The College Housewife » lifestyle » My Rental Kitchen Makeover: Before & After , tips and ideas!

My Rental Kitchen Makeover: Before & After , tips and ideas!

Hiii! Welcome to my kitchen! I’m so excited to share with you some details on how we gave life to this outdated charming kitchen. We started this ‘rental kitchen makeover’ journey back in September/October when we moved in! It was my first room tackle in the house and I am thrilled with how it turned out. I used the existing skeleton of the kitchen as a base for rental friendly cosmetic improvements. Follow along below for my Q&A on all of the details!

If you’re all about rental kitchen makeovers be sure to check out my Assistant Abbie’s LA rental kitchen makeover as well!

I am thrilled to share to exciting press features of the rental kitchen makeover since we finished! One with Real Simple Magazine (which I have been reading since I was like 12!) and two with Apartment Therapy! Both stories have different details and angles so be sure to check them out 🙂 

Real Simple Magazine: How One Food Blogger Snuck More Storage Into Her Small Kitchen

Apartment Therapy: Before and After: This $700 Kitchen Redo is the Stuff Rental Dreams Are Made Of

What did the kitchen look like before?

Horrible. Just kidding! The kitchen had the most incredible ‘shell’ or ‘canvas’ if you will. It just needed some good lovin’. When we had our first look at the house I waltzed straight into the kitchen. After seeing the Zillow rental ad I wasn’t even concerned with most of the house. My eyes were on this galley kitchen. Is it bad that I already had plans for this rental kitchen makeover before I even laid in person eyes on it?! Because I totally did! Sure the cabinets needed to be painted and it was begging for some greenery but the natural light that flooded in and 1929 craftsman charm had me sold. I mean, have you seen those built in’s?!

The before pictures were taken the day we went and looked at the house in September (the after pictures were taken in March). Always take pictures folks! For reference and if you ever decide to do a massive makeover post like I did! Ha!

What was it like working with your landlord on the kitchen makeover?

Our landlord/house owners name is Jeff and he is a saint. Seriously. Jared and I went to Italy during the limbo period of actually moving into the house and during that time he painted the brown cabinets white for us after expressing just ONCE that they would look amazing with a fresh coat of paint. We have a great relationship with Jeff and he is so on board with the small fixes we are making to the house. He pitches in with labor here and there but I am just so happy that he lets me run with it.

Are you partly insane? Why would you fix up your rental?

Look, I’ll be honest. I’m a little crazy and not your average renter (we did projects on our last apartment too!). I know I take things to the next level and I’m really quite okay with it. I touched upon this a little in my intro to the rental kitchen makeover post and I still stand by what I say. This is your HOME! And if you work from home like I do, you want to feel proud of it! You want this place to feel like yours rather than just some random place you live in. Most of the changes we made were ‘cosmetic’ and didn’t take the heavy price tag that comes with actually renovating. The pricer items were the faucet swap and large vintage rug. I almost went really crazy and changed out the light fixtures but to be honest I was getting tired of spending money on it and I knew that lights and labor would get expensive, fast. 

I also use the space for photo-shoots and video filming quite a bit so that made a difference as well. For some reason the few hundred dollars that went into it felt like money well spent instead of a waste. I would also love to flip houses one day/own air BnB’s and I think this is great practice! 

Where did your inspiration come from?
I have a big mood board for the project posted here! Mostly it came from the existing charm of the house. I didn’t want to stray away from the vintage farmhouse feel too much. I wasn’t able to completely gut the kitchen so I needed to kind of stay on the track that was already there for me. If it was up to me my dream kitchen would probably look like this. The kitchen has some adorable built ins and a natural farm house feel. I wanted to carry the black and white theme and add personal touches all over. Things like plants, rugs, and decor items help personalize any space. 

Hopefully I’ll get my dream kitchen one day, but for now this little rental kitchen is doing just fine. I also pulled a ton of inspiration from my grandpa’s house. Us Van Lierde’s have a very unique style filled with copper, vintage pieces and bright colors. One day I’ll do a shoot at my grandpas so you can see what I’m talking about!

Were your open shelves really only $100?!

Yeah girl. Haven’t you realized by now I like to do things on the cheap?! Jk jk! But really! Throw in a six pack of beer (for boyfriend labor) and we had ourselves some gorgeous West Elm open shelving at a Home Depot price. Just because something looks expensive doesn’t mean it has to be! I wrote a whole post on all the shelving supplies you will need here! Check it out and do them in your own home, you will seriously love them and be so proud of the price tag! 

What the heck did you put on the counter tops to make them look like expensive marble?

This contact paper! Seriously. It costs about $25 for a few rolls and takes about 3 hours off your life but SO WORTH IT. We have lived with it now for a good six months and I am still loving it. I watched a few youtube videos on how people applied it but it was pretty self explanatory. Basically take everything off your counters, clean and dry them really well and have a super sharp exacto knife at the ready. Also, probably skip the second cup of coffee this day because it takes a bit of patience!

 I do ‘baby’ it a little bit. I don’t really put hot dishes on it and I NEVER cut directly on it but for the most part it cleans up great with all purpose cleaner and it doesn’t bubble or peel up. I have noticed things like turmeric, curry, etc stain it a little so I try and avoid really dense colored foods or dyes. 

Do you have any plans for the dining room?

I would really love to change the outdated chandelier. I think a beautiful new light would make that room pop! I’m hoping to work with Jeff on this as I had already spent a good chunk on everything else (cabinet details, open shelving, etc). The actual dining room is extremely small. We even had to swap out our old dining table for a round one! This little breakfast nook space could use some new art work and maybe a few smaller open shelves or ledges. But the answer is yes! I do have a few smaller plans that hopefully come to fruition! 

But what about the rug?!

This rug. What a find. I know I will have it for decades. I bought this rug in January at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market for $200. Yes my friends, this large 5×7 beauty was talked down from $300 out of a dusty pile of rugs and now resides in my kitchen. I’m not sure of the specifics or how old it actually is but she’s a beauty. So many people have asked “omg how could you put a carpet in the kitchen it will get so dirty”. I agree, totally valid point. Coming from someone that is in the kitchen A TON! I really haven’t had any disasters yet. The colors in the rug are really dark and spot clean well. I vacuum it over twice a week #goldretriever and so far it’s kept up with our lifestyle quite well, I have no complaints! Fun fact! I measured this bad boy with a dollar bill (approx. 6 inches wide!) to see if it would fit the space in our kitchen. I forgot my tape measurer! 

Where can I find the rest of these budget friendly décor and furniture items?!

I made a big master list of mostly everything you see in the photos below! This includes my marble kitchen cart (a total crowd favorite and at a great price point!). I desperately wanted a marble cart from Crate and Barrel but couldn’t get down with the hefty price tag, the one from Wayfair listed below is at such a good price and looks so classy!  Pot rack holder, copper canisters and so much more are also listed below! Feel free to just click on each link item and it will take you exactly where you want to go! Some pieces were vintage and thrifted finds (most of the copper pots you see!). 


Thank you for hanging out with me for my little rental kitchen makeover! I hope this post inspired you to take your space and make it your own! Whether it be a fresh coat of paint or a few new house plants, a little goes a long way! Just because your a renter doesn’t mean your house has to be any less a home! 




  1. N
    February 21, 2021 / 3:38 am

    I know this was a couple years ago, but stumbled upon it, and wanted to say GORGEOUS..and also…I love copper pans, and my family has a collection too, but I hope to God you don’t with them..especially if they are vintage and likely unlined. They are so, so toxic!
    -A caring fan

  2. October 11, 2018 / 8:49 am

    Simple yet beautiful, with the white color looks more spacious, like the style

  3. kriste
    August 26, 2018 / 7:04 am

    Hi Elizabeth!
    How about those copper pans! I’m in love. Can you tell us where they came from?

  4. April 30, 2018 / 5:28 am

    Looks so beautiful Elizabeth! You guys did a fabulous job making the space your own. We are DIYers too, it’s so exciting and rewarding! Good luck on the new space.

    • Elizabeth Van Lierde
      April 30, 2018 / 4:28 pm

      Thank you so so so much Cosette! I totally agree, I am so happy each morning when I walk into our bright little kitchen! Same to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We Won!
Seen In