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.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan June 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I like the stripes BUT because of the textured nature of the fridge it would be difficult to get crisp lines UNLESS you painted the tan as you previously did and then use black automotive pin striping on the edge of the tan to give it a crisp finish.

I like the middle shade design with two different tan colors and black pin striping. You could probably use the same technique on the shade to match the fridge.

The pin striping can be purchased at any automotive supplies store like Auto Zone, Murray’s, etc. True Value might even carry it in their automotive section.

If the majority of the fridge was tan i.e. the doors and sides it might blend with the walls and not be as noticeable.


Josh June 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

All good tips, Jan. Thanks!


Chris June 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I’ve made the “not pressing the tape” mistake myself. I love the stripe idea but maybe instead of the frame, it is something across the door horizontally or even vertically. I also like the “applied” idea that Jan has above. Then again, if your Ms. Bungalow is anything like my Ms. Bungalow, I’d cut my losses…


Josh June 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Oh, I got the message loud and clear from my Ms. Bungalow, so I’m not going to lobby to override her veto. I’m mostly just curious what others think of the idea or how it went for people who have tried something similar themselves. Not every project is a winner.


Becky T June 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I don’t love the stripes either but had the same advice as Jan – my mom was a big believer in [and user of] automotive tape. It does a great job of outlining painted stripes. I painted my old and very white refrigerator with Rustoleum enamel in an ivory color. Rustoleum actually has appliance paint but only in the bright white colors that I was trying to get rid of. I’d love if they’d have a wider selection since the Big Chills are so spendy. I say paint the fridge all one color – but not the same color as the stripes.


Leslie @ NE Portland Bungalow June 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I think if I were going to try it, I’d go with one set of stripes, maybe of the left side, that went straight up and wrapped over the top, rather than creating a border.

OR! Maybe create a border around one door, only, and fill it in with photos or chalk board paint. Maybe?


Josh June 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

More fun ideas! Thanks, Becky and Leslie.


threadbndr June 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I’m going to have to agree with the Mrs. on this one. The only time I’ve painted an appliance is to cover scratches/dings and I used the color matched appliance paint. It was semi-successful, if you looked close, you could see the difference in the surface. I think next time, I’ll sand/feather edge the area and go with covering the entire surface with light coats of spray paint made for appliances.

Reply June 6, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I dont recall the procedure offhand, but there is a trick painters use for doing trim on walls and getting a crisp line. The green frog tape is essential, as well as using the white window caulking. Dont quote me on this… but try a sample someplace by taping your crisp line, then a very thin layer of caulking, then painting on top of the caulking. I think I read it on the Bower Power renovation site.

I would give it another try, because from a distance it looks great!


Josh June 9, 2011 at 9:35 am

Caulk, eh? That’s an interesting idea, too. Thanks, 1916home!


Adam June 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I have never heard of’s idea, but something similar. Rather than caulking, I have used a thin layer of clear painter’s medium before painting stripes. The clear medium bleeds a little under the tape, sealing the edge of the tape to the surface. Wait until the painter’s medium is just barely dry to the touch, then coat with the top paint color. When you remove the tape, the painter’s medium that bleeds under the tape is pretty much invisible (you can slightly see it if you know what you are looking for if done over flat paint).

As for the fridge, that is a neat idea. I think thinner stripes, closer together and making each door a complete square would look neat. Now, there is no Mrs. in my life yet, but I have learned a lot from my brother-in-laws mistakes: never begin or complete a home improvement project, however large or small, without consent from the Mrs.!


Kristin June 8, 2011 at 5:18 am

I Like the concept, but the execution as you yourself said came short, not only because the lines were not crisp, but you didn’t take the fridge handle into account, and it looks disconnected to the design. I think Jan had the best Idea. Not only would it crisp up the lines, but it would tie the handle into the general look. the only problem would be how secure this tape would be, and if it would start peeling after a while?


Josh June 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

I know what you mean about the handles looking out of place, Kristin. I had a couple ideas in mind for altering the handles, but it would certainly be easier just to account for them “as is” in the overall design/color work.


Allison June 10, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Call me a purist, but I think a boring white frig should stay that way…the stripes just don’t look natural….sorry to say that after all your hard work. Maybe it’s the texture that is ruining it for me.


Teresa June 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Funny you should post on this subject. I’ve been considering doing the same along completely different lines to ensure the fridge doesn’t stand out so much. I feel it’s better white than striped, but check out these sites for further inspiration. I’m sure anyone into vintage looks would take very little convincing to go this route, and the first site’s example doesn’t look that hard to do! I’m hoping to get further detailed instructions on how it was achieved. The white example is great although the stainless trim looks a little too modern to my eyes.
P.S Try Case hardware for heavy-duty hardware or
Grandma’s Closet (see below) for purely looks.


DIY Mom June 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Love your creativity! I am thinking race car track on my boy’s bedroom wall and my friend suggested using a clear paint glaze to seal the tape before I paint (to prevent dripping down inside the tape). Anyone ever tried that? I am going to do a test run first – when I finally get to their room.


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