A while back I transformed the surface of my refrigerator into a giant chalkboard and began to record what I cooked in the kitchen and harvested from our garden. It was a handy way to plan meals and to jot down shopping lists, and every few days my boyfriend would grace the board with a whimsical drawing or two. At the end of each week we snapped a picture of the chalkboard to commemorate the bounty that we had consumed, and the pictures in turn formed a diary of our delicious lives.
A chalkboard fridge is exactly what it sounds like, but it’s also so much more than that. There’s something special about committing what you eat to the written word and if you do so for long enough, a chalkboard fridge becomes a culinary journal, helping you to reflect on what kind of an eater you are.
It keeps you honest, day in and day out, about the kinds of decisions you face when choosing what to eat and cook, and how those decisions can affect your mood, your health, and those around you.
Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have such a wide variety of food available, and how our meals are memorable not only for their sensory qualities, but also because they take place in the company of loved ones. When I look at my fridge, I remember that food is consumed along with stories and ideas, and that all of it is intertwined, making the experience richer and more complete.
It’s only been a few months since I decided on a whim to drive down to Home Depot and pick up a bucket of chalkboard paint, but now, I can’t imagine my life in the kitchen without it.
How To Make a Chalkboard Fridge
So, how is a chalkboard fridge made? Very easily, in fact, as long as you have a bit of time to spare. You could finish the whole project, for instance, on a weekend if you started on Saturday night and spent most of Sunday intermittently painting the fridge.
You’ll need some coarse sand paper, masking tape, a small can of primer, and a bucket of chalkboard paint. My local hardware store only carried chalkboard paint in black, but Home Depot offers it in a dozen or more colors, ranging from green to pink. I chose a shade of green called “schoolhouse green” because it reminded me of those bygone days when schools still used chalkboards instead of whiteboards.
When choosing the roller for applying the paint, opt for a high-quality roller that won’t leave behind bubbles in its path of paint. Also, take a minute to figure out the “grain” of your fridge: I spent two coats of chalkboard paint going up and down with the roller, until my boyfriend came home, took one look at the fridge, and said, “You know, you really should be painting in horizontal lines.” He was right. For our particular fridge, there were slight but noticeable ridges going side to side instead of vertically, making it easier to use the roller in a horizontal fashion.
Finally, you’ll need to remove the handlebars on the freezer and the fridge in order to get the smoothest coats of paint. Depending on the model of your fridge, you’ll most likely need to remove the screws on top, and then slowly twist the handles out. When I finished painting my fridge, I decided not to reinstall the handles because the doors opened and closed easily without them, and the fridge looked more streamlined as such.
1. Remove the handlebars on your fridge and set aside.
2. Use coarse sand paper to roughen the front of the fridge. Doing so will make the initial coat of primer adhere more easily to the surface. Sand the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, until the surface feels rough and piles of powder have built up on the floor beneath the fridge.
3. Vacuum the powder and prepare the area for painting. Line the floor in the vicinity of the fridge with several layers of newspaper. Brown paper bags work well too.
4. Line the edges of the fridge with masking tape, so that only the front face will get painted.
5. Determine whether the “grain” or “nap” of your fridge, if there is one, runs horizontally or vertically. Evenly apply the initial coat of primer with your roller, and let set overnight or for a minimum of eight hours. Wash out your roller and reserve for the next steps. (In approximately two hours the paint will have set, and you can very carefully open the doors if you need to retrieve food from the fridge.)
6. After the primer has completely dried, apply the first coat of chalkboard paint in the correct “grain” for your fridge. Apply the coat evenly with your roller, taking care that there are no thick or thin areas of paint that will dry unevenly. Wait four hours.
7. Apply the second coat in the same manner, and wait four hours.
8. Apply the third and last coat. You’re almost done! Now you just need to wait for two to three days, allowing the coats of paint to really harden on the surface.
9. After a few days, it’s time to “season” your fridge, like you would with a cast iron skillet. Using a piece of chalk, run the length of the chalk back and forth on the fridge, until the entire surface of the fridge is covered. Then erase all of it, and your chalkboard fridge is ready to be used!
10. After a few days, you may wipe down the chalkboard with a damp towel for a cleaner surface.
Thank you for sharing, Chichi!
(Images: Chichi of My Chalkboard Fridg)