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It’s (Finally) Time For An Update On Arlyn’s Rental Kitchen: Here’s Her *Actual* Design Plan

What do you get when you mix five months with some elbow grease, snafus, design pivots, and a lot of interruptions from a very cute toddler? Well, my cherry rental kitchen redo, that’s what! That’s right, I’m back with an update…the final update because SURPRISE! The space is actually done and I LOVE IT. It truly makes me so happy. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for the reveal but for today, I have a lot of in-between progress to share to catch you up.

First, let’s remind you where we started, which I shared back in June on this post.

The Original Cherry Cabinets In My Rental

My biggest hurdles to jump in bringing this place to life a bit were as follows:

  • Somehow lighten the heaviness of the cabinets without actually changing the cabinets (again, this is a rental so I have a lot of limitations and everything has to be reversible).
  • Update some of the early 2000s vibes of the hardware, lighting, laundry closet doors, etc.
  • Create a breakfast nook so we could eat in here.
  • Add more storage so I could clear off the counters some more.
  • Bring some cohesion to the mismatched appliances.

In general, it was a totally fine space, especially considering I’ve had way worse as a renter. But it was just bland. As personable as a sack of bread flour. And if you know anything about my design style, “bread flour” is a far cry from what sets my heart ablaze. I like pattern, color, and charm. Someone once asked me to describe my aesthetic (wait…it might have been for my bio on this website), and I think I said something like an English grandmother’s cottage after her hip grandkid came in and pared it back just a little.

In my original post about how I was going to modernize my cherry Shakers, a lot of you thought it just couldn’t be done, but then the moodboard I presented changed a lot of your minds. My product choices evolved since this summer (keep reading) but the *vibes* are still pretty dead-on.

Evolution of a Moodboard

Here’s the very first design plan I shared and frankly, I still love it. It’s impactful, colorful, lived in.

Brass Cup Handle | Brass Bar Cabinet Pull Green Tile Backsplash | Paint | Curtains | Pinstripe Fabric | Checkerboard Flooring | Brass Rail | Brass Hooks | Wicker Hanging Baskets | Rug | Dining Chair | Dining Table | Burgundy Cabinet

After ordering six different peel-and-stick backsplash options (more on that in a few scrolls), including the one shown above, I decided on a different product and also found a bistro table that was just the right size for my eat-in area. Additionally, I sourced two secondhand wooden dining chairs very similar to the ones shown below on Facebook Marketplace for about $60. Here’s that board updated with these picks:

Bistro Table | Peel & Stick Backsplash | Dining Chair

As a reminder, my plan for the curtains was to take out the laundry doors and replace them with panels. I’d color-match my final selects for a paint color for the walls so that it all felt seamless and visually cohesive. I loved the idea of bringing a dash of burgundy on the other side of the space via the cabinet to balance the red of the kitchen cupboards. And well, who doesn’t love a checkerboard floor right now?

But then a few things happened…

Picking Final Material Selections

I know I already revealed the backsplash I went with, but let’s take a look at some of the other samples I considered.

The left is a skinny tile that closely matches the sage green of the countertops (it doesn’t look like it in the photo as much as it does in real life). I liked the color variation and how they felt modern but timeless. The four on the right are all by a company called Smart Tiles. It’s hard to see in my photo but the top two do look like zellige tile just…very glossy. They were beautiful, and the material was kind of gel-like and felt durable. Neither color worked for me (too dark, too blue in undertone), and neither did the penny tile or the other subway. They were very minty and also read “2004 glass tile” which I did NOT want.

Remember my “cohesive paint and curtain” plan? Yeah…no. The second I laid eyes on Jenni Yolo’s Chasing Paper collection that launched earlier this fall, I knew I had to have it. (P.S. You might notice there’s a green cabinet in the photo with the wallpaper samples…the red one I wanted went out of stock and stayed out of stock, so I settled on the emerald version instead, and honestly, it’s the best happy “inconvenience” that happened because it’s perfect in here.) While I was deadset on the yellow and green colorway, the wonderful team at Chasing Paper sent me samples of the entire line in all the shades available and I pivoted once again. The mustard felt too heavy in my small space but the lighter tones of the bottom paper were beautiful and soft and happy.

This Ruggable rug was one of the first things I picked out for the whole space. I LOVE the Blackthorn pattern from Morris & Co. in theory, but when the rug arrived, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right in here. It had a little too much vintage-esque fading, and the dark green I thought comprised the rug when I saw the photo of it online turned out to be more of a dark blueish black.

I lived with it for months and one day just decided I didn’t want to settle. They graciously let me donate it instead of having to mail this large, heavy thing back and I went on the hunt for a secondhand rug on Facebook Marketplace (spoiler: I found an amazing wool Armenian rug for $80 and grabbed it IMMEDIATELY and it’s gorgeous and makes me very happy).

My Biggest Spend: New-to-Me Appliances

My absolute biggest challenge in here was figuring out these appliances. Before we moved in, we swapped the white electric coil stove for a great GE Profile glass-top stove I found on (you guessed it) Facebook Marketplace for $350. That’s what you see in the original images I shared, but here’s what it looked like when we first got the townhouse:

The fridge was white, the stove was white, and the dishwasher was black. So when we brought in the new stainless range, we had three colors going on in here. It was wild and no amount of backsplash or pretty wallpaper was going to solve that problem. I considered adding some stainless wrap or contact paper to both but the truth was, the dishwasher was ancient and barely washed the dishes we put into it (not to mention how inefficient it must be from an energy standpoint), and the fridge was too small for our needs being that I cook most meals here. Plus, the freezer door was always popping open randomly and we’d come back hours later to an open freezer and everything soft and squishy.

Charles and I checked with our landlord about replacing them, which she was okay with as long as we footed the bill (and put back what was here when we eventually move out). We didn’t want to spend $5,000+ on a new fridge and dishwasher, so I hunted for weeks, nay…MONTHS for the right product at the right price on Facebook Marketplace.

Guys, this was my EVEREST. I found a nearly new LG smart dishwasher for $125, and a GE profile French door fridge (in a hyper-specific size that had to be both counter depth AND no wider than 33″ because the opening didn’t fit a full-size fridge) for $400.

All in, we spent about $1,000 on the range, fridge, and dishwasher after delivery, and to us, it was money well spent. We can bring these appliances with us to our next home or possibly even leave them if our landlord is willing to pay us for them. (If you’re interested in learning more about this, I actually wrote a post on another site about it here. All the ins and outs!)

Plus, the obvious win of looking considerably better than our mismatched monstrosity from before.

A Last-Minute Lamp Snaffu And A DIY Pivot

So, we’re finally near the end, and before I show you my finally FINAL moodboard, I wanted to also tell you of another shift I had to make at the absolute last minute. I found this beautiful woven pendant for the breakfast nook from Lulu & Georgia on Facebook Marketplace (my BFF) for $125. It was originally about $400, so it was a TOTAL score. Except that a week before my scheduled photoshoot, it arrived broken. The seller claimed it happened in the mail, I think he sold it to me broken because there was nothing in the very sturdy box that could have caused this damage.

Long story less long, he offered me $50 to keep the (broken) lamp, or a full refund if I sent a video of me further destroying it and throwing it in the trash. My heart couldn’t handle that, so so far, I’ve kept it. I don’t know what to do with it (any ideas?!?!?) but trashing it feels immensely wasteful.

All of that, of course, meant that I needed to find a solution for my shoot with only days to spare. I looked on all the secondhand sites to find something, but everything was either out of my budget (considering I was already out $125), or just not what I wanted stylistically. So I contemplated somehow making something myself and went on the hunt for inspiration. I’m very into the pleated lampshade trend so after some research, I landed on just buying a cheap Empire lampshade and trying my hand at adding some fabric to it. I found pretty patterned sheets on clearance at Target (much cheaper than fabric most times!!), watched a handful of YouTube tutorials, and the finished product is one of my product DIY moments. I can’t wait to show you it! The day before the shoot, I bought a mini pendant kit, strung it through the top part of the lampshade, and wired and hung it myself.

The Final Moodboard

I’ve come a long way with a lot of near misses, and bobs and weaves, but this is where I finally landed:

Brass Cup Handle | Brass Bar Handle | Pendant Light | Striped Fabric | Paint | Peel & Stick Backsplash | Peel & Stick Wallpaper | Yellow Chair Fabric | Table | Dining Chairs | Display Cabinet | Rug (vintage)

Well…except for with a different pendant. I picked a green paint that coordinated with the wallpaper to paint the laundry doors instead of taking them out (they provide good sound buffering which curtains wouldn’t do), and as mentioned, changed the display cabinet to emerald. That’s a (very bad) photo of the rug I bought so forgive me but you get the gist. I’m realizing now I didn’t even begin to discuss what I was doing with the striped fabric but I’ll get into that in the reveal post instead (hint: a very cheap DIY for anyone who loves a Roman shade). And because I loved the mustard of my original wallpaper pick, I brought it into the fabric I used to reupholster the seats on my used chairs (thanks Max Humphrey for sending me some of your Pindler & Pindler fabric, it’s perfect).

And that’s it. This is where I leave you. Again, I’m so, SO excited to show you the finished product because the change is so good without being wildly over-the-top in terms of effort. Yes, it took me 5 months but that’s just because life and money got in the way. The Internet loves things to be instant, but real life takes time. And I’m glad I put in the time to get it all sorted in a way that excites me every day when I walk through that kitchen door.

Stay tuned.

Your friend in “make it work” design, Arlyn

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7 months ago

Very excited for this reveal!

7 months ago
Reply to  R

its really refreshing to see so working with their cabinets and not against them;) as did I and mine were cherry also:) thanks for this!!!

Lauren H
7 months ago

I’m so excited to see how this turns out. I love the sound of all of the shifts you made. Such a sad story about the pendant lamp but I might have just hung it with the part that was broken turned toward the window so you wouldn’t see it as much? And chalked it up as being an imperfect vintage pendant lamp situation (at least that would be the back story I would give it in my head!).

7 months ago
Reply to  Lauren H

I thought the same thing. Plus, with the height it would be hung at, I think you’d have to be looking for it to even see it. It’s a really pretty shade.

7 months ago

It looks beautiful! This is the kind of post that meets most of us where we are but shows what’s possible with a bit of intention and your excellent design eye. Thank you, Arlyn.

7 months ago

How exciting! I love seeing this come together. Your FB Marketplace finds are inspiring.

7 months ago

I love your make-it-work approach, and can’t wait to see the final result. Congratulations on getting to this point!

7 months ago

Absolutely love this post! Great inspiration and can’t wait for the reveal. Definitely interested in the Roman shade tutorial.

7 months ago

This is so random, but if you haven’t bought cup pulls yet, email me. We have about 20 that we didn’t end up using in our kitchen, sitting in a box. I’d love to find them a useful home!

7 months ago

Love it all. Not sure why the pendant can’t be installed so broken bit is at the back. I think it could also be repaired by someone (like me) with a lot of patience. Excited for the reveal. Your posts are the most relatable of all the content on this site. It feels attainable and the timeline seems realistic to real life.

7 months ago

Opened up the site this morning and immediately warmed my coffee to settle in for a much appreciated in process design post! 5 months? Still quick in the real world, and you must have read Caitlin’s search tips based on your FB marketplace scores! Seeing your space evolve with pivots from color changes to budget influence gives a boost to my soul for the process of creating a room(s) I’ll love. Thanks, Arlyn & team.

7 months ago

I have an idea for the broken wicker lamp! Patch it with sugru (or something similar) that is flexible can be rolled into the diameter of a wicker “stick”, shaped to the curve, will stick or can be glued to the broken edges, will air dry, and then can be painted gold. (Or even… covered with gold leaf?) Visible mending! Lean into the imperfections and highlight the broken place.

7 months ago
Reply to  Anni

I was thinking along the same lines. Maybe try air dry clay then paint to match?

7 months ago
Reply to  Anni

What a great idea! I have some Sugru in my freezer!

7 months ago
Reply to  Anni

It’s bloody cheeky and pretty dishonest to sell broken but actually I’ve got heaps of wicker that’s a bit broken and I just don’t worry about it. I see as the patina of age, (although none were broken at purchase). I’ve also had good experience getting mended through specialists but likely that will negate the cost savings.
Fancy asking for it to be destroyed! What a prize moron.

7 months ago

Really love to see these approachable posts, with a budget and a design plan. I follow Arlyn on instagram and, together with Sara’s bedroom reveal, I was inspired to recover my bedside lamps with fabric. It was a great weekend craft, thanks for the inspiration! And Arlyn, no need to add the caveat that it took you five months, it’s a perfectly reasonable time frame to tackle a rental makeover! Looking forward to the reveal 🙂

7 months ago

If you glued a strip of leather in the right color around that shade to hide the damage, how would that look? I would do some visual experiments.

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago

I’m ALL about “make it work” design! (and relieved for a break from drowning in shopping posts)
So excited to see the final reveal, Arlyn!!!
BTW: way cute pic of darling Evelyn munchkin.
I still can’t believe that you can wire things yourself in the US, but then I remember that your volts are much lower than in Australia.
Looking forward to your big reveal! 😀

7 months ago

I think you could weave leather cord or ribbon through the lamp in an organic way to disguise the hole!

7 months ago

Excited to see the reveal! I love seeing how you adjusted the plan as you moved forward and dealt with problems.
If you’re up for experimenting with that lovely shade, Amazon offers rattan and wicker repair kits by color diameter of material. Weaving isn’t hard, and you don’t have anything to lose…

7 months ago

Very excited to see the final reveal – not least because I HAVE THE SAME RUG!!! I bought it in Morocco about 20 years ago and still absolutely love it to bits!

7 months ago

EEEEP!! I can’t WAIT for this reveal, Arlyn! I love the final mood board. It’s looking gorgeous.
It made my stomach drop a little to hear that that guy wanted you to film yourself destroying the rest of the lamp shade and tossing it in the trash in order to get a full refund. What the actual F?!?!? That’s terrible!!! I’m glad you decided to hold on to it. I think the suggestions others have made here about repairing sounds like a doable option.

7 months ago

Arlyn, I LOVE your posts! I’m a homeowner of a small home that I’m hoping to take from 2004 builder-grade to my lovely Jewel Box, and your posts are SO stinkin’ relatable and encouraging. Especially the replacing appliances part. Can’t wait to see the reveal!!

7 months ago

could you find a rattan basket or trash can that has a unique shape or find a basket the same color and use the rattan to repair your Lulu and Georgia lamp.

Julie S
7 months ago

Oooh I want to seeeeee!! Your timeline is totally realistic. I did a mostly-paint-and-styling kitchen facelift earlier this year and it took me from July-October.

7 months ago

the little bit about the FB marketplace seller asking you to destroy the lamp shade, will live in my head rent-free, probably for ten years.

7 months ago
Reply to  carmen

Seriously!!! $50 back and it has to be destroyed?! The whole thing should have been $50 or less. A pox on that seller. I hope karma comes back to serve them right.

7 months ago
Reply to  carmen

It seems to me that he thought *she* was being dishonest (perhaps that she had caused the damage with the intent of getting a refund) so she had to prove destruction of it to get a refund. A refund and shipping it back would make more sense, of course; but that is my theory on what he was thinking and makes his suggestion more

7 months ago

Okay, I need the exact model of that fridge. I have the same problem, with almost the same dimensions. Fingers crossed I can find something that works as well as yours has.

7 months ago

So excited to see the reveal, but loving this step-by-step explanation of how things evolved. So realistic.
I am so glad I came to the website today; I didn’t get the emailed notification of a new blog post….don’t know if that is a problem for me or a more wide-spread glitch..

7 months ago
Reply to  elle

the email went out at 2 today 🙂 back to noon tomorrow!

7 months ago

Ok — thanks. I received it at 5:03pm in my mailbox…maybe it is my provider…

7 months ago

I am interested to see how this turns out. I live in a rental with bumpy orange peel walls. I haven’t tried stick on tiles or wallpaper because I didn’t think it would work. I can’t swap out my appliance, unfortunately. Our appliances are small so the spaces can’t accommodate even standard-size alternatives.

7 months ago

Love this post and hearing about all of your design pivots! Can’t wait to see the reveal. You are adding something wonderful to this blog, and I’m so happy you are back!

7 months ago

Very excited for the final reveal! I hope you’ll also advise us on where to source Max’s awesome Pindler & Pindler line if you aren’t in the trade… it seems to be trade-only, but maybe there’s a trade retailer that will sell small amounts to individuals?

Reply to  KL

I don’t know how many interior designers would be willing to place an order for just fabric for someone, but I would. 🙂

7 months ago

I love seeing updates without people having to replace every surface of their house– it’s so satisfying for some reason.. can’t wait to see the final.

7 months ago

I love the direction you are going in and look forward to the reveal.
You could papier mache the light fixture into a matte plaster feeling that would still have those great curvy lines.

7 months ago

Gosh, I love these types of posts. I have been wondering what happened to your kitchen redo.
Love the choices, love hearing a real life process where there will be an actual practical outcome, and can’t wait for the reveal.
I would so love more of these type of posts, or posts like this more often.

Pamela T
7 months ago

Like all, can’t wait to see the fruit of your labor. You rock at the pivot game! So worth it to feel as you do when entering the space. And Evelyn😍!

7 months ago

5 months is fast! I’ve been my apt for a year and have the living room to figure out still.

7 months ago

You should be able to make a claim on FBMP. State the seller says it was damaged in the shipping process. You should be fully reimbursed and the seller is not charged. I have sold things that were damaged in shipping and FBMP covered both of us!

7 months ago

Love this – can’t wait for the reveal!

Lots of great suggestions on how to repair the woven pendant. I have a few more ideas! What about trying to repair it by weaving in some type of brown color coated wire or embroidery floss or yarn? Or perhaps there’s a little basket out there that matches your pendant and you cut and paste that in to fix?

Also, this made me giggle: “bread flour” is a far cry from what sets my heart ablaze.

7 months ago

I have been looking for this exact peel and stick tile shape for ages. Sample is on its way….very excited. Also super excited for the big reveal! THANK YOU!

7 months ago

You can search for local basket weaving supplies or contact local basket weavers (who sell at art fairs) and repair it with Round Reed. Round reed is available on Amazon in several different reed sizes. You’d have to dye it yourself, there a lot of youtube video on this subject. With care you could do it without it looking like a patch. Or patch it and redye the whole thing. I’ve used brown shoe polish with some success on patches, but they weren’t highly visible areas and I’d give the whole basket a rub. Good luck!