Turn Metal File Cabinets Into Kitchen Cabinets

3 Materials
4 Hours

I wish I had taken more pictures of this “lateral file cabinets turned kitchen cabinets” project but I was so skeptical of the results that I neglected the camera.

I had two of these file cabinets in the garage for a few years and was about to load them into the trailer for the dump when it occurred to me they might fit perfectly in my kitchen. 

I had a long stretch of space under my kitchen window that was open to the floor with small drawers for utensils and junk. A breakfast bar, so to speak. I always kept stools under the counter but they were never used (except for toe stubbing). It was just wasted space. Plus the counter was table height so it was awkwardly low for a kitchen counter.

Everything is wrong with the picture above, but it was the only picture I could find of my kitchen at this stage.

So I went to work and trimmed out the metal drawer fronts with lattice trim and 1/8 plywood(same plywood I used for the walls and the  island ship-lap). I simply butt joined the lattice trim and glued it to the drawer front with liquid nails. Then I glued the plywood to the metal drawer face inside the trim thereby covering the recessed drawer pulls. The finishing touch is the wood filler between the metal fronts and the trim, across the top and down the sides, so it looks like one piece and not just trim glued to metal file cabinets(junky!)

Since the drawers are totally flush when closed, I had to install handles(drawer pulls). I used a metal bit in my screw gun and it went through the metal pretty easily. 

The file cabinets are super heavy duty and no matter how much weight I put in those drawers they always slide nice and easy. They’re really deep so they hold my largest pots and tallest stack of plates.

I have since repainted my kitchen cabinets a dark charcoal color. It’s called Graphite by Behr. It looks like navy but it’s really more dark dark grey in person. I love the color because it’s quite ambiguous, but also sort of a neutral color. 

So there you have it, file cabinets in the kitchen. When I installed these file cabinets, I figured it may or may not work. I thought if they look completely junky I wouldn’t lose much by just taking them to the dump. I’m pleasantly surprised that they don’t look like file cabinets plopped in my kitchen and they have worked so perfectly all these years. And...drawers in the kitchen instead of cabinets is heaven on earth.

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Mimzy lombardo
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  1 question
  • Jaye Jaye on Dec 29, 2020

    Great idea. Did you paint and line the inside of the drawers? What did you use to prevent rust? Are cabinets up on blocks so as not to get wet when mopping the floor? Any concerns about the cabinets conducting electricity.

    Very clever idea that gives me some safety concerns, i.e. makes me wonder about the use of metal in a kitchen. No criticism, just wondering thoughts. Definitely see use for this idea in a carpeted area, a craft room place to store extra linens, or a garage workshop. Thanks for sharing


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3 of 27 comments
  • Peggy Peggy on Feb 23, 2021

    I have 3 old filing cabinets in various sizes. I was ready to pitch out. This is such a useful idea. I'm going to attempt to redo mine for my sewing craft room.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Mimzy lombardo Mimzy lombardo on Feb 23, 2021

      Yes! mine were sitting in my driveway for weeks, ready for the dump, when it occurred to me that I could use them. Go for it!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Shawna Farmer Shawna Farmer on Mar 18, 2021

    I have large deep cabinets , this gave me inspiration , If I could find some metal filing cabinets inside of them , then they would just slide out !!! Thanks so much , these kind of filing cabinets are cheap and I've seen so many at thrift stores , i was thinking of something that kind of slid out bc the cabinets are so deep