5 Tips to Design Rental Kitchens Tenants Love

What sells your rental units? Location, parking, a great view? Rethrive is known for great rental kitchen design and our amazing amenities. Today let me share five design tips to design kitchens in your rental units that tenants will love.

The kitchen is the heart of the house.

If the kitchen is the heart, it is also where many tenants fall in love with a rental unit. Before you renovate your next rental kitchen let me share our five key tips for designing amazing kitchens without breaking the bank.

1. Always Add Storage

Most tenants will tell you rental kitchens never have enough storage. So to have the best rental kitchen, create a design that maximizes every inch.

  • Choose extra tall upper cabinets. Most landlords choose standard 30″ high upper cabinets and some choose the cheap route with tiny 20″ cabinets. When you design rental kitchens, if possible go tall! Whenever possible we choose 40″ tall upper cabinets that go right to the ceiling. The cost difference is minimal, your tenants will get an extra shelf per cupboard, and it makes even a small kitchen look custom. 
  • You can never have enough drawers. In a world with fancy pull out baskets and revolving shelves, there is really only one thing tenants want: DRAWERS! Skip all the fancy extras and instead choose to add extra drawers, especially a pot drawer or two to your rental kitchen design. Most rental kitchens have less than 3 drawers so the more you add, the more appealing your kitchen will be. Don’t be cheap, choose higher quality drawer hardware and you’re kitchen will attract tenants for years to come.

2. Maximize Counter Space

Great small space character
Maximize even the tiniest spaces.

There can never be too much counter space in a kitchen, but so often we see rental kitchens with counters smaller than a postage stamp. Working with a small rental kitchen? Try the following to maximize counter space in your rental kitchen design:

  • Choose an apartment-sized stove and fridge. If the kitchen is tiny, huge full-sized appliances will quickly eat up space. While tenants in single-family homes will expect full size, many multi-unit tenants will be happy with smaller appliances. Apartment-sized appliances are available with great features including stainless steel as millennials embrace small space living and appliance manufacturers race to meet their demand.
  • Consider a single bowl sink. Modern, deep square sinks and the rise of the farmhouse sink are making tenants more open to having a single bowl sink, especially if the kitchen also has a dishwasher. Choose one that is deeper to wash larger pots and cookie sheets. Paired with a modern faucet, a single bowl sink looks great and gains valuable counter space.
  • Move the microwave. When you design rental kitchens, one of the easiest ways to gain counter space is to move the microwave. Invest in a microwave/range hood combo, or install a cabinet with a plug specifically for the microwave (remove the cabinet door for ventilation.  As an added bonus, having a special spot will encourage tenants not to overload electrical circuits by the microwave into the same plug as the fridge or other appliances.

3. Keep it Light and Bright

When you design rental kitchens it’s really important to keep the design simple, clean, and updated. You might be tempted to choose dark wood cabinets, but we’ve had the greatest success with white kitchens. White kitchens always look brighter and cleaner, especially in small multi-unit kitchens.

Dark or wood cabinets will show dust quicker and are harder to match if you ever need to replace a drawer or door because of fading over time. And we’ve found it’s almost impossible to pick a wood tone that everyone will like. Cherry can be too much red, walnut too dark, pine too country… you get the idea.

4. Recognize and Fix Odd Layouts.

I can’t count how many rental kitchens I have been in with floating stove and fridges. Do you know what I mean? So many landlords design rental kitchens without any thought so the stove and fridge are across the room or off by themselves looking like an afterthought. If you inherit an odd kitchen layout don’t leave it.

  • Always try to add a counter beside the stove. Even it’s just one small 12″ or 15″ cabinet, having a small piece of counter beside the stove makes all the difference. If you can’t, try to have counter no more than one arm’s length away. 
  • Consider narrow-depth cabinets. Quirky kitchen layouts are common in Rethrive’s historic multi-unit conversions and narrow depth cabinets are a lifesaver. Adding these 15″ deep base cabinets can sometimes double the usable space.
Maximize storage space wherever possible
Can you find the narrow depth cabinets?

5. Don’t Be Cheap with the Details

When most landlords design rental kitchens they focus on cheap and easy, and it shows. You often get out what you put in. By thoughtfully adding a few design details, you can make your rental unit kitchens the dream of all your rental applicants and it doesn’t cost a lot. Here are some design details with amazing results:

  • Choose countertops that look high-end, but aren’t. In our market, most tenants don’t expect quartz or granite but many think they are getting it when they see our photos. You can make laminate countertops look high-end with a couple key details.
    • Pick a more premium pattern. It costs slightly extra, but 100% worth it.

      Never order laminate with the backsplash option
    • Never order your countertop with backsplash option at the back.
    • Always choose a square or straight edge profile, it looks more like a solid surface.

If laminate won’t cut it in your market, work with a quartz or granite provider that can offer you a low-cost option that is clean-lined with a simple, neutral colour. Dark and busy, or weirdly coloured stone options will appeal to fewer tenants.

  • Avoid basic door hardware. Cabinet door hardware is one of the things tenants will touch during their first viewing. Look for something that has clean lines and a good hand feel. Higher end hardware doesn’t have sharp edges when you grab the knob or handle, it fits larger hands without pinching fingers against the door, and it feels slightly heavier. If it feels like plastic or jabs fingers, it will subconsciously make tenants feel like the kitchen is cheap. 

Don’t want to spend a lot on cabinet hardware? Watch sales in big box stores or online. I’ve rarely paid full price for door hardware, instead, I stock up during buy one, get one 50% of sales or clearance deals.

  • Always add a backsplash. Above everything, Rethrive’s tenants love our rental kitchen designs because of our backsplashes. It’s amazing how just a few square feet of tile can make such a huge difference. Tile backsplashes allow tenants to feel grown up and like they are living somewhere they saw on TV. And guess what? Tiling a backsplash is easy and it normally requires very little tile so it’s inexpensive. Our favourite backsplashes are subway tiles in a brick pattern because it’s a design that never goes out of style.
Kitchens with amazing details
Classic subway tile backsplash.

Do you have some great design tips for rental property kitchens? Struggling with an awkward layout? We’d love to hear about your rental kitchens. Share your stories and ideas in the comments below or Contact Us, we’d love to hear from you!

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