We fell in love with our apartment for its spacious, pre-war layout and light; on a sunny fall day the house on the 6th floor was flooded with sun and it was hard to say no to. What we weren’t too fond of was the galley kitchen. It was certainly roomy enough, but the limited cabinets and counter space left a lot to be desired for two avid home cooks. Still, the pass-through window from the kitchen to the dining room got us thinking—before we knew it, we were signing the lease, arranging movers, and planning our own renovation of the rental kitchen.
How we decided to update our rental kitchen
As unwise as a rental kitchen renovation might sound, we decided it was worth it for a few reasons. First, the math worked. Moving in together would save my partner and I $900 a month. We reasoned that this was money we could allocate for home improvements, including an updated kitchen.
Also, because we talked to our landlord before making any changes, we felt confident that we wouldn’t have to undo our renovations if we eventually moved. Perhaps most importantly, we knew cooking was such an important part of our family life that we couldn’t imagine not upgrading our kitchen.
So we started exploring our options.
Our rental kitchen renovation: IKEA cabinets and Formica worktops
We knew right away that we wanted IKEA cabinets. Affordable, versatile and easy to install, IKEA cabinets are the right choice for so many kitchen renovations. We chose the SECTION rule and because our existing storage was mostly cabinets, we opted for all drawers, a decision I would make over and over again.
We also knew we wanted to create a breakfast bar on the other side of the serving window. There was already a small countertop, but we wanted something sturdier.
What we didn’t know was what kind of countertop we wanted. We thought of butcher block, we looked at marble and quartz remnants and then we decided to go with Formica. If it hadn’t been a rental kitchen, we wouldn’t even have considered Formica. But it had a few things going for it.
For starters, it was much cheaper and faster than the other options available. For a previous kitchen, I had salvaged a rectangular piece of marble for about $600, including cutting and installation, so I thought maybe we could find a salvage yard in Brooklyn that would do it all for about $1000. I was wrong. Our estimates were between $1500 and $2500 for leftovers and butcher’s block, and the wait, while not offensively long, was not inconsequential.
Our formica countertops cost $700 all inclusive and we were able to install them in under a week. Formica is a cheaper material, of course, but another reason the formica countertops were cheap and fast was because our landlord had a ready supply of formica on hand and a go-to crew ready to measure and to install.
We also liked the idea of our countertops matching even though they wouldn’t have been our first choice, and we liked having our landlord be part of the process.
The finishing touch was adding knobs and clevises (to match the new knobs and clevises) to the old cabinets to try and tie everything together even more.
We ended up doubling our counter space and our closet space for about $1500 (a little less if my calculations are correct). A year later, after many breakfasts, cocktails served, meals prepared and kitchen supplies stocked, we would 100% do it again.