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make it! secondhand chic + filing cabinet kitchen cart DIY

by Grace Bonney

i’m always excited when a new ebook from curbly is launched. their last title, make it! mid century modern, was a big hit and i was excited to hear that they were moving on to tackle my favorite subject: reusing found and secondhand objects to create great new home designs. i couldn’t wait to get my hands (or laptop) on a make it! secondhand chic and i was happy to see more than a few projects that i’d like to try (the etched bathroom glasses with dentures are so funny) ranging from ideas for the bedroom and bathroom to the living room, office, and kitchen. make it! secondhand chic features 15 projects (most of which are majorly doable for the novice crafter/maker) and can be downloaded ($9.99) or mailed to you ($24.99) from right here.

today the curbly team was kind enough to let me share a project from the ebook so i’ve chosen my favorite: converting a secondhand file cabinet into a cute kitchen cart. we’ve all seen a few sad and lonely file cabinets discarded on the street, so the next time you do, grab one and you can follow these instructions to create your own colorful (and functional) kitchen cart. thanks so much to bruno, chris gardner, and everyone at curbly for sharing this project with us. click here to check out make it! secondhand chic and download more great projects.

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

Filing Cabinet Kitchen Cart by Chris Gardner from Make It! Secondhand Chic

We’ve never met anyone who couldn’t use more kitchen storage and counter
space. This rolling kitchen cart offers both – drawers for storage of tools, spices, or
root vegetables, racks to hang towels and utensils, and a butcher-block top for food
preparation or appliance storage.

The main structure is a used filing cabinet, which are plentiful in secondhand
shops, garage sales, and online classified listings. We found ours for less than three
dollars at a charity shop. Look for a filing cabinet whose drawers and hardware are
in working order, and for a case that has no major dents or damage. The color and
finish are of no consequence, as it’ll be painted


  • Secondhand filing cabinet
  • Spray metal primer
  • 2 cans spray paint
  • Two rolling casters and two locking casters
  • A cutting board or piece of butcher block
    that’s at least the size of the top of your
    filing cabinet
  • Two inexpensive horizontal towel racks


  • Mineral spirits or sticker remover
  • Electric drill
  •  1⁄8” and 1⁄16” drill bits
  • 24 1⁄8” bolts, 1/2 – 1” long
  • 24 1⁄8” nuts
  • 4 #8 short screws
  • Washers (if necessary)


1. Remove the drawers, and use mineral spirits or sticker remover to get rid of any tape residue, labels, or grime, and wipe clean. Remove any hardware will come off easily, and cover remaining hardware with painter’s tape. Then, spray the cabinet case and drawers with a coat of metal primer, followed by two coats of spray paint.

2. Mark the location of the holes of your casters on the bottom of your filing cabinet, and drill 1 ⁄8” holes for the screws. If the cabinet bottom is not solid, use a piece of scrap wood under the ledges to prevent them from bending under the drill. If the metal is thick, you can use a blow torch to soften the metal, but most drills should be able to get through. Then, screw in the casters using the included screws or 1⁄8” bolts and nuts.

3. Attach the towel/utensil racks to the sides by marking and drilling holes as in step two, and securing them with short bolts and nuts.

4. Place your cutting board on top of the cabinet, and mark where the screws will need to go to secure it. Drill 1⁄16” pilot holes, then attach the 1” screws from the underside of the cabinet. You can use the washers to prevent the screw from going all the way through the cutting board.

5. Now, insert the drawers back in the case. Then fill the cabinets, hang your utensils using S-hooks, and make something delicious for dinner!

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  • I was just looking for “how-to paint filing cabinets” yesterday! This blue is so cute, and I’m planning to do the same project pretty soon!

    One question – Did you spray pain inside of the drawers? I’m debating about it right now…

  • Fantastic post!! I can ALWAYS use more kitchen storage space and prep surfaces. My kitchen is teeny! Thanks

  • Ooh, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. “Mid-century Modern” are the two words (well, two word-hyphenate) that best describe my favorite decorating style. You made my day!

  • love. storing this idea away for future use. the big drawers are so perfect for things like mixing bowls and small appliances.

  • I’ve been curious exactly what type of paint to use on the filing cabinet that wouldn’t chip or scratch easily – I never thought of spray paint, duh! Did you seal it with something additional?

    Thanks for the ever excellent tutorial!

  • seriously, this is genius. My mind id filled with ideas. I want to make hundreds of these all in different colors.

    This would be do fun for a kid too. What a great way to invent a play kitchen. I love it!!!

  • this is such an obviously brilliant idea (why hasnt anyone thought of this before?) I love the look of butcher block but as a renter cant cover all my counters so this is perfect- where can I find butcher block that can be custom cut and purchased? any ideas for finding cheap scrap or leftover butcher block?

  • i remember seeing the first two projects in readymade magazine, in almost identical form.

  • I always find such great stuff here. What a great idea this is. What great extra storage as well as surface prep space. Now I know what to do with those old file cabinets whenever we finally get aroung to our office remodel.
    Thank you.

  • I’d be running a second strip of something beneath the towel rail to act as a bumper…cos those hanging implements will swing and bounce off the cabinet and chip the paint in real time use.

  • Thanks for the great comments, everyone! I hope everyone who bought the book enjoys it!

    Also, we’re taking suggestions for the topic of our next book in the Make It! series; so let ’em fly!

    Bruno Bornsztein
    Publisher, Curbly.com

  • This looks great! The color caught my eye immediately, but then the fact that it’s a great way to reuse something kinda hideous on its own. :) Thanks for the directions!