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Side Opening Above-The-Fridge Cabinet


The last major project in our kitchen renovation is the cabinet above the fridge. This is NOT going to be an Ikea cabinet, it's going to be a custom-built side-opening cabinet.

We used to have a cabinet above the old fridge and we basically never used it, because it is just so hard to access. It was the same depth as the other upper cabinets, so reaching into it was just a chore. So why not put an extra deep cabinet above the fridge? That is the typical approach, but we don't want that in our kitchen.

Our kitchen is a galley layout, so the fridge is NOT located beside a wall. In fact, our fridge is exposed along the right side, since it is located at the crossroads of our house. The Fridge is right beside the opening into the Living/Dining room from the kitchen. But we still don't want to give up that space.

My idea was to build a side-opening cabinet and install it above the fridge. From the front, it would look like an ordinary kitchen cabinet. But the end of the cabinet would be completely open, and I would build a drawer to go there.

We would access the drawer from below, so one side of the drawer would need to be very low. The end of the the drawer would be attached to a cabinet door. When it's closed, it would look like an ordinary cabinet, just with a handle on the end.

I took measurements of the space above the fridge, and plugged those into sketchup while designing the cabinet, and then used that to make the cabinet box.

(I briefly considered buying an Ikea cabinet and hacking it apart to make this, but quickly realized that it would be faster and simpler to just make my own cabinet from scratch. In particular, this cabinet would have a wide open end, which means the back needs to be much stronger than in typical Ikea cabinets.)

I used 1/2" thick (12mm) Baltic birch plywood for most of the box, but just cheap 3/8" thick fir plywood for the front. The front is getting fake "doors" attached, so those will also add plenty of strength, so I could skimp on the plywood here. (I wouldn't normally skimp, but this allowed me to NOT buy another sheet of baltic birch plywood.)

After the box was built I took it upstairs to make sure it fit in the space above the fridge.

As I said, I wanted some "fake" doors on the front of the cabinet. Instead of going through the work of making two complete doors, I opted for a simpler approach. I cut a large piece of cherry veneer plywood -- the same used to make the door panels -- and laminated that to the front of the cabinet.

I first rabbeted two pieces of solid cherry and glued them along the left and right sides, so that the edge of the cherry plywood would be hidden.

I then moved on to glue and clamp on more pieces of solid cherry as I built up the illusion of doors.

Note the thin strip of finish on the project. I rarely spray projects, so I needed to pre-finish a thin strip of polyurethane down the center of the cabinet front. Once the remaining strips of cherry would be added, the gap in the middle would be only about 1/8" wide. So I need to get the finish in while I can, as there is no way to fit a brush into a 1/8" thick gap.

Here is the finished cabinet with the faux doors on the front. I applied three coats of polyurethane to the front and two coats to the rest of the cabinet, both inside and out.

I used half inch baltic birch plywood to assemble the drawer. I had some dimensions in sketchup, but I only used them as guidelines. As I was building the project, for example, I decided to change the plan so that the sides of the drawers extended all the way to the bottom. It was also changed so that the sides ran into the curved ends, instead of in front....

That is to say, the drawer is just a fancy box with glue, butt joints, and nails and screws holding it together. Therefore, I did not take any photos of the build process.

I bought 28" full extension soft-close drawer slides from Lee Valley Tools and here is a photo of fitting them to the cabinet and the drawer. The cabinet is 32-1/2" deep but I found it very difficult to find a source for such long drawer slides. Anything much more than 24" long is very uncommon -- which is not terribly surprising given how most cabinets/kitchens are usually no more than 24" deep.

I did find a few options but they were priced somewhere around $150-$200 (Canadian funds, as of March 2019) versus $30 for the 28" pair that I settled on.

I then moved on and built my last cabinet door -- last for THIS kitchen at least. Again, I've documented my process in previous articles and videos, so I skipped over that here also. It's the same as the other doors in my kitchen with solid cherry rails and stiles paired with a 3/16" thick cherry plywood panel.

Fitting the door was a bit tricky, and I ended up taking it off and refitting it, as the first time it went on a bit crooked. The problem is that I can only screw into it from behind wherever there is solid cherry rails or stiles, and not into the thin plywood. and it's just awkward to try and line it up with the end of the drawer.

Here is the completed cabinet, sitting in my shop.

The cabinet was carried up and placed on top of the fridge. I had some blocks placed that lifted it to the desired height. I then used long clamps to fasten the cabinet to the neighbouring (already installed) cabinet. I got it into proper position and tightened up the clamps. Then I screwed the two cabinets together using four screws.

and finally I had to stick my head inside the new cabinet and fasten to the wall with 3" constructions screws sunk into studs.

The drawer could then be fitted into place.

Here below are some photos of the finished cabinet.

I did have to do some adjusting. The cabinet appeared to be leaning a bit to the front-right corner. I loosened the lower screws that attached it to the studs, and then forced in a few shims to tip out the bottom of the cabine. I then retightened those screws. I also added some blocking above the cabinet and screwed UP into the ceiling joist. I had already been planning on this last step. With no cabinet side on the right side, I was concerned that the front-right corner of the cabinet would require some extra support.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

Wera Pozi-Driv screwdrivers
Wera Pozi-Driv driver bits
(All the Ikea Hardware have pozi-driv tips. Philips screwdrivers do work, but these work better.)

SensGard ZEM hearing protection
Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
Robertson Screwdrivers
Robertson Screws
AKA Square Screws
Robertson Driver bits also
Picquic — some of the best “multi-bit” screwdrivers around
(But get the ones with Robertson tips!)
Torx Screwdrivers (If you must)
Painter's Pyramids
Dowelmax Company
NOTE: at the time of publishing (May 2023) Dowelmax is not currently available on amazon. It has been in the past, so I am keeping the following links, but right now only the link above to "" is known to work.
Dowelmax Dowel Joinery Kit
Dowelmax Drill Guides for 1/4" Dowels
Dowelmax Dowels

Minwax Oil-Modified Polyurethane
Freud LM74R010 Glue Line Ripping Blade
Dimar Combination Blade @ Lee Valley Tools

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using my affiliate links.


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See Also:

Custom Ikea Kitchen : Intro and Bulkheads

Custom Ikea Kitchen: Side Panels

Custom Ikea Kitchen: Making Doors

Custom Ikea Kitchen : Fitting Cabinets