5 Things Designers Hate about Rentals… Or Maybe Just This One

Where do I begin? Designers are trained to notice everything and to evaluate it. I’ve moved every 1-2 years for the last decade, so I’ve spent a lot of time feeling frustrated by these ugly, often lazy, yet very common issues in rentals.

Here are 5 things I hate about rentals in no particular order, except for the first one. This one really gets my goat.

backwards refrigerator door


Backwards Refrigerator

My #1 most annoying and (usually) easily reversible problem with rentals is a backwards refrigerator. Function > form every time for me, and this one is just so basic. When you have a backwards refrigerator door, it makes what is supposed to be the most functional room in the house less efficient. If you suffer from the plight of the backwards fridge, fear not… you can probably reverse it yourself.

thermostat in center of wall

Radiators, Thermostats, or Light Switches in the Worst Places

I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta where everything was newer construction and central air, so I didn’t know what a radiator was until I relocated to Philadelphia for my Master’s at Drexel. Moving up north has introduced me to all sorts of new challenges, including being really cold for the first time and gigantic centipedes. In a small space, a poorly placed radiator can really throw off a space plan. If it’s placed like 18-24″ away from the wall, it can also create a dead zone in a room.

I have a client who has a thermostat and light switch almost directly in the center of his entry wall; they are the first thing you see when walk in. We can’t place art above them because the pieces will be too high, drawing more attention to these poorly located elements. Photo source.

pink and blue vintage bathroom

Hideous Tile and/or Grout

*Shudder*. There are lots of people who love vintage pink bathrooms, but I am not one of them. They do not have “character” to me. They are horrible.

I don’t understand why contractors/landlords choose white grout for the floor – it will always look filthy. The lightest grout I’d do on a floor is a medium grey. If your white grout is simply not cleanable, here is a labor-intensive yet magical product Young House Love recommended that you can use to paint it. Photo source.

no overhead lights

In Manhattan, $3500/month does not buy you overhead lights.

No Overhead Lighting

I don’t recommend using overhead lighting unless you are doing a focused task that requires general illumination like cooking, eating, cleaning, working, or getting dressed. However, it’s nice to have a fixture you can flip on when you just come home and need a quick way to turn some lights on.  Photo source.

off-center dining room light

Swag is not always cool.

Off-Center Dining Room Lighting

If you are lucky enough to have wiring for a pendant in your dining area, wouldn’t it be nice if it were actually centered over your dining table? Do electricians not eat at dining tables? I don’t get this one. Why not take the extra 10 minutes to tape out a typical dining table before installing a ceiling box?

When planning a dining area, a general rule is that there should be 3′ around a table to accommodate the chairs and traffic around them. Photo source.

What bugs you the most about rentals? Let me know in the comments!


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