The 20 Best Gadgets, Tools, and Multitaskers These Renters Ever Bought for Their Kitchens

published Jul 18, 2021
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Renting is great for a lot of reasons… but of course, the trade-off is that you might feel stuck with a space you don’t love. Take a tiny, drab kitchen, for example. If you owned a home, you could renovate the space or even just add some cabinets for storage, but because you’re at the mercy of your landlord, you’ll have to be a little more creative. While you might not have all the options that a homeowner might have, there’s still plenty you can do. And plenty of temporary solutions you can buy.

We asked a bunch of renters to tell us about the best things they bought to improve their kitchens. Here’s a list of the 20 best things, nominated from apartment-dwellers who want to inspire you.

1. Self-Adhesive Under-Cabinet Lights

Ashley Rademacher, founder of the lifestyle blog Swift Wellness, says these self-adhesive light strips are easily one of the best items she’s purchased for her apartment’s kitchen. “They use 3M tape, so you can put them anywhere, and they’re ideal for apartments, which almost never have under-cabinet lighting,” she says. “They also connect to Alexa, which makes lighting up the kitchen so easy when I come home with groceries.” And they’re equipped with hands-free dimming, so she can find her way to the kitchen in the dark before her morning cup of coffee!

2. Over-the-Sink Drying Rack

Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, says he’s all about keeping the kitchen clean and dry. This drying rack installed directly over the sink allows water from recently washed dishes to drip down and into the sink, ensuring they’re clean and dry by the time they make it to the cabinet.

3. Air Purifier with HEPA Filter

Marquis Matson, VP of community at Sozy, bought an air purifier with a HEPA filter to deal with mold in his apartment, but he found it also works wonders to keep the kitchen smelling crisp and fresh — even when he’s cooking on high heat or accidentally burning things.

4. Microwave Cart

Apartment kitchens are notoriously short on storage and counter space. Danielle Cox-Burnett, a hospitality manager, swears by a rolling kitchen cart to instantly solve both problems. She also uses the wood top as a cutting board in a pinch!

5. Backsplash Tile Stickers

Lauren Levy, the founder of adensmom.com, leaned into the “charm” of her 1920s-style kitchen with a faux backsplash. “Surprisingly, we’ve gotten so many compliments on our kitchen tiles — people don’t seem to realize the patterns are stickers,” she says.

6. 10-Inch Turntable

Amanda Lize, a software engineer who blogs at WhatsSheDoing, loves these 10-inch turntables for storing oils, vinegars, and spices in her tiny apartment cupboards. I love being able to spin the turntables to find everything in my cupboard easily instead of having to pull everything out to find something at the back,” she says. “It also means I know what I have on hand and don’t end up repurchasing or forgetting about any oils, vinegars, or spices until they’ve expired.”

7. Peel-and-Stick Floor Tiles

After covering her kitchen backsplash with sticky tiles from Target’s Dollar Spot, leather artisan Terina Hill also rehabbed her linoleum floors with these matching stick-on tiles.

8. Composter and Planter Combo

Veronica Fletcher, founder of Yuzu Magazine, found an efficient way to compost in her kitchen: with a worm composter that doubles as a stylish plant pot! “You put the waste in, the worms eat it, and it magically turns into compost, which you can use to grow something new,” she says. “I grow cilantro in mine, so now I have an endless supply of my favorite herb.”

9. Command Hooks

Digital marketing specialist Kristen Klepac uses Command Hooks to store just about everything in her apartment kitchen. “No other brand is as strong when it comes to sticking power — and they come off cleanly and easily when you move out,” she says. “You can buy hangers and hooks for a wide range of weights and even specially designed ones for spray bottles and brooms!”

10. Electric Tea Kettle

As an apartment dweller with an inefficient old stove, Anastasija Dojcinovska, co-founder of Reviewlution, loves her budget-friendly electric kettle. “Since we decided to invest in a water heating kettle, we managed to decrease our electricity bill, and also save time on food preparation,” she says. 

11. Pan Organizer

When Megan Callahan of Average Wild Experience combined kitchen gear with her husband’s, she invested in a pan organizer to keep things tidy in their small apartment (and to prevent scratches on the pans’ nonstick finish).

12. Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

In a small space, how things store is just as important as how they work. Callahan loves these nesting storage bowls, which are super easy to stash in small cabinets. Plus, they’re great for serving when company’s over (and easy to clean afterward, because they’re dishwasher-safe). 

13. Peel-and-Stick Mosaic Tile

Noticing a trend here with all this peel-and-stick tile? For a modern look in his apartment, interior designer John Linden purchased this self-adhesive tile. “The tile is inexpensive and easy to install, looks nice with my black appliances, and it’s just what I needed for that empty space behind the stove.”

14. Ceiling-Mounted Pot and Pan Rack

Mark Valderrama, owner of Aquarium Store Depot, says the biggest problem he’s had in apartment rentals is the total lack of cupboard space. Rather than stacking pots and pans in his cabinets, he decided to use vertical space with this ceiling-mounted pot and pan rack.

15. IKEA BEKVÄM Spice Rack

Alexandra Shytsman, creator of The New Baguette, has lived in six rental apartments in the last seven years, and she’s used these IKEA shelves as spice racks in all of them. Her creative solution easily frees up cabinet space.

16. Oak Undercabinet Wine Glass Rack

Outdoor educator Danielle Piscatelli uses an under-the-cabinet wine glass holder in her apartment’s kitchen. It’s simple to install, and the wood seamlessly blends in with her cabinets. “No more hunting around for a wine glass when I want one,” she says.

17. AARKE Carbonator

What do you do if you’re a sparkling water fan with not quite enough storage for all those 12-packs? Invest in a water bubbler! “It’s similar to a Sodastream but the design is beautiful,” says Morgan Oliveira, founder of PR-firm Grounded, Etc. “Plus, it saves us a ton on canned seltzer!”

18. Tap Lights

If she owned a house, Mindi Sachs of The Rite Bite would have installed LED lights under her kitchen cabinets — but because she’s renting, she found these tap lights as an easy way to improve lighting for food prep. “I never knew these would be such a game-changer for the kitchen,” she says.

19. Dual Trash/Recycling Can

Committed to recycling, but no room under the sink for an extra bin? Tehrene Firman, director of content at Brightly, says this dual-compartment trash can makes a world of difference in her apartment. “Aside from looking great in your kitchen, it’s a great way to collect your recyclables in a neat and organized way,” she says.

20. Travel Water Filter

PR consultant Rebecca Reinbold lives in an apartment, so she can’t install an inline water filtration system. The other problem: The kitchen has a tiny fridge, which means there’s no room for even a water filter pitcher! Her solution? A Berkey water filter, which she says creates great-tasting water and looks chic on the counter.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: The 20 Best Things These Renters Ever Bought for Their Kitchens