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Try this easy kitchen cabinet makeover that’s renter-friendly!


Kitchen Cabinet Makeover- Don’t spend a fortune making over ugly rental kitchen cabinets. Use contact paper that can easily be removed for a chic redo!

The joys of renting. It’s easy to hide floors and ugly blinds but kitchens and bathrooms are a different story. What do you do with outdated/eyesore cabinets that will let you keep your deposit?

We can’t paint or replace them. But we can think outside the box!

Renter-Friendly Cabinet Makeover

If you are new here, we are a military family who moves frequently so I’m always looking for ways to overcome rental obstacles and share rental-friendly decorating ideas and DIYs.

rental friendly kitchen cabinet makeover with contact paper from the dollar store

Right now we are thrilled to be living in beautiful Okinawa, Japan. Our house is off-base but built for American living with appliances and spacious rooms (at least to Japanese standards) that we are accustomed to. Of course, not everything is equally appealing.

Our home definitely has quirks like concrete walls (built to withstand typhoons), textured ceilings, and interesting cabinets. I honestly can’t quite figure out what the material is but my guess is a laminate or veneer over Presswood and plastic pulls.

I decided to give this rental kitchen a cabinet makeover and can’t believe how easy and inexpensive it was!

Rental Kitchen Cabinet Makeover

okinawa rental house kitchen with white cabinets, floors, and walls

I fell in love with this house because of the bright rooms and the white kitchen when we were house hunting. 

rental kitchen with easy decorating tips

The cream kitchen cabinet color really stood out once we got white appliances into the kitchen. It wasn’t bad but I wanted to do better! 

dollar store contact paper for kitchen cabinet makevoer

I decided to try a light wood shelf liner that I found at the 100 Yen store (our dollar store) to transform the plastic cabinet doors. 


They come in single sheets so my hubby and I just stuck them in place and smoothed out the air bubbles with a tool I had for decals. 


I instantly loved the transformation, especially the wood look that added warmth to an otherwise stark kitchen.

  • If you try this at home, ensure you are lining up any patterns or grains in your contact paper. easy kitchen cabinet updateOn a side note, I removed one to see how hard it would be and it came right off, no problem.  A huge relief since we are renting.
renter friendly kitchen cabinet update with dollar store pulls
rental cabinets with contact paper
  • Tip:  To make cuts while the contact paper is on the cabinet, score lightly with a box cutter or crafting knife. Otherwise, make cuts with a ruler and scissors beforehand for a custom fit. 

The original plastic pulls are being temporarily replaced with new ones. More on that in Part Two!

renter hack for the kitchen
beautiful rental kitchen with easy cabinet makeover and other diys
rental friendly cabinet makeover
turn ugly renter kitchen cabinets into beautiful wood grain cabinets
try this easy update on your rental kitchen cabinets

(This cabinet makeover was so easy I ended up upgrading to a bold floral pattern a year later!)Right now, I’m enjoying the look of our “faux wood” cabinets.  They look lovely with our kitchen table I scored for free and gave them a somewhat unusual paint makeover.

Our DIY fridge plate magnets are still a favorite and also happen to be a dollar store craft.  Part Two of the kitchen cabinet makeover will include the pulls and toe kick.  Then just a few more tweaks and the kitchen makeover will be complete!

Join me on Instagram for behind-the-scenes, DIYs, decorating tips, room tours, and home inspiration. I’ll see you over there!

Have any of my fellow renters tried using shelf or contact paper to makeover cabinets?


Looking for something more bold?  Check out these makeovers! 

global eclectic kitchen makeover
rental kitchen makeover


  1. Great job! In my last place, I used plain ol’ white contact paper to cover up wood cabinets (I’m a sucker for an all-white kitchen). I did have a little sticky residue after, but a bit of scrubbing took care of that. I currently have shelf liner glued to my cabinets that almost has a grasscloth look. But I’m going to go back to white soon. 🙂

    1. ooh, I bet the grasscloth is pretty. I’m thinking about adding shelf paper to our cabinet with glass doors. 🙂 BTW, I love ALL white kitchens too!

  2. I really need some shelf paper to redo my cabinets as I am trying to get ready for sale. Maybe I should come to your 100 yen store and find some nice stock to use. Or better yet why do you pick out some, buy it, bring it to me and you come and install it? That would be fun.

  3. That looks amazing! I can’t believe it’s just shelf paper. What a great idea. And I can’t wait to read more about the pulls. They really finish the cabinets.

  4. What a great idea! I would love to try this myself since we’re moving into a villa soon. The kitchen is spacious but all the cabinetry is dark wood. The only problem is, it’s got wood piping a couple inches from the edges. I guess there’s no way to cover the full door is it? I’d probably just have to contact paper the part inside the raised piping. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

    1. The raised piping might be fun detail left dark with lighter cabinetry. otherwise, you would probably have to cut smaller strips to over it. That could be really tricky depending if there’s a pattern in the contact paper. I was actually thinking of using a contrasting color to create a “molding” on my flat cabinetry! Good luck!

  5. Hi Kathy,

    I love what you did to this kitchen, currently stationed at Kadena in Okinawa and looking for ideas to spruce up base housing.

  6. Hi. I hate my renter honey oak kitchen: it’s yellowy wood tone with its gold knobs and “dirty white” vinyl flooring make me feel like I am in “the jaundice room”. Also is so dark and gloomy because doesn’t have any direct window. I don’t have an idea of what to do or colors to match with. I have been thinking about to tone down the oak with a cream contact paper and maybe contact paper the floor with a charcoal gray paper. I’ve been thinking so much about it as I’m afraid it will cost me a lot and will damage the cabinets and the floor😳.
    What do you think?

    1. Hey Isabell! I think contact paper would be fine. Here are posts where I used contact paper and removable wall paper on cabinets. Also, blues and greens tend to tone down honey oak wood. 🙂 , , and

    1. It was just like using peel and stick wallpaper. It worked great! It did take some elbow grease to remove the adhesive when the time came.

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