Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Renting? 5 ways to temporarily update cabinets

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Living in an apartment or rental home is tough -- particularly with controlling landlords. Rather than painting (and trying to repaint before you leave to get your deposit back), save your time and energy with these temporary upgrades that can make all the difference:

  1. Toe kick: If you're dealing with cabinets that don't look terrible, just dull, sticking up some exciting contact paper on the toe kick (the few inches of recessed space below the cabinets themselves) can do wonders. Think of it like a thrilling underline for your kitchen. Use the strip to pull out colors that need a bit more attention or just as an accent on its own. This project won't even take an afternoon and you're using so little contact paper that it should only cost a few bucks.
  2. Removable reface: If you feel comfortable cutting contact paper and you've got flat-front cabinets, consider refacing the entire kitchen with contact paper. It's going to take more time (and patience) then just spicing up the toe kick, but the results are sure to impress -- and if you don't like it, you can just peel it right off! Consider both solid colors and exciting patterns for this project.
  3. Washi tape: The Japanese cousin of contact paper, washi tape is essentially decorative masking tape that you can use for accents anywhere. There are bunches of different patterns out there, so shop around and get creative. It's great for outlining and framing, and with a careful hand, you can line up multiple strips of tape to make a complete pattern.
  4. Hardware: Changing out the drawer pulls and cabinet handles is like putting jewelry on your cabinetry - it's a great way to accent. This temporary fix is easy and fast, which leaves plenty of room for you to get creative. You can make your own handles out of wine corks, tumbled river rock, old paint brushes or really anything roughly the right size. If you're buying new hardware, it's very important that you get hardware that is the same size and attaches the same way -- you don't want to be adding any extra holes to make things fit.
  5. Door free: If the doors are simply too terrible to save and you've got enough extra space to store them, take 'em off completely and see what you've got. Once they're off, update your cabinet interiors with colorful contact paper and cover up the screw holes from the hinges (a little plain, white toothpaste works great to fill in small holes in white material). This look opens up kitchens and can really change the feel of your space.

When it's time to move again, you can revert your kitchen back to its boring former self in no time and your landlord will never know the difference. Get creative, and go for it.

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