This Common Awkward Rental Layout Issue Is Solvable—Here’s How to Deal with a Lonely, Floating Fridge

published Sep 15, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

It’s amazing to move into an apartment or home with a freshly renovated kitchen, but I also like the challenge of having an outdated, impractical kitchen with pine cabinets, scuffed floors, and a wonky layout. Am I a glutton for punishment? Not exactly. I just think it can be fun to figure out how to completely transform an outdated room without gutting it. You’d be surprised what implementing some thoughtful kitchen design ideas can do. 

Last month I moved into such an apartment where the kitchen is spacious, but the appliance placement is awkward. My fridge randomly floats in the middle of one wall with no cabinets surrounding it, and it looks strange and lonely. I noticed this placement a lot while apartment hunting, so I figured a good amount of renters have encountered this problem.

To that end, I asked a few experts how to anchor what I call “wandering fridges,” and make a kitchen layout flow better. Then I found some examples—all of the fab kitchens depicted here—where people utilized these ideas and made it work. I know I’m saving them in my own inspiration file and maybe you’ll flag them for yours, too.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Add storage to the setup 

“We’ve lived in our fair share of older, teeny tiny apartments over the years and have definitely encountered this issue,” says designer Amelia Strat of Kroesser+Strat Design. “A favorite move to help anchor the fridge is some type of freestanding shelving unit or baker’s rack if you have the room. Of course, not only does this help to anchor the fridge visually, but it also offers additional storage and sometimes even extra counter space.” Strat mentions that IKEA is a great source for this, as their furniture is often more “apartment sized” and likely to fit.

If IKEA isn’t your aesthetic, Strat suggests searching for a vintage shelving unit. “Something in rattan or brass doesn’t read super kitcheny, so it’ll help dress the space up while still providing some functional storage space,” she says. The same can be said for a wooden console, which was used in the kitchen above and makes the fridge feel like the nook it’s in was deliberate—not an afterthought.

Credit: Alexis Buryk

Surround the fridge with commercial shelving

Designer Chris McGovern of McGovern Project LLC advises you to embrace that “industrial look” of your fridge by investing in commercial shelving. “Utility wire shelves are often used in commercial kitchens for storage,” says McGovern. “The goal in this application is to create a surround for your refrigerator to make it look more intentional.”

McGovern suggests flanking the sides and top of your refrigerator with this style of shelving towers, if possible. “Make sure to purchase posts that are higher than your refrigerator and shelves wider than your refrigerator,” he says. “Now style it like Ina Garten is coming over for dinner! Keep the unsightly items towards the lower shelves. Leave your dishware or decanted cereal at eye level. Consider adding some plants on top.” He also points out that this solution is extremely rental friendly, and no tools or drilling is required. 

Replace it with a retro-inspired fridge 

Not after the industrial look? There are several retro-inspired refrigerators on the market that can look great standing by themselves. “We’ve all ogled over the SMEG refrigerator, but they can get pricey,” says McGovern. “Galanz and Unique Metro make similar sleek retro refrigerator/freezers under $1,000.”

If you want to make such a swap, McGovern suggests having a discussion with your landlord about the ability to replace the existing unit. “They just may consider covering the cost or subsidizing the replacement,” he says, particularly if your current digs are due for an upgrade anyway. The kitchen above doesn’t have a floating fridge problem, per se, but this photo just goes to show how much of a strong style statement a bold piece like this can make. You hardly notice anything that’s placed around that retro beauty! It’s also possible to DIY this retro look with paint if you can get the approval to do it (if you don’t own your fridge) and only have a few bucks to spare.

Credit: Viv Yapp

Add removable wallpaper

If you don’t want to buy a bunch of kitchen furniture you might not take with you to your next place, then try transforming your fridge from a weird lonely appliance into a fun focal point. “Try using removable wallpaper on the fronts and sides to add a decorative element to the fridge,” says Alessandra Wood of Modsy, an online interior design service. “You can even use the same pattern on the walls for your backsplash to create a chameleon effect.”

That’s not exactly the case in the apartment above, but the tactic of design diversion is still the same. Thanks to the Keith Haring-inspired paper on the refrigerator’s side, you’re thinking less about the placement and state of the fridge itself when you see it.

Put a few plants on it

Why do plants always make everything better? If you’re on a tight budget and can’t immediately buy any of the storage solutions or replacement fridges mentioned above, then anchor your fridge with the help of some well-priced houseplants

McGovern recommends bunching a couple of plants on top of the fridge, making the setup even more visually interesting by investing in some design-forward planters. The jungle look will help ground the fridge and make it feel intentional and as if it’s more a part of the room.

Dress it up

Similar to adding wallpaper to your less than aesthetically-pleasing refrigerator, you can also add photos, magnets, notes, and other personal pieces to it. Again, a colorful fridge makeover won’t exactly fix the floating in space problem, but it can divert attention away from that wonky placement.

I’m still debating what my decorating move will be, so please vote in the comments. Which one of these solutions is your favorite?