Design and DIY

Before and After: Upgrading a Rental Kitchen

June 10, 2019

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked why I was putting so much work into my rental, I’d be living in a Newport mansion with a five car garage by now. But alas, I’m actually living in a place above my landlord’s garage. How’s that for irony? After selling my house and moving into a builder grade apartment for a year, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than to make a space feel like mine again. Just because you didn’t buy it, doesn’t mean you can’t own it.

So OWN your rental property! Whether you live there for 6 months or 6 years, transform it into something worth spending your time in. Which is exactly what I did to my 2 bed, 1 bath guest house, starting with this nook of a kitchen.

The Before

Before Kitchen

I have to admit, I lucked out in the “good bones” department when it came to this rental. My landlord had updated the kitchen, replaced the floors, and painted the walls within the last two years. It screamed potential and so I handed her my cash deposit a day after our walk through.

Before Kitchen 2

Most renters would fight tooth and nail for a kitchen with white cabinets, subway tile, and a halfway decent countertop. Believe me, I know how fortunate I am. While it functioned perfectly as a space to cook in (at least I’ve heard that’s what people do in kitchens), I knew it needed upgrades to transform it into the coastal cottage it secretly was. So with my landlord’s blessing and a little help from my sponsor: Kingston Brass, I got to work.

Kitchen Mood Board

My biggest challenge? Repainting the entire house in Snowbound by Sherwin Williams. Since the property is set far back from the road and surrounded by trees, it gets filtered light. Even with white cabinets and appliances, the kitchen (the darkest room in the house) begged for something to make it look brighter. My house is hard evidence that four days, ten cans of paint, and a lot of cursing can improve just about anything!

Pro Tip: White helps to visually enlarge a space by bouncing light; making a room feel more expansive.

The Crown of the Kitchen


There’s nothing I dig more than modern design, so I surprised myself when I fell in love with this Restoration Bridge Faucet from my sponsors at Kingston Brass. She’s the Beyonce of the kitchen: classic, charming, and a little too flashy. Bow down, bitches. (That’s a reference to one of her songs, Mom. So don’t yell at me for swearing on my blog.) She’s the architectural element I didn’t know I was missing in my life. And lately I’ve been finding excuses to use the kitchen (Who even am I?) just so I can admire her!

Faucet 2

I’m often keen on matching the faucet finish to the sink, so I was this close to ordering the Heritage in Brushed Nickel. But in true Emily fashion, I changed my mind in the eleventh hour and went with the Restoration collection instead. Who can say no to those vintage-inspired cross handles in a polished nickel? Obviously not me. I can’t deny an easy install either. Although the original faucet was single hole, I noticed that the sink had a four hole configuration that was capped off. Changing out the faucet took less time than deciding which one I wanted!

The After

Before and After
Wide Shot Kitchen 2

You may have noticed that other than the vintage rug, nothing else from my mood board made it into the final design. The first (and hardest) decision I had to scrap was the mercury glass pendant. I didn’t want the hanging fixture to accentuate the fact that the sink was offset from the window. So I opted for a brushed brass semi flush-mount instead!

Light Fixture

Light Fixture | Faucet | Toaster

If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times – swapping out hardware is the easiest way for renters to level up their home style. To create a mixed metal theme, I ditched the silver pulls and invested in these Ingot ones in an Elusive Golden finish. It’s wise to use the holes that are already there, so that you can switch back to the original handles when you’re moving out. (Make sure to store them in a safe place!)

Detail Shot 1

Nespresso | Canisters | Pulls | Cutting Boards (Vintage)

For someone that doesn’t cook often, I was shocked to find that I needed more storage than the kitchen had to offer. So I installed a shelf made from an $8 pine board and $3 brackets. At ten inches deep, it’s perfect for items that I need to easily access. IE: bowls, mugs, and most importantly, wine glasses.

Detail Shot 2

Wine Glasses | Wicker Glasses | Diffuser | Sign | Knife Set

The cost of the upgrades (excluding the gifted faucet) came to a total of $392, with the hardware being the greatest expense. You could definitely accomplish a similar budget-friendly look by finding more affordable alternatives. (Amazon is a great source.) But just look at what four easy updates can do to your kitchen!

17 pulls – $172

Pendant light – $45

Flushmount light – $80

Primer & Paint – $80

Shelf – $15


Total $392

For my fellow renters, I’ve compiled a list of easy kitchen upgrades:

Image 1

Shop the Post

Image 2

This post is in collaboration with Kingston Brass. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Emilyeverday up and running.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Dirose June 10, 2019 at 10:03 am

    It’s beautiful! So cool your landlord allowed you to do this. Win, win for both of you! You are an amazing girl!

  • Reply Gabrielle June 10, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Great job – Gorgeous!

  • Reply Meredith June 10, 2019 at 10:51 am

    I love these small changes you’ve been making – such a big impact! My husband and I have our own home, but we plan on selling and moving in the near-ish future, so I keep putting off a lot of projects because “we won’t be around long enough to enjoy them”. You’re inspiring me to just DO THEM to get the most out of the house while we’re here, and hopefully it’ll add some resale value too.

    • Reply emilyeveryday June 10, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Yes girl, do the small IMPACTFUL changes that will add some resale value!!

  • Reply Whitney sigler June 10, 2019 at 9:14 pm


    It’s all so beautiful. I love everything that you have done.
    We are renting also, our landlord has been fantastic with letting us make the house “ours” .

    Excited to see more of your beautiful home.

    Your IG Friend,

    • Reply emilyeveryday June 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

      Yay Whitney, I’m so glad we both found unicorn landlords!

  • Reply Linda June 11, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Looks great!! I love how you make every place you live in your own. Whether you own or rent!

    • Reply emilyeveryday June 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

      Aw thank you so much Linda!!

    • Reply Kymberly June 17, 2019 at 3:33 am

      This is spectacular. I love how you made this a home that just shines. Lucky landlord. ?

  • Reply Sun Room Reveal: Bringing the Outdoors In - emilyeveryday June 17, 2019 at 11:25 am

    […] been following along with my month of reveals, then you’ve already seen the guest bedroom and kitchen. And you know that I’ve been gradually transforming my rental home into it’s true […]

  • Reply How to Change a Doorknob August 12, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    […] updating the guest bedroom, kitchen, and sun room in the Coastal Cottage, I couldn’t help but feel like I skipped a step. The […]

  • Reply Nick Cangemi September 27, 2019 at 10:11 am

    You did such a great job beautifying this space! I really feel like the entire area feels more spacious and elegant now!

  • Reply Jai Blanchard October 27, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I KNOW Beyonce lyrics…. I ZUMBA to her music.
    Your tres cool mom

    • Reply emilyeveryday October 28, 2019 at 9:48 am

      You ZUMBA-ED to her music… past tense.

  • Reply Aishwarya April 22, 2020 at 7:57 am

    You made the kitchen space really beautiful!!!! Good Job

  • Reply Debra October 24, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    Emily, I have just stumbled upon this post and gasped out loud when I saw the white porcelain tray holding your soap dispenser and scrub brush. I have been searching for just that tray for seven months now. Please share your source!

    • Reply Wordpress November 2, 2020 at 9:32 am

      Hi Debra! Unfortunately it’s from Homegoods a while back but I hope you find something similar!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.