The Chalkboard Refrigerator: A Cautionary Tale

December 11, 2012

by Alissa Lively

In an effort to streamline my kitchen and simply my life, I decided to look for a way to consolidate as many lists and to-dos as possible in one space. Since our kitchen/dining room combo is definitely where we spent the most time, it seemed like a natural choice for a command center. Enter: The Refrigerator.

I know using your refrigerator as a central information-storing unit is not novel in any way. But I had a brilliant idea: Why not a chalkboard refrigerator? Everything would be located in one place, and it would be less visually cluttered without magnets and random scraps of paper. Genius! Or at least I thought — but apparently 7 million other people have already had that bright idea.

Once again, my novel idea was not so novel, but what the heck, I decided to do it anyway. Unfortunately, I’m still a renter, and I didn’t have the guts to ask my landlord if they would mind if I, ahem, painted their refrigerator. I thought my project was stymied until I had another brainwave: chalkboard contact paper.

A day full of trying to line up six-foot-long sheets of sticky-backed paper may not appeal to most sane people, but I love that kind of precise, meaningless toil. My day with it was great: I removed the handles from the fridge and was able to cut holes in the contact paper around the hardware mounts. Getting around the water dispenser was a little trickier, and it has the mistakes to prove it. I dream about repapering that side one day, but the stress of the imperfections will have to build up for a while longer before I actually gird my loins and do it.

Once the fridge was papered and the handles replaced, we “seasoned” our oversize chalkboard. If you don’t season a chalkboard by rubbing it all over with chalk and then erasing it, you’ll experience “ghosting” — when the original chalk lines drawn on the board never fully erase. (It’s kind of a bummer, which we learned firsthand with the girls’ easel.) After the seasoning was done, I made a calendar to keep our family’s activities mapped out in one place. At first I tried it with a chalk marker, but switching the months got to be frustrating when I would accidentally erase the calendar itself. So I changed the frame of the calendar to electrical tape, which lets me erase every month with impunity.  Now, the upper half of my command center stores all of our appointments, parties, and adventures in one place, as well as most of my lists (grocery, Target, books to read, movies to watch).

There has, however, been a downside to my genius. The lower half of the fridge has been commandeered by several budding artists who don’t quite get the whole “less visually cluttered” aspect of what I was going for. They’re also blissfully unaware of the piles of chalk dust that accumulate on the floor, their clothes, and their little fat feet and hands (and, ergo, the rest of my house). It also makes using the refrigerator difficult when I have little people blocking the doors.

But in spite of the dust and less mobility in the kitchen, our chalkboard refrigerator has not only consolidated our family information but also our family itself. I didn’t think that our kitchen could be any more central, but with the babies headed for the chalk at any lull in the day, they’re almost always around. And though making dinner around the pile of children can get tricky, it’s nice that we can be together at that particularly stressful time of day without totally driving each other crazy. They all draw and chatter while Dan and I cook and decompress from the day. It’s a far cry from when they were previously banished to another part of the house altogether. I suppose I can deal with a little chalk dust here and there in exchange for a little more peace.

What about you? Have any of your projects had unexpected benefits or downsides?

Images: Alissa Lively

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1 Cathleen Cueto December 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

another beautiful and inspiring post!! nice work, alissa! and where oh where do you get chalkboard contact paper?!?!

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2 Mary December 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I have always been intrigued by Chalkboard Paint, but then remember the downsides of the mess. There was a picture on Pinterst of a beautiful kids room painted completely in chalkboard paint. It was drawn all over with beautiful flowers and other illustrations. I had to laugh. I am sure it looks lovely in the picture, but I can only imagine how it would look if you actually let children live in the room! I think your chalkboard contact paper was pretty brilliant though. Not so permanent on a fridge seems like a great idea. The organization center seems super helpful. Chalk all over would kind of drive me crazy, but if it keeps them happy, I suppose it is worth it. We just got a brand new fridge and I am already agonizing over the magnets that Gus loves to fling onto the floor essentially scratching the fridge. It is a week old and it already looks “loved.” Not sure why I thought shiny black was the best idea suddenly. I am contemplating taking off all the magnets on the lower half, but am not sure if that would be mean. I am still in debates.

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3 Kathleen December 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Hilarious! Also Thank you for the tip about seasoning a chalkboard! Keep the great posts a-coming!

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4 Hope June 25, 2013 at 10:40 am

Hi! I have been researching a way to chalkboard the fridge in my rented apartment. I do have one concern though and am wondering if you could clear it up. I am worried that the fridge itself will get scratched or the impressions of the chalk lines will come through on the refrigerator. Have you noticed anything of the sort? Oh, and how many rolls did it take to cover just the front?

Thanks so much! Your refrigerator looks amazing by the way.

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5 Mrs.Goewey April 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I love this idea! I used a lot of chalkboards in my wedding. I am a DIYer and love this look. My only concern is the removal process. Since I am a renter, who tedious is the removal process? I have researched a bit but haven’t found anything specific to refrigerators. Any ideas?

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