Should I refurb these retro cabinets or buy new?

Melissa West
May 15, 2016

So, I'm buying this house from my fiance's best man soon. The kitchen is pretty retro, with these metal Ampco cabinets and a porcelain sink and I'm finding myself a little nervous about it!

Ideally I'd like to replace them with wood cabinets (and DEFINITELY new countertops), since I really want a dishwasher. However, finances are the first priority. I don't necessarily HATE them, I kind of like the storage above the sink. But I really do want a dishwasher.

(Note: The stove in the photos will be moving to the other wall of the kitchen, and the refrigerator will go where the stove presently is.)

I'd love ideas!

Comments (19)

  • practigal

    I read recently that metal kitchen caninets were making a comeback. Maybe you should price the cost to refinish vs buy new and let that guide you. You should be able to sell these cabinets relatively easily if you decide you don't want them.

    Melissa West thanked practigal
  • Melissa West

    Do you have any suggestions for where to go to offer them for sale? I feel like Craigslist wouldn't draw the right demographic.

  • herbflavor

    looks like a craigs list opportunity..... I would remove it all and probably a bit later when you have some capital to really get the kitchen going with some nice options....and look closer at a plan. If the space allows cooking and some storage I'd use it for 6 mo minimum while you adjust to the new home...things crop up. And I wouldn't put money into gussying up the kitchen ....just leave it and use it...... put some pretty ceramics on the open shelf. Enjoy your new home.

    Melissa West thanked herbflavor
  • VedaBeeps SoCal 9b/10a

    Wow! Love them! If you don't use them please sell them to someone who appreciates them- there are lots of us out there that search for full sets of vintage metal cabinets. You dont happen to be in Southern California, do you?

    Melissa West thanked VedaBeeps SoCal 9b/10a
  • Melissa West

    Sorry Veda, I'm on the other side of the country in Northeastern Ohio!

    I think they are pretty, but I definitely don't appreciate them the way some do. Unfortunately Retro Renovation's buy/sell forum has been closed so I don't know what to do. If I keep them I'm going to be changing them by painting, and maybe removing one or two to install a dishwasher.

  • daisychain01

    I would say keep them until you can afford the kitchen you really want. It is never a bad idea to wait and live with the room for awhile to determine how you will really use the space and since you don't hate the cabs, I'd work with what you have for the time being.

  • sasandfat

    Another possibility is to have them professionally spray painted. That might be more expensive than you want to go. I don't think they would look good with a hand brush paint job. You can also donate them to a Habitat Restore.

  • benjesbride_misses_sophie

    Is there room to the right of the sink for both a dishwasher and a fridge?

  • VedaBeeps SoCal 9b/10a

    You can offer them on ebay or etsy for local pick up only, let retrorenovation and nopatternrequired know, list on Craigslist, search the net for wanted posts, etc

  • ediblekitchen

    Maybe replace the lower cabinets, so you can configure the way you want, dishwasher, drawers, etc. and then spray paint the uppers. I am not usually a fan of upper cabinets, but I think those are really cool!

  • maggieq

    We bought a house with original 1957 metal cabinets. Previous owner had them spray painted, what a mess. Drawers and doors no longer closed all the way. Either love them as is or move on. Assume not much value in resale, other than scrap metal value. No problem living with them for a while til finances allow upgrade to what you really want.

  • VedaBeeps SoCal 9b/10a

    Maggieq, people looking for metal cabinets to restore their vintage houses will pay a few thousand dollars- especially for full sets in enough quantity to do a whole kitchen. The bigger the set and the better the condition the higher price. Unusual/ desirable pieces also raise the price as does good original hardware.

  • benjesbride_misses_sophie

    Can you just move this base cabinet and put the dishwasher here? You'll have to cobble together a countertop above it, but it should be a budget friendly option. Also, I think these cabinets look very cool. I don't know if olive is still on trend, but there was a bunch of olive happening recently and one of my favorite design bloggers featured it back HERE

    Melissa West thanked benjesbride_misses_sophie
  • writersblock (9b/10a)

    Yes, there's plenty of value in metal cabinets today, if they're in decent shape.

  • suzanne_sl

    I wouldn't let the desire for a dishwasher drive an immediate decision. Yes, dishwashers are great (I love my new Bosch!), but you can go without for a bit while you get settled. Handwashing for one or two isn't such a chore. We were without from August to December while our kitchen was being renovated and it was OK, even fine. Meanwhile, you can carefully plan the kitchen space for your needs, wants, and budget. Your soon-to-be kitchen looks like it might be a challenge. Let the design gurus here help you think about the best use of your space - you'll be much happier in the end if you take the time to thoroughly plan out this space before you move on it. What's a few dishes anyway?

    Melissa West thanked suzanne_sl
  • benjesbride_misses_sophie

    When we didn't have a dishwasher, a big help to me was just having one set of dishes per person. If each person has a different color or pattern it would be even better; no dirtying mutiple cups or plates, if yours is dirty wash it!

    Melissa West thanked benjesbride_misses_sophie
  • Melissa West

    Thank you everyone! I do like Benjesbride's idea, since the new range will be on the other wall that currently has no other cabinets or anything, and the room doesn't really feel deep enough to put in an island. That would give us some food prep area right by the range, and the extra upper could go there for pots and pans...

  • PRO

    What ever you do, don't spend too much money doing it unless you see yourself living here for decades. Live there a while and figure out your budget before you do anything.

    Melissa West thanked Anglophilia

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