Change the color of your cabinets without pissing off your landlord

Guest post by Rebecca

I kind of hate wood. I’m one of those terrible, sinful people that will paint old wood furniture aqua, yellow, or antique white rather than treat it properly. I don’t whisper sweet nothings to my wood furniture and seductively offer to apply another coat of stain to it. I mostly just paint it and eventually forget that it ever had a lovely cherry finish.

This led to a small problem in my apartment. I wanted to make my kitchen feel like it was my own, not just a borrowed rental kitchen. I wasn’t allowed to paint the ugly wood cabinets or the walls, but that combo of standard rental ivory and drab brown just didn’t work for me. I experimented a bit with those dollar store peel-and-stick wall decals. I attempted to liven up the kitchen with artwork. In the end, though… I HATED those damn cabinets.

As it always does, inspiration struck while standing in my Hobby Lobby. I noticed awesome stripe-y scrapbook paper — it totally matched the drawings I recently put up in the kitchen. I found more teal blue cardstock paper to go with it, and I grabbed about five rolls of double-sided tape, an X-Acto knife, and a ruler. OH YES.

Within a few hours, I measured and cut the paper so it fit perfectly inside the frames of the cabinet doors. Another 20 minutes and I used up two rolls of double-sided tape and found a new love for my freshly-papered wooden cabinets. The wood looks pretty decent next to the bright gorgeousness of that craft paper, right? Now I can have some COLOR and visual interest in my kitchen without pissing off my landlord by painting. I can make the kitchen actually go with my design plans rather than having to mold my design plans to my kitchen.

The best part about this craft idea is: the tape is VERY easily removed, even after a decent amount of time has passed. I had this paper up for about a year, and had to replace the paper on three cabinets during that time due to staining/tearing (this could be remedied with lamination, but I don’t want my cabinets to be that SHINY). Every time it’s been incredibly easy to remove and replace.

After a year, I was inspired by my new Tardis cookie jar and re-did all the cabinets in various shades of blue. I liked the concept so much I went even farther and put up movie cards from Blockbuster and posters from Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the other side of the cabinets! Okay, yes, maybe I’ve gone a bit far with this project… but it’s so much fun I can’t help myself.

Renting does come with its benefits and frustrations, but there’s always a way to make a rental more like a home. I’ve been in this apartment for three years now. I’m incredibly ready to find a house of my own where I can paint as much wood (and wall) as I want, but for now I’m grateful that a little craftiness can help make my favorite room in the house feel a little more like a room of my own.

Comments on Change the color of your cabinets without pissing off your landlord

  1. The title should say “without pissing off your landlord or husband.” I’ve been trying to convince him of painting the cabinets and he is dead against it. Thanks for the idea!

  2. How cool! I would encourage people to be careful with double-sided tape as I have seen the heavy-duty stuff damage old wood surfaces (for instance, when taping up plastic to insulate windows). But I can’t imagine that the craft-weight stuff would cause problems on most surfaces.

    Another option would be patterned contact paper–easy to apply, remove, and clean!

    • I definitely recommend contact paper, especially for bottom cabinets or anything that’s above the stove. You don’t realize this, but when you’re cooking, the grease in your skillets splatters up and gets carried in the steam up, up and up. (If you’re not a thorough cleaner, just rub your finger along the surfaces above your stove for proof. Eeew.) This will make grease spots in paper over time. And you obviously can’t clean splatters and spills off of the paper. Contact paper is easy to clean with a damp sponge.

    • If I remember correctly, when I purchased my double sided tape I got photo-safe tape from the scrapbooking aisle, because I was a bit concerned about discoloration of the wood. I only used that type of tape the first time, though, and after that just bought the regular stuff and didn’t have any problem.

  3. This cabinet idea is awesome! I just bought a house and we don’t have the funds to redo the kitchen the way I want and the future husband says the cabinets are too thin to sand and restain a lighter color (place hasn’t been updated since…ever. It was built in 1924, and we are only the 3rd owners if that helps at all… did I mention it use to be a one room farm house?!?! A TINY one room farm house…)
    ANYWAYS! This is SO ABSOLUTELY PERFECT I can already see Future Hubby coming home to a revamped kitchen when he’s gone for 5 days next weekend…. the planning shall commence!!!! πŸ™‚

    • That is amazing. Thanks for posting it! I have so little wall space in my kitchen, and it needs some serious decorating. Perhaps a combo of these tiles and a couple small decals on the cabinets will make it look more like us without giving the landlord a heart attack.

  4. Oooo! I am SO doing this! I’ve been trying to think of a way to personalize my kitchen in a way that’s removable and won’t damage anything. Might do it with fabric instead of paper though.

  5. This is a brilliant idea. I’m moving into a new apartment in a couple of weeks, and the cabinets are beat up and old. The management company won’t replace them, and won’t let me paint them. My kitchen is a 50s theme, so some cool paper that looks like the top of old formica tables (star pattern? Kidney shapes?) would look AMAZING! Thanks for the idea!

  6. Great idea for non-wood lovers. I am the exact opposite and have been known to spend laborious hours stripping, sanding, and archeologically digging through the layers to reclaim the true wood underneath painted wood. Stains and varnish, lemon oil and orange wax are my friends. Paint is for walls! If I were renting though, and had ugliness in a similar manner, I would stock the tape and paper and go creative on it. Good thinking!

  7. omg im totally doing this with some of my photography in my kitchen!!! i have a giiant butterfly kite hanging in the kitchen ceiling. what a fantastic idea! thank you!!!

  8. You can also use fabric as easy pull off wallpaper, just soak in liquid starch (not the spray kind), pin at the tops and smooth over with a squeegee. Once it’s dry, remove the pins and voila- fabric walls. Removing is simply pulling them off and wiping the starch off (doesn’t have to be scrubbed). It doesn’t even damage flat paint.

  9. This seems like such a great idea! …. It’s weird, but no one around here seems to carry contact paper – so this seems like the next best idea…. Perhaps putting a layer of clear packing tape over the paper would help it last longer?

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