June 2011: Rental Rescue


Whether you simmer and sauté or microwave and melt, chances are, you spend a lot of time in your kitchen. The heart of the home is also one of the most expensive rooms to renovate—therefore, the one that stumps renters who wish they could make some changes.


As a renter, you can’t replace countertops, cabinetry, or appliances. But with a few bucks, a Saturday afternoon, and a little imagination, you can still make your kitchen feel like home. A kitchen back-splash is a quick, affordable, and easy way to update your kitchen, adding color and detail while protecting your walls from spills and splashes. From instant fixes to D.I.Y. projects, there’s a solution for every skill level.

Fast food

Catering to renters and homeowners alike, Broan (available at Rexel Electrical, Stony Point Road) and Star Stainless Design have created a line of ready-to-hang tile backsplashes. Not only do these framed tile displays add detail above a sink or range, they require about as much effort to install as hanging a picture on the wall. With styles ranging from sleek and stainless to Tuscan Villa, there’s a backsplash for every kitchen, no grout necessary.

Stuck with bland and boring tile for a backsplash? Innovative companies like Mibo (www.mibo.co.uk) and Modwalls (www.modwalls.com) sell lines of Tile Tattoos, designed to fashionably and affordably spruce up your 15x15cm standard tile. With designs both modern and whimsical, these waterproof decals are as easy to remove as they are to apply. Just peel and stick. 

If tile’s not your thing, but you’re stuck on the ease of stick-on solutions, try a Wallsticker from Ferm Living (www.fermliving.com). These no-fuss vinyl decals are perfect for a kitchen backsplash, coming in easy-to-cut 20"x20" sheets, allowing you to create your own pattern and design. When the time comes to leave your rental, just peel off the decals—no harm, no foul. If you’re looking to cover more ground, try self-adhesive temporary wallpaper (www.tempaperdesigns.com). Designed as a perfect solution for renters or those with a bad case of design-indecisiveness, the affordable peel-and-stick paper designs go from the box to the back-splash with a ruler and utility knife.

Weekend warrior


If you’re feeling a little more crafty and adventurous, explore your local hardware and home improvement stores for inspiration. A practical and inexpensive material, like peg board, can easily be measured and cut to fit your space, not only shielding your walls from splashes and spills, but making a great place to hang your spoons and spatulas. Paint the peg board with a fun contrasting color in semi-gloss for an easy-to-clean focal point. If it was good enough for Julia Child, it’s good enough for me. 

Browse the flooring section for additional inspiration. With some command adhesive tape strips, lightweight vinyl floor tiles could make a fun and affordable backsplash in a matter of minutes. 

Try putting a little kitsch in your kitchen! Mount vintage postcards from The Consignment House (121 W. Main Street) behind a protective surface of Plexiglass, cut to fit. If you’re feeling tongue-in-cheek, swap out the postcards with your favorite take-out menus from around town. Not only will they be a graphic conversation starter, but they’ll be readily available next time you don’t feel like cooking. 

No matter which solution you go for, always choose surface materials that are waterproof, easy to clean, and easy to remove. With myriad fun, affordable, and removable backsplash options, renters and homeowners alike can take their kitchen from standard issue to top chef in no time.—Ed Warwick

Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.



Safety first


A well-stocked and easily accessible safety kit will keep your D.I.Y. projects enjoyable and, we hope, pain-free. 

Protective eyewear is probably the most important element of your defensive arsenal. Like little wrap-around shields for your eyes, safety goggles and glasses prevent splinters, metal filings and the occasional splash of dangerous liquid from damaging your fragile peepers. Generally speaking, regular eyeglasses or sunglasses do not provide enough protection. Instead, opt for safety-specific eyewear, which offers more coverage of the eye area and is often shatter-proof and chemical-resistant.

Another key piece of safety equipment is a pair or two of quality work gloves. Cow-hide or deerskin gloves will put an extra layer of material between your skin and rusty nails, sharp tool edges and icky old carpet. If you are using any type of corrosive chemical (paint stripper, concrete etcher, etc.), you will need to outfit yourself with a pair of chemical-resistant gloves to keep your forearms and hands out of harm’s way.

No safety ensemble is complete without the appropriate face mask. For most projects a standard, well-fitting dust mask is sufficient. For jobs involving tinier airborne particles, such as painting or using urethane resins, a respirator with job-specific filters may be necessary.

Finally, don’t discount the benefit of wearing the proper work clothes. Go for maximum coverage in natural materials (skip the Daisy Dukes and bikini tops, please). Also, make sure that clothes are relatively form-fitting, as loose straps or extra fabric can easily catch on power tools or snag on exposed hardware.—Christy Baker

Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintaining her roller skates, this creative mom of two always keeps a toolbox (or at least some duct tape) handy.