We’re renting a house, and I want to fixup the bathroom and the kitchen, but all the home improvement and makeover sites I’ve been to only have stuff that I know I can’t and don’t want to do, so if anyone knows of any sites, or if anyone has any ideas of their own, I would appreciate it! I’m looking for things I can do myself.

How extensive a "fixup" were you going to do? Check your lease first to see what you’re allowed to do without prior written consent from the landlord. Most residential leases, at least in my market, limit tenant alterations to reasonable changes that can be easily restored to their original condition when the tenant leaves (e.g. painting, hanging shelving and pictures).

Major renovations, such as replacing cabinets, tile, appliances, must only be done with the landlord’s consent. He’ll be living with your choices long after you move out, so HE has the right to say no, or, if he says yes, to approve styles and materials. Also, all improvements belong to the landlord, so unless he’s cut you a deal where you fix the place up in exchange for much lower rent, you’re losing money on the deal.

That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to fix the place up. Paint is the easiest way to liven up the kitchen and bath. Even if you’re not up to decorative painting, a good fresh coat of paint will brighten any room. For kitchen and bath, make sure to use a semi-gloss paint (there are some that are specifically for kitchens and baths)–this will hold up to the moisture, dirt and grease and be easier to clean.

Use baskets or boxes covered with cloth or contact paper to corral small or oddly-shaped items in kitchen and bathroom cabinets or shelves. Cheap and decorative way to increase storage space and keep the place looking neat.

If you need more cabinet space in the kitchen or bath, try to find old dressers, china hutches, bookcases or cabinets on Craigslist or your local freecycle–these can be cleaned, painted, and moved around to suit your space. I used an old 1940’s metal dresser for years as a kitchen island/storage for pots and pans. Dressers with missing drawers make good deep shelving for large pots and baking sheets: just cut plywood to fit where the drawer bottoms would sit.

With your landlord’s permission, you can paint or reface existing cabinets. If not, you can usually cover objectionable cabinets with contact paper or starched fabric without permanent harm to the surface. (Contact paper has gotten a lot cooler–it now comes in all sorts of styles, including faux leather, faux granite, real cork, brushed aluminum and copper, etc.).

Also, you simply must check out Craftster! It’s not a home improvement site, as such, but it has every sort of craft and DIY project you can imagine, from what to do with old light bulbs to decorative painting, furniture design and complete room makeovers, in every style from classic to gothic and back again. And if you ask nicely, the members will often give you a free tutorial. 😀

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