Rental Kitchen Rehab: Beautify your Backsplash

Readers have been asking me about ways to revamp their rental kitchens, and while the task might feel entirely hopeless, I’ve rounded up a surprising amount of ideas to share!

Without further ado, I give you:

Rental Kitchen Rehab – Part 1: Beautify the Backsplash

As we all know, renters are somewhat limited with the steps they can take to temporarily or permanently improve their living space.

Your decisions regarding apartment upgrades center on a few key details:

  • the leniency of your landlord
  • the length of time you expect to stay in your apartment
  • the amount of time you spend daily in your apartment
  • and finally, your budget

How much are you willing to invest in your temporary home to make it feel like something worth coming home to?

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to make a big splash in a little kitchen space!


The least expensive way to improve your backsplash might seem pretty obvious, but I never tried it in all my renting years and I have no idea what was stopping me!


Source: Apartment Therapy


Source: Wary Myers (They say it’s acrylic, but you could achieve the same result with paint)


Source: Apartment Therapy

These are all pretty bold choices, but even if your landlord isn’t on board with crazy paint colors, a fresh coat of a neutral paint color can make a huge difference! My backsplash is currently painted Revere Pewter – it looks nice enough that I’m in no hurry to replace it with another backsplash solution!


Source: Houzz


This project is a little more intensive, as you need to precisely measure your backsplash and have plexiglass cut to fit your space. As a New Yorker this feels pretty daunting (besides figuring out how to get the plexiglass home) but it was too attractive not to include.



This rental owner used fabric behind plexiglass to create a patterned backsplash, but you could use a number of items: wrapping paper, comics from the newspaper, photos, etc. to accomplish the same result.


If you are wanting the look of a traditional, polished backsplash (or to cover up old unsightly tiles) this might be the solution for you! These are Smart Tiles. They are peel and stick temporary tiles.


These tiles come in sheets, just like real tiles, but you can cut them with scissors to make them fit your space. When you are ready to leave, they don’t damage your wall. Sounds pretty good to me.


These subway tile sheets are 7.98 per square. I’m dying to give these a try. Smart Tiles come in a  variety of styles and patterns, and the reviews are pretty good! I’d love to try them out for myself…any NYC renters want to experiment?


If you like the idea of a tiled backsplash, but having to cut the tiles to fit means you can’t take it with you…and therefore it’s not a worthy investment – I might have a solution!

Moonish is Brooklyn-based design firm that makes graphic plywood tiles backed with magnets (each set comes with corresponding steel stickers for easy install).


Unfortunately, they don’t come cheap ($324 for 9 square feet) but you can certainly pull them off and take them with you – which is a plus in my opinion.

Check out some of these crazy patterns from their website! Another bonus – you can  change the pattern any time you want.



moonish_2014_05_11_041(1) moonish_2014_05_11_049(1)


Sometimes, you just get your heart set on writing on the walls, and the kitchen feels like the perfect place for grocery lists, quick hellos, or an easy art project. I’m excited to say that renters can rejoice over this rental chalkboard backsplash solution!!


Source: Design Sponge

This darling backsplash was created with chalkboard contact paper! (I didn’t even know that existed!!) I’m sure it’s far easier to remove than chalkboard paint which involves heavy sanding. It’s available on Amazon for 6.99 a roll! This could be dangerous.


Sometimes, you end up with a landlord who won’t allow you to do anything! No paint, no holes, no nothing. Boooring. So what can you do? Foam core board to the rescue!

Cut foam core board (with an x-acto knife) to the size of your backsplash. Making it slightly larger will help it to squeeze into place and hold. If you cut it too small,  use 3M stickies to adhere to existing backsplash – they come off without a trace!

Now decorate your heart out! You can use any of the solutions above on your foam core board and easily remove it when you leave! Paint it a bright color, stencil it, wallpaper it, chalkboard paint it, chalkboard contact paper it. The options are endless!

This website breaks down the idea pretty well, and she uses the foam board as a pin board as well. (Maybe not for the kitchen, but it’s an interesting idea).

Hopefully by now, you are feeling a little more hopeful about your options as a renter in an unsightly kitchen. Will you use paint, fabric, wallpaper, magnets, stickers, contact paper or foam core board to temporarily transform your backsplash? The hard part might be deciding which technique to try first!

Happy decorating!

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