{The Little Kitchen that Could!}


The kitchen transformation is complete!!!!

Remember this?

Here is the same space today!


My goals for this space were to open it up, make it brighter and breathe some whimsy into it by decorating with things we love.

I know what you are thinking- “she said she couldn’t paint the cabinets!?” Well, I did NOT paint the cabinets. It was not an option. We are renting for a short time and the owners weren’t interested in making any permanent changes to their kitchen.

Fair enough.

Stick with me.

The first thing I did to open up the space was move the refrigerator to a new spot. It was not a counter-depth fridge and it stuck so far out into what was already a very limited space, it was literally screaming out to me “get me outta here!” It was easily repositioned to the opposite wall. This made room for the bench we had as seating at the breakfast table at our old house.

This kitchen is clearly too small for an island and I wanted a spot for my husband and baby to sit and hang out and chat with me while we cook meals. The bench fit perfectly into the spot previously occupied by the fridge.

I also put the small white armoire in the kitchen-it was in our bathroom at the old house. It offers additional storage and is directly opposite the fridge now which just expanded the footprint of the kitchen nicely.

My original plan with the cabinets was to remove the upper cabinet doors and to skirt the lower cabinets. Removing the upper cabinets doors was very easy. Took about ten minutes, one screw driver, and removing a few dozen screws. Everything is carefully stored so that we can reaffix the doors in a snap when our lease is up. When the doors came down, however, the kitchen just looked worse. Not just small and dark but small, dark and cluttered (and with someone else’s stuff!!)

I boxed and labeled and moved the homeowner’s things to the finished basement. This made room for our things. Then I pared things down majorly. I only kept out the things that I need/use regularly and that are nice to look at-anything ugly got stashed in the lower cabinets that are covered or was sold at a garage sale prior to the big move.

Here is where things went white πŸ™‚ I started by putting white contact brand shelf paper down on the bottoms of those upper cabinets. The homeowners already had old white shelf paper down but it had seen better days (like 1972). The new shelf paper looked so nice and clean and crisp and was so easily removed after installing (I checked it carefully!!!!) that I . . . yes, I did . . . I covered every inch of those upper cabs in shelf paper. You can slipcover a sofa. Why not a kitchen? (or so I rationalized) It cost $10.00 in shelf liner (Target) and I used my quilting tools (rotary cutter and mat) to measure and cut the paper in the right size strips. It really did not take all that long. Probably because this kitchen is so tiny! I also broke up the work and did bits and pieces over a period of several weeks as we were busy moving things into the house.

This was not a perfect job by any means. I suppose you don’t need to worry about things like a perfect finish when you are the girl who is contact papering her kitchen. (or so I rationalized!!! again!)

Before long I was able to move all of my pretty kitchen things into my newly white cabinets.

Here is another before and after of one area of cabinetry:

I also included family photos printed in sepia. I love being able to see these displayed during everyday meal prep, life, etc. It really took this kitchen from being a temporary rental into a space filled with our family.

love it.

I stuck with my idea to skirt the lower cabinets. This allowed me to leave the lower cabinet doors and drawers alone and cover them with a really beautiful ikat. I wish this fabric had photographed better, it is simply gorgeous in person and was the only (very minor and with a 50% off coupon) splurge I made in this room.

I also sewed a simple valance which I hung on a tension rod (didn’t want to hang a real curtain rod that would require drilling into the wall). I helped to mask the tension rod look by using curtain ring clips.

So there you have it. A rental kitchen, transformed without any permanent changes to cause issues with our landlord, and done for less than $100. All of my goals were met in this project, most importantly,

it feels just like us!

It feels like home.


  1. Erin, I am amazed! This is one of the most inspired, practical and dramatic kitchen make-overs that I’ve ever seen. INSPIRED. Truly. And beautiful.

  2. FANTASTIC JOB!!!! The “new” kitchen (and Mommy with baby) — adorable! You deserve 5 stars for the makeover!

  3. Wow Erin, it is AMAZING, so beautiful and soft, and bright at the same time, I love it, I love the fabric, so pretty! You never fail to amaze me, great job!!!

  4. My initial response was A. MA. ZING! And I see I’m not alone πŸ™‚ Way to make a rental look more like your own.

  5. Who else but you would be so clever as to put white contact paper on the cabinets to get them white without paint?

    so impressed…

    the personal touches just MAKE the space…love seeing all the pics of your sweet boy!

    I literally laughed out loud when I read…

    “This was not a perfect job by any means. I suppose you don’t need to worry about things like a perfect finish when you are the girl who is contact papering her kitchen. (or so I rationalized!!! again!)”

    too funny! great job, Erin! Have a fabulous weekend with your family!

  6. Wooooooohoooooooo! So cute! And so YOU. I have to say, I knew all along it was contact paper, only because when we rented an old house from 1925, the bathroom was very dark and depressing, and I covered the tile with contact paper (it really was better – the tile was cracked everywhere and so dingy). You go, girl!

  7. Looks very nice. I would have never know those cabinets weren’t painted, but the first thing I said was, she said she couldn’t paint, I just figured you got the OK. You are right that fabric is beautiful. I have come to realize, it is not about making it perfect, but making it your own. You have done a beautiful job. Jackie

  8. Erin, You have the most amazing radiant smile and you and Wynn look so happy in your “new” kitchen. Congrats on a genius makeover!

  9. It is amazing how inventive you can get when the situation has unique challenges! Of course I didn’t expect anything less than fantastic and you delivered that and more. And how I wish I could get a few meters of that gorgeous fabric!!! It is so perfect and fresh.

    Can’t wait to see more Erin!!

  10. Seriously…this is a-ma-zing! I had my doubts when I saw the before photos. I knew you had great taste and tons of talent, but this is shocking! As a renter, I love these ideas πŸ™‚


  11. I am in awe of the beauty of Wynn AND this unbelievable makeover. When you emailed me a week ago with your plan, I was so excite to see it. Now that I can see it in pictures, I am totally blown away! So crafty, clever, and brilliant, I am just speechless. Bravo Erin, just amazing!

    And that fabric is TDF.


  12. hi
    Your kitchen looks so wonderful and inviting
    I would love to visit and have a cup of tea with you….

  13. Wow! Erin you did an amazing job. It looks like a million bucks. The way you have styled the cabinets is magazine picture ready. And, by the way…I think your kitchen should be in a magazine. So inspirational. So many people feel stuck because they are renting or don’t have the funds to complete a major renovation, but you’ve shown it doesn’t have to cost much…just imagination and hard work. Way to go! Oh, and that picture of Wynn yawning is adorable!!

  14. Hi Erin! This is my first time to your blog and oh, what a lovely kitchen you’ve made! And for just $100? Amazing! You’re a pretty as a picture and your baby is simply adorable! Now I’m off to scroll through your blog.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia πŸ˜‰

  15. Wow, I am impressed AND inspired. It looks wonderful… I’m totally going to copy you! I keep on debating with myself about painting the cabinets in our rental even though I don’t think the Landlord would like it. But THIS I CAN do. I’m your newest follower, and I found you via Trish at the Old Post Road.

  16. It looks so clean in it’s adorable shabby-chic-ness. I just love what you’ve done to brighten and whiten it up. The fabric was a perfect choice. Good for you at all under $100! Happy cooking!

  17. So cute! you can’t even tell in the pics it’s contact paper! I bet the landlord’s won’t want it taken off once they see it!

  18. Wow. That is pretty miraculous. The owners should really see this; I think they would agree that those cabinets need to be painted white! It’s beautiful and I’m glad to see you looking so happy.

  19. e- it’s pure genius. looks fantastic. and wynn is growing so much! he is such a cutie! XOXO kh

    let’s talk soon

  20. What a great transformation! GENIUS idea to use the contact paper. My only thought…after sitting a while, will the adhesive from the paper settle onto the cabinets, leaving some of it on when removed? Just a thought…but an amazing new look. So glad you guys are getting settled in your “new” home!

  21. THAT LOOKS GREAT!! If I were the owner of this home and saw how great you did on this transformation, you’d have my automatic blessing to change anything you wanted however permanently you wanted. πŸ™‚

  22. Erin!! You are so incredibly creative. It looks beautiful! I wouldn’t have expected anything less, every transformation you reveal is nothing short of amazing! πŸ™‚

    This is proof that renters with restrictions can have the home of their dreams if they make the time. There are a lot of temporary changes that can be made. I think it is so important to make the best of what you have no matter where you are.

    Wynn is growing so fast! πŸ™‚

    Have an awesome labor day weekend with your family sweetie!


  23. This is absolutely inspiring!!! What a fantastic job you did! It also gives me some hope that if we have to move I might actually be able to make due with a rental. Thanks for the inspiration!

  24. So beautiful and fresh! I loved your comment about not having to be perfect if you’re contact papering your kitchen. My home is not a mansion, but it is newer, and I’ve been kind of paralyzed about making ‘permanent’ changes. We may have to move, and I’ve been looking at some pretty old fixer-uppers thinking that I could live with imperfection and even enjoy being free to work with it. Thanks for your inspiration!

  25. Great job! Another hint that I did in a house we lived in, in Chicago and HATED the backsplash tiles. I put white contact paper over the tile and then used a vinyl to vinyl wallpaper paste and put up great looking wallpaper. When it was time to move – zipped off the contact paper and wiped down the tile with rubbing alcohol and the tiles were back to original and I didn’t have to live with UGLY tile.

  26. Oh my goodness, Wynn is getting so big! I love the last picture of the two of you. You did a fabulous job on the kitchen! You truly made it your own. I think it was rather clever of you to use the contact paper to create white cabinetry.

    I hope you have a fabulous Labor Day weekend!

    ~ Tracy

  27. Erin!! You are a genius! I wish I would have “known” you when I lived in our old rental! Our landlord told me I could paint, but she didn’t tell me I couldn’t paint the cabinets. So I painted them, and when we left, she took half of our deposit because of it! If only I would have thought of something so clever as to cover the cabinets with contact paper!!
    Your kitchen is absolutely beautiful. But I knew it would be. πŸ™‚
    I love the photos of you and the little guy, too. You guys are too cute!!

  28. Just so amazing!!! You gave me so much hope for turning my blah rental kitchen into something better!!!! :))))

  29. Hello Erin, I’ve been reading your blog and have enjoyed it very much. I have been waiting to see your “new” kitchen! As someone said, I could not imagine how you could “makeover” this kitchen with all the restrictions. This is amazing! We have something in common …. the white Pfaltzgraph (spelling??) dishes! I have white cabinets, but am tempted to take the doors off and cover with white contact paper! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Oh my goodness that pic of you kissing baby is adorable!! I have eyed those same plates with the birdies on them but I have no blue in my home… I love birds and your cute kitchen

  31. This is adorable….and so full of inspiration!!! Love you little touches, your pictures in the cabinets makes it yours….just love this idea as well as the way you presented them on string, birds are so cute and totally change the feeling of it being kitchen cabinets….so pleasing, bright, cheerful and soothing all at the same time.

  32. This is so enchanting, WOW, what an undertaking, Great thoughts put to the real world home!

    Enjoy your new space!
    Smiles, Cyndi

  33. You get blog post of the year! I will be thinking about how smart you are all day. Big difference. I loved reading your post too. Sometimes I just love the photos, but I loved both the photos and your writing.

  34. Wow, Amazing, job well done!!!! You landlord should see this I net they would let you do ANYTHING after seeing this spectacular transformation.

  35. That is amazing, I would have NEVER thought to contact paper the entire thing… brilliant!! It looks great! And I love the little touches you’ve added like the little “clothes line” of pictures, flowers, etc. You are so clever!!


  36. this turned out so amazing…great job thinking out of the box….maybe when l-lord see’s how beautiful kitchen is he will beg you to paint it!!

  37. Is that the “Chirp” china pattern I see? I adore that pattern and so badly wish I had it! It looks great against the white…can’t believe that’s contact paper! I wish I could paint my cabs but my hubby grew up with painted cabs and loves wood. Unfortunately ours are FAKE wood (MDF, anyone?) and super ugly!

    Anyways, great job! Saw you on the Nester!


  38. I saw you on the Nester and just finished catching up on your blog. I admire your leap of faith. I think you made a decision many people are afraid of. I look forward to hearing more about your story and reading about how wonderful it is to trust in the Lord.

  39. I once covered a refrigerator with contact paper, but kitchen cabinets?? Genius, pure genius. Gorgeous baby, BTW.

  40. I came over from Nester’s place – you did an amazing job with the kitchen. It looks adorable, so fresh and bright. Kudos!


  41. I to came over from Nester’s. You are one creative lady. Congratulations. Your kitchen is beautiful!

  42. What what a transformation! You my dear are a real problem solver. I hope the landlords see it and realize it’s time to paint that awful wood! The pics of the family is a really sweet touch! And to top it all of the Nester showed off your work, you have to be giddy! πŸ™‚

  43. I, too, came over from The Nester’s and am so impressed with your transformation! Great job. πŸ™‚ Off to scour your archives.

  44. I followed the link from The Nester! You are adorable and so is your kitchen! Your landlord should let you paint now that they see the amazing difference! You are a genius!

  45. I recall the magic of contact paper when we lived in military housing. It was a life saver with every move! Your kitchen looks wonderful!

  46. What a great way to try out white cabinets without committing to paint right away. I am so going to do this before I take the plunge with my kitchen cabs. Excellent idea!

  47. Oh my, what a transformation. You should send the owners a snapshot, they’ll want you to go ahead and paint the cabinets. I took my doors off my upper cabinets too, but they don’t look as charming as yours. Pictures and a sting … what a great idea!

  48. Yet ANOTHER reason you are my BFF. πŸ™‚
    Thank you for texting me sneak peeks along the way- I can’t wait to see what you come up with next…my cell phone is always in my pocket! (hint, hint)


  49. This reveal is so fun! You are amazingly creative with your space…Can’t wait to see what else you do! Thanks again for allowing us to come along! πŸ™‚

  50. Wow, wow, and triple wow! I can’t imagine that after seeing this kitchen your landlord wouldn’t want to leave it this way.

    You get an A+ for ingenuity and creativity! And that kitchen is so cute and light and friendly. Wow, again!

  51. What a great idea! Fantastic job. I have some ugly cabinets that I’ve been toying with painting but I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the time to paint them since eventually we’ll tear them down. Love this low cost revamp.


  52. Erin…so great. You are an inspiration in making the absolute best of what you have. I’m so inspired by what you’re doing to achieve a dream. That takes so much courage and you do it with such joy. Lovely!

  53. I found you thru Nester. Wow; this is absolutely amazing! I think you know how brilliant and inventive this was. VERY inspirational!

  54. I am in AWE of your abilities to creat a beautiful space for your family. You ooze with talent and inspiration. I know I am one of many but I just had to tell you how taken I am with not just your kitchen…but your family goals.

    So humbled…


  55. YOU DID IT!!! You really can make everything you touch beautiful!!
    I love you! Sorry I have been so busy lately. I have missed our email/text chatting!

  56. Hi Erin,
    I want to say congratulations on your new home.
    I think that you have really embraced it and it shows with this incredible transformation. I love how you didn’t let that blue counter boss you around and pulled it together with the fabric choice and bowls.
    Hey maybe you’ve created a new market for a removeable edgebanding for kitchen cabinets for design savvy renters!


  57. I came over from Nester and I can only second everyone else here! Amazing transformation!!! Congratulations on your “new” kitchen! I would love to know where you purchased the ikat fabric, it’s gorgeous!

  58. You should be sooo proud of yourself!! Way to turn a house into a cozy home. Beautiful kitchen, creativity at it’s finest.


  59. YOU are amazing πŸ™‚ Just came across your blog and story this morning. Thanks for the encouragement this morning!!!

    I am certain you will continue to blow us all away with beauty… inside and out!

  61. G-E-N-I-U-S! Woman, you are a force to be reckoned with! I am in such awe. Your scrappy, “you-can’t-stop-me” attitude inspired me today in a realm totally outside home dec, so thank you.

    I’m dealing with life stress right now, things I have little control over, and your contact papering of your cabinets strengthened me! If you can’t make a permanent change, then change what you are able!

    Thank you πŸ™‚

    (stalked you from The Nester)

  62. I mean unbelievable. I would have never ever thought to do this.

    I love the space. It is a wonderful homey feel to it. Ahhhhh, white. How do people not like it?

  63. you did an amazing job! I really do think small spaces are the coziest! Good job on embracing your space and making it beautiful. Isn’t it amazing what beauty can come out of the challenges God places in our lives? (both externally and internally) πŸ™‚

  64. WOO-HOO, that is a sensational makeover. And the landlord is ABSOLUTELY nuts not to let you wave your magic decorating wand over the entire place!?? Looks like a million bucks, and baby is growing just as beautifully. Love that you love decor and God…my favorite type of blogs (came here from Nester, God is Good).

  65. Okay. This is simply GENIUS. Seriously. Contact paper? What? Who would have thought! That does not even look like the same kitchen! It is gorgeous beyond belief! I just found your blog today (I THINK through the Nester) and am SOOO glad I did! I will definitely be back. Seriously, wow. Oh, I also LOVE the pictures hung up with clothespins – I have an awkward little wall space in my kitchen that that idea would look FABULOUS in! Thanks for the inspiration — you amaze me!

  66. i found you via nesting place and all i can say is WOW! Your story is very encouraging to me since this very subject of beginning the process to live debt free is a hot topic in our household. i have been researching several of dave ramsey’s books and offerings and wondered if you and your hubby were using any christian financial books. I pray that my hubby and I can soon begin taking the steps to become financially free and allowing God to do amazing things in our family in the process.

  67. Congrats on your kitchen renovation, its looks amazing! Love how you opened up the space by removing the cabinetry and painting the space white. Your family photos are so adorable and makes the space very warm. Great job! You are hired πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing! Blessings for your little one and your fam!

  68. It’s beautiful! I’m so impressed that you had the patience to cover all the cabinets in shelf paper. It is such a clever idea for transforming a rental kitchen!

  69. I just found your blog and I am so glad I did. I am totally impressed with your ingenuity to make your little rental feel like home, Kudos to YOU,Kathysue

  70. Your kitchen redo is amazing! And I love that you did it at an affordable $100.
    I’m a renter too and always looking for ways to personalize our space.

  71. What a brilliant idea to get yourself a bright new kitchen. You could even line the backs in a contrasting color or fabric (applied with a little liquid starch for easy removal.)

  72. This is awesome. Awesome awesome awesome! I found your blog through Clover Lane Sarah’s posting of your most awesome picture today. This blog post made me want to be your friend – it said so much about you! I remember when I used to live in rentals, how hard I would try to make them “ours.” Great job!

  73. i totally covered my apartment’s cabinets with contact paper too and then decided, on a whim, to pull it all off last night. most of it was fine but when the lowers came off, so did all the original cabinet varnish! i love me some contact paper so i’m pretty bummed that it failed me! now i have to re-poly it. no biggie but i hope yours comes off cleaner!! love your kitchen re-do!!

  74. I just found this blog, and I’m loving it! Not only are you beautiful, you’re darn BRILLIANT! I can’t wait to peruse the `back issues’. :o)

    Hubby and I purchased a little 900 sq foot crooked country house with THE ugliest galley style kitchen ever. Seriously. Totally 60s, with shocking bright orange formica, hideous dark vinyl floor, dingy pea green lower cabinets. Ugh.

    But….it has fantastic hand made open shelving on the walls, and lots of it. Thick and sturdy hand hewn shelves. We slapped some soft white paint on them, gave the lower cabinets a fresh coat of updated sage green paint, redid the formica and wow, what a difference just with those touches. I will never ever have upper cabinet doors again, I am crazy about the open shelving!

    Last thing to tackle is the hideous vinyl floor, haven’t decided just what to replace it with yet, maybe reclaimed old wood planks. Hubby and I are devoted DIYers, so this is fun stuff for us, as it seems to be for you as well!

    So glad to have found your lovely blog, little mama! Thanks for sharing from your corner of the world.

  75. i just love this little kitchen that could. i too have a teeny kitchen… i am always instant kindreds with other ‘teeny kitchen people’…just LOVE what you did with this space. what a blessing you are to your family πŸ™‚ xo

  76. I found your blog from The Lettered Cottage, I’m glad I did! That is one amazing transformation. I would never have imagined that the cabinets were not painted. Fabulous job!

  77. Love this! The space really opened up and looks much more inviting. I have to warn you, though – we just pulled out contact paper from the shelves in our kitchen cupboards (we have similar cupboards) and in the process, the finish on the cupboards got pulled off along with the paper. So, you might want to check them every now and then if removing the finish might be a problem with your landlord.

  78. how did your cabinets hold up? i am thinking of doing this in my bathroom

    • Hey Jamie! We were only in this rental for about 8 months and it was several years ago, so I’m afraid I can’t say how long it would hold up. I think it might look a bit weathered in a bathroom (from moisture, etc) after several months. But stop back and let us know!? πŸ™‚

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