Workspace: A Cheap Stylish File Cabinet Strategy – Improvised Life

While planning the office portion of the Laboratory’s renovation, I had to be lean and efficient, having spent some serious money on a sliding wall to make it all disappear. I happily used a strategy that had served me (and about a million designers) for years: a desk made of pedestal file cabinets and a simple top. In this case, the desk would be 15-feet long: seven cabinets total. The only problem: the files I could afford were ugly.

Here was my strategy:

Sally Schneider

Although I love the look of the super sleek-looking 18-inch deep Bisley, I opted for 24-inch-deep professional office files because I need maximum storage space; the 6-inch difference in depth was important. I contemplated buying all new pro file cabinets but, at $300+ each, they would have cost over $2,000 (not to mention it being practically impossible to find them in white).

Bisely 2 DrawerPremiumFileCabinetWhite

I started calling and visiting second-hand and used office furniture stores. Since the owners tend to be impatient and all business, I had my questions ready:

I need to get 5 pedestal files, some with only three two file drawers, two with 3 drawers.
Do they sell in these amounts?
Do they have a showroom where I can see the items?
What are the approximate cost of a pedestal
               with top
               without top
Does this price include delivery? How much for delivery to Harlem? 
Do they have a spraying/painting service? How much additional cost to have them do it?
I called and visited the same stores several times over the course of a few weeks, hoping to get lucky and find five files that matched the two I already had.

Sally Schneider

I finally DID get lucky with a big shipment of two or three-drawer topless files for $99 each. The store would spray them if I brought them the oil-based paint, so I was able to match the white the apartment was painted: Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. At $25 per cabinet, spraying them with oil paint was way cheaper than electrostatic painting, which would have cost upwards of $700 and been a huge hassle. After 3 years, the paint has proven equally durable.

Sally Schneider

I bought three 3-drawer files and two 2-drawer files. Although they are painted Chantilly Lace, the dark gray underneath turned them ever-so-slightly gray, a curious boon: no one ever notices that my original unpainted files —to the left of the chair well — are actually gray.

Sally Schneider

If I’d had my druthers, I would have made the top of white Corian like my kitchen, but my budget was already stretched to the limit. A friend made tops out of two hollow core doors. We lightly sealed them with water-based polyurethane and painted the edges white. Good enough!

Sally Schneider

Down the line, I’ll either paint the top gloss white, or a color, or spring for the Corian.

The fifteen-foot desk is a joy. I can keep a lot of projects going at once and store a huge amount in the cabinets. And check out this trick for disappearing the ugly power cords in the back of the chair well.

Sally Schneider

When I’m working full-tilt on Improvised Life, I use a lot of mental bandwidth and physical space, including two other tables in the room. The workspace is always evolving…

Sally Schneider

Best of all: at the end of the day, the office disappears…


via Workspace: A Cheap Stylish File Cabinet Strategy – Improvised Life


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