Rentfluencer Episode 2: The Sams’ College Kitchen Update

Watch the full video episode here.

Photos by Canary Gray for HGTV.

On this episode of HGTV’s Rentfluencer, I had the pleasure of helping out two University of Minnesota students named Sam and Sam! They live with 6 guys and their kitchen gets a lot of use. But they thought that the overall vibe was a little outdated. They were looking for a modern and updated feel but most importantly they wanted it to feel more like home. Watch this amazing nail biter episode here!

Their rental is an older home but doesn’t have many of the original details. When I first saw the kitchen I thought that it was a nice size space but it came with some challenges.

  • For starters the light fixture was super low that is was a hazard for tall people!

  • The walls had two tones of green that looked odd.

  • There were a lot of kitchen appliances on the counter- they had an air fryer just chilling on the counter even though it was broken!

  • They had good cabinet space but no method to organize their kitchen items.

BEFORE. Photo from HGTV.

I agree with the Sams that the room looked dreary, dated, and cluttered. Luckily, it has good bones and I was so excited to get to work! The great news is that the Sams and their roommates have a good relationship with their landlords who recently took over the property and knew there was a lot of work to be done.

*Landlord Tip: maintain good communication with your landlord and don’t be afraid to ask for permission to update something. Worst case, they say “no” but you never know! Landlords all have different situations.

My plan to update the Sams’ kitchen from outdated to contemporary sleek

*Landlord Tip: Always ask for permission before painting cabinets, walls and switching out light fixture.

Photo Sources: top left - McGee & Co; top right - HGTV Cananda; bottom - Atla Water

Photo Sources: top left – McGee & Co; top right – HGTV Cananda; bottom – Atla Water

Here’s my mood board and below are steps I took to freshen up this kitchen!

  1. Give the cabinets a major facelift with new paint and hardware with permission from their landlords

  2. Brighten up the dingy two tone walls

  3. Switch out the hazardous light fixture

  4. Update countertops and backsplash with affordable peel and stick solutions

  5. Get these guys organized!

1. Painting the Cabinets

  1. Remove all of the doors and number them and the hardware to help us keep track (also makes it easier to hang after we paint them)

  2. Kitchen cabinets get greasy- make sure they are completely clean before you prime and paint. We used “Krud Busters” TSP and Dawn dish soap with scrub brushes Brillos pads.

  3. Always paint in a well-ventilated area

  4. Erik sprayed the cabinets with Benjamin Moore Advance Tinted Primer. Once that dried, we sprayed on the paint using Benjamin Moore Advance in the color Onyx in Satin. Black cabinets give a nice modern look and are more forgiving in rentals. I recommend using satin or semi-gloss paint on cabinets for easy cleanup.

    *Tip: if you don’t want to purchase a paint sprayer, you can rent one for about $100 a day. I like that paint sprayers give a nice professional smooth finish.

Paint changes colors as it dries and may require several coats. If it’s not what you were expecting, be patient!

Hardware: pulls are such a renter-friendly option because you can always take them off and put the old ones back if that’s what your landlord prefers. I picked out these cup pulls in the satin nickel finish to dress up the cabinets.

*Tip: measure to make sure you have the right-sized pulls so you don’t have to drill new holes

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Sources: cup pull hardware

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Sources: cup pull hardware

2. Painting the Walls

White is my go-to color as a landlord. It is easy to paint over if there are any dirt or scuff marks. It’s also the most appealing when we do showings because it makes the interior look clean and fresh.

We used Benjamin Moore White Dove (same color as what I used in my own home) and that really opened up their kitchen!

3. Installing Light Fixture

My husband Brian came to help change out the light fixture. The light we chose was modern-looking, stylish, affordable, had great reviews and readily available. Most importantly, the guys won’t hit their heads on it! It has three bulbs and throws off good light which they need in this kitchen since it doesn’t have additional recessed lighting.

*Tip: Turn off the power to the picture at the breaker box before replacing any lighting

4. Updating Countertops and Backsplash

The counters look to be vinyl so I wanted to do a quick and simple upgrade with waterproof peel and stick marble pattern. They come in a matte or glossy surface with different marble prints. I ordered this marble effect that I liked best in a matte finish. This product is very cost-efficient- the whole counter cost under $60 to complete! BUT it is very tedious work so you may want an extra set of helping hands.

Peel and stick backlash are great because they are so simple to do- you instantly have subway tiles and it is a lot less work.

*Tip: after you peel off and it strips off some paint, make sure to touch up so it doesn’t affect your deposit refund. Ask your landlord for the paint color so you have it on hand for any touch ups like after patching nail holes before moving out.

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Sources: subway tile, marble counter top

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Sources: subway tile, marble counter top

For extra countertop space, I got them a really affordable portable island. The natural wood plays really well with the black cabinets and softens up the modern vibe. Plus, I wanted something to replace where the two large opened garbage cans were located. My heart had to give them a smaller trash bin with a closed lid…

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Source: kitchen cart

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV. Source: kitchen cart

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

5. Organization

I wanted to help the guys make better use of their cabinet space by using these inexpensive baskets. Instead of everything being shoved in the cabinets, they can now locate items easier and actually fit more stuff inside! They can store things they use less frequently here because not everything has to be in reach if it doesn’t get used daily. Goodbye countertop clutter!

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

This was truly an amazing nail biter rental makeover, especially for one day! We worked late into the night for the reveal. The team put in a lot of sweat equity and it was worth the drastic transformation. The Sams’ expressions were priceless. They loved how it turned out – a win win for both them and their landlords!

Patticake Wagner Rentfluencer Episode 2:The Sam's Kitche 9.jpg
Patticake Wagner Rentfluencer Episode 2:The Sam's Kitche 6.jpg
Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

Photo by Canary Gray for HGTV

All of the “after” photography was shot by my talented friend and the show’s art director Wing Ho, for HGTV. You can check out all of her work on her website or give her a follow on her insta @canarygrey!

Product Sources:


EPISODE 6: Marisol and Nick’s Dining Room Makeover; Watch full video Here

EPISODE 5: Caitlin’s Living Room Makeover; Watch full video Here

EPISODE 4: Brit and Haley’s Patio; Watch full video Here

EPISODE 3: Kasey’s Combo Closet and Home Office; Watch full video Here

EPISODE 2: The Sams’ College Kitchen Update; Watch full video Here

EPISODE 1: Maya’s Minimalist Modern Bedroom Makeover; Watch full video Here

Sweetest Regards, Patti