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Design vlogger Alexandra Gater admits she’s no paint expert, but the seasoned DIYer has learned a lot about picking colors over the years. For starters: You should always go with a hue that’s darker on the paint chip than you’d actually like. “It almost always shows up lighter in person,” she says. That’s especially the case with greens. While making over a Toronto-based viewer’s kitchen (Gater’s YouTube channel has 350,000-and-counting subscribers), she originally chose a way-too-light sage for the cabinets that nearly looked white. But another trip to the hardware store led her to a dusty olive option called Cool Current. The second time was the charm. 

“In a rental you have the opportunity to have fun with color because you’re not investing in a $10,000 renovation. You’re making tiny updates, and they should have an impact,” she says. With the go-ahead from the tenant Sarah’s landlord and $600 to work with, Gater didn’t just refresh the once-drab doors, she introduced hardware, a graphic backsplash, and luxe-looking accessories. Bookmark these budget-friendly ideas, below.

Deconstruct the Cupboards

Sarah’s kitchen before the renovation.

“You always want to prime your cabinets if you’re not working with untreated wood,” says Gater. While taking the doors off their hinges is tedious, the extra step allows you to prime and paint with ease. The finished product comes out looking clean because you don’t end up getting paint on the hardware or missing any spots. Gater applied the paint with a small brush first, covering up the edges, and then used a small roller to fill in the rest of the surface. 

Differentiate Drawer Hardware

After drilling holes in the flat-panel doors, Gater screwed sleek matte black knobs ($20 for a pack on Amazon) into the cabinet fronts. She opted for cup pulls on the drawers just to mix it up a bit, given there are so many cupboards in the tiny space. 

Center Faux Tiles

The biggest splurge of the makeover was the peel-and-stick wallpaper from Quadrostyle (the cheapest update was the paint). Coating the wall in a high-gloss paint primer was a crucial first step, or else the vinyl treatment wouldn’t adhere properly. Because many older kitchens like this have slanted walls, Gather began applying the panels in the center of the space over the sink and trimming off the excess with a sharp X-Acto knife. “That might mean you end up with a gap at the top in some areas, but you can always fill it in with a matching paint color,” she says. Caulking the bottom edge that meets that actual backsplash made it look really authentic. “It’s one of those things that looks way more intimidating than it is,” she notes. 

Tie It All Together With Clever Accessories

With the rest of the budget, Gater focused on investing in chic accessories, like IKEA Lack shelves peppered with ceramic bowls, kitchen-friendly plants, and artwork. She even added a magnetic bathroom rack to the dishwasher for tea towels, securing it with hot glue so it doesn’t slide around. “That’s really the stuff that’s a game changer,” says Gater.

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