It's possible to improve your rental kitchen and still get back your safety deposit. The trick? Leave it better than it was when you signed the lease.
Kitchen Breakfast Nook
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn

Clean, Clean, and Clean

Chances are that more move-in ready, professionally cleaned rental is still quite dingy. Before you unpack your dishes, switch out all the light bulbs in the kitchen—you'll be surprised by how much new light bulbs illuminate your kitchen and lingering dirt. Then stock up on Chlorox, Ajax, oven cleaner, and windex and get to deep cleaning everything: the insides and outsides of the cabinets, drawers, refrigerators, pantry, oven, and even the walls. Kitchens are a natural place for a lot of grime to build up so by eliminating that your kitchen will instantly shine a little brighter.

Try a Little Fresh Paint

Depending on how long your lease is, you may want to repaint the walls, cabinets, and backsplash – or just one small of these things (Note: painting cabinets is a big work commitment.) You can't wrong with white and Behr's Swiss Coffee is a no-fail expansive neutral. Another fun idea is to use TempPaper, easily removable wallpaper, on your backsplash for a spot of pattern or if you're artistic, you can stencil a faux-tile pattern onto the backsplash.

Switch Out Your Cabinet Hardware

If you have yucky, wonky cabinet hardware, remove them for something that suits your style better. Martha Stewart for Home Depot has a great selection of basic pieces. Anthropologie and World Market carry a funkier selection. House of Antique Hardware boasts classic and period-specific hardware. Save yourself the headache of patching holes and replace knobs with knobs and handles with handles of the same length—this is just a rental after all!

China Cabinet Pantry Storage
Credit: Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Include Custom-Esque Furnishings

Many rental units have low-grade, stock cabinets that look like boxes hanging on walls. Don't be afraid to take down these "boxes" and hang open shelving or a floating hutch in their place. Keep your eyes peeled for bottomless hutches at antique malls and thrift stores. They are a dime-a-dozen because people will buy only the drawers portion of a china cabinet or breakfront leaving the hutch behind.

Accessorize Like This is Your Permanent Home

Lay down rugs. You can't go wrong with a natural fiber. Depending on the look of your floors, don't be afraid to cover them up with something larger than a kitchen mat. A collection of wooden oversize breadboards or cutting boards propped against the backsplash adds an instantly homey touch. The same goes for quality dishtowels. If the blinds are metal, consider switching them out for inexpensive bamboo shades. Art goes a long way too. Instead of one large painting or poster, try a gallery wall arrangement of several smaller works of art.