Adding form AND function to the side of a refrigerator cabinet

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Well hello! I’m finally done with the sweet little project I’ve been working on in the kitchen! Duh…the kitchen again. 😉 I promise this is the last kitchen post for awhile.

This DIY was the most complex of any of the small updates I’ve made lately. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up by seeing the new kitchen island with chunky side panels here, how I built out the end of our kitchen cabinets, my trick for adding kitchen cabinet feet and my tutorials for under cabinet lighting and how to hide it here.

Whew! OK, as I said, this was the most complex of all of them, but makes a statement. Like the other projects, it’s not dramatic and something you’d immediately notice because it’s in a spot that not everyone sees.

The area I’ve wanted to tackle is this boring side of our refrigerator:

Using space on side of fridge
It’s a spot with so much potential, right? 
I’ve planned to do this for awhile, and when I saw how my blogger friend Yuni added this fun treatment in her kitchen, I knew what little detail I wanted to add: 
Building plate/board rack in kitchen
I wanted to build something that would hold our large cutting boards and this was perfect. The leather accent was my favorite!
To get started, I had to remove all of the trim from the side of the cabinet. This included a little decorative piece that hides where the cabinets meet. Then I got busy with the sides of my shelves: 
How to build shelves on side of fridge cabinet
Here’s a close up — I used a 1×2 on the sides — nailed right through the front (and into the wall on the right). 
Because I wanted some extra support for those pieces, I grabbed some smaller trim (measures about 1/2 inch by 3/4) and nestled that up to to the sides of the 1x2s: 
DIY shelves on side of cabinet
This gives everything a little more support. 
Then I needed to start figuring out where I wanted my shelves. I was initially only going to go with three or four, but this is a tall cabinet (nine feet), and I felt like it needed more: 
Tutorial for shelves on side of cabinet
I ended up doing six shelves. I covered the gap between the two cabinets with one at the top and then at the bottom — those are the smallest. I increased the size slightly as I moved to the middle. The two shelves in the middle are the biggest (I have a couple large boards I wanted to make sure would fit). 
To build the shelves, I used three pieces of trim — the half by quarter inch stuff to start it, then a piece of 1×2 on the front of that (all nailed into the cabinet with short nails and into the side trim with longer nails).

I also added a strip of very thin lattice across the front — this gives the items a place to sit and the lattice trim prevents them from going anywhere: 
How to build shelves on side of tall cabinet
The next is a part you could easily skip if you are making this the same color as your cabinets. At first I was planning to paint this a different color than the cabinets. Because I didn’t want to mess with having to prime/paint the cabinet side, (which would take more time to do properly) I wanted to cover it up. 
I lucked out and found various pieces of luan leftover from other projects that happened to fit perfectly. The pieces aren’t all symmetrical, but I knew I wouldn’t see that much of them, so it didn’t bother me: 
Cheap luan as shiplap
I saved money by using what I had, but then I had to caulk quite a bit between these — the edges on some were just too rough. So what I saved in money I gave up in time. 🙂 
Oh, and because I know I’ll get this question — I added the strips to the back after the shelves for two reasons. One — I only had eight foot pieces, and this is nine feet tall. The shelves took up some of that and gave me just enough. Secondly, I wanted the front of the shelves to be flush with the sides. If  I had put this on first, they wouldn’t have met up correctly. 
After all that, in the end I decided to paint it all the same color as the cabinets — it was going to be too difficult to do a contrasting color when there was no good place for it to end. I didn’t want the sides to be a different color than the cabinets. SO…again, the backing is not necessary. But it does add a little detail to it.
Once everything was caulked and painted I moved on to the fun part! I’m not sure what Yuni used, but I decided to use belts as a strap to hold the boards on the wall. (These are similar (affiliate) to what I used.) I started by using one of the belt holes for the left side (I cut off the end of the belt): 
Using belts for straps across shelves
Washers are a must! They will prevent the screw from coming through the belt. 
I could have just attached these to the front of the unit, but I liked how hers tucked back inside. I installed the left one and then would pull the other side taut to see where I needed to cut the belt: 
Leather accent on kitchen shelves
Once I got the sizing right (scissors cut these just fine), I drilled a hole for the screw, then repeated the washer and screw installation on this side. The right side took some maneuvering to get it tight (my drill didn’t fit great back there), but it went much faster after I did the first one. 
I’m SO pleased with the final result!! It’s another great detail that adds some character to our kitchen!: 
DIY plate rack on side of fridge

How to build a rack on side of refrigerator cabinet
LOOOOOVE! This project is right up my alley — pretty and functional! I also gained some space in our cabinets by displaying these. Always a good thing! 
My favorite board is the large round one: 
Floor to ceiling shelves on side of fridge
Its really a pizza paddle and I got it at Pottery Barn (affiliate) on sale and with a gift card. It’s HUGE — I put our meats and cheeses on it when we have company. (Looks like it’s on sale now!)
By the way, you may notice the side pieces are angled at the top — this will all be covered eventually when we have additional cabinets added to the other side of the fridge. We’ll have to add to the crown molding at that point so I’ll add it to this side then too:
Using empty space on side of fridge
The crown will wrap the whole thing at the top — but until then, just having it cut off at the top looked really odd. I cut it at an angle to soften the transition a bit. 
The cabinets on the other side will be a bigger budget item. I’m SUPER excited about those but it will be a bit before we can get those. So until then, we’ve been enjoying the smaller projects I’ve completed over the past month or so: 
DIY shelves on side of refrigerator cabinet

I spent about $100 on this project — the most expensive of all of my recent additions. I’m thrilled with the function it adds to our kitchen! I’ve really enjoyed adding these custom touches to this space. Little by little I’m adding my stamp to this house and having a blast doing it! 
I promise this is the last kitchen post for a while. SWEAR. 😂 Now that I’m done in here (for now) my focus will be on other projects. 
Have you ever added function or storage to an odd spot? It’s seriously one of my favorite things EVER. 
By the way, if your fridge is open with no cabinets around it, you can see how I built in our refrigerator at our old house. Here’s the before: 
How to build in refrigerator with cabinets
And how it looked all finished up!:
Two toned kitchen makeover gray lowers

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Adding form AND function to the side of a refrigerator cabinet