A Facelift for the Fridge

Tired of your old fridge's appearance? Try these products to give your refrigerator's plain exterior a fun makeover.

Not since "avocado" and "goldenrod" hues challenged the standard white box in the 1960s have there been so many ways to liven up your refrigerator doors — and most of the methods are far more artful than the options from that dingy chapter in appliance history.

Panels that match your other cabinets and disguise the refrigerator are the most elegant option. Both Jenn-Air and Sub-Zero make refrigerators designed to accept any custom-design panel you can come up with. Enkeboll manufactures detailed woodcarving refrigerator overlay panels, including one specifically for the Sub-Zero model, available in woods from cherry to black walnut and patterns like Grape, Oak Leaf and Shell.

Smaller, family-owned businesses like Wellborn Cabinet in the timber country of Ashland, Ala., also make custom panels to cover refrigerators, new and existing models. Very pretty, sometimes fancy. But zany?

For that, turn to Frigo Designs, the granddaddy of install-it-yourself refrigerator panel design and author of the motto, "Why replace when you can reface?" Its products include bright color panels, all manner of artwork, chalkboards and even licensed designs from your favorite sports team. Frigo brags that it can give any model fridge made since 1942 a new look with panels for side-by-side or top-mount refrigerators. Most fit neatly fit around the handle that came with the fridge, but one caveat: the magnetic and vinyl panels aren't available for fridges 9 cubic feet or larger.

A few samples of the Frigo style include a magnetic chalkboard surface, available in black or green, and a U-Design Kit of clear acrylic panels that lets you use your refrigerator door as a giant picture frame. Or maybe you want to give the young artist in the household some competition? Dad might be tempted to re-face that magnetic surface that's so handy for displaying kindergarten art if he learns he can have a fridge front with a full-size sports team logo or a commemoration of golf. Or maybe a personalized NASCAR driver fridge front?

Now, most of these custom panels cost far less than a new refrigerator, but your discretionary budget still must be able to handle $300-$500 and up for most Frigo models and more for some carved custom panels.

Anyone for a mini-fridge facelift, instead? Try displaying an ornate set of refrigerator magnets — the options abound and some of them are quite arty, like the 48-count Itsy Bitsy Renaissance Magnets set with its tiny reproductions of works that grace the world's finest museums.

And if you want the fridge to look better and to learn something before you find out if last Friday's Chinese takeout is still edible, try a full display of state magnets. The group from International Gift Items will cover almost a third of your fridge door if you buy the whole country's worth. And anytime you feel like dropping Texas, California or the state where your ex-husband lives right off the map, well, there you go!

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