I've lived in rental apartments my entire adult life, and have experienced my share of less-than-ideal kitchens. There was the kitchen with no counter space and a refrigerator in the living room; another basement kitchen with a dishwasher (yay!), but no natural light; and then there was the kitchen with nice appliances, but the crummiest, dirtiest floor tile ever.
Rental kitchen challenges range from minor annoyances to serious, hair-pulling frustrations. But before you go and break your lease, consider this: The 10 most frustrating things about rental kitchens all have solutions. (And none of them require blowing your security deposit.)
Frustration #1: Ugly or undesirable cabinets.
As a renter, you get what you get. While your dream kitchen may have rich walnut cabinets, your rental kitchen cabinets are made of far-less-fancy honey oak, as common as it is bland. Your Pinterest kitchen board is all-white-all-the-time, but your rental kitchen's dark cherry cabinets are decidedly less bright and airy. Sound familiar?
You may paint the cabinets only if you have a very flexible landlord, but for most of us, that's not an option. Here's what you can do instead:
- If you hate your honey oak cabinets: Paint the surrounding walls dark blue, or paint the backsplash in chalkboard paint to provide dramatic contrast. A strong black-and-white palette also looks chic.
- If you hate your cherry cabinets: Try light gray and black on the walls to neutralize the cherry's redness. This is what I did in my own rental kitchen, and I've been really happy with the results.
Frustration #2: Drawers that don't open properly.
Sticky, wonky drawers are maddening. You're either yanking them out with your hands or shoving them back in with your hips. You might not be able to solve the problem entirely, but you can at least minimize your frustration by moving your most-used utensils and cooking tools to the countertop or some other easy-to-access location.
Buy a pretty utensil holder for your wooden spoons and whisks, store flatware in a vintage vase, hang your tools on the side of a cabinet, and move your knives to a magnetic knife rack. Leave the offending drawer for anything that isn't in high rotation.
For More Inspiration: Smart Storage Ideas for Kitchen Utensils: 15 Examples From Our Kitchen Tours
Frustration #3: Cabinet doors that don't hang correctly.
Likewise, if you have shoddily constructed, uneven, or just old cabinet doors, you might consider taking the doors off completely and turning the cabinets into open cubbies.
This solution isn't suitable for everyone, and you might find keeping your newly opened shelves neat and presentable is far more frustrating than that wonky cabinet door ever was, but it's worth a try!
Frustration #4: Terrible lighting.
Just because your rental kitchen lighting is dark and dreary doesn't mean it has to stay that way — we promise! From task-arm lamps to under-cabinet lighting, here are five ways you can light up a rental kitchen without making any permanent (read: deposit-losing!) changes.
Let There Be Light: 5 Easy Ways to Light a Rental Kitchen
Frustration #5: Ugly countertops.
This might be the most common rental kitchen woe. How do you deal with cheap laminate countertops, or any countertops that makes you cringe? Two ideas: Keep a big, handsome cutting board or a pretty tray or two on the counter at all times. You could even keep a tray underneath your dish rack.
Frustration #6: No countertop space.
Okay, so maybe it's not the countertop material that bugs you, but the fact that you just don't have enough countertop space — period. The little swath next to the stove hardly counts for anything. Extend your countertop space with an integrated cutting board for your sink, or by building burner covers. (We love this project.)
If all else fails, use an ironing board!
Frustration #7: No space for a kitchen table.
Your rental kitchen might not be big enough to accommodate a full-size table for four, but that doesn't mean you have to eat on the floor. Try a slim wall-mounted table instead. Fold up and down as needed!
Frustration #8: Little or nonexistent storage space.
What is it with the wimpy storage in some rental kitchens? Oh, so that single cabinet next to the stove is supposed to hold all my plates, pots, pans, baking supplies, and tools? My bad.
Seriously, folks — there's a better way. Store items in a few big baskets on top of the cabinets. Hang pans on the wall, behind the stove, or above the stove. (In fact, here are 15 ways you can store your pots and pans.) Look for unexpected storage places, like underneath the countertop or underneath a kitchen island. Use an IKEA shelf or cart to hold small appliances. If you have the space for it, pull in a gorgeous, multipurpose bookshelf for all your dishes, flatware, and cookbooks.
And don't forget to take advantage of all your vertical space.
Frustration #9: Ugly details
After you cover up the undesirables, display the things that make you happy. Upgrade your crummy dish rack to this smart, stylish, and space-saving version. Hang a special rack for your tea towel. Put a little washi tape on your cabinet shelves. In general, make your kitchen feel like spring!
Frustration #10: Disorganization
This is certainly not unique to rental kitchens; even the most glam, custom kitchens have messy pantries and towering piles of pans.
But it does seem harder to stay organized when working in a kitchen not designed to your specifications. You're dealing with quirks and constraints that would make any cook throw in the towel. Take heart, though — out of all the challenges rental kitchens present, keeping organized might be the most assailable!
- Why Didn't We Think Of That? 18 Genius Organizing Tips from Our Readers
- 10 Inexpensive Kitchen Helpers and Organizers
- 5 Essential (and Renter-Friendly) Storage Products for Small Kitchens
- 20 Organized Kitchens from Real Cooks
- 15 Beautifully Organized Kitchen Cabinets (and Tips We Learned from Each)
- 15 Ways to Store Your Cookbooks
- Before & After: How I Organized All My Little Bags of Gluten-Free Flours
How do you deal with the frustrations in your rental kitchen? If you have any tips or solutions to share, do tell us in the comments below.
Originally published 4.29.2014