The Culinary Perils of Renting

When we first moved to Oklahoma, I started a rent-friendly decorating blog. It took off so much faster than this silly little personal blog that has hovered around ‘for hobby-only’ readership levels since it’s inception in January 2006 (8 years!!!). While I thoroughly enjoyed curating a home & garden blog, I eventually found it too time-consuming to maintain two blogs, with only one of them bringing in (minimal) money. And for whatever reason, this non-money making blog won out. Life is funny that way. I still have a passion for all things decorating and because we’re renting during our time here (the thought of owning three homes at this point in our lives is scarier than Bound 2), I am having to channel my Tim Gunn spirit animal and ‘make it work‘.

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Did I ever introduce you guys to our orange kitchen? These pictures do not do it justice – it was orange with a capital O. And we have nothing against orange. As Clemson graduates, we bleed orange. We just prefer not to feel like we’re inside a Tropicana carton whenever we’re frying up bacon and choppin’ broccoli like Dana Carvey.

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Before the holidays, we found out that the Army is keeping us here for at least another year and a half. That same day, I emailed our landlords and requested permission to paint some rooms, including the kitchen. Once I received the go-ahead, I booked it to our local Sherwin Williams and scoped out the mistake gallon pile. My preference for painting when renting is to spend as little money as possible on paint – our local store sells mistake paint (mistinted, wrong order, etc…) for $5/gallon. I found a nice beige/green and went on my merry way.

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Don’t get me wrong – I still think this kitchen is far from perfect. But it is no longer orange, so we’ll take it. And all the appliances work, there is enough cabinet space, and the counters are new. So to complain about dated cabinets, old tile, and mismatched appliances would put us in the same category as 93% of House Hunters participants – i.e. annoying as hell.

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Our table we purchased in Oklahoma proved to be too small for this kitchen so we picked up this inexpensive set at Kmart for $150 and I recovered the chairs with a fun outdoor canvas (easy clean-up with kids!). We plan to sell or donate the table when we move, assuming we have a larger eat-in kitchen the next place we live. I am considering painting the bottom portion of the free-standing island – jury is still out on that one.

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And do you see the blue light fixture above the table? Totally not our style but meh – I just think of it as a conversation starter, especially now that the orange walls are no more. Renting can be frustrating, especially if you’re like me and love doing little projects around the house. But it can also be a humbling experience because you also understand that having all the real estate buzzwords are not necessary for to live a rich and fulfilling life. And while elements of our kitchen are terribly outdated, I am still able to cook meals and do all the things you’re meant to do in a kitchen (although to be fair – I do pine for a gas range). It’s funny – I was 25 when we we bought our first house. What was important to me then seems quite silly now. But I suppose that is life.

Please tell me that I am not the only one out there with a less-than-lovely kitchen. If you move around a lot like us, how do you make it work on a budget?

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15 thoughts on “The Culinary Perils of Renting

  1. Sara January 10, 2014 / 8:13 am

    Not to one up on you here (except that I’m gonna)…

    In my first (“semi furnished”) apartment in India, the kitchen came with a sink and countertops. Literally nothing else. We had to buy all the appliances including the refrigerator and the stove (for which we also had to procure a gas cylinder and a contract with the state-run gas company). I love a gas stove as much as the next person, but it was months before we could make anything resembling a meal! The kitchen was unairconditioned and unventilated, except for one small always open window, which meant it was constantly dusty, and at risk of being invaded by curious (and hungry) monkeys who liked to eat the tomatoes and freak out my cat.

    Despite all that, I still return to visit my landlords when I am in Hyderabad and always ask to visit the place if their current renters don’t mind. So many wonderful memories of good friends and good food and drink in that place make it easily one of my top 3 favourite homes (of several dozen).

    Just goes to show, it’s all in your perspective!

  2. jen January 10, 2014 / 8:39 am

    Oh, Karen, have you SEEN my kitchen!? German kitchens are small, no surprise – it’s Europe and homes are smaller overall. My kitchen, however, is smaller than all of my friends here, as well. I don’t know why they couldn’t sacrifice living space and extend the wall out, but it’s annoying. Two people really can’t be in it at the same time.

    You know what, though? I find after 2.5 years of cooking in it (and cooking MUCH more than I did before we moved here, because I SAH now), I often think if I can make it work, then I really don’t need all the space I thought I did.

    We have another fridge and storage in the basement, that is really they only way it works. I also shop more often, since I can walk to stores. No Costco runs 😉

    I stock my cabinets with what I really use on a daily basis, all the other things go on my shelves downstairs. I do a lot of running up and down. So, while it’s annoying, it’s doable!

    • Karen January 10, 2014 / 9:39 am

      Exactly! I find it amusing that so many of us in the US complain about small kitchens when the largest of kitchens in Europe are likely the same size as a ‘small’ one here. Our kitchen in NY was super small – it was difficult to have more than one person in it. Not ideal but totally doable. 🙂

    • Karen January 10, 2014 / 9:40 am

      You win! I have never had to deal with monkeys outside of my kitchen window. I would love to go back to our first apartment after college…

  3. Angela Noelle January 10, 2014 / 10:26 am

    We’re also dealing with a German kitchen, though we’re lucky enough to have a pantry. But probably half of our kitchen stuff is in storage in the States, and after a year and a half here, I don’t miss a darn thing aside from my stand mixer. The whole unit could go up in flames, and I’d be perfectly happy. We’ve definitely come to realize just how much STUFF we have that is completely useless. Glad you’re making renting work for you! I suspect we’ll be renting throughout the rest of our time in the military, and I guess it will make it just that much more delicious once we finally own a house of our own again!

  4. Megan January 10, 2014 / 2:45 pm

    Our kitchen in Florida was certainly large enough, but it wasn’t until we moved into the house that I realized that the countertops were pink!! During the showing I thought they were a tannish color…nope I’m blind, they certainly had pink in them! Also our landlady was SUPER cheap so we had an oven with no window, so you couldn’t see anything while you were cooking it, no garbage disposal (still don’t and I think that’s the only major thing that I really suffer without) and when our dishwasher broke, the repair man informed us, that it wasn’t hooked up to the water line correctly, so it never used hot water….and that lady couldn’t understand why her house had been on the market for a year before she rented it to us.

  5. Anonymous January 10, 2014 / 9:01 pm

    I am suffering the worst kitchen I have ever had! No dishwasher (or room for even a portable one), no garbage disposal, and a very small fridge with no ice maker. The cupboards are new but not at all a style or wood that I like, the counters are okay but not enough of them, I have about half the cupboards that I need. but it has a deep brushed stainless sink that I do love. Right now the plan is to move July of 2016 so I will be stuck until then. We hired an electrician and had the wiring done for a microwave/ range hood which we bought and installed since that is a necessity not a luxury to me!
    Aunt Sue

  6. Tiffany Wheeler January 12, 2014 / 11:13 pm

    This reminds me of our last duty station where I, in a pregnant fit of nesting, found it necessary to paint the entire downstairs of our ON POST house. We then of course got surprise orders and moved 3 months later, paying bookoo bucks to the housing office because I was not going to repaint with a 4 week old. Needless to say, lesson learned. The best part about Army life though it that there are many more kitchens in your future! I love that you called the light fixture a “conversation starter,” hilarious!

  7. wanderlynn January 20, 2014 / 3:31 pm

    We bought our first house at 25, too. And, by some miracle of good fortune, our English kitchen is much bigger and nicer! (Priorities changing, right?) My three complaints are: no pantry (garrrrr!), eensy weensy fridge and the very odd placement of a pendant light fixture. Like, run your head into it because it’s in the walkway between the counter and the table odd.

    I might have to hit you up for decorating advice when we move to Alabama in the summer. We have a place lined up, site unseen. I suffer some kind of paralysis when it comes time to make decisions about decorating, it could be a nightmare. Your makeover is great!

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