How To Create a Patterned Chalkboard Refrigerator

How To Create a Patterned Chalkboard Refrigerator

Mat Sanders
Feb 8, 2011

My dear friends Megan and Kit spent the majority of last year traveling the world on separate adventures. Now back in Brooklyn, the two are revamping their apartment and ready to take on some much needed home improvement projects. First up? The kitchen. As I'm no stranger to extreme patterned painting projects, I jumped at the chance to lend a hand by designing an updated look for their dingy, old refrigerator.

If there's one thing I know all to well from my time living in New York, it's that having a landlord who "just doesn't care" can sometimes be quite the blessing for those of us who love the DIY lifestyle. Such is the case with Megan and Kit, whose landlord basically gives them free reign to do whatever they want with their space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Inspired by the decorated refrigerators she's seen in various shelter publications, Megan really wanted to do something similar with her old appliance — a highly visible eye-sore which stands out in the alcove kitchen. Because it is visible from the living room, it was important that the new design work well with the existing mauve tiling and teal paint color throughout the apartment. After sitting down and sketching out a couple of ideas, we settled on outfitting her fridge with chalkboard paint in a bold, chevron pattern. As luck would have it, Rust-oleum makes a chalkboard base that is tintable in twelve different colors. Though we were really attracted to the idea of a bright red or blue chalkboard refrigerator, we knew the "Moonstone" gray option would work perfectly with the apartment's current color scheme and even tie in that ghastly kitchen tile.

Over the course of a couple of weekend afternoons we transformed Megan and Kit's icebox from a frigid nightmare into a dreamy showpiece - and the result was actually quite easy (and fun) to achieve. Under the influence of Megan's awesome record collection, we laughed and jived our way through every step of the process. Stream my digital version of Megan's vinyl soundtrack on and follow the steps below to help transform your appliance in need...just take a tip from The Kinks and "Don't forget to dance."

What You Need

    • Screw driver • Painter's tape • Fine grit sandpaper • Work cloth • 1 quart Rust-oleum Chalkboard Tint Base • 1 quart tinted indoor primer • A small amount of white, flat finish latex paint (for creating color variation) • 1 dense foam roller • 1 sponge brush • Paint tray (with tray liners for easy cleanup) • Contact paper • Scissors • Pencil • Tape measure • Straight edge • A groovy playlist


1. Using a screw driver, remove door handles from refrigerator and cover all possible exposed hardware with painter's tape. Open the doors and tape off the insides of the interior frame and back of doors for a clean, finished look.

2. Clear the exterior and sand the surface with fine grit sandpaper, making sure to smooth down any residue from stickers or grime that may exist. Wipe surface clean with work cloth.

3. Prime the entire surface of the refrigerator, first cutting-in around all hard-to-reach corners and edges using a sponge brush. Use a dense foam roller to finish priming the entirety of the surface, making sure to apply primer evenly and avoiding drips in corners and on edges. Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for primer to dry.

4. Repeat step three with Chalkboard Tint Base and apply a second coat. (The paint should be dry to the touch in 30 minutes, however directions for the Rust-oleum product recommends waiting 4 hours before applying another layer.) Tip: Expedite the drying process with a hair dryer set to a cool air temperature - especially useful in nooks and crannies.

5. For the next step, you will need to create a zig-zag pattern which you will use to mark out shapes on the refrigerator. Cut a piece of contact paper the exact same width as your refrigerator doors. For our project, we decided on a bold zig-zag with a triangle shape that repeats three times. To do this, divide the width by 6 and, using your straight-edge, draw a grid of squares: 6 across, 3 down. Create the chevron pattern by drawing 3 zig-zag lines from corner to corner across the width of the paper. This will yield one pattern plus a backup, just in case. Carefully cut out both patterns and discard excess contact paper. (We used contact paper because the grid on the back made measuring easier, but you can also use cardboard or poster board as long as you are precise with your calculations.)

6. Beginning at the top of the refrigerator and working your way down, hold the pattern smoothly against the surface and lightly trace the edges and corners. Whether you choose to trace the entire pattern or just create minimal markings, do what makes the most sense to you as this will be the guide for your painters tape. Repeat the pattern down the entire length of the refrigerator.

7. Tape off every other zig-zag, cutting the painter's tape with scissors to create sharp edges for the peaks of each triangle. Use a meticulous eye with the application of each strip of painter's tape and firmly press down all edges to ensure there will be no bleeding. Whenever possible, avoid scratching the surface with your nails.

8. Pour 1/3 quart Chalkboard Tint Base into a fresh paint tray and gradually add a very small amount of white latex paint, stirring until you reach a desired, lighter shade of color.

9. Using a sponge brush, fill in the area of each zig-zag you taped off in step 7, applying two coats. (Tip: To avoid bleeding when creating shapes with painters tape, apply a very light first coat with brush strokes that go from the outside of the shape to the inside.) Allow several hours for paint to dry and, again, go over edges with a hair dryer set on cool for good measure.

10. Carefully and slowly remove all painters tape, again avoiding scratching the surface with your nails whenever possible.

11. Rust-oleum recommends allowing the paint to cure for 3 days and then preparing the surface for chalk by rubbing the side of chalk over the entire surface and erasing.

Images: Mat Sanders

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