Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper Your Cabinets!

I love our kitchen: it gets a ton of natural light, it’s big enough for two people to cook at the same time, and it has a TON of counter space! The only thing I don’t like about it is that all of the cabinets are dark walnut-colored wood, and even with the natural light, the room still feels kinda dark and oppressive. Luckily there is an easy solution: add wallpaper for a splash of color!

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets to add a splash of color! Tutorial from

And the best part is, this wallpaper is removable! That’s right, REMOVABLE!!! You can just peel it off and wipe up the stray glue with a damp sponge, and there’s no hint the wallpaper was ever even there! Renters rejoice! You now have a thousand options for giving your kitchen a makeover without making any permanent changes!

When I decided to wallpaper these cabinets, I knew exactly which wallpaper to use. Spoonflower is a company that allows you to design your own fabric, wallpaper, wall decals, or giftwrap, and they’ll print it for you and ship it to you! Or if, like me, you have zero design skills, you can browse through the thousands of designs created by others and purchase any one of those instead. 🙂 Anyway, their wallpaper is removable, so I knew it was perfect for this project. I got in touch with them and they were nice enough to provide me with enough wallpaper to do the inside of all five of our upper cabinets!

Wallpaper is the PERFECT solution for updating your kitchen while living in a rental because it makes a huge difference and it doesn’t have to be permanent. Plus, wallpaper comes in a thousand colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your style!

Wallpaper Your Cabinets

If you want to give your kitchen cabinets a makeover with wallpaper, here’s what you need:

  • wallpaper (if you want removable wallpaper, check out Spoonflower)
  • painter’s tape
  • a sponge
  • a rubber spatula
  • an X-acto knife
  • a pencil, a ruler, and scissors (for measuring and cutting the wallpaper)

Your wallpaper will come with instructions on how to install it, and you should follow those directions! I’ll tell you how I installed our wallpaper, but a lot of it was wet and sticky, so I left my camera in its case and didn’t take many pictures until it was finished.

The first thing you need to do is empty out your cabinets, remove the shelves if you can (our shelves are permanent, which made the entire wallpapering process very interesting!), and clean all of the surfaces that the wallpaper will touch.

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets

Then measure your cabinets and cut strips of wallpaper to size. In general, when you hang wallpaper you want to hang it from the top of your wall or cabinet to the bottom in one long, unbroken strip. Then place a second strip to the right of the first, slightly overlapping on the left edge. And so on until you reach the right edge of your wall or cabinet.

When cutting wallpaper, always leave an extra inch or two; it is MUCH easier to cut extra wallpaper off after it is dry than to get it exactly the right size before installing it. As you’re measuring and cutting your wallpaper, make sure that you account for overlap so that you can align the patterns as you install it!

This is the part I don’t have pictures of, but the first step is to wet your wallpaper. Since our shelves weren’t removable we couldn’t wallpaper the entire cabinet in one or two long strips. Instead we had to wallpaper around the shelves, so we ended up with 18 small sections of wallpaper. We just filled our kitchen sink with about four inches of water for this part, but you can use your bathtub if you have bigger strips of wallpaper.

Gently fold the wallpaper with the printed side in and submerge it completely in room temperature water for about 15 seconds. Then pull it out of the water and lay it printed side down, glue side up. If your wallpaper strip is really big, just fold it back in on itself, glue side against glue side. Don’t worry, it won’t stick to itself this way, but make sure not to let the glue side touch anything other than the other glue side or it will start to stick!

Let the wallpaper sit for 1-2 minutes, and then it’s time to install it! Start by lining up the top edge of the wallpaper with the top of your wall or cabinet. I found it easiest to start in one corner. The wallpaper will sort of stick to the cabinet at this point, but you’ll still want to tape it with painter’s tape once you have the top edge lined up, so that it doesn’t slip down and leave a gap as it dries.

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets

Once it is taped at the top, take a slightly damp sponge and press the rest of the wallpaper onto the cabinet or wall, starting from the top and moving down. Make sure to go slow and get rid of any air bubbles between the wallpaper and cabinet. If your sponge gets too wet, just wring it out and keep going!

JM had a brilliant suggestion for the bottom corners. You should have about an inch of extra paper at the bottom which you will cut off later. But while it dries, you want to make sure you have it all the way down into the bottom corner. Here’s where the rubber spatula comes in! Use it to gently press the wallpaper into the corners; the rubber is soft enough that you won’t rip the paper, but it’s strong enough to really get the paper into the corner.

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets

Once your top edge is taped and you have a nice solid crease in the bottom corner of your wallpaper, you’re done! With that one strip…

Repeat the process for each strip of wallpaper, making sure to carefully align the patterns with the previous strip as you go. Don’t worry if your paper hangs over onto the shelf above or below, or if it wraps around the corner at the right edge; it’s very easy to remove the extra paper once it’s dry!

We let our wallpaper dry overnight, but you can usually get away with letting it dry for 3-4 hours if you want to do it all in one day.

Once the wallpaper is dry, gently remove the tape. Then take an X-acto knife and cut right into the corners of the cabinet to remove any excess paper.

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets

If you’re careful as you cut, you’ll get a perfectly straight line and you won’t even be able to tell that you had to wallpaper around the dang shelves instead of behind them!

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets

As you peel up the extra paper that you cut off, it will leave a white glue residue on your cabinet. But don’t worry, that wipes right up with a slightly damp sponge!

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets
White glue residue just after removing excess paper
Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets
No more glue! Wipes right up with a damp sponge

I also removed one set of cabinet doors completely so we have easier access to our dishes, and so we can always see the wallpaper peeking through from the back of the cabinet! If you are renting, just unscrew the hinges from the cabinet and store the doors away somewhere safe; you can always re-install them before you move out!

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets to add a splash of color! Tutorial from

I love how the yellow wallpaper looks behind the white and green dishes! If you like the yellow quatrefoil pattern that I used, you can find it here.

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets to add a splash of color! Tutorial from

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets to add a splash of color! Tutorial from

Rental Friendly Kitchen Update: Wallpaper your cabinets to add a splash of color! Tutorial from

On the other side of the kitchen I left the doors on the cabinet, but that fun yellow wallpaper still shows through behind all the food in our “pantry”! Why do we have four cans of PAM? You’d have to ask JM…I don’t bake!

I have a bunch of this wallpaper leftover… I’m thinking I’ll wallpaper the bottoms of the drawers next; they need a bit of color too!

What would you wallpaper in your home? Wallpaper has come a long way from the horrid floral prints you’d find in a grandmother’s house, there are definitely a bunch of ways I could imagine using it in our apartment to brighten up the place!

Disclosure: This isn’t really a sponsored post, except that Spoonflower is awesome and donated the wallpaper I used for this project! But of course, as with all sponsored content, all opinions are 100% my own, and I am totally in love with Spoonflower wallpaper and would recommend it to anyone!


I link up at these awesome parties!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Manda Wolf says

    11 years ago

    What a cute idea. I may have to do this in my cabinets even though they have doors on them just for a touch of “aww” when you are digging around knowing you hid the Oreos somewhere.  My family has always used peel and stick tiles to cover the bottoms of cabinet and drawer shelves. It makes it a lot easier when you need to clean the insides.

    Manda @ Our Wolf Den

  2. Krista @thehappyhousie says

    11 years ago

    Looks great! I love that quatrefoil print. I would love to do some open cabinets in our kitchen like this… with a paper back would be perfect! Thanks for the inspiration:)

  3. Angela says

    11 years ago

    I love it, especially because I’m loving on that shade of yellow for accents in my home. 🙂 I kind of want to do this now to some of our cabinets. We’ll see what the husband says.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      11 years ago

      Ooh, well I hope he thinks it’s an awesome idea! And if not, do it anyway and if he totally HATES it, it’s removable! But JM wasn’t thrilled about the idea when I told him, but now he really likes it, so there’s something to be said for actually seeing it finished!

  4. Lori Lynn says

    11 years ago

    Great idea. Love the paper you chose.

  5. Heather says

    11 years ago

    That’s gorgeous! Love that it’s removable!! Pnned!

  6. Amanda @ Dreamsicle Sisters says

    11 years ago

    Love this! I am heading over to Spoonflower right now to check out their stuff. I am looking for removable wallpaper!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      11 years ago

      Their stuff is seriously amazing! They have so many great colors and patterns that are super modern and not at all “old and floral”. 🙂

  7. Crystal says

    11 years ago

    Love the wallpaper!! I have a lamp shade that is the exact same color and pattern that I found at Home Goods a couple of weeks ago. It is sitting on my desk. I love the wallpaper on the inside of your cabinets.. It does make it bright and fun!! Thanks for the tutorial!

  8. Jacque says

    11 years ago

    Love the wallpaper choice and you have a great tutorial. Maybe someday I will get brave and trick Matt into letting me wallpaper something 🙂

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