19 November 2009

An $80 kitchen makeover from our pals at Apartment Therapy

I know, I know, I need to stay away from that website. I log into Apartment Therapy every couple of months, and I swear I have an open mind heading in. I land on their page and I have a genuine curiosity about what the under 30 set is thinking.

Well, after the first handful of posts, it starts to get to me. The pose. The dread Apartment Therapy editorial pose. "We take our shoes off when we come home." "We think that kittens and puppies are cute." "We need to get organized but we're too busy!" And so it goes, ad nauseum. The pictures are pretty, kind of like an online HGTV. But unlike HGTV, I can't hit the mute button.

It's not a total loss though, I got a blog topic out of it. Thanks Apartment Therapy!

So one of their intrepid correspondents found herself in a cheesy apartment with a builder-grade kitchen.

It sure is ugly. So what's an intrepid Apartment Therapy correspondent to do? Why, embark on an $80 makeover of course.

So from what I can see, she removed the cabinet doors, contact papered the cabinet backs and then raided a garage sale to find enough clutter to jam into her newly-opened up kitchen cabinets.

It's still an ugly kitchen, just a different kind of ugly. Meh.

So if you're a renter and you're faced with a similar dilemma, there is a better way to goose your ugly kitchen than this.

Invest in good roller and a really good set of paintbrushes. Then just kiss your security deposit goodbye. Although, if you're clever you'll paint it back to landlord white before you move and no one will be the wiser. So I say  paint, humble paint, is your best bet when it comes to banishing the bad juju out of an uninspired rental. After you're done painting, try purging your counters of clutter. Then keep the magnets and paperwork off the front of your fridge. Clean up after yourself and don't let dishes pile up in the sink. Hang good art. And remember always that cabinets have doors on them for a reason, leave them there.


  1. OMG, They think this is an improvement?
    I honestly have never checked out Apartment Therapy, but I have certainly heard of it.(Read : seen it on alot of Bloglists)

    Perhaps her next improvment will include placing the litterbox in the middle of the living room,since, apparently she likes looking at shit.
    All she needed was some knobs/pulls.

  2. Susan: Thank you for your candor as always. I think what bothers me about AT's editorial voice is its herd mentality. That herd mentality is hammered home by their gratuitous use of the first person plural and near universal avoidance of the singular. Individual opinions get to say "I." Really. It's not egotistical. I would object to that site less if they just let their writers express their own opinions and not rope in their entire staff.

  3. Susan, that litterbox comment was hilarious. That kitchen is way to messy for me. It's junk-induced sensory overload.

  4. I know. How do you think clearly with all of that visual noise?

  5. Rule #1: Declutter.

  6. Oh, ugh, Apartment Therapy drives me nuts! Every once in a very blue moon, a relatively decent idea does show up, but for the most part, this is the kind of dreck they post and promote as "interior design".

  7. Whoa. I'll take the "Before", please!! Yes, cabinet doors are definitely there for a reason. Why would anyone want to look at all that stuff?? Cripes, I try to HIDE my stuff, not show it off!!

    I could see maybe removing one cabinet door and creating a display of special pieces. But this is total overkill!!

    I would think that any landlord would prefer painted cabinet doors over missing cabinet doors. And some landlords might approve of painting cabinets -- doesn't hurt to ask.

    The litterbox comment is hilarious :-D


  8. Boy am I glad to hear I'm not the only one.

    Ann: Amen sister. It's incredible what can happen when you just purge the crap. If you can't purge it, then hide it at least.

    Wendy: It's fantastic to hear from someone else who's mortified by that site. Bad design advice is right!

    Kelly: Ain't it the truth?!

  9. what did they spend the 80 bucks on???? Yuck.

  10. Why not just replace the cabinet doors with ones she likes --then place the new ones back on when she moves out. Yes, that's a little more money that paint, but it's easily reversable (where painting them wouldn't be). She might have some touch up to do with wood putty when she moves. Adding pulls might be a nice touch also. Even without those doors --the frames are still '80s oak, but the clutter is definitely not an improvement.

  11. Elizabeth: She seems to have spent her $80 on all that junk that falling out of her now-open wall cabinets.

    Pam: There are all sort of things someone can do to liven up an old space. Even in a rental.

  12. Thanks a lot Susan - now I have to clean coffee up from my desk! Please, next time, warn me if you are going to say something that hateful and funny. I won't be sipping coffee at the time.

    Personally, I don't support tenants changing rental property, especially without permission. It's a rental; it belongs to someone else. If you don't like the way it looks, don't move in there. Ask before making changes to someone else's property - always.

  13. I am reminded of the advice my Granny gave me when I was learning to accessorize as a 10 year old, "When you think it might be too much, it is."

    And um, is the candle on the stove a replacement for a non-functioning pilot light?

    As they used to say on Dragnet: "Dumb - de- Dumb - Dumb - DUUUUUMB!

  14. David: Susan's first comment had the same effect on me first thing this morning. I was broadsided at too early an hour so kudos to Susan.

    I'm with you so far as a rental being someone else's property and not defacing it. However, I still say a little paint never hurt anybody.

    Nancie: I never thought about the candle on the gas range thing. That's insane!

  15. Hey Gyps. Great post by the way. I am a renter with an ugly kitchen. More precisely, a renter with ugly kitchen cabinets. They are probably the cheapest particle board cabinets that can be purchased at Lowe's. Builder quality, you call them? I have considered painting the cabinets and replacing the hardware, but the problem I face is the matching countertops. Since they are a much utilized work surface, painting would not be practical. How can I tie it all together? I've considered painting the walls Behr Geranium Red to pick up the divine accents in my living room, what would be an appropriate color for the cabinetry? The red looks great against the "faux-bois" tone of the cabinets, so perhaps just a hardware change would suffice instead of painting since it is just a rental. I don't know. When you see these cabinets, you will faint dead away and wonder how I live in such squalor. You will think to yourself, "This is what he thinks is so great? Sheesh..." The floors are gorgeous and would love the rich red color. What is a person who writes a rent cheque every month to do?

  16. Well B, as they used to tell us in grade school, "Kiss it up to God." Hah! Actually, there's a lot you can do but painting your cabinetry is pretty drastic because it can't be undone. Check with your landladies before you do something like that. In the meantime, get some color on the walls and pretend they're not there. Seriously, paint your kitchen red. If you still hate the cabinetry, get new knobs and pulls.

    In your situation, there's really nothing you can do about your laminate counters. Unsightly though they may be, laminates are great counters. They can really take a beating.

    What you can do too is install some under cabinet lighting and then hang some framed art in the back splash area between the counter and the wall cabinets.

    If you still hate it after all that, take heart in the fact that the very best accessories are the ones you call your friends. Have Toneisha and Angelique stand around and no one will notice the cabinetry.

  17. "gratuitous use of the first person plural and near universal avoidance of the singular".

    funny, we here at maison21, don't have a problem with that, but that's just our opinion. :-)

    and yes PAINT is key. every renter says but 'my landlord won't let me', and i say 'don't tell them'; next is 'but i'll lose my security deposit' and to that i reply you can keep your security deposit, and live everyday resentful of your surroundings, or you can divide your security deposit by 12, 24, 36- how ever many months you plan to be there- and call it a rent increase to live in more luxurious, comfortable surroundings. surroundings you enjoy rather then resent.

    then, if they still won't paint, i realize they enjoy making themselves miserable, and oh well, different strokes for different folks.

  18. So Paul, not a fan of the naked kitchen, eh? I agree, paint the walls in something dramatic first, and pretend the kitchen's not there. They could try adding big letters spelling out, I don't know, "Beautiful Kitchen" in Swahili, and see if that works subliminally. My plan for my pre-remodel builder's kitchen was a big sign saying "I'd rather have a vacation/boat/life" (choose your own).
    Never did put it up, but my kids and I chose tropical colors for the walls that really cheered things up - or at least gave visitors something better than yucky oak cabinets to focus on.

  19. I'll make an exception for you Christian. You've earned the right to use the royal we. The neo-hippy poseurs at Apartment Therapy are too young, too inexperienced and nowhere near worldly enough to pull off a royal we.

    I like the point you make about painting and apartment. It's funny how "I'm too lazy to paint" morphs into "my landlord won't let me." I guess it's easier to find a boogey man sometimes.

  20. Clarity, I love the idea of spelling out "Beautiful Kitchen" in Swahili. I just looked it up and that sign would read ZURI KIJONI. Hmmm...


    That is definitely not an improvement. lol


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