(Photo courtesy of Creairtive.com)
Real estate experts love to tell property owners how important it is to redo their kitchens and bathrooms. Easy for them to say – they don’t have to foot the bill for the expensive renovations!
But they’re not wrong, either. Kitchens and bathrooms are extremely important to buyers and renters, and it makes sense from a psychological standpoint. People literally have an visceral connection to kitchens and bathrooms; these are places where they prepare and eat food, and where they groom and clean themselves. Naked. That means they will either be attracted or repulsed by your property’s kitchens and bathrooms, on a deep level.
So you have a rental property (or home) with an ugly, dated kitchen or bathroom, but you don’t have $5,000 sitting idly by and twiddling its thumbs. What’s a landlord or homeowner to do?
Here are seven ideas to take your rental’s kitchen and bathroom from woebegone to warm and inviting, on a tiny budget.
1. Flooring: Throw It Under the Rug
Sure, you could install brand new marble tiles. Right after parking your private yacht and hopping into your Maserati.
If your kitchen or bathroom tiles look like the ‘70s had an avocado and mustard party, why not just cover most of it up? For the bathroom, get a thick, plush bathroom rug, in a complementary color (or white – you can never go wrong with white). In the kitchen, get a throw rug in attractive colors that match the existing scheme.
Just make sure the rug covers most of the floor space, and deemphasizes whatever’s left peeking out.
2. Cover the Counters
Along similar lines, kitchen counters can be extremely expensive to replace. But not so expensive to cover and deemphasize.
Lucky for you, you have a veritable plethora of options. First, consider installing butcher block counters. If the word “install” doesn’t sit well with your budget or skill set, then just buy a butcher’s block with the right dimensions and sit it on top of your existing counters. Problem solved.
If even that is too much for you, then just buy a big ol’ cutting board that takes up plenty of counter space.
You can round out your counter space with a wooden or bamboo dish rack, and a matching (or similarly-colored) wine rack. Bonus tip: throw a couple cheap (but expensive-looking) bottles of wine in the rack. It reinforces the vibe, and once again distracts from the room’s shortcomings.
If you don’t like any of that, just do like the Rolling Stones and paint it black. Sand the counters down, use heavy primer designed for plastic, and use glossy oil-based paint. If you’re inspired, top it all off with a layer of satin poly.
3. Old Cabinets? Paint ‘Em White
Noticing a theme here? Coat over those old, gnarly-looking cabinets with a few layers of primer and paint.
You don’t have to paint them white… but if you paint them bubble gum pink, the result is on you.
If you’re artistically inclined, you can always paint accents or stencil simple designs onto the white cabinets. While you’re at it, add new drawer liners if the inside of the drawers are looking grungy.
4. Hardware Restoration
You’d be amazed what wonders new hardware can work on old cabinets.
Pick a style and rock it out. Stark, clean modern lines? Rustic farmhouse chic? Maybe kitschy, with a beachy shore theme? Just make sure it’s consistent, and complements the feel of the rest of the kitchen.
This trick works for any kitchen or bathroom, and you can install them yourself with nothing more than a screw gun. Or you can buy a few cases of beer and bribe your handy friend to do it with you.
5. Fancy Faucets
Don’t forget the faucet, which is a centerpiece fixture in any kitchen or bathroom.
The only limitation here is that it shouldn’t clash with the rest of your hardware and the general feel of the room. But go upscale with your faucet to add some pizzazz to the room, and distract prospective renters from the not-so-fancy floor. And cabinets. And appliances.
6. Lights, Outlets, Action!
Desperate college kids have a saying – beauty’s only a light switch away. Who’d have thought it holds true in kitchen renovations?
Light switch plates and outlet covers are another hardware element you can swap out with fancier replacements, without much cost or labor. Actually, all you need is a screwdriver and you’re all set.
Remember to keep them consistent with the look in the rest of the room (are we sounding like a broken record yet?), so that the new look is cohesive instead of a clashing nightmare.
By this point, the room should be developing a visual theme, and making middle-aged women swoon that “It’s so cute!” Little do they know that you financed the whole thing with a jar of coins.
Bonus tip: consider installing dimmer switches in the living room. It’s a selling point that you can croon about in the rental listing.
7. Lights (The Actual Lights)
Does the room look dingy because the lighting’s too dim? Too bright? Too warm? Too cold?
Like we said in the beginning, you could blow thousands of dollars getting the chi of the room just right with marble floors and counters… or you could spend $1.99 on the right light bulbs.
As a general rule, you want warmer color temperature bulbs in the kitchen, and cooler color temperature bulbs in the bathrooms, but that’s not a commandment written on a stone tablet. Do what looks best and makes the most sense for your room.
If you went heavy on the wood look in the kitchen, with butcher’s blocks and wooden dish racks and whatnot, consider those retro, faux-industrial incandescent bulbs that are so trendy in hipster restaurants. It’ll reinforce that ambiguously rustic-yet-industrial chic look.
And then there’s the light fixtures. Keep ‘em classy, and, of course, keep the look consistent.
Before You Show the Property, Channel Mr. Clean
It is positively, absolutely, monumentally important that your rental unit is sparkling clean when you show it. And nowhere is that more critical than in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Remember, people have a visceral connection with kitchens and bathrooms, in the most literal of senses. No one wants to imagine themselves cooking in a kitchen that’s layered in dirt and dust, or showering in a bathroom oozing with mold and grime.
If you drop a piece of food on the floor of these rooms, those floors better be so clean that you wouldn’t think twice about eating off of them.
With a little imagination, some elbow grease and a full bottle of bleach, you don’t need much money to transform your rental property’s kitchen and bathrooms. Don’t be afraid to call in your friend with impeccable taste, or your friend who’s super handy and loves a good project. Pay them with beer, wine, food and good humor, and make sure the rooms look cohesive and sparkling clean before showing the vacant unit to prospective tenants.
What tricks have you used to inexpensively redo your kitchen or bathrooms? Have any shortcuts to share?