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



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. 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!

    • 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…

  3. 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!

  4. 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?

    • 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.

  5. 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?


    • 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. :)

  6. 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?

    • 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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!

  9. 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 :)

  10. 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…

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.)

  15. 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).

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

    • 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. :)

  18. 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!

  19. 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?

    • thanks kim! these are quince and i got them at french tulip on 24th street in Noe. but they also have them at the flower mart quite often during the season.

  20. 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!

  21. 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

  22. 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:)

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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:-)

  27. 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…

  28. …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?)

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

  31. 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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