4 Ways To Disguise Horrible, Ugly Kitchen Cupboards

Got a rental kitchen to DIY? We've got four great ideas to cover + beautify those janky cupboards! // yesandyes.org
This is the first guest post from our new DIY/design contributor Thalita of The Learner Observer! Thalita will be writing about easy, cheap ways we can all make our small, rental spaces even cuter. Follow along with her on Twitter or Instagram!

As any renter will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to find a place that meets the criteria of your “dream apartment” while sticking to your budget.

Unless you’re a Rockefeller, you’ve probably had to make a few compromises and live with a few less-than-stellar features that are impossible to change.

Painting the walls? Easy.
Covering up some not-so-great flooring with rugs? Easy.
Disguising hideous kitchen cupboards? Hard!
Or is it? This too can be an easy and reversible fix, friends!

Cover cupboard doors with contact paper

With contact paper regaining some momentum and becoming a popular material for DIY’ers, there is a slew of inspiration out there from fellow renters who have discovered genius ways to cover up their less-than-attractive cupboards.

The great thing about this new generation of contact papers is that they tend to be super easy to remove, but will stay put until you decide to pull them off. Win-win for the renters of the world, right? I love this marble-looking contact paper, this chalkboard contact paper, and this neutral polka-dot contact paper.

Panyl makes covers for IKEA furniture (also very renter-friend, am I right?) and that includes their cupboards. You can now completely customize your cupboards to be as colourful (colourless) as you want!

rental kitchen diy

If you’re creative, or know someone who is, why not try creating a completely custom design for your kitchen? I love this woodsy theme!

rental kitchen diy
If you’re ok with the cupboard doors but want to inject a punch of colour into your kitchen, Joy Cho’s studio has some great inspiration. The toekick is made entirely using contact paper! The shelving on top is also pretty spectacular – more on that in a bit!

rental kitchen diy

If you’re brave enough to fill your space with pattern check out this kitchen makeover using Isaac Mizrahi contact paper! Yep… there’s such a thing as designer contact paper!
rental kitchen diy

Add some open shelving where cupboards are lacking

Remember Joy Cho’s studio up there? That kind of open shelving can be a great option for those of us who lack storage in the kitchen. Find a wall with no upper cabinets and add your own stylish storage!

rental kitchen diy

Remove your cupboard doors for open shelving

Just get rid of the doors! By removing the doors, you create openness in the kitchen, a better flow, a more modern look and a place to show off all of your prettiest dishes! Just remember to keep all of the hardware and the doors themselves!

rental kitchen diy

You can even add some wallpaper, fabric or wrapping paper to the backs of the cupboards to spruce them up. This one has some grasscloth in the back, which gives the kitchen warmth and texture!

rental kitchen diy

And while you’re at it, why not use the ever-popular washi tape to your advantage too? It’s easy to apply and remove, and you can switch out colours and designs as often as you wish! This set of washi tape particularly lends itself to shelf-edging!

rental kitchen diy

Hardware is jewelry for your doors!

My last piece of advice to you is to remember that hardware is important! After you’ve taken care of what you want the doors (or lack thereof) to look like, remember that the knobs and pulls make a big impact, too! Here is some inspiration for you, in a wide price range from $5.99-$49!

rental kitchen diy

I hope this provides you some inspiration for your very own rental kitchen! Remember you don’t have to settle for someone else’s taste – you can always bring in a touch of your own personality and change things up!

These blue and white ceramic knobs would be great in a farmhouse kitchen and these matte black knobs could modernize rental cupboards.

What’s your kitchen situation like? Share your best rental-improving tips in the comments!

P.S. 14 ways to make your apartment look great on a budget

Sources for cupboards: Panyl cupboard covers // Contact paper carvings // Striped toe kick // Patterned contact paper doors // White open shelving // Removed cupboard doors // Grasscloth-backed cupboards // Washi tape cupboards // Kristine Paulus
Sources for knobs and handlesCloisonne geometric handle // Streamline brass handle // Turnlock handle // Small iron/brass knobs // Dangling honeycomb knob // Gold & white square knob // Rope handle // Framed agate knob // Glass bubble handle // Agate handle set

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  1. Meg

    That's it. I'm taking off all of my cabinet doors. Now to see if they will let me paint the fake wood…


    • Anonymous

      me toooo

  2. LouLou

    Oh wow, these are great! My rental's kitchen cabinets are all painted metal (that is, metal that has been painted). It's pretty awful and they're super rusty and gross inside. I'd considered doing the contact paper for the inner parts, but hadn't thought about it for the exterior. Not sure it will stick, but it might be worth some experimenting.

  3. kathrynoh

    I was all primed to recover my cupboard doors with contact until I realised aren't flat, they have groove thingies in them.

    • Anonymous

      We’re u able to cover them?

  4. heather

    Certainly going to try both taking doors off and contact paper!! Great help..many thanks

    • yesenia

      I have my cupboard doors off now, but will not use Contact paper ever again!

  5. yesenia

    BEWARE! I tried the Contact paper method, and when it was time for a change, it wasn’t easy to remove without damaging the existing surface of the cupboards. The adhesive from the Contact paper just peeled away the layer of varnish on the cupboards, leaving patches of unvarnished wood panel. I had no idea these ugly cupboards could get worse, but removing the Contact paper did a number on them, for sure.
    Now, I have to re-varnish…an entire kitchen of cupboards? Oh, had I known this was a possibility before, I wouldn’t have gone with Contact paper. Sure, it’s not permanent, but it can cause damage. So, think twice about your cupboard surfaces before you stick it on.
    I am opting for fabric covered this time around, but am ironing a vinyl layer onto the fabric first to waterproof it. Then folding it neatly over edges and tacking them to the inside of the doors.
    Just wanted people considering the Contact method to know!

    • Katherine Teschner

      We put contact paper on metal cabinets and it was a nightmare to remove. I would not use it in a rental!

    • Anonymous

      Well after searching for ideas, I realized that there’s contact paper and there’s removable
      contact paper! Hope this helps!

  6. LadyMichigan

    FYI- use rubbing alcohol to remove the adhesive left from the contact paper. The alcohol is fantastic on bathroom doors, sinks, etc….. due to the residue left by hair spray.

  7. Anne

    We are not allowed to paint or stick anything to the cupboard doors. I tried contact roll in my last flat, and nothing gets the damn thing off!! I dont know how you got it off…

    • Liz

      Did you figure out an alternative for your cupboard doors? We are not allowed to paint or stick anything on them either, but we want to upgrade them so badly (somehow)…

  8. Dianne

    If you run a hairdryer over contact paper before you remove it, it comes off much easier.

  9. Terry

    Thanks for the tips on the contact paper. I would be really concerned with damage at time of removal too. I think I have a way to avoid both damage and the problem with grooved surfaces. Using a lightweight plexi plastic, or poster board cut to size, wrap your fabric or contact paper on the board. Then apply the new board to the cabinet door using the Command Wall Tapes. I haven’t used this idea yet but I’m going to try it once I move in to my new place.

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