Design Inspiration Rentals

5 Clever Countertop Solutions for Your Rental Kitchen

Disguise them in style.
Anna Kocharian Avatar

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Photography by Yoshihiro Makino

Between the abundance of builder-grade appliances and tight galley spaces, it’s rare to walk into a rental kitchen you instantly fall in love with. More often than not, you find yourself face-to-face with stark-white everything or finishes of all-too-obvious imitation stone. When an expensive remodel is out of the question and you want at least some hope of getting your security deposit back, it’s all about becoming creative. These five clever countertop solutions will instantly revamp even the most tired surfaces. Your landlord might even thank you. 

Cover Your Counters With Concrete

Photography by Tomas Espinoza

Stylist Courtney Favini’s plan to turn a drab dining space in her Atlanta rental into a cozy corner was to smother the dark granite counters in a bag of Ardex. The textured concrete-resurfacing compound is easy to find for around $40 on Amazon. After roughing up the existing surface with sandpaper, she mixed the powder with water, applied it on top with a putty knife, and used a water-based sealant to finish the job. The counters are now part of her go-to backdrop for content creation, plus they go so much better with the white cabinets.

Resurface Your Counters With Marbleized Paint

Photography by Madelynn Furlong

For her first New York City rental, Madelynn Furlong wanted her Carrie Bradshaw apartment moment, so the stained white laminate kitchen couldn’t be part of the story. Her instinct was to gut it, but she found a less-expensive middle ground and presented a plan to the landlord that involved resurfacing the counters with a $200 idea instead. She scored a paint kit on Amazon that creates a look similar to black marble. “It’s pretty convincing,” she says. “It’s like a fake ’80s resin, which I love.”

Wrap Your Counters in Contact Paper

Courtesy of Imani Keal

Imani Keal always wanted a pink kitchen. Benjamin Moore’s Monticello Rose was an easy choice for the walls (and ceiling!), but she had other plans for the countertops. She was obsessed with a veiny pink and purple stone called plumeria, but the real deal was way out of her price range. Luckily, a quick search on Amazon for swirled contact paper in similar shades came up with an option that looked nearly identical. 

Use Car Paint for Souped-Up Counters

When Emily Ward—half of the design duo Pierce & Ward—decided to lean into the 1970s IKEA cabinetry of her Los Angeles home, she opted to paint instead of renovate. The super-high-gloss look can be credited to car paint, and it took several attempts to get a proper color match. The primary bathroom got the same treatment, in Benjamin Moore’s Southfield Green. “I painted everything: the countertops, the sink, everything,” Ward says. Fair warning: Her family had to vacate for 30 days while the fumes dissipated, “but when you make it work, it’s so satisfying,” she adds. 

Layer Laminate Counters With…More Laminate

Photography by Reserve Home

It took nearly five years for Mallory Fletchall to finally ask for her landlord’s permission to make some changes to her Brooklyn rental. It only took three weeks to completely transform the ’90s galley kitchen. One of her quick fixes included replacing the sad green surfaces with laminate—a 96-inch-long slab of IKEA’s marble-effect countertop, to be precise. The idea of spending thousands on the real deal didn’t make sense, since the apartment might not be her and her husband’s forever home. The surface looks like real stone, and best of all it’s supereasy to maintain.

Anna Kocharian Avatar

Anna Kocharian


Anna has a penchant for travel, fresh flowers, and books. You can usually find her on some sort of culinary adventure, seeking the best burgers or waffles in the city.