Because our trailer is so small, storage space is at a premium. I have tried to exploit every cubbyhole, converting it to storage whenever possible. I've always coveted the "headspace" above the fridge, but I just assumed that this area was necessary for ventilation and couldn't be used for storage. Fairly recently, I installed a "heat shield" deflector to guide the flue gases (and the heat) out the top vent; here's a link to that project: Deflector
After doing some careful reading, I determined that there's no reason for any wasted space. In fact, the fridge actually works better if that area is blocked off, so that the air moving up from the bottom of the fridge vent flows across the back of the fridge and directly past the coils and out the top vent – the draft is critical to the cooling of the coils, since there isn't a compressor (unlike an ordinary house fridge). Here is a picture of the raw wasted space above the fridge, taken from the outside of the trailer -- the unused space measures 10" wide, 6" high, and 24" long (across the width of the fridge):
I first measured carefully and cut a square 10 x 6 hole in the luan paneling on the side of the fridge, using my keyhole saw. (I first drilled holes in the corners.) I had to support the luan carefully so that it would not break under the pressure of the saw:
And here is the completed "socket:"
I then built a box to fit into the hole – the box is 10 x 6, by 24 inches long, using thin three-quarter by three-quarter pine stringers to support the quarter inch Baltic Birch plywood. Here is the completed box:
In addition to providing a storage place for our bulky extra paper goods, the front several inches of the storage box will serve as a "cubby" or nightstand for our glasses and nightlights, since it is right next to our bed. Here you can see the interior of the box; about 7 inches in from the front, I have installed a little removable barrier with Velcro tabs. It will be sufficient to hold in the paper goods while we're traveling, but it will be easy to remove when we want to get access to the paper goods:
After I assembled the box, I sealed the outside edges with heavy packing tape, in order to seal out any fumes that might emerge from the refrigerator burner flue, which is in the same compartment. (Admittedly, the manufacturer of the trailer hadn't sealed the compartment at all, so my guess is that there's really no need to worry about the fumes. But tape is cheap, and peace of mind is valuable.)
The box is not installed into its socket with my usual "15 screws plus gorilla glue," because I wanted to be able to remove the entire box easily, if we ever had to service the fridge. So it simply rests on top of the fridge and is screwed into the cross-member of the frame on the side of the fridge, on top of the box, with countersunk screws:
After forcing strips of foam weather-stripping around the front of the box (for more protection against possible fumes and heat), I covered the edges of the opening with very thin pieces of mahogany (not plywood), finished with a couple of coats of polyurethane:
And here is a picture of the box with some paper goods inside of it, leaving the front open for use as a small nightstand:
When the box was in place, I packed fireproof fiberglass insulation around the top, back, and sides, hoping to make the fridge even more energy-efficient; I then reinstalled my metal deflector shield.