Before and After: A Tired Rental Kitchen a Charm-Packed, Two-Day Makeover

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Orangey wood cabinets, beige walls, and basic laminate countertops are each hallmarks of a rental kitchen. And if you have all three, like Toronto-based renter Megan, that’s basically the jackpot. So it’s no wonder Megan called on home decor YouTuber Alexandra Gater (@alexandragater) for help in adding a little life to her cook space. Gater had recently put out the call that she and her team were hoping to help renters in Toronto overhaul their spaces for a transformational episode, and Megan’s kitchen turned out to be exactly what they had in mind. 

“I wanted to challenge myself to make the floors and countertops work, as those were things that would be much more difficult to change in a rental,” Alexandra says of Megan’s before space. “To do so, the color story of this kitchen was important to get right.”

Megan explained that she was drawn to saturated colors and vintage style, and so Alexandra spent time tweaking color combinations and researching throwback materials to find the right balance. “After mood boarding tons of different colors, I landed on painting the cabinets in Farrow & Ball’s Bancha Green,” Alexandra says. “I added peel-and-stick retro wallpaper for the backsplash, which is my favorite renter-friendly kitchen hack, and brought in a vintage orange table lamp for the countertop. This mix suddenly made the outdated flooring and counters seem cool.” 

Over the course of two days, Alexandra and her team quickly updated the space so that it could be revealed as a surprise to Megan. “The most time-consuming part was spraying the cabinets with a paint sprayer which took a full day, but I would not skip this part,” Alexandra says. “I’ve painted cabinets before with brushes, but using a sprayer is the way to go because it leaves a smooth, durable finish that will hold up. Sanding and priming them was also a key part in the process to make sure the paint stuck.”

And here’s another tip to remember if you’re following in the footsteps of Team AG, as they’re known on Alexandra’s channel: Add cup hooks to the tops of each cabinet door so that they can be easily suspended with hangers set on a clothing rack as they dry. The holes for the cup hooks won’t be seen once the cabinets are reinstalled. 

The new black-and-white tile motif of the wallpaper brings in a graphic backdrop that’s just as playful as the cabinet color, and a new pendant light overhead ensures that it all feels way cozier, too.

Alexandra also spent time decanting pantry goods into matching IKEA jars for a uniform look, and then used clear command hooks to help plant vines add texture to the walls. Finally, with the added accessories of vintage copper pots, brightly-colored bowls, and Megan’s existing artwork, the new kitchen came together as a modern take on mid-century diner style. 

“I’m super proud of how budget-friendly and approachable this makeover is,” Alexandra says. “I think it proves that even a few tiny changes can have such a big impact and really transform a space. I would tell others to lean into the fun of the planning process: Once you nail your vision, it will feel like putting the last piece of a puzzle in place.”

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