The best retro mini-fridges that’ll keep your food even cooler than their vintage vibe

Tech 1-10-2022 Mashable 28
CAYNEL Mini Fridges on a green background.

Ever heard the phrase "Everything old is new again?" For whatever reason, we tend to have a nostalgic soft spot for aesthetics that seem to transport us to another time period. Whether it's clothing or home design, style just comes in waves every few decades or so, and retro kitchen appliances are no exception.

Why are retro mini-fridges popular?

Like most things that are popular these days, retro mini-fridges are a recurring trend around certain corners of TikTok, mostly because it's a great appliance for college kids living in dorms and, obviously, the retro colors and design are super aesthetic and fun to show off.

The true popularity of retro mini-fridges, however,  is likely rooted in the longstanding appeal for SMEG. For the uninitiated, SMEG is an Italian home appliance manufacturer founded in 1948, and they have a nearly 80-year legacy that has brought us stunningly retro fridges, electric kettles, toaster ovens, and other kitchen appliances. They're also wildly expensive. (Seriously, a SMEG retro mini-fridge will run you well over $1,000!) But don't worry, there are plenty of retro mini-fridges on the market that are just as gorgeous for a far less eye-popping price.

The key to finding a great SMEG dupe is to look for key characteristics established by the vintage brand. Think rounded edges, a smooth and shiny finish, and fun, candy-colored hues.

Do retro mini-fridges offer everything regular-sized fridges do?

Retro mini-fridges come in lots of different sizes and shapes, so their offerings primarily depend on the type that you get. Some mini refrigerators do offer many of the best features of a regular-sized fridge, such as a crisper drawer to keep produce items fresh, and a separate freezer compartment with enough space for multiple pints of ice cream and other frozen food. 

On the flip side, smaller retro mini-fridges are simply not big enough to provide those niceties. Instead, the majority of the best mini-fridges will offer a removable shelf or two to help you keep your food and drinks organized; some space on the back of the fridge door for safe-keeping of taller items, like liter bottles; and at least enough space in an internal freezer compartment to stash an ice cube tray or a couple of frozen meals. That said, you won't find a retro mini-fridge with an ice maker or anything like that. But you can definitely make do with the storage space that they provide, especially if your mini-fridge is secondary to a larger fridge, a takeout habit, or a college dining hall.

Where do you keep your retro fridge?

Speaking of college, mini refrigerators are the ideal appliance for a college dorm room due to the fact that dorm rooms are usually pretty short on storage space. Dining halls don't always have the most appealing food, study snacks should always be at the ready, and midnight munchies can actually strike at any time and should always be properly indulged. Seriously, though, the best mini-fridge offers the ultimate convenience for storing fresh food and drinks in a cramped dorm room, and the shorter "cube fridge" style could even double as an impromptu bedside table in a small space. Plus, mini-fridges are generally easy to transport, which will make move-in day that much less stressful.

Dorm rooms are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Depending on your use case, you could put a retro mini-fridge in any (or every) room of the house. They're perfect for stashing easily accessible snacks in the living room, den, rec room, or basement for family movie night or your latest binge-watching obsession. You could also add a retro mini-fridge to your guest room for a luxe hotel vibe when your friends and family stay over, or to your home office to keep you fueled through long work days.

Retro mini-fridges aren’t just for food, though. Some people opt for a more compact mini-fridge in the bedroom or bathroom to store heat-sensitive skincare products (like moisturizers, serums, and sunscreen), or to chill face masks, a jade roller, or a gua sha for a truly luxe at-home spa experience. These tiny fridges are also super portable so they’re good for stashing snacks or medications that require refrigeration for road trips and long commutes. Bonus: The most compact refrigerators also tend to have a warming function, which would be great for warming towels for facials, or for heating baby bottles for those middle-of-the-night or on-the-road feeding sessions.

You could even put a retro mini-fridge in the kitchen! Revolutionary thinking, I know. But if you're working with a super small kitchen area in a studio or small apartment, a retro mini-fridge would add just the right amount of function and pop of colorful style you need, while also freeing up storage space for other handy appliances (such as an air fryer), if you're also lacking the space for a proper oven).

Mini refrigerators also make a great addition to a functional toddler kitchen, which is a Montessori method of education (also popular on TikTok) to help little ones learn and gain some independence. Retro mini-fridges are especially great for kids because their rounded edges limit "ouchies" and, of course, there’s also the abundance of fun color options.

How cold does a retro mini-fridge get?

Depending on where you keep your retro mini-fridge and what you plan to use it for, you'll encounter different sizes of the appliance. There is a style of ultra-compact fridge that is quite small, which is great in terms of portability. However, they don't get very cold (and don't even include a freezer compartment), so they wouldn't be ideal for food storage for an extended period of time. These mini-fridges are usually favored for temporary travel scenarios, or for storing cosmetics and other skincare items.

Aside from the tiniest of retro mini-fridges, a standard mini-fridge should get just as cold as a standard refrigerator — typically down to 32°F for the fridge, and 0°F in the freezer compartment — so you can safely store your food. The best retro mini-fridges (again, aside from the ultracompact styles) will also have a temperature control dial inside so you can adjust the fridge temperature to your needs.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best retro mini-fridges for a variety of different needs.


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