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Vintage icebox turned into DIY display case

The 1928 icebox in my Los Feliz apartment has always been a curiosity with its insulated door and brass latch. But the real oddity lives inside.

A motor is stuck with 14 tubes that once coursed with methyl chloride or perhaps sulfur dioxide. I always thought the snake-like contraption resembled a marauding insect from a 1950s science-fiction horror flick.

I loved the vintage container, but always thought it deserved better than serving as a haphazard cupboard. Plus, I’m careful how I use each inch in my 550-square-foot flat.

So I repurposed the box into a display case for dishes, transforming the motor into a conversation piece.

I first removed door hinges and the latch mechanism, digging through decades of paint. Next I removed the motor’s casing to free up the interior space and view.

The Insect, as I had termed the motor, was reluctant to leave its nest. Prying loose four inconveniently placed bolts was a two-hour ordeal. Finally unshackled, it lurched on its two source refrigerant tubes.

I propped it up to scrub off 83 years of corrosion with a wire brush, then applied a rust preventative and a coat of white latex gloss paint. The two ice trays received a coat of sky blue gloss.

I reinstalled the mechanism and spackled various holes and other imperfections in the box’s casing.

I cut a three-quarter-inch board to size for the shelf and trimmed it with cap molding. The shelf fit fortuitously atop four existing cup hooks that were quite sturdy. I retained the other hooks.

To finish, I painted the interior a light gray and coated the outside frame the same laurel green as my cabinet casings. 

Curiosity, revealed.

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