Cabinet Above Fridge: How to Make It Look Good + Reachable Without a Stepstool!

So, I kinda hate the spaces above refrigerators. Any “cabinet above fridge” setup is usually

  1. GENERIC. (Think two cabinets opening to the side—you know the kind.)
  2. HARD TO REACH.
  3. WASTED SPACE. (See #2.)

And yet, there they are: big, awkward spaces above our refrigerators that can’t be left open because random junk will just accumulate there and get pushed back until things fall behind the refrigerator and then you’ve got mo’ problems.

So we put a cabinet on it. (Kind of like, “Put a bird on it,” if you’ve seen that Portlandia episode.🙃)

CABINET ABOVE FRIDGE

How could we make it look goooood?

I would have loved to avoid having a cabinet above our fridge, but what else are you gonna put up there? A television? A giant speaker for blasting music while cooking? A poster of Gordon Ramsay?

Nah. We had to go with a cabinet there.

But I didn’t want it to look like there was a cabinet there. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I definitely wanted something that I’d never seen before. (I hear you saying, “What else is new, lady?”)

Yes, remember my magical unicorn search in the bathroom reno? It was like that. The internet was of no help to me.

What I wanted was something minimal and subtle. Something that looked like nothing was above our fridge but sweet, simple beauty. (Why? I didn’t know; it’s just what I felt was right. Maybe it’s about balance again. Maybe the fridge is such a high-function-looking appliance that my brain thinks it needs a totally non-functional balance above it?  ¡Quizás!)

CABINET ABOVE FRIDGE

My magical unicorn vision: zero visible hardware!

Thus, we started brainstorming a way to make a panel-looking cabinet face that wouldn’t have any hardware (such as a pull) visible on it. We pitched this to our cabinet guy because we figured if anyone knew about the latest interior cabinet hardware, he would. When he mentioned a mechanism that used magnets so that you could simply push onto the cabinet and it would pop open, but then seal closed with the magnet, I was like “YES! THAT is the answer to my magical unicorn search. Thank you.”

(Remember, this is back in 2015 so long before places like IKEA started using these magnets in some of their kitchens! And even now, we’ve never seen anyone do this magnet design for above their refrigerator.)

Here’s how our “hidden” cabinet looks in action:

man opening cabinet above refrigerator

magnet / lift mechanism

And below, here’s a peek at what it looks like when you’re coming down the hallway into our kitchen. Pretty subtle and not screaming for your attention, right? No hardware showing. Yet fully functional.

Form + function. Pretty much everything The Brain & The Brawn stand for!


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view of kitchen with refrigerator and cabinet above fridge with no hardware

magnet / lift mechanism / vase

CABINET ABOVE FRIDGE

“How does this make it easier for shorter people?”

I’m not considered short, but I still have always struggled to reach those darn cabinets above refrigerators! In EVERY place we’ve lived!

Therefore, these spaces inevitably have become like No Man’s Land to me. Perhaps I’d let Matt put some storage items up there that we rarely needed, but I basically crossed this space off in my mental list of “available-to-me” mental list.

So how did adding the magnet and unique hinge system change this into easily-reachable, daily-use space for me?

Think about it:

  1. The typical cabinets above a fridge have two doors that open to the side, right? Their hinges are on the outside edges and the cabinet faces have two knobs (usually) placed right in the middle of the vertical space so you can (hypothetically) grab those to open them.
  2. Take those out and move your “opening-touch” space down to that bottom section and bam! You’ve gotten it about 4-6″ inches closer to where you can reach…and I mean reach comfortably!

Someone will now say, “But our cabinet knobs are on the lower section of the cabinet face, not the middle, so they’re lower and that’s the same, right?”

No. It is not the same. And I don’t know the technical ergonomic term, but just imagine this:

Scenario A:

Reaching up to the bottom of your cabinet and having to grab onto a knob and pull outward and back. (I can feel this in my shoulderblades, for one…) Double shoulder and arm pain if you need to grab both knobs and pull them both back and out at the same time.

VS

Scenario B:

Reach up to the bottom of your cabinet and pushing one spot, and it bounces open for you. You don’t have to pull a thing.

Choose one: A or B.

Sometimes it’s the smallest, simplest things that can still make a huge difference.

HERE is the simple mechanism (plus the magnet) we used to make our lives quite a bit easier!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Lynette Pruett

    I was hoping you might show pictures or give a description of what you store in that high cabinet. I am short…5’3”…so even if I could reach the edge of the door to open it with a magnet and lift mechanism, I can’t imagine that I’d be able to get anything from the cabinet. I guess you could store extra rolls of paper towels or something like that???
    I love so many of your kitchen design and storage ideas, but the usefulness of this one has me stumped. Please help me understand! Thanks.

    1. Jess

      Hi Lynette! We keep some cleaning products and adult beverages up there–so the kids can’t reach! 🙂 I’ve worked with a variety of clients who have special height requirements, whether “shorter” or “taller.” If you’re looking for personalized help with a kitchen design, we’re booked through 2023 for big projects but we do offer 1-hour consultations if you’d like 1-on-1 help with any issues you’re running into!

      More details on that HERE and HERE!

      Cheers!
      Jess & Matt

  2. ViolinMama

    Okay, but what about when it’s time to close the cabinet and you have to reach up to the top of the cabinet to pull the door down? How is that better for the height challenged among us? 🤔 I love the look, though.

    1. Jess

      Great question! So, because I don’t actually need to open it all the way up to get what I want inside, it’s just right where I left it so I can close it easily! 🙂

      – Jess

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