what a difference a year (and a can of paint) makes.


if you’ve been reading here since i moved into my little noe valley cottage you’ll know i freakin’ hated my kitchen cabinets. mind you, they weren’t horrid, but they looked kind of like wood veneer to me, and they just didn’t fit my style at all. you know how i feel about my beloved ‘white’. so after over a year of living here i literally bribed my landlord into letting me paint them. i knew my rent increase was coming anyway so i offered to pay a bit more per month (well below the rent controlled allowed increase) and provide the paint and have them painted myself. i could easily drop the amount i offered on a make-up spree, so why not fix something else cosmetically?


i realize not everyone wants to go to these lengths with a rental, but i’m sick in the head when it comes to where i live and with the way rents are in san francisco i don’t plan on going anywhere soon. i was quite content here, except for those bloody brown cabinets, so i did something to make myself happy. i painted the cabinets with the usual white paint i like — Sherwin Williams Emerald Extra White in a semi-gloss so they’d be easy to wipe clean. i also added some IKEA FÅGLEBODA pulls to the drawers. i left most of the cabinets spare of knobs — they just look cleaner to me that way but below the sink i used IKEA FINTORP knobs since that area can get a lot of wear and tear. i also added a striped IKEA SÖFTEN rug and a few other accessories to play up the brand new black & white. and here we are all finished, at long last. some things take time, indeed.


oh, one last thing — since i’d turned my dining room into an office, i decided i needed a little eating nook. so i got an IKEA BJÖRKUDDEN wood dining table and added my vintage burke saarinen tulip chairs around it. it makes for a very nice dining spot and i can easily pull it out and add another chair for guests. i also threw in a few of IKEA’s new TRENDIG bowls for a splash of color. voilá!








pssst…and a peek at what my patio looks like outside these windows.


• all photos by cindy loughridge.

87 Responses to “what a difference a year (and a can of paint) makes.”
  1. I completely understand wanting to overhaul a rental!! I’ve only ever lived in rentals, and even if you don’t own something you’re still spending so much of your time looking at it and living with it. It’s worth the money even if you’re not getting a return on your investment the way you would if you were doing it to a house you own (and will eventually sell).

  2. soooo gorgeous victoria! excellent job! : )

  3. Bee says:

    After seeing your space, I’m tempted to ask my landlord if I could paint the apartment! My rent just went up and I can’t afford to move since prices are rising so quickly in Seattle. I’m so tired of looking at the beige on my walls!

    • Zehavit says:

      I think he will be happy cause whatever makes the appartment looks better is very good for him too.
      Go for it !

    • I’m thinking exactly the same! Our walls are beige too, I’m longing for white white white. We don’t have plans to move any time soon, so maybe I’ll invest just a little bit of time in the old place after all…

  4. Bronwyn says:

    So pretty! I love love it! I painted my rental kitchen as well. Thankfully the owner liked it, I was very bad and didn’t ask permission. I love all your accessories, they really show up with the white background. The third photo is my favorite!

  5. Sarah says:

    What a beautiful job. I live in a rental place (in London) and I know how frustrating it can be when you want to tart the place up a bit but aren’t allowed. It’s kind of crazy that you had to pay the landlord to allow you to do it though? Surely you’re ultimately adding value to their property?

    • victoria says:

      yep, it’s crazy all right. but i really feel so much happier with them white that it’s the price i have to pay. he felt the wood was nice – and it wasn’t horrible, just not my style. he’s been really good to me – he ripped up ugly carpet and refinished the hardwood floors for me and painted the whole place and replaced bad windows. so i have no complaints.

  6. Vicky says:

    Good job!! I painted my kitchen cabinets in white too! I´m happy! I love all white with details in colour :)

  7. richele says:

    looks so nice – I’m sure it’s such a relief to walk into a room you love now.

    an odd question – I’m pondering a shaggy rug like the one in your other room. I was wondering if it has held up well to stains and wear? especially with your dog?


    • victoria says:

      honestly, these rugs can be challenging to keep clean with a dog. but i’ve tried every kind of rug and they’re ALL challenging, so i stick with the ones i love. :)

  8. Theresa says:

    The kitchen looks great! I love the white cabinets. Our SF apartment has a really dated kitchen, and the white cabinet paint is chipping. So I’m thinking of asking our landlord if we can repaint them. Did you hire someone or do it yourself? Did you sand/prime or just paint right over them? Thanks! Oh, where did you get that clock above the chalkboard?

    • victoria says:

      thanks! i hired a task rabbit that came recommended, but i usually use a great painter who’s been out of town. we did prime them first. i think sanding would have been even better, because they required 2-3 coats! that clock in from crate & barrel outlet from ages ago, but i have seen similar ones at west elm.

  9. Victoria, it looks fantastic.
    I bet you wake up happy every day.

  10. Heather says:

    Victoria, as always you mix old and new beautifully here. What a gorgeous kitchen! You make me want to get started on my own:). Where is that pretty wall clock from?

  11. congrats on finally convincing your landlord! the place looks so, so dreamy- and so much sunnier!

  12. Mollie says:

    Wow, awesome job! I too like the look of knob-less cabinets; makes it more modern. I rent the house that was my great grandparents from my great aunt. It was built in 1957 (translation: original wood paneling EVERYWHERE including the kitchen). I’m dying for a white kitchen!

  13. Lori Powell says:

    Victoria, just love waking up and looking @sfgirlbybay with my morning joe! Your style is just beautiful! I know sometimes you do share info about the items in your home, I was wondering what brand your toaster is……I’m in the market for a new one, mine has buggered out and wanted a vintage inspired like the one you have, also was wondering about your lovely table on your patio…..have a great day :)

  14. Houseworking says:

    I recently did this, but without asking my landlord! I’m a fan “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness”. The white paint makes such a big difference. So worth the risk!
    I was also delighted to see that brass and wood tray on your table — I have the same one for sale in my etsy shop right now! Though I’m tempted to remove the listing and keep it for myself after seeing how nice it looks in your home…

  15. Cleshawn says:

    This is absolutely perfect. Nothing else needs to be said…

    xx/ http://www.hometohem.com

  16. Erin says:

    That looks gorgeous! I’ve been wanting to paint our place too, but it’s always a debate to fix up a rental like that. I’m inspired though!

  17. Tiffany says:

    Gorgeous!! Please tell me where you found the poster frames!

  18. Kirsten says:

    ughh we are east bay renters, and every time i look at our brown cabinets i die. i wish i can paint them, yours look amazing!

  19. victoria it looks SO amazing!
    your style is a breath of fresh air.

  20. sunny says:

    I love it! Your whole kitchen is stunning!

    (from someone in a rental that has brown cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom)

  21. Zandra Zuraw says:

    Victoria, I couldn’t agree more that it’s worth it to paint any place you live… Including a rental! A rental us still a home, after all! So happy for you and it looks great… Reflects your style perfectly!

  22. Beautiful kitchen! Its inspiring me to work on mine a bit!

    I was wondering where you got the round wood framed clock?

  23. Debra says:

    Your cabinets look great and I’m totally behind making changes to rentals to make you happiest in your space. I have similar cabinets at my place but when I was having some work done I asked the guy about painting them and he told me that the doors were fine since they are wood but that the “facing” strips on the cabinet boxes themselves couldn’t be painted because they were just veneer. Did this cause you problems? I’m so sick of the matchy-matchy look of the cabinets and the hardwood floors.

  24. erin says:

    So glad to hear you could twist your landlord’s arm–such a beautiful transformation! (This from a woman who just covered a strip of ugly tile backsplash with *contact paper.* Ah, renting.)

  25. Wow – this looks amazing Victoria! I thought your kitchen was stunning before but it’s so fresh and light now it’s painted :)

  26. Wow, it looks gorgeous! You must be thrilled every time you walk in the room!

    When we moved into our rental last year I was dying to paint. The landlord was very hesitant but finally agreed provided we paid an extra deposit which requires us to either paint the old colors back before moving or lose the deposit if we move within five years. It was a win-win for us because paint is such a reasonable way to spruce up a rental (and I was dying every time I looked at the peach walls in our living room).

  27. jen says:

    What a difference! I’m contemplating painting my kitchen cabinets a dark charcoal grey. This is inspiring.

  28. What a transformation! Well worth paying a little extra for…great job :)

  29. Uncle Beefy says:

    Gurlllll… gawjuss!!! It looks so beautiful and with that gorgeous NorCal light? Perfection! This might just inspire me to actually *finish* painting my own kitchen cabinets. That half paint/primer/oak is SO 2004! Ugh. Brava!

  30. jen says:

    love love love. you’ve just given me some ideas for the inlaw unit which needs a kitchen refresh!

  31. Victoria Rose says:

    G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S.E absolutely….what a difference white paint makes..I’m envious!!!!

  32. carrie del cima says:

    Love, Love, Love….nicely done! Fresh, clean and so YOU! Just had to ask though, where is the frig? Under cabinet type? That’s all you need!

    • victoria says:

      ha! it’s there. it’s tucked into a space next the stove – just to the left of the black chalkboard. it’s black, too, so it’s hard to see back there. :)

  33. mari says:

    I love every little thing about this- most especially the tray with the white porcelain (?) teapot. I just discovered your blog and my heart is going pitter pat very fast!

    Kudos to you and your fantastic style!

  34. Caireen says:

    Gorgeous! Can’t beat a good white cabinet. And beautifully styled too. :)

  35. Heather A says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!!

  36. Wow, it does make a huge difference! Your apartment looks great Victoria :) So bright and inviting!

  37. Kim says:

    I love the kitchen! I have been dying to paint my cabinets, they are the most awful fake wood patterned vinyl!

    I also love the branches in the vase on your patio. Where do you get branches like that? Any specific place in sf?

  38. Jodi says:

    Victoria, I’ve been reading your blog for a while but never commented until now. WOW your place is so beautiful. Nice job on the kitchen. I live in a rental and unfortunately my landlady decided to paint everything a drab tan color, even my metal kitchen cabinets, so everything is just “blah” in here. Looking to liven up the space with some color but not sure how, since my space is small (as is the budget!). You’ve certainly inspired me!

  39. Vanessa says:

    So much cuter!

  40. Liza says:

    How lucky to have the black countertop! What an impressively easy makeover.

  41. White is always a good choice and here it looks perfect! Your landlord has to thank you :)

  42. Kim says:

    Wow! so smart! every detail is perfect for your wonderful space.

  43. Nice job Victoria, I love a tin of white paint!

    Looks brilliant.

  44. Ferren says:

    This is so beautiful. It’s nice to see how consistent your taste is in your own home with the photos you post. Really inspiring :)

  45. lindsay says:

    lovely kitchen, so bright and fresh! may i ask, in the close up photo of your counter, what is the round bottom glass decanter(?) with a ball stopper? it looks a bit like a chemex. i can never resist an interesting piece of glassware

  46. SKD says:

    SO BEAUTIFUL! I’ve lived in my apartment for a year and a half and I recently have become obsessed with doing a bit of re-decorating! It’s never too late to switch things up and start new projects:)

  47. eden says:

    So lovely! Very inspiring – I’m going to tackle my kitchen this weekend now.

  48. Sally says:

    This looks amazing Victoria! Hate how difficult it can be to change things in rentals, you’ve made this look so homely and beautiful, love it!

  49. Brittany says:

    Hi Victoria,

    I was wondering about your outside table. I absolutely love the base and I’m looking to spruce up my own little backyard space in SF. Where did you get it?

    Thanks in advance!

  50. thefolia says:

    Your kitchen looks fabulous–what amazing lighting you have! If you ain’t happy with your nest (renting or not) then fix it. A can of paint transformed your little nest and made you feel happy (hopefully the landlord too.) Happy Nesting everyone!

  51. Nancy says:

    Victoria, love your blog, and your adorable apartment!

  52. honeydonthink says:

    What a diffeence! I just love how light and open the space has become. The wood pieces you have really pop now and the handles are wonderful – I have the same handles on an old rustic redwood dresser. You’ve done it again – now I have to get my courage up and ask my landlady if I can paint over the wood cabinets in my kitchen – maybe I will show her your blog today:-)

  53. mara says:

    your landlord should pay you for such an improvement! love the your home inside and out.

  54. You did such a good job! Your kitchen has lovely touches.

  55. sandrichka says:

    thanks victoria-my brand new landlord (also in NV!) has just given me the ok to paint my own “mystery wood” kitchen cabinets and you’ve given me some great ideas…

  56. theroundbutton says:

    …the difference a can of WHITE paint can make! Great job dear! also loved the styling over the blackboard. Your kitchen looks great, enjoy it! (btw, what was the good-landlord’s reaction when he saw them painted?)

  57. Outside the US in many places landlords expect renters to do the renovations they want and so we have gotten used to just paying for certain things and never looking back. We renovated the kitchen in our house in Morocco and were so happy to actually enjoy living in it for two years rather than being aggravated the whole time! I love the white in your kitchen. It looks amazing and I’m so glad you decided to treat yourself to it!

  58. marilia says:

    what is the name of the white paint in the walls?
    Congrats from Brazil ;)

  59. joody says:

    This is PERFECT! I am moving to noe valley from my little studio in marina and this post is so helpful. You’ve given me so many ideas on how to decorate the kitchen. Woohoo! Thanks!

  60. sandra says:

    Hi Victoria:
    Who is the painter and/or task rabbit (?) that you use? i have landlord’s permission to repaint my kitchen cabinets which have a very similar look but not sure I can do it well myself. (ps I live in Noe too!) Let me know, thanks!

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