How can I lighten up this kitchen in a rental property?

I live in an apartment that has no window in the kitchen. I have permission to paint and update the cabinets, counters, and back splash. I am not allowed to renovate or remove anything. I need some ideas on what I can do to brighten up this kitchen. There is a flurecent light in the kitchen but the ballast is gone so the light is only half bright. The dining room light is all I can actually use. Ps. I dont want plain white on white. I like little pops of color. But staying in the neutral tones because it is a rental after all. I dont plan on staying forever.

  19 answers
  • Em Em on Sep 26, 2019

    Get some under the counter strip lighting. Ask the landlord to fix the ceiling light. That is their responsibility. Use a reflective plastic tile like the old tin ceiling tile for a backsplash. super easy to put up. Home Depot carries the plastic panels, easy to cut and stick up with silicone that will not damage the walls.

  • Pamela Pamela on Sep 26, 2019

    Hi ! Paint works wonders !!! And is also the cheapest way to Make the biggest impact

    I painted both my cabinets and countertops ! I also cut beadboard and glued it to the front of my cabinet doors before painting . You can look at my step by step instructions that I posted on this site , called " New kitchen on a budget " in it I give tips and the products I used. You can paint the walls of use a removable wallpaper .

    I used white paint on my cabinets and a charcoal paint for my countertop . You can buy special countertop paint to make it look like granite . You can brighten the room with accent colors . You can use stick on under cabinet lights . If you have wall space across from the window in the other room place a mirror there , it will bring the light in . You can buy mirrors that look like a window .

  • Linda Linda on Sep 26, 2019

    Put new door knobs and drewer pulls you can always put the originals in a drawer to put back on and take yours with you. Get under counter light bars, which you also take with, they are battery operated

    • Kristine McIntyre Kristine McIntyre on Sep 26, 2019

      I have new silver color cabinet and drawer pulls. I'm just looking for color ideas for the cabinets and counter. Should I put a backslash or not? Open the cupboard above the sink as a shelf? That kind of thing.

  • Robyn Garner Robyn Garner on Sep 26, 2019

    Under cabinet lights can be found at any hardware store. Some are even battery operated. Battery operated puck lights can be found at the Dollar Store. FIX the fluorescent fixture for heaven's sake! Why would you live in a cave when all you need is a ballast?

    Ask the landlord to pay for the paint as you're doing the work. If not, focus on cheap fixes such as using contact paper, etc.

    • Kristine McIntyre Kristine McIntyre on Sep 26, 2019

      It's in the book of things to be fixed for my floor. My kitchen light is on the low importance. I have enough light to do things with the hall light and dining room light on. It's just not very bright. I'm wanting to create a lighter brighter feeling in my kitchen. As for all the work, it's my choice to do what I want in the kitchen and bathroom as long as it doesnt involve demo (though I wish I could replace the counter. It's not pretty at all.)

  • William William on Sep 26, 2019

    Have you tried to replace the bulbs in the light. Ballasts either are good or not. A bad ballast the bulbs usually strobe. You need to put in the proper rated bulbs or they won't work. All other ideas are great.

    • Kristine McIntyre Kristine McIntyre on Sep 27, 2019

      It's the ballast. Weve already determined that. The light is stupid dum. Then strobes then comes on bright. 5 mins later. It's a disco party. Both bulbs are brand new.

  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on Sep 26, 2019

    I would add LED tape lights to the lip under the front edge of the upper cabinets. You can run a concealed extension cord from one end. I would recommend getting them in a temperature of 3000k or less to avoid that glaring LED blue. I really dislike white cabinets, but I like grey. You could paint the uppers a lighter grey and the lowers a darker grey with brushed nickel knobs and white accents. Then bring in pops of color with decor items

  • William William on Sep 27, 2019

    You can replace the ballast. Home Depot, Lowes, or Menard's. Under cabinet lighting. Paint the cabinets.

    Backsplash ideas

  • Catherine Deirdre Rodden Catherine Deirdre Rodden on Sep 27, 2019

    Use under the cabinet lighting - easy and cheap options that can be removed. Some even come with remote control.

    I would also look into contact paper for the walls/backsplash. It is easily removed for renters without damage to drywall but can absolutely change the look of a room much the same as paint would.

  • Holly Lengner - Lost Mom Holly Lengner - Lost Mom on Sep 28, 2019

    You can add hanging pendant lights that plug into an outlet. You just string them along the wall and then hang them from the ceiling.

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  • There are some great ideas in this video:

  • Ashley Ashley on Sep 28, 2019

    When I look at your pictures I envision a light grey-blue distressed cabinet, or even chalk paint. White walls, with white subway tile for a backsplash would bring some much needed light to your kitchen. I would add some inexpensive thin puck lights under the upper cabinets to brighten up the white tiles even more. You could honestly keep the countertops the color they are, it would go well with a grey-blue and white color scheme. I think if you opened up the smaller upper cabinetry, it would help the space feel lighter, and a little larger. That was just what I saw for that kitchen. Anyway, good luck on your design venture, and remember to enjoy the process and creation :)

    • Kristine McIntyre Kristine McIntyre on Sep 28, 2019

      Honestly that's what I was thinking. Not sure about the subway tile. But something like that. I hate the counter tops. They are stained and scratched everywhere. Thinking of covering them with a food safe type marble vinyl. Just have to figure out how to remove the sink so I can apply it. Lol

  • Marcia Marcia on Sep 28, 2019

    Under the cupboards put some strip lighting. Choose the right width so they don't show. Cheap and easy! Good luck!

  • Pennski22 Pennski22 on Sep 28, 2019

    I read thru the ideas, all good. I don't know your budget so I will give you two ideas. When I lived in an apartment and no window in the kitchen, I used tinfoil. It reflects light and brightened up the kitchen. Buy the heavy duty foil and go to the grocery store and ask for some boxes. You then cut the card board the height between your counter and your cupboards. Try your first piece to make certain that it fits snug. Cut a piece of foil bigger than your cardboard, now put lots of white glue on the cardboard and lay foil on top shiny side up. Quickly take your hands and cause the foil to crinkle a bit. You may want to try small samples on cardboard first to see the effect you want. By creating crinkles, it hides imperfections and also causes the light to bounce of it. You then put the first one butt up to a corner and add as many units as you need.

    I had no money at the time and this worked well as a shortterm measure.

    If you are planning on staying here on a long term basis, go to a decorating store and they sell plastic decorator sheets 24 x 18 inches I think and have a shiny metallic finish. They look like the old tin ceilings of days gone buy. Buy enough to do your backsplash and adhere them with tiny finishing nails. Will give a more sufistocated look. If you move, you pull out the nails with plyers, then use white toothpaste to fill the holes.

    Hope my instructions are clear enough for you to understand.

    Cheers, Penny

  • 17335038 17335038 on Sep 29, 2019

    The the old ballast can be replaced with a new one. Newer ballasts use more modern technology that eliminates flickering. Even though you as the renter should not have to pay for the ballast yourself, if the reality is that the repair is low priority according to the maintenance depart, you might be waiting forever for someone else to do it. It will be faster and easier to just buy a new one yourself. Then, at the same time you can purchase brighter florescent bulbs.

    With shorter days and a darker season just around the corner, you will be glad to have brighter proper light in the apartment.

  • 17335038 17335038 on Sep 29, 2019

    Painting cabinets can be a lot of work, with results that are often disappointing and do not meet expectations. If you really want to take on this project, I would suggest that you start with the doors only, not the entire cabinets.

  • Lisa S. Lisa S. on Sep 30, 2019

    Since this is a rental- pick an accent color for a rug, counter lamp, dish towels etc. The counter lamp may help to brighten things up a bit.

  • Bunny Bunny on Oct 01, 2019

    strip lighting or anything you feel like mounting under the counter, even led Christmas lights work and since your cabinets are wood you could staple them up and plug into your lighten things up without painting you can use ordinary spray starch in a can to attach fabric, you don't have to be fancy just cut our rectangles and leave part of the wood doors as frames or you can attach it to the walls...once it dries there is no problem with it and when you move out all you have to do is peel it off and wash the doors or walls.

  • Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree on Jul 01, 2024

    I would paint the wall white and remove anything from above the cabinets.

  • Deb K Deb K on Jul 08, 2024

    Hi Kristine, hope this inspires you. Honestly just by painting the cabinets a lighter color you will brighten up the kitchen a lot. Here' a video on chalk painting cabinets.