Three Clever Ways to Add Storage Around a Refrigerator

January 18, 2023

Three ways to customize the outside of your refrigerator with additional storage!

I love finding smart ways to add storage around the house, especially in the kitchen! I really enjoy figuring out ways to make better use of an underutilized spot.  

When I shared the start of our basement kitchenette last week (and listed the pros and cons of store bought kitchen cabinets), I mentioned the difference enclosing a refrigerator can make in a kitchen. 

One of the first DIY projects I worked on in our old kitchen was adding a DIY enclosure around the fridge. This makeover will go a long way to making a kitchen feel more custom and updated. 

PLUS, there are so many ways to add storage when you "build in" a fridge! I'm sharing the ways I've done just that. 

1. Add or extend the cabinet above a refrigerator. 

If your fridge doesn't have any cabinetry, adding a cabinet at the top with side panels will give it a custom touch. 

In our last kitchen, we already had a cabinet above but it was the same depth as the rest of the cabinets: 
short cabinet above refrigerator

Not super useful when you have to climb on top of the fridge to get to it! Ha!

So I figured out a way to extend that cabinet to the front without moving the original one. It worked so well! 
extended cabinet above fridge

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I was able to move the original cabinet doors to the one I built. 

I think some of my readers probably wondered where the heck that project was going after seeing the photo above, but after taking the cabinets all the way to the ceiling and adding pretty trim, it came together beautifully: 
gray peppercorn base cabinets

If you purchased your cabinets from a big box store, you may be able to find matching side panels to match. 

If not, use a 4x8 foot wood panel cut in half to create your own! (This will always be cheaper than buying the "matching" panels.)
You can add a refrigerator enclosure if it's against a wall, placed in between cabinets or standing alone.  


2. What to do with the space above the fridge?

If you add a cabinet above, congrats -- you have some new storage space! :)

pan storage above refrigerator

Those organizers are expandable, so you can stretch them for bigger pans, or close it up for skinny boards. 
You can still find them at IKEA, but this expandable option is similar. 

In our current kitchenette, we used a sheet of plywood for the side panels:

wood panels around fridge enclosure

I saved more than $100 by using this instead of the finished panels that match the cabinetry. 
We purchased a side by side fridge for this spot (they are SO much cheaper than the French door options!) and after it was installed, we had a good ten inches of open space between the top and the cabinet above.

I knew I could make that space useful, so I started by nailing some scrap wood into the sides as support strips: 
wood supports for shelf

And then I cut down some wood that fit under those supports to close it off and create a shelf. 

My original plan was to add a piece of wood on the front that we could flip up and access the inside of our new shelf. But I couldn't figure out the right hinges to make it work. 

So I went back to my scrap pile and decided to finish if off by making a box I could slide in to cover all the ugly parts (you could see the hardware under the cabinet and the supports I had just installed). 

I nailed in a couple more scrap parts to along the back and sides to attach my new insert to: 
DIY shelf above fridge

I painted the box before sliding it in and nailing, and then trimmed out the front to cover the rough edges. 

Now that awkward space not only looks better, but is a useful spot!:
small shelf above refrigerator

I still need to fill in some gaps around the trim, but this little detail is almost done!

3. Add pretty storage to the side of the refrigerator. 

This is one of my all time favorite kitchen DIY projects!

Enclosing the refrigerator creates a wall if it's open on one side...and after living with ours for a couple years, I wanted to utilize that empty vertical space. 

fridge with cutting board storage on side

I LOVE this wall now! It's such a sweet little detail in our kitchen, and it's USEFUL. I love when form and function meet up so beautifully!

I created little shelves with leather strips to keep the cutting boards from falling. For a little decorative detail, I hung scrap wood on the back for a shiplap look, but you can also use beadboard, wallpaper, an accent color...whatever! 

Instead of leather, wood dowels or a decorative metal bar like this pretty brass curtain rod or a metal hanging rail are great options as well.

On the basement enclosure, I had that same empty wall that was calling out for something. I grabbed a pile of pretty cutting boards I've had in our storage room and decided on a way to display them. 

By the way...yes I have too many cutting boards. I KNOW. 😂 But we always grab one for entertaining or when we're having snacks and watching TV. 

I decided to hang them on this wall for easy access. You can use cup hooks to hang cutting boards, but I was a little extra and used a few of the antiqued brass knobs I installed on our cabinets. 

Knobs can be used so many ways other than for cabinet hardware! I showed you the many ways to use knobs or cabinet hardware as picture hangers here

To do this you'll need a double ended screw called a hanger bolt that has a pointed side (that screws into the wall) and a flat side (that goes inside the knob): 
using knob as hanger

I drilled pilot holes into the wood panel, then screwed the knobs in. 

They are super secure and hold all of our cutting boards: 
cutting board wall

I love the brass detail! 

The wood tone looks great against that gray, and it ties in nicely with the new floor (that I still need to show you!) and the wood accents on our entertainment center: 
cutting board wall by fridge

I hung most of the boards with leather string I had in my craft stash: 
leather string on cutting board

There you go! I hope these give you some ideas for your own refrigerators. Who knew they had so much potential? :) 

Of course there's nothing wrong with just leaving them as is, but I love to figure out ways to use unused space. 

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  1. Well done. Nicely organized. I like that.

  2. I love this! Your ideas are so smart! One question, do you have any tips/hacks for drilling straight into a hole, and also not stripping screws? I’m not strong enough to push down while drilling and most of the time I strip a few screws or make a mess out of the hole. Thx!

    1. Thank you! It will definitely help if you use a small drill bit first to make the initial hole for the screw. You won't have to do nearly as much work to get the screw in! Also, make sure you're using good quality screws, they won't strip as easily.

    2. Joanne, I used to have the same problem until I switched from using Phillips head screws and started using star head screws instead. The star head bit stays in the star groove and makes things so much easier. I hope this helps.

  3. Love all of these! Now to figure how to adapt to my weird set-up!

  4. In the kitchen pic with white upper cabinets, and gray lower cabinets, did you paint the cabinets, and if so, what are the two cabinet colors? (It has the chalkboard in the pic)


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!