Rental kitchens pose a unique challenge: They have to hold up to years of continued use by various people with various levels of cleanliness and various interior styles. Essentially, they have to be designed as indestructible spaces.
But that doesn’t mean they have to lack the function or aesthetic you’d find in a home you’d call your own, says Kim Vargo, one half of the couple behind the Chicago-based home renovation blog Yellow Brick Home.
So when it came to this unit’s first floor kitchen, Vargo was determined to show just how stylish a rental kitchen could really be. “I wanted a really budget-friendly kitchen that doesn’t necessarily look like it was done on a budget,” she says.
And that’s exactly what the Vargos delivered. Here’s how:
Choose durable finishes
The basis for the whole design concept, which Vargo calls “classic, but packed with modern function,” was the matte black countertops.
“I was really leaning towards dark countertops, and the advancement in the technology [of Formica] blew us away,” says Vargo. “It made it a really easy choice for moving forward—especially in a rental unit.”
Though once thought of as a cheap, plastic-like material, Vargo says the advancements make the “new” Formica just as tough against stains and scratches, but a whole lot more attractive.
Keep it light
To play off of the dark and contemporary counters, the Vargos added Semihandmade Impression Tahoe fronts. “It was the perfect wood tone for the maple floors we had just refinished,” says Vargo.
They kept the rest of the design light and airy, too, with walls in Sherwin-Williams Heron Plume, an off-white. They also added upper cabinets (Semihandmade White Supermatte Slab fronts) and shelving, as well as a unique white beadboard backsplash in a bright white called Sherwin-Williams Pure White.
Maximize storage space
As is often the case in small rental units, the kitchen was what Vargo called “a bit of an awkward space,” since it only allowed for one wall of usable space. “It didn’t fit into the typical molds—galley, etc—so we had to make it as functional as humanly possible,” says Vargo.
To do so, they added open shelving above the countertops for daily items—think dinnerware and glassware. Above that, they installed uppers to house lesser-used, but still important, items like small appliances, servings bowls, and more.
Incorporate panel-front appliances
Though you may generally equate panel-ready appliances to higher-end spaces, the Semihandmade fronts made it possible to achieve on a budget. And, as Vargo says, it helps give the room a very sophisticated and seamless feel.
Add in cheerful accents
An easy way to truly make a rental feel like a one-of-a-kind find? Add in some playful decor elements, like the bright yellow light above the sink. It’s not only fun, but it’s also functional, providing great task lighting.