College Housewife's LA Rental Kitchen Makeover

College Housewife's LA Rental Kitchen Makeover

Posted by Randa Hinds on


Photography and content by The College Housewife.

For the last couple of years, I’ve really taken a love of fixing up my rental houses. When I say fix up, I’m talking rental friendly upgrades that make a big impact. I truly believe that if you’re going to live in a house for longer than a year, it should feel like yours whether you own it or not. It’s not just a house, it’s your home.

It’s no surprise that younger people (yes, Millennials) are taking a bit longer to buy a home as the prices are becoming more and more competitive. Here in southern California, we compete with huge price tags and all-cash offers. Our rental home alone is worth 750K! The down payment alone will set you back a few years. I definitely fall victim to this, as well as most of my gals. I’ve learned to love all my rental homes despite any stipulation. Each of my rentals have all felt like, home.

I started with my teeny tiny college apartment, moved into my first real apartment with Jared and still continue to fix up the small craftsman house we’re in now. They all were rental homes and had a ton of character thanks to some super simple rental friendly upgrades.

Things like a fresh coat of paint, hardware changes, and personalized furniture and textiles go a loooong way. I’m no interior designer but the whole makeover process makes me giddy. I have been itching to get another room project under my belt and I knew that my assistant Abbie’s Pasadena kitchen would be my next venture.

Abbie is my full-time assistant and we have also been friends since we were 12. We were on the photo team together for Yearbook club in high school and now take on huge photography productions together. Her kitchen deserved to be something special! She loves to cook and entertain and I wanted her space to be equipped to do that. We had a variety of plans that really helped this rental kitchen makeover stay budget-friendly, semi-permanent, and totally match Abbie’s style…


My first step was to make sure that I totally and 100% captured the look and feel of exactly what Abbie wanted. This is a rental, after all, so choosing ‘upgrades’ doesn’t always mean you will get exactly what you want but I wanted to come as close to ‘dream kitchen’ as I could.

I asked her a few questions that would help me get the overall look and feel, she came back with adjectives like:

Comfortable | Clean | Eclectic | Funky | White | Personalized | Modern

“I’m so excited about this makeover! I’m hoping for a clean, comfy space that my roommates and I will actually want to make dinner and hang out in! I know Elizabeth understands my style and will make it beautiful.”

Mission accepted!

We were starting to get somewhere but I had one more idea up my sleeve to truly grasp the look and feel of what reflected Abbie’s personality…

I had her take the Sherwin- Williams ColorSnap ® Color ID quiz. It’s a short quiz where you answer fun questions that reflect your personality (I love a good online quiz!). Afterward, you receive a personality-based color collection (which was a perfect tool for me when designing Abbie’s kitchen!). Abbie ended up being a ‘Free Spirit‘ which described traits of Abbie’s personality – unique and daring, walking to the beat of their own drum. The palette has 16 colors that were perfectly coordinated, inspired by world travel and defined by bold blues and greens, with balancing tans and pinks which allowed us to mix and match with confidence.

Once we selected her colors, I dove deep into the mood board and planning process (my FAV part!)

This is the mood board for her kitchen…made very formally in powerpoint:

Kitchen Colors:
Kitchen Cabinets (lowers): Tassel SW6369
Kitchen Cabinets (uppers) & Walls: Greek Villa SW551
Stove accent wall: Rojo Dust SW9006


The bones of her kitchen were very workable. Her space is small, but luckily has a ton of natural light flowing into the kitchen and dining room areas. The trick with rentals is finding a way to change things in a semi-permanent way.

-Natural light
-Good condition
-Lots of open wall space

-Dark tiles
-Weird configuration
-Small space

The paint job was one of the smaller investments, but hands down, it made the biggest change and transformed the entire space. One of the other big problems that you often have as a renter, is working with the existing tiles. Abbie absolutely hated the tile and was hoping to cover it as much as possible. We used these easy peel and stick tiles to develop a clean, fresh look that helped brighten the entire space (more on this to come!).


The biggest investment pieces that we bought were the new hardware for the cabinets and the light fixtures. In the long run, these were the biggest price tagged items but they are also things that Abbie can switch out and take with her to her next home.

Pro renter tip* Save anything that you replace in a rental kitchen makeover and put it back on once you decide to move. This will ensure you get your security deposit while changing the home to your taste.


Ah, the power of warm colors and cozy textures. Using raw wood furniture like pine helped bring warmth and minimalism at the same time, plus it was affordable.

Choosing colors like pinks, yellows, and creams brought out warmth to space as well. Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap ® Color ID really helped us bring the entire palette together – with colors that complimented each other. The trick is to keep the big stuff like shelving, and furniture pieces more neutral. Afterward, you can come in and layer fun colorful pieces like glassware, plants, and knick-knacks.


Ah! I sure hope so. It took all of my woman-power to remove myself and my taste from the kitchen so I really enveloped her style into it.

If you’re thinking about sprucing up a room in your rental, have no fear. It’s beyond worth it. This small rental kitchen makeover has made a huge difference in Abbie’s house and her life. She plans on living in this place for at least another year and being in a place that she is inspired by instantly lifts her mood and makes her proud to have people over.

Set a budget for yourself, be realistic and have a solid plan before you get going!

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