Emily Henderson

My Budget Kitchen Redesign

I need to upgrade my rental kitchen with inexpensive easy solutions.  And fast.

Here’s a secret (from a stylist) my kitchen is, oh how do i put it, kinda not my style.  Welcome to the  the understatement of the year.  It’s like saying Lindsey Lohan kinda is kinda a bad driver.

See for yourself:

The cabinets are oak and as shiny as a guilty man’s sweaty forehead.  The hardware is brass colored plastic – i love brass more than i do food, but this is not brass, my friends. The flooring is linoleum, but i have no idea if its supposed to be that beige or if it’s three years of dirt (although we do clean it so it might just be stained). The countertops are ‘granite’, and frankly the least of my problems, but still not ideal for me.  It was redone 3 years ago. I know.

At least the florescent lighting is flattering.


People congregate in the kitchen, and this lighting makes everyone look wrinkled and sick.  And while ‘wrinkled and sick’ might be coming back, i prefer ‘so youthful and healthy it’s weird’ in my own kitchen.  I always say your house (like an outfit) should flatter you, and florescent lighting does anything but.

The color of the walls is fine, whatever, but looks terrible with everything else.  Again, please take a moment to really let that floor sink in.  I have to not only look at that, but walk on that EVERY DAY.  Oh for shame.

It’s a massive bummer.  When we were looking to upgrade from a one bedroom apartment while we save for a house we had a list of priorities, as follows:

1. In Los Feliz or Silverlake – check, on the border of both.

2. At least 2 bedrooms – check, its 2 plus an sunny office and a dining room that could be another office.

3. Storage  – it has a huge garage and a big driveway for me to do projects.

4. Filled with light  – Check. The living room, office, dining room and foyer all have tons of light, the bedrooms are totally fine.

5 Hardwood floor – Yep, except for this kitchen and the bathroom.  You’d be SHOCKED at how many apartments or houses have carpeting still.  Yucko.

6. Under $2800.  I know.  It’s a fortune, but where you live in Los Angeles directly effects your social life because of traffic, so while we could of course rent a house deep in the valley for $1500, all of our friends live here and it would be social suicide.  And i don’t support suicide in any way, especially if it involves your friends.

What wasn’t on the list? a good kitchen and great curb appeal.  We compromised and sacrificed and i thought i could look past it because i don’t cook, but i’m way too emotionally attached to aesthetics to live this way.

So even though it’s a rental, things are going to change around here.  Full disclosure, i’m pitching this as sponsored content so hopefully i will only spend a lot of my own time, but not money.  I may be superficial and snobby about design but i’m not an idiot (or rich).

I’ve been pinning dream kitchens for a while, and here are some of my faves:

beautiful slab and hood....:)

Love Drew-Barrymore-Kitchen

why not? mixed tiles.

Metallic Kitchen Cabints - via Elle Decor

High gloss kitchen cabinets, patterned tile backsplash, modern + rustic


Right?  So let’s just do that! However there are some problems:

1. It’s a rental property so the budget is not big – in fact the total opposite.

2. It’s a rental property so it can’t be anything too outrageous or my landlord won’t go for it and he won’t approve the plan, let alone help pay for it.

3. It’s a Spanish style home so it needs to have a nod towards an old world style in some way.

This isn’t going to be my dream kitchen, but i know that it can be massively improved without breaking the bank.

So here’s my list of what would be fast, cheap and appropriate:

1. Spray the cabinets white.  I got a quote from my painter for $650 which was lower than i expected, but i’m not sure what the quality would be – need to double check that one.  My cabinets have a lot of flourishes and decorative crap so i’d rather just replace them (or at least the fronts) but that will cost more, obviously.  I can handle most bad things if its white, so i’m thinkin it’ll be good enough.

2. Replace the flooring:

It could be a super simple white linoleum (or click laminate) like above.  YES, i know it will get dirty, but I love a white floor so much and i could bring in throw rugs to help with the dirt situation.

I haven’t started shopping yet, so maybe there are some awesome colored linoleums out there. I’m secretly not even opposed to this blue:

Yes, it’s retro, but it’s also fun and playful.  And again, imagine the cabinetry white, the backsplash a pattern and the floor blue as you look into the kitchen from my entry:

Ignore the rest of the room, the cat on the ground, and the serious lack of styling. The point is that the whole house has this airy white, grey, blue thing happening, but then the kitchen is so dark and dated that it ruins everything. Just EVERYTHING.   If i owned it i would probably splurge on amazing tile or lay wood flooring, but for now i need a cheap unoffensive solution.

3. Paint or tile the backsplash.  I might just paint or do some temporary wallpaper, but If i can get a tile company to donate tile in exchange for press then something like this would be amazing:

It’s just so right.  I’ve been obsessed with it since i first saw it in Domino Magazine 8 years ago.  I love this because while the tile might not necessarily be Spanish or Mediterannean, it feels old world and works with the style of the house, but in a modern color palette.

I’ll go ahead and say it – i think that the permanent fixtures of the house (flooring, walls) shouldn’t be wildly different than the style or era of the house.  If i, all of a sudden, designed a totally contemporary kitchen in this 1920’s Spanish house that has a lot of Hollywood regency detailing, it would look… stupid and random.  I could go simple and classic which would be fine, but nothing too ‘now’ or not a style that directly opposes Spanish – it needs to have a nod to the era or the style.  (which is why i probably won’t do the blue linoleum, now that i think about it).

4. Switch out the lighting.

It needs to be a flush mount fixture or something that doesn’t hang too low since people have to walk underneath it and i’m thinking something that feels 1920 to match the rest of the fixtures in the house.  I kinda love the idea of something antique (which would match the rest of the 1920’s fixtures in the house) and feminine, something with integrity like this:

Or i just do something very temporary that disappears, gets no attention but isn’t offensive.  I have 2 of these left over from a job that i could use:

It’s not the right style for the house, but its free and so simple and classic that nobody is going to arrest me for installing it.  Go ahead, coppers, just try and arrest me.

5. Face out the ‘granite’ with butcher block (or plywood that can be treated like butcher block). I want to make sure that this is in fact very cheap and way cheaper than using ikea countertops, but i’ve heard and read that you can have a facade created that kinda slips over the granite and covers it. This would obviously modernize it, bring in warmth and work way better in my color palette. The granite is fine and i know that a lot of people like it. It’s actually the least of my problems right now.

Open shelving above sink

Butcher block counters and open shelves

I’m going to try to get a sponsor for this bad boy. That way i can have proper before-and-afters and do videos and posts and not waste my money on a rental.  Having a better kitchen for 1 year (that’s when we are hoping to buy) is worth my time. Not wincing everytime i walk into the kitchen would be amazing.

6. Replace the hardware.  I need to do proper sourcing to find the cheapest (without looking cheap) brushed or antique brass hardware, but i will.  Meanwhile if you have a bigger budget check out some from Rejuvenation:

So here’s what i’m thinking as of right now.  I’m sure it will change once i start to do some research and once i get a budget, but i’m officially committed to do at least something to make this kitchen liveable, if not beautiful.

So for those of you who have redone their own kitchen, bring on the warnings and advice. I’ve done total renovations, but never just cosmetic or basic inexpensive upgrades, so any and all advice is helpful.