When the refrigerator is starting to die, and you aren’t quite ready for a full kitchen remodel, what do you do? Change gears! We knew we wanted more fridge and freezer space in the new kitchen without going to the garage or basement for an additional unit. See how we created a built-in custom fridge for a fraction of the price.
The kitchen remodel has been on my mind since we first saw our house. But it wasn’t going to happen in right away, or even after the first year. But living with the 1972 kitchen taught me a lot about what I wanted in a new kitchen.
One of those lessons was the need for more cold storage. In our old house, we had a nice big French door fridge with a freezer drawer. I loved it! In our basement, we had a small upright freezer. The combo was perfect for us. I kept daily use things upstairs, with the meals for the upcoming week. In the basement was all the overflow.
And then we moved. Not only did I leave my newly refinished kitchen behind, but that beautiful French door refrigerator. The freezer did come with us. What I inherited was a 1972 kitchen with a 1990s side by side fridge. The ice maker didn’t work. We soon learned how much smaller it was. Way too small for our active family of 5. (And did you notice all that wasted space above the cabinets? I have 10-foot ceilings!)
Next to the fridge was some dead space. I believe there was originally a counter intended to be a small desk space. We used this space for the upright freezer. It was perfect, well, as perfect as you could get for the time being. But, I discovered how nice it was not to have to go to the basement. Even though the garage is right off the kitchen, I still liked having the freezer in the kitchen.
This lesson led us to realize we needed to incorporate not only a larger fridge in our new kitchen but more freezer space as well. (She some of my planning for the new kitchen here).
I began considering huge, industrial units. They were beautiful! And I could get any of them!
IF… I wanted to keep my dilapidated cabinets, glittery Formica countertops, and retro brown oven.
Um, no thanks…
So, what other options did I have?
The first thing I considered was just putting two units side by side. I could get single fridge doors with bottom freezer drawers.
This was a serious consideration. I’d have two ice makers! We could unplug one in the summer when the kids and I go to the lake for several weeks. With only IronFish at home, and working all day, he wouldn’t need both.
Second, I considered going back to the biggest French door unit on the market. Then, get an inexpensive “freezer on top” fridge for the garage.
My research showed temperature changes in a garage can reduce the lifespan of a fridge. So, I’d go for something inexpensive that I wouldn’t feel too bad about if I had to replace it every 5-7 years.
Of course, I wouldn’t be saying that when I lost all the food in it and had to spend the money on a new unit! It would last longer if placed in the basement. But then I was always crossing the whole house, and including more than a full flight of stairs to get to it.
Built-In Fridge and Freezer on a Budget
Finally, I landed on the perfect solution for us. A single refrigerator next to a single freezer. The best part about this solution… the cost was less than the biggest French door fridge I could find. And I get so much more space in the fridge and freezer!!!
I realize this might not be an option for many people. Initially, we removed the upper cabinets and fit them where the old fridge and little freezer had been. Then, we did some reworking of our space and it works beautifully for us.
We cut through a blank wall in our kitchen and built a closet space or nook for the refrigerator and freezer. One of my neighbors took about 2 feet from the other side of their wall and added more cabinets and countertops. In another house, we built a pantry closet for them. It makes such a little difference to the space on the other side of the wall.
But the impact on the kitchen is amazing!
I probably use the word amazing way too much.
But, this really deserves it.
Because this would only work in a house the same model as mine, I’m not going to share step by step, precise instructions. I will share some pictures so you can get an idea.
IronFish and I started by framing the new space on the back side of the wall we would be cutting into. Top and base plates. Standard 16″ on-center studs. Basically, a few trips to our local Home Depot!
We took 29″ from the adjoining area. Two feet for the new space and 4″ for the framing.
Electrical outlets needed to be moved so the fridge and freezer could be plugged in behind. We also had to run a pex line for water so we could actually use the ice maker. Ice makers are high on IronFish’s must-have list for a kitchen.
Break on Through to the Other Side!
We were able to bust through the wall! This was fun.
Messy, but fun!
Removing the studs from the new opening came next. And then we had to frame the opening. If you are considering something like this, do be sure to talk to a pro. Removing the studs and reframing the opening requires the correct reinforcement. Especially when a load bearing wall is a part of the equation.
We started with drywalling the back side of the new space. Because our kitchen can be cold in the winter, we made sure to insulate the wall really well. Above this space is attic, so we also added extra insulation between the joists before drywalling the ceiling of the built-in area.
All taped and spackled!
Plywood was laid on the subfloor to make the new space the same level as the current kitchen flooring. Obviously, it will be replaced when we renovate.
Perfect fit! I love these babies! We actually call them “the twins.”
Trim for the Built-In Look
Just before we began working on this project, we replaced all the exterior doors. I selected Craftsman style exterior doors to go with all the interior doors. The timing was good since we knew we would be trimming out the fridge and freezer the same as all the doors and windows in the house.
IronFish has become an expert on making the headers. As you can see we also did a lot of painting… walls and trim.
We finished just in time before company showed up for a party! The mudroom works as a great beverage center for parties (see it there in the background?).
Pantry cabinets were moved into the now empty former fridge space. In our old house, these cabinets were in the basement for my craft supplies. There are 3 in all and have really been the key to making this kitchen kinda work for us since we moved in. My old kitchen had a lot more storage.
But, soon, I will have lots of storage and new cabinets!
And since we are only a few weeks away from starting that project… the kids are complaining the fridge is empty all the time!
Pin for Later
As always, feel free to pin and share. Especially since this is a project that takes some thought and planning!