When moving into a rental apartment, you have to make some sacrifices—unfortunately, no apartment is perfect. Either a room is too small, there’s not enough built-in storage, or the kitchen is super outdated. We have to make some compromises.
For my current apartment, my issue was the latter, with a small kitchen filled with old, chipped tiles and mismatched knobs on all the doors. It wasn’t ideal, but it was livable. Still, I wanted to make the kitchen a space I actually enjoyed cooking in that fitted my boho design style. I wanted something that could make a big difference without being too expensive—and wouldn’t leave me fumbling around with contact paper for eight hours to achieve faux marble countertops.
So, I took a rental-friendly hack from home styling expert Alexandra Gater’s YouTube channel: changing out the hardware.
“It can make such a difference,” Gater says. “I think that’s why I love this hack so much, because knobs and pulls are generally quite inexpensive. Basically, any décor store will have beautiful statement knobs.”
Not only is it super easy, but you can take knobs and pulls with you to your next rental and reinstall the old ones, meaning you’re not wasting money upgrading a space you’ll only be in temporarily. Because of this, you likely won’t have to talk to your landlord about making the change either.
Here’s how you go about it.
Pick Your Knobs and Pulls
Gater says as a rule of thumb, you should use knobs on upper cabinets and add pulls on the lower cabinets and drawers for easier access and a cohesive look. For fun, quirky knobs and pulls, Gater loves Anthropologie. But, for the more-used cabinets, she opts for high-quality knobs from décor brands like CB2—she specifically has gorgeous hexagonal ones in her rental kitchen.
“I think there's something special about making it bold, because for me, that’s what’s a game-changer,” she says.
I turned to hardware stores for more basic T-pulls, which are more simple than Gater’s recs, but I found they were decently affordable and loved how the T-shape stood out on my boring, white cabinets. All in all, it only cost me about $20 to complete this easy rental DIY project.
The knobs make a major difference to the space. They add a more cohesive look, and I now feel more at home reaching for a plate or cup.
You can even find some unique inexpensive hardware at Amazon, however, Gater warns to look for quality when it comes to knobs and pulls so they don’t fade over time.
“The thing about knobs is if you go with a really cheap material, they're going to age and fade, especially if they have a gold coating on top,” Gater says. “Some people like that look, but I found with the CB2 knobs they last really well because they're made with a higher quality and heavier material.”
Install Your Knobs and Pulls
For me, I opted to get knobs that I could easily twist onto the current screws in my cabinets for limited effort and maximum reward. However, if your cabinets don’t currently have any hardware or you want to install holes, you’ll have to drill in your own holes—which you’re going to need your landlord’s permission for.
For this, Gater recommends using little pieces of painter’s tape to visualize how things will look on the cabinets then investing in a hardware installation template, so you can line up your knobs perfectly. These templates cost less than $15 and will save you a lot of headaches in the long run as
"Filling holes in cabinets if you don’t get your positioning exactly is going to cost you lots of money to fix," Gater says.
From there, you can use a pencil to mark your holes and get to drilling—or you can hire a Taskrabbit if you’re nervous about completing the project yourself.
While my rental kitchen might not be the most Instagrammable one—I still despise the faux granite countertops and pink tiled backsplash—I feel like the knobs make a major difference to the space. They add a more cohesive look, and I now feel more at home reaching for a plate or cup.
While my lease is up in a few months, I can’t wait to bring them along with me to my next rental.