Convert an Antique Fridge Into Bookshelves




I teach high school English. While I have enough shelf space I don't have windows. I've been trying to find ways to utilize my space in ways that bring life and color to my classroom.

Last spring I was joking with some students that if they did good enough work I'd put it up on my fridge. That's when I got this idea. I wanted to take an old fridge with a latch handle and use it as shelving for my class. I told another teacher in the school who used to run the drama dept (which is no longer active, sadly). She said I could have the old drama fridge. Thus the project began.

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Step 1: Supplies

Old Fridge
Sand Paper
Scouring sponge
Angle Aluminum
Plexi Glass
Sheet Metal Screws
Spray Paint and Primer
Tape Measure
Hack Saw

Step 2: Find a Fridge

Ask around, scour craigslist and scavenge. You don't want a working fridge. Sometimes you can find these at antique stores, estate sales or even the side of the rode. Check in your city to see if there are any large item pickup days. That's the perfect day to drive around with a truck and pick up other people's junk.

If all else fails put a wanted ad on Craig's List. You'll never know where you'll find what you're looking for.

Don't worry about how ugly the fridge is. The uglier it is the more likely you'll get it for free. You're going to want to repaint it anyways.

Step 3: Clean the Fridge

Your fridge is probably gross

Clean it.

Mine had splattered paint all over it which was hard to get off. Don't worry about it too much. You just need it to be clean and smooth.

After you scrub the fridge inside and out run sand paper over the outside to rough it up a bit. This helps the spray paint adhere to the surface better.

Step 4: Measure by Measure

Figure out how you want to arrange your shelving. I chose to use basically the same layout that was already in my fridge. The original shelves were no good however. They were rusted out and not sturdy enough to hold up enough books.

Once you figure out your dimensions cut down the angle aluminum to fit around the sides using your hacksaw. I overlapped my angle aluminum for added rigidity.

Next cut down your plexi glass to size. I actually just had the guy at Lowes cut mine before I left the store. I used quarter inch thick plexi glass. Lighter than that was too floppy.

Step 5: Drill Baby Drill

Once you've got your shelving ready to install put each piece of angle aluminum in with one screw. First drill a hole in the aluminum. Next hold it against the side of the fridge and drill a hole in the sheet metal of the fridge. It should go through easily.

I prefer to attach the aluminum as I go with screws. I then drilled extra holes in the shelving once everything was in place.

Step 6: Go Paint

Take your fridge outside somewhere.

Make sure you're not going to make a mess.

I used spray paint to get a nice even color on the fridge. Start by using primer. I ended up needing two cans of primer and three cans of the paint.

Spray paint works best if you put down the second coat either shortly after the first or a few days after the first coat. It's your coat. I was on a timeline so I painted mine in about one hour.

Make sure you keep the can sufficiently away from the surface to avoid splotchy painting. Don't worry about getting it smooth on the first coat. That's what the second coat is for.

Step 7: Take It Back Inside and Put in Your Shelves

Once it's dry take it back inside and put in your shelves.

You might find that you need extra rigidity to keep the shelves from falling down. If so you can buy pieces of aluminum to run under the the plexi glass.

If so just lay those pieces across the shelves you made and put the glass down.

If you need more support run an extra piece of angle aluminum across the front of your glass and make your extra support run from back to front. Usually that will be a shorter distance.

Step 8: Load It Up

I've got books on three shelves in my fridge, notebook paper in the icebox and contruction paper on the bottom under the shelving. It's up to you what you do with this but it sure looks sweet!

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    15 Discussions

    OH YES. I have always thought of this idea when staring at my “ye olde freezing contraption” (the old fridge) stuck in the attic but never got to doing it. After seeing how amazing it just looks in your images, I felt a jolt and had sprung from my seat then unconsciously reaching for my books to store in ye olde freezing contraption. I love the really cool vintage paint you often see on vintage cars; I would add a really classic antique silver design like that of the Chrysler logo with the silver wings. Thanks for the motivation!

    uncle frogy

    9 years ago on Introduction

    well I never would have thought of using a frig. as a "book self" .  I have seen them used for paint lockers and a place to store "welding rod"  I have myself a "paint locker" even with a bad door seal paint keeps remarkably well. good for years in fact even out side.
    nice work adds a little whimsy to the class room!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That Compressed air,......wasnt air, it was more likley amonia, or freon (depends on the age), Which is not a reccomended thing to breath I love old appliances!! Anything besides air is not recommended to breath ever tried to breath water doesn't work!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    So where's the secret beer compartment? Just kidding, great idea!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, interesting.....great instructable! That Compressed air,......wasnt air, it was more likley amonia, or freon (depends on the age), Which is not a reccomended thing to breath I love old appliances!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Muhahahaaa! I never thought, my old fridge could qualify for an instructable. I have an old, sure from 1970ties, fridge. And it has been used for a long time as a cabinet for some tools, nails, screws, sandpaper, some old small hardware junk. But I dont adwise using such things like that. My fridge started smelling wierdly for a few days. I'm pretty sure, it leaked freon.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! That's really nice use for an old fridge :) And very good for the environment (as if I care), and stylish to


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That's a great use for an old fridge, but one thing to remember is that those old fridges can be very dangerous. It might be a good idea to remove the catch from the main body either permanently or possibly just while you're working on it and there's still room for kids or critters to find their way in and potentially get trapped inside. Not to detract from a great project, just something for people to keep in mind if they bring one of those particular fridges home.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    yep I'm with you on that. As far as my situation goes I also screwed in the metal supports going across the front. It would take a lot of work for one of my students to actually get in this thing and close the door. I definitely would not suggest using this around small children though without removing the latch. If you do that it'd work well to attach magnets like newer fridges have around the edges of the door so that it still stays shut when you want it to but can easily be opened.