August 2010: Rental Rescue


 There’s nothing like watching an episode of “Hoarders” to make you feel buried alive, boxed in, and like a slave to your own possessions and space. Cut to me in my front yard with a change box, half of my belongings covered with sale tags, and a poster reading “Everything Must Go.” 


In all reality, when it comes to our homes and design, I think we can be our own worst enemies. We shut ourselves in, we stuff closets full of things we don’t need, and we settle for kitchen cabinets that rain mismatched Tupperware containers and lids every time we open the doors. 

Even if you can’t break out a sledgehammer and move walls to create some livable space, you can rediscover the space you have and easily make it feel bigger. One way I love to do this is to open up some of the cabinetry in a room. A lot of designers have opted for sleek, open shelving instead of upper cabinetry in kitchens, providing a clean, contemporary look, while still giving the owner a place to store cereal bowls and cookbooks. By removing a few cabinet doors, we can create our own open shelving for little to no cost.

Get started


Tools: Screwdriver, utility knife or scissors, tape measure

Materials: Pencil, Command Adhesive tape strips, contact paper/wall paper/wrapping paper of your choice (optional)

1. Remove the doors. Depending on the type of cabinetry you have, the process may vary slightly. Older cabinetry typically has hinges that are attached directly to the faces of the cabinets and doors. If this is the case, using your screwdriver, unscrew the hinge from the cabinet, leaving the hinges attached to the door. Once you have removed the cabinet door, tape a sealed storage bag to the back of the cabinet door for the screws and/or hinges if you remove them completely. If your cabinets have magnetic or metal catchers, you can remove those too and store them in the bag with the screws. 

Newer cabinetry tends to have hinges that are located inside the cabinets. Most of these cabinet doors easily detach from the hinges with a small flip of the interior latch on the hinge. In this case, you can opt to leave the interior hinges intact, or once again remove them with your screwdriver and store them along with your doors in a cool, dry place.  


Opening up the cabinetry creates an airy feeling and provides a sense of space and depth in the kitchen, especially if the cabinets are dark and dated. This new, open space provides functional storage, yet can also provide more decorative/display space for some of your favorite pieces. If the backs of the cabinets are unattractive, add a new dimension and some color using decorative paper. 

2. Decorate cabinet backs. Using your measuring tape, measure the spaces between the shelves of your cabinet. If the shelves in your cabinet remove or adjust, take them out and measure the dimensions of the entire cabinet back at once. Using a pencil and your utility knife/scissors, measure and cut out pieces of your favorite decorative paper—wall paper, contact paper (self-adhesive) or wrapping paper from Caspari or O’Suzannah. Apply the paper to the back of the cabinetry with the tape strips for a fresh, fun look. 

If cabinetry isn’t your issue, consider removing closet doors to create a built-in office nook. The possibilities are endless if we open our minds, and a few doors.—Ed Warwick