentals is finding a way to change things in a semi-permanent way.

-Natural light
-Good condition
-Lots of open wall space 

-Dark tiles
-Weird configuration
-Small space 

The paint job was one of the smaller investments, but hands down, it made the biggest change and transformed the entire space. One of the other big problems that you often have as a renter, is working with the existing tiles. Abbie absolutely hated the tile and was hoping to cover it as much as possible. We used these easy peel and stick tiles to develop a clean, fresh look that helped brighten the entire space (more on this to come!).

Gold faucet with newly painted yellow mustard cabinets with new gold hardware.Newly finished kitchen with a rack of hanging baskets and yellow mustard cabinets.

What kind of kitchen upgrades did you make?

The biggest investment pieces that we bought were the new hardware for the cabinets and the light fixtures. In the long run, these were the biggest price tagged items but they are also things that Abbie can switch out and take with her to her next home.

Pro renter tip* Save anything that you replace in a rental kitchen makeover and put it back on once you decide to move. This will ensure you get your security deposit while changing the home to your taste. 

Newly finished stove corner with coral walls and a knife magnet.

Her kitchen feels minimal but still warm and cozy… how is this possible?!

Ah, the power of warm colors and cozy textures. Using raw wood furniture like pine helped bring warmth and minimalism at the same time, plus it was affordable. 

Choosing colors like pinks, yellows, and creams brought out warmth to space as well. Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap ® Color ID really helped us bring the entire palette together – with colors that complimented each other. The trick is to keep the big stuff like shelving, and furniture pieces more neutral. Afterward, you can come in and layer fun colorful pieces like glassware, plants, and knick-knacks.
Newly finished dinning room with a small wooden table and a bench with colorful pillows. A new bar cart full of rosé and wine glasses.

SO…does Abbie love her new kitchen?

Ah! I sure hope so. It took all of my woman-power to remove myself and my taste from the kitchen so I really enveloped her style into it.

If you’re thinking about sprucing up a room in your rental, have no fear. It’s beyond worth it. This small rental kitchen makeover has made a huge difference in Abbie’s house and her life. She plans on living in this place for at least another year and being in a place that she is inspired by instantly lifts her mood and makes her proud to have people over.

Set a budget for yourself, be realistic and have a solid plan before you get going!

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Corner of the kitchen with new yellow plates and coffee cups, with a hanging basket of fruit.

Other home makeovers: 

Don’t forget to pin this for later! 


  1. Alex
    February 3, 2022 / 1:26 pm

    Do you have after pictures of the temporary tile removal? I’m still worried that there’ll be residue or stripping with removeable tile or wallpaper. What’s you experience been like?

  2. breanna
    March 31, 2020 / 10:09 pm

    hello! can you tell me what paint color of paint is above the stovetop?and maybe where the fruit basket is from as well? thank you!

    • elizabethvanlierde7698
      April 1, 2020 / 11:18 am

      Hi Breanna, the paint color is Sherwin Williams- Rojo Dust SW9006 and the fruit basket is from urban outfitters. You can find it linked towards the bottom of the post 🙂

  3. Sylvia Davis
    December 6, 2019 / 11:19 am

    Love the patterned rug! Where is it from?

    • elizabethvanlierde7698
      December 18, 2019 / 12:14 am

      Hi Sylvia, it’s from World Market!

  4. Gracie Piekut
    November 26, 2019 / 11:39 am

    Really enjoyed this article! Thank you for sharing. Having just moved out of a rental, and my husband not wanting to use paint, using pops of color to brighten our space came Solely from accessories. But, wow, what a difference. I love how, in addition to SW paints, you incorporated accessories to add color in this article.

  5. Maria
    November 22, 2019 / 8:29 am

    Beautiful. Where is the rug from?

    • elizabethvanlierde7698
      December 18, 2019 / 12:16 am

      The large one is from World Market and the small black and white runner is from Ikea 🙂

  6. AresWar
    November 20, 2019 / 6:53 pm

    I love the orange, it is very fresh, but I am not a fan of the yellow with those countertops. They feel out of balance.

  7. November 20, 2019 / 1:05 pm

    The first thing that caught my eye (and concerned me) was the cutting board or wood block over the pilot light of the gas stove. Potential for fire? Maybe the burners are tall enough it’s not a concern, but it could cut off oxygen supply to pilot also. Not a fan.

  8. I Hrdz
    November 20, 2019 / 8:07 am

    I wish I was able to see a whole picture of the kitchen and not just spotlights. Seems like it turn out beautiful but I can’t really imagine the end result.

  9. Danyelle
    July 31, 2019 / 11:25 pm

    Where are those lovely yellow plates from?

    • elizabethvanlierde7698
      October 30, 2019 / 2:02 pm

      They are from CB2!

  10. Tammy Van Lierde
    July 25, 2019 / 11:23 am

    Abbeys kitchen looks great! I love the colors Sherwin William’s has! Just Beautiful! Great job Girls!

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