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How to Build a DIY Refrigerator Cabinet

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How to build a custom DIY refrigerator cabinet in a small galley kitchen using MDF and 2, $1 thrifted cabinet doors.

I never would have guessed that I would get excited over building a custom refrigerator cabinet.

I mean, I have a beautiful tongue and groove plank ceiling and newly painted white kitchen cabinets to gaze at.

I’m here to tell you though, that I’m giddy with happiness.

Let’s take a peek at the finished project before we start at the beginning.

remodeled galley kitchen view of side of refrigerator and door to bedroom

This 1950’s galley kitchen of ours is really small. It still had the old soffits, the ancient exhaust fan and a tiny niche for the fridge.

picture of outside of house and windows
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Back in the 50’s they didn’t have the huge behemoth refrigerators you find today so our fridge space was small. Like really small.

We couldn’t change any of that with our remodel, so we had to make the space work.

When we bought our house, one of the things we had to buy was a new refrigerator.

It couldn’t be just any fridge though, we needed a specific size.

We had to be sure we could…

a). get the fridge in the house, and

b). fit in the little niche in the kitchen

We were able to do both but it still extends out past the bedroom door trim.

A counter depth fridge would have fit the space better for sure but it just wasn’t in the budget.

small galley kitchen with dark cabinets and stainless steel stove

When we were planning this kitchen remodel one of the items on my wish list was to build a refrigerator cabinet surround to make it look less imposing.

I also wanted (and we needed) better storage above the fridge.

There was a small cabinet over it but it was hard to reach and didn’t offer a lot of storage space.

We really went back and forth with this project before we started the build.

The hubs didn’t think we could fit a cabinet around the monster refrigerator but, in the end we were able to do it.

We had to move the cabinets and stove down a little, but we were able to fit it in.

The first thing we did was to remove the cabinet and remove the ugly soffit.

kitchen soffit removed

After we patched up the soffits, we moved the stove and cabinets down away from the fridge about an inch.

The move required us to take the cabinets out and put them back in. Not a fun job, but it gave us a tiny bit more space to build our custom refrigerator cabinet.

Building the fridge cabinet

Once we figured out all the logistics in this small space, the build was pretty straight-forward.

piece of wood next to refrigerator

The basic pieces are an MDF wood panel for the side and a box for the cabinet, also made with MDF.

framed refrigerator cabinet

I would say that the hardest part was constructing the front face frame for the doors, that we found at ReStore for $1 a piece.

We had to build this part of the refrigerator cabinet to exact measurements or the thrifted doors wouldn’t fit.

building a cabinet face

The old hardware from the cabinet that was previously up here was used again for our new kitchen cabinet, which saved us some money.

cabinet door brackets installed

We held  our breath when we hung the repurposed doors but they fit perfectly.

The last step in this build was paint and cabinet knobs.

cabinet doors on refrigerator cabinet
unpainted refrigerator cabinet with doors

I’m so happy with how this turned out. Not only does it hide the fridge, as much as it can be hidden, but I have tons of storage space that I can actually reach.

All that work was definitely worth it and it’s the star of my kitchen remodel.

painted white cabinet built around stainless steel refrigerator

The next project on the list is the DIY custom range hood, where we repurposed the old stove hood components.

You won’t believe the difference.

32 Comments

  1. Looks so great! What kind of wood panel did you use to get that look?

    1. Thanks Lauren, we love the way it turned out! The wood panel that we used for the side was MDF. It’s heavy but looks great painted.

  2. I know you posted this a long time ago but did you guys secure it to the floor? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Angela! No, we didn’t secure the refrigerator cabinet to the floor. We did attach it to the cabinet that was next to it though. Hope that helps!

  3. Dayna Barret says:

    Kristi your husband did an awesome job! I too have a house from the 50’s. I hate the cabinet structure- narrow depth and shelves are unmovable..i decided to. change both.. I’m extendingvall the cabinets out 3.5″ from the facing as well as putting in bars to make shelves adjustable.
    We also have two pocket doors and the one for the dining room has been sacrificed so I can put a between the studs spice rack in.
    Talk to you soon if I make it off the fridge in one piece.. Lol

    1. Thanks so much Dayna! The refrigerator cabinet was a battle to get built between the hubs and I. He didn’t see the point but he was so glad we did it after and it really wasn’t a difficult project. I’m glad I stuck to my guns.

      It sounds like you will have an awesome space when you’re done. Renovating a 50’s kitchen is no small feat. Good for you and best of luck. Please stop in to let us know how it’s coming together.

      Thanks so much for your visit. Hope you have a great day!

  4. Maureen P. says:

    I know it has been a couple of years since you posted this, but this looks great! We are thinking of building a cabinet around our refrigerator -in which we replaced a few years ago. We had no idea at the time, but the refrigerator we bought (Frigidaire Gallery) was designed for built-in cabinetry and does not need much clearance around the top and sides. I love that you bumped out the top cabinet and can reach it now. I would like to do the same, but perhaps even add a rolling shelf with a little bit of lip (kind of like a short drawer on the back and sides). That way I can more easily reach items that would be stored way in the back of the deep cabinet. Even using only 3/4 extension slides would make it so much easier to get things out, maybe? And if the item I wanted was already on the front part of the slide shelf it wouldn’t even need to be pulled out. Just brainstorming ideas. Great job!

    1. Thanks Maureen. This wasn’t one of our most popular projects during the kitchen reno, but I loved it and it really did make a huge difference in how we used the space.

      Great idea about the rolling shelf. We were going to add one but moved before we could get to it. In the short time we used our new kitchen though, I was able to really utilize that space above the fridge. Pulling the cabinet out was def the way to go.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas! πŸ™‚

  5. This is awesome. My cabinets above my fridge is not even usable. I can’t reach them and they are so small. So, they are always empty. Such a waste of space. Storing small appliances in yours is a great idea.

    1. Thanks Trish. It seems that so many of us have unusable space above the refrigerator. I agree with you in that it is such a waste of space.

      Thanks for stopping in.

  6. Good job! It looks like lots of work, but it’s worth it. Thank you for sharing at Thursday Favorite Things. Hope you have a fabulous day!

    1. Thanks so much. It was a lot of work but the storage it gives us such usable storage space. πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for hosting Thursday Favorite Things.

  7. Your cabinet looks amazing! I have an itty bitty cabinet similar to the old one that was above your fridge and would love to do something like this!

    1. Thanks Candice. I could only fit 3 things in that small cabinet so I’m glad that I have more storage space.

  8. Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow and The Sacred Eclectic says:

    I’d KEEP him! πŸ™‚ Great job! πŸ™‚

    1. I can understand Kristin. You do lose a lot of refrigerator storage space with a counter depth fridge.

    1. Awww, thanks so much Shirley! Hope you’re enjoying your trip.

  9. You all did a fabulous job making the refrigerator seem more a part of the kitchen! Love how you built around it.
    Mary Alice

    1. Thanks so much Mary Alice! I’m excited to see it all painted and done.

  10. Looking good! I wish I had a deeper cabinet above our fridge. Same issues, have to keep things in the basement because not enough room in kitchen.
    Patiently waiting for the next project . . . Take care, K!

    1. Thanks MJ. I can’t wait to get it done and fill it up, and I’m sure it will be filled.

      Next project may not be done for a while. That’s the one problem with DIY, it takes so long to actually do it. πŸ˜‰

      Have a good week.

    1. Awww, thanks so much Lynne. I’m glad he can make all of my crazy ideas reality. πŸ™‚
      K.

  11. Your hubs is very talented. What a great idea to make the cabinet above deeper. Safe travels. Debbie

    1. Thanks Debbie. It does give me so much more accessible space to put my blender and crockpot, things I had to keep in the basement because I had no room.
      K.

  12. I wish we had a larger panel to hide our fridge. That looks nice.

  13. Cabinets above a fridge that are actually reachable by someone of normal height! It’s a miracle! And, bringing them forward than normal means there’s even more space inside – win/win! πŸ˜€

    1. I know…right? Now at least I can put a few bigger appliances in there that I had to store in my basement. Yay!

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