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The Dollar Store Rental Kitchen Makeover – Again

by on Jan 19, 2010

Once upon a time, way back when, I became enraged with my ugly rental kitchen. Observe the horror:

I cursed it, I cried, I shook my fists at it. Then I did what everybody does (surely?), I looked for a solution on the internets.
What I found was Curbly. Inspired by the spirit of Curbly Daring-Do I figured out a solution, and posted pictures of it here..

Three (three!) years have passed. My temporary contact paper solution has withstood all kinds of shenanigans and is, I suspect, INVULNERABLE to anything but Robot Laser Eyes.

BUT, it is a New Year, a new decade even, and that always prods the part of my brain that likes things NEW and CLEAN and SHINY. So I turned a beady and critical eye to my kitchen. And decided it was time for a change.
So I did this.

created at: 2010/01/19


created at: 2010/01/19

I did a few things,

Firstly, I replaced the contact paper on the cupboards that used to have stickies on them (I was going to replace all the paper but there was no discernible difference in the new and old so I thought MEH. On accounta I’m lazy) So, that’s 6 rolls of contact paper at a dollar a piece

Next up was the back splash. I was wandering around the dollar store and spotted what you see above. Plastic place mats. At two for a buck. So I grabbed every one I could find in that pattern and a couple of packs of thumb tacks. So, $5 for the place mats and $2 for the tacks.

Now I know that I could have just tiled the back splash, and for very little money. But I really like the pattern, and I’m a big fan of the instant gratification.  For me there is also a sort of mental symmetry to having this be an effective but temporary solution.

Using swearing and eyeballing I figured out a “close-enough-from-a-distance” pattern repeat and stuck those suckers to the wall with the thumb tacks. They are totally removable and can be washed by hand or even tossed in the dishwasher. Which will be useful if there is ever a repeat of The Pad Thai Incident.

I also tried sticking them on with a bit of double sided tape; it works equally well and would be a good way to cover up ugly tiles that were already in place.

Next was a new light fixture,

created at: 2010/01/19

And by “new light fixture” I mean, “a plastic salad bowl – $1, sanded to opacity and attached to the old light fixture with two circular pieces of flexible chopping board – $1”. Of course.

I could throw together a few pictures if anyone has a burning curiosity for a how to.

The only thing left is to go score some lovely new tea towels and pot grabbers. I want red ones, and what with Valentines day coming up everywhere is lousy with red stuff. So yay!


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  1. Anonymous

    When living in I litany housing I did the bathroom floors in contact paper. Worked great.

  2. Patti

    I SO LOVE IT!!!  Definitely gonna try to convince my daughter to let me do this in her new (very old) apartment!!!

  3. Talisha

    Beautiful compared to the former I would say you are nothing short of a genius! I despise ugly rental kitchens too!

  4. linda

    Back in the 80’s I did my entire bathroom in contact paper and ribbon! Just had to wipe it down due to the humidity and reinforce the corners with some glue but there was a window in the bathroom so it wasn’t bad. I put pretty stickers on the corners of the ugly mirrored medicine chest and called it a day. …

  5. tbird712

    Very smart ideas! And the budget is right up my ally!  I live in an old apt rental and i just moved in and the kitchen is like 1950 but not the good retro 1950!!!  Everything barely survivng in this kitchen!!!  You have given me some great ideas………….

  6. mary

    I repainted my kitchen almost 13 years ago and used very heavy gauge black contact paper (30″ wide) on the counters….still going strong.  Haven’t seen this type of contact paper since.

  7. Rhonda

    The contact paper will leave a sticky residue when removed. However, Goo be Gone or WD40 will remove it. My mother was the contact paper queen and it was my job growing up to remove it when she wanted a new look or when we moved.

  8. mary

    Dear Rhonda,  I am also known as the Contact Queen.  Did old cabinets in old house wedgewood blue (1980s) and my son’s room in a primary color tattersole check contact paper (that required the help of the Duchess of Contact- not a one woman job).  She had done an entire bathroom as well AND covered a very ratty ball n claw bathtub in “wicker” contact paper…I know that sounds utterly gross but it just looked like a huge basket…too funny.

  9. Nanci

    Me too …. Looks like we are “Contact Queens”! hahaha!!! I use it on our ugly kitchen counter!!! Whenever I want a different look, I change it out! low cost. looks great! have even fooled some major countertop installers!! We use large 12 x 12 ceramic floor tiles with felt pads as “hot plates” on the counter. works like a charm!

  10. supermom 1981

    I have mac tact all my wall in my bathroom and in my kitchen i did the back slap wall and i did the two wall in my dinning room i am know as the mactac queen but it hard to find nice pattern and when i do i buy them all

  11. Anonymous

    great ideas on a REAL budget! my kinda decor,except for the contact paper..i’d have painted the doors instead.but it looks great.

  12. ideasatwork

    This is Problem Solving at it’s best. Smart & Creative solutions for everyone. Good job!

  13. Anonymous

    As a former renter, I totally get that these places need a fix. However, I’m now a homeowner and from this new perspective, I can only think “how dare you paint or otherwise alter someone else’s home?” The thumbtacked placemats are ok, but I totally disagree with painting, contact paper, or changing of light fixtures without the owner’s ok.

  14. alex

    To the person that’s now a homeowner and disagrees with the changes… maybe as a landlord you guys should do some upgrades and give it a facelift so we don’t have to!

  15. Flayr

    Also to the person that’s now a homeowner and disagrees with the changes…you do realize that contact paper is totally removable without damage to anything, and that the light fixture is also totally replaceable without damage??? I also read the article and didn’t see any mention of paint. The cupboards are contact paper! That’s the beauty of it. So as a homeowner, I say to Lilybee, Awesome Job! Keep up the good work!

  16. Nicole

    Oh please tell me what Dollar store you got the place mates at. I love to do something with them in my daughters room.

  17. Anonymous

    Good job! I can understand when there’s a lot of us on a small budget, this is one great idea! Keep going forward with more ideas if possible!

  18. fred

    My refrigerator is lined with those same Dollar Tree place mats. It makes me smile.

    Oh, Mary, I wish that wicker contact paper was still available. I used the heck out of it in college. I had covered some matching grocery boxes with it to use on top of the wardrobe in my dorm, and people are always asking me where I got the baskets.

    The new homeowners sound like they’d be really hard to deal with as landlords.