Builder grade apartment kitchens are pretty homely. In all honesty, I loved the kitchens of my last two apartments 10 times more than this one, even though all of the cabinets, fixtures, etc were in no better shape. They at least had character, and had light. From the day I looked at these dark laminate monstrosities, to the complete lack of natural light being a windowless, interior kitchen in a north facing apartment, all I saw was a death pallor.
I had dreamed about finding a temporary way to update this kitchen without compromising the integrity so I could keep my deposit, but again, it came down to cost vs. want. If I DID update, I had thought about using white contact paper on the top cabinets, black contact paper on the bottom cabinets, and painting fake brick panels white (find them at Lowes), and fixing them gently to the most interior wall with a few finishing nails to give the room some dimension. I was really inspired by kitchen’s like these, and was hopeful to make a (severely) knock off version on the cheap.
I also thought about maximizing the bright colors and doing white on all of the cabinets, and covering the damaged, beige countertops with a fake marble solution, like this inspiration from A Thoughtful Place:
Its so freaking cute!!! Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the old days where I thought being an adult meant you could do whatever you wanted instead of the reality of having to pay for health insurance instead of buying clothes. I know I’m lucky to even have a good job and apartment, but I really do miss that innocence.
Updating your Builder Grade Kitchen
Barring anything dramatic, costly, or time consuming… you can make a pretty nice difference in how your kitchen looks by being strategic with what you use to decorate, as well as the appliances you use on a daily basis. Here are my three guidelines:
1. Use a united color theme
Pick a color you want to use for accents before shopping for any new appliances or kitchen utensils, or go with what you have the most of already. This way, you can select only that color, and it makes the space far more cohesive. I luckily already had a red coffee pot, fruit bowl, and cookbook stand, so I made sure that the rest of my kitchen gear (if I bought new) fit this theme.
If you already have appliances, see if you can use Washi tape to give it a quick pop of color consistent with your theme. I did this with the light above the sink with reasonable success. While its not super fancy, it does give it a nice pop of color that works nicely in the space. You can even attempt to paint appliances if that suits your fancy! Emma with A Beautiful Mess did this with her stand mixer, and although this post was about a fail, I do believe she eventually painted it a different color.
2. Cover up/distract from eyesores
One thing that bothered me about this kitchen was that the first thing you saw when you walked in was the fuse panel. While I’m sure it likely violates some electrical code, I hung large artwork over the panel that continued the red color theme. It is easy to remove in a pinch if I need to access the panel, but its a heck of a lot nicer to look at.
(Note: If you do this, PLEASE use command strips, or a very shallow picture hanger that doesn’t fully penetrate the drywall. There are a TON of electrical wires branching out from the fusebox, and you don’t want to go punching a nail into one.)
The kitchen before
3. Decorate with things that make you happy
I loved some of the homes I had seen decorated with these oversized letters, and found the perfect sized wooden letters at Hobby Lobby. A quick coat of bright red spray paint and they give the kitchen a little something extra without being overwhelming.