Refrigerator Gets Schoolhouse Globe Stripes

by Josh on June 6, 2011 · 17 comments

in Kitchen,Projects

When I hung the schoolhouse light fixtures in my kitchen a few weeks back, readers suggested that I try painting stripes on my inexpensive big box lights like the ones on the expensive schoolhouse globes I loved at the specialty lighting shops.  But with all the curves on the globes, I wan’t at all confident I could produce a result that looked anything like my inspiration.

So instead, I turned my attention to something flat, plain, and lacking any vintage charm– my 15 year-old white Kenmore fridge.  Refrigerators don’t come much more basic than this, and I hope to replace it soon with a larger, more energy-efficient bottom-freezer model.  What could I lose by trying to put some schoolhouse-style stripes on the old fridge?

I began by thoroughly washing the doors, then I layed out two stripes– one narrow, one wide– in green painters tape around the perimeter of the refrigerator doors.

Then I quickly rolled on the same yellow self-priming paint I used on the walls.  I figured the built-in primer in the EasyCare Platinum paint would take to the metal doors without any special treatment.

I carefully peeled off the tape while the paint was still wet so I would be sure the tape didn’t tear the paint surface once it had cured.  This also gave me time to wipe it clean if I didn’t like how the stripes turned out.

From across the room, I thought the stripes on the fridge looked pretty cool.  While I obviously drew my inspiration from the schoolhouse light globes, I found the framed look on the refrigerator also reminded me of the Italian bedding sets I’ve seen at Restoration Hardware and elsewhere.  But as you may have guessed, up close the paint was a complete mess.

The paint roller had allowed me to paint the stripes quickly and evenly, but it also saturated the surface with paint which then leaked under the tape using the channels in the textured surface of the doors.  Grrr.  Because the paint was still not fully dried, I was able to easily scrub off the stripes with a wet rag and return the fridge to it’s boring old white.

What I Should Have Done

The problem with paint bleed-through under the edges of my stripes could probably have been prevented with a couple easy changes to my technique.  First, I should have thoroughly pressed down the tape surface using a firm rubber squeegee or something similar.  Then, instead of rolling on the paint, I should have daubbed on the paint using a sponge or just the bristle ends of a brush–slowly and using as little paint as possible.  I once learned in a stenciling class that the key to achieving crisp edges when masking or stenciling is to keep your brush nearly dry of paint and then to apply it strictly perpendicular to the painting surface.  If I try the stripes again using this technique, I think it will turn out much better.

Stripes Vetoed

I said “if” I try the stripes again because as it turns out, Ms. Bungalow doesn’t want the refrigerator to look like a schoolhouse globe or an Italian duvet.  I undertook this project on my own and without prior consultation as a “better forgiveness than permission” exercise.  When I showed the photos above to Ms. Bungalow later that night as a proof of concept, she said, “No way.”  Finding myself clearly without permission and fortunate to have forgiveness, the fridge has stayed plain white.

Poll Question

What do you think?  Were the stripes on the refrigerator a cool idea with a flawed execution? Or was this a bad idea rightfully rejected? Tell me what you think in the new poll in the sidebar.  And if you have your own story of trying decorative painting on an appliance– or feedback on my feeble attempt–share your comments below.

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