Thread Number: 78690  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Metal (Geneva) cabinets—pros & cons (Please help)
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Post# 1026871   3/12/2019 at 09:11 (268 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        

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Hi Y’all,

I love the look of vintage steel kitchen cabinets but I’ve never lived in a house that has them. I’m looking at a set in Memphis (I’ve posted about it on another thread), but I’ve never lived in a house with them. What are your thoughts, opinions and experiences?


Post# 1026874 , Reply# 1   3/12/2019 at 10:06 (268 days old) by oliger (Indianapolis, Indiana)        

My parents used to live in a house with metal cabinets before they became popular among retro-renovators. To be 100% honest, my mom hated them. I don't remember the exact reasons, but I know that one of them was rust, and their hollow sound. Also, wooden cabinets you can change to an extent. Metal cabinets if you ever want a bigger refrigerator or stove, you are stuck with what you have. Also, you should see them in person before you make a decision.If they have been painted a million times over, or are rusty as all get out, I wouldn't get them. For the price that they are I would be a huge stickler. Look and see if hinges are worn out too. But most importantly- Talk them down! They are waaay out there on price. The best way to do this is to make a slightly low offer in person and show them the money.

Post# 1026876 , Reply# 2   3/12/2019 at 10:24 (268 days old) by ea56 (Cotati, Calif.)        

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If you really want metal kitchen cabinets, and you can’t get this seller to come down on the price, walk away and keep looking. Eventually, just what you want will turn up at a price that is reasonable.

I had metal cabinets in a few rentals I lived in during the 70’s. At that time everyone just looked at them as old fashioned. I don’t recall any problems with them, but then again I never lived in any of these rentals for more than 6 mo. and this was over 40 years ago.


Post# 1026878 , Reply# 3   3/12/2019 at 10:53 (268 days old) by oliger (Indianapolis, Indiana)        

Or, if this seller has them in storage you can leave your information with them, walk away for a few months and come back. At this price they will still be there, and by that time they will probably realize the potential space that they are missing from their garage. They may come down price then. How long have they been for sale?

Post# 1026879 , Reply# 4   3/12/2019 at 11:08 (268 days old) by dermacie (my forever home (Glenshaw, PA))        

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I owned a house with metal kitchen cabinets. I was always afraid I would dent them, but I never did. I never remodeled and sold the house and left the metal for the next owner. The kitchen I would say was from the 1940s or 1950s. I really liked my grandmother's 1950s birch wooden kitchen cabinets much better.

Post# 1026880 , Reply# 5   3/12/2019 at 11:12 (268 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
All Pros!

No cons,,,They have more room in them, they never warp or stick, they are easy to clean, can be waxed with car wax and they just look wonderful..Its my lifes mission to have a steel kitchen!

Post# 1026881 , Reply# 6   3/12/2019 at 11:15 (268 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

As was mentioned above, their main problem is inflexibility. They were usually beautifully engineered for a specific kitchen and fitting them to another kitchen can be problematic. I knew someone who  moved into a nice older house in NW DC. The kitchen was redone in about 1954. The cabinets were metal. At first they were itching to remove this funny little piece of cabinet and counter that stuck out just to the side of the refrigerator, but they then discovered that it was designed as the landing place for items either being put into or taken out of the box and loved it. The trouble was that they had no communication with the original designer of the cabinet installation so they did not know why that feature was there until they lived with it. There are a lot of quirky things you will find in a set of cabinets that have been "uninstalled" so you need to do very careful measuring of your kitchen and the cabinets to see how they will fit and because they are metal and not wood, there is no sanding or sawing to fit. As for the appearance, the doors can be refaced by places who do that professionally.


There is a reason why most metal kitchen cabinets wind up in basements and shops instead of  other people's kitchens. Reusing them is hard work and expensive if you get a professional involved.

Post# 1026888 , Reply# 7   3/12/2019 at 14:06 (268 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
professionals and fit etc.

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They haven't been on the market long, and I can afford to be patient... Give the owners time to 1) realize that, as amazing as they are, it's a niche market, and they aren't going to get nearly as much as they hope for them. (They listed them for $10,000 the first time and were surprised they didn't get any offers) and 2) They are taking up a ton of room in the garage.

At the moment, my floor plan is a bit flexible, so making them fit is a bit easier. I have the kitchen plus a breakfast room that I can open up if I decide to.

I'm betting they had an excellent carpenter do the update on the space for the wall ovens because I cannot imagine that the new ovens are the same size as the originals.

I have an excellent carpenter/craftsman here in Tuscaloosa. He's going to go down and work some long weekends to do the stuff I want done by someone I really trust. He likes me and gives me great deals when I pay cash. He came down to see the house a couple of weeks ago. It's still down to the studs so the remarkable craftsmanship and over building is visible. My grandfather and his side of the family were timber people. The wood construction is gorgeous. Anyway, I'd have him do any cabinet modifications and installations that required skilled labor.

I'll attach the picture of the cabinet adjustments that he made to the cabinets in our current house for the beautiful P7s Kelly found for me on Craigslist in Knoxville 7 years ago. The doors on the vertical storage are incomplete because I haven't finished the part I'm planning to do myself. I'll also attach pictures of the Geneva cabinets in case y'all haven't taken a look at my other thread. I want a 1950s GE combo and 40" range in the big house, but the stainless cooktop and hood would go well in my great-grandmother's house which is also on the list for restoration.

Thanks for all of the input,

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Post# 1026889 , Reply# 8   3/12/2019 at 14:47 (268 days old) by Blackstone (Springfield, Massachusetts)        

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My parents had Geneva metal cabinets in our kitchen for over 50 years. They were always sturdy and smooth to operate. On top of the cabinet was a stainless double-bowl sink with 2 side strainers. The only defect would be if the white paint got scratched off. Easily fixed with spray paint. Can't do that with plywood and particle board.

When I sold the building, I left the sink/counters, but I sold the individual wall cabinets. Someone on Craigslist specifically wanted metal cabinets for his place in Vermont, to keep out rodents. So, the metal cabinets will still always have resale value.

Let me know if you want a 1957 calendar from our store: dates are good for this year.

Post# 1026895 , Reply# 9   3/12/2019 at 17:05 (268 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        

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Cabinets that keep out rodents could make the sale for me! The house is unconditioned and mostly unoccupied, so the persistent rodents are definitely an issue. I wash the dishes as I use them and again when I return.

I almost died from disgust when I pulled the sheetrock down from the sunporch and 80 years of vermin excrement came pouring out.


Post# 1026901 , Reply# 10   3/12/2019 at 18:13 (268 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        
Steel Cabinets

The house I own had Lyon steel cabinets from the time of construction in 1952, until I tore out the kitchen for the major (and ongoing) renovation of the house.

Hans is correct that they have more storage space - about 1.5" more than the same width wood unit. Denting is not usually a concern in a normal kitchen environment, and if it happens, can be repaired the same as an automobile panel. Paint around the pulls can wear off eventually, but not any problem to fix if attended to before any rust occurs.

One of the major advantages to steel kitchen cabinets is that they are non-combustible. I know this from experience! In June of 1973, I decided I wanted French fries for lunch. I put the pan on, heated the oil, and put the potatoes in. Some of them got done before the others, so I removed them and left the others in to cook some more. I saw my neighbor girl Carol sitting on her porch, and I needed to ask her something, so went out onto our walk to talk. She couldn't hear me good, so I walked over to her, and got distracted. I had my back to our house, so didn't see anything, but a couple minutes later Carol said she saw smoke coming out the kitchen window. I said "my French fries!". I ran back over, saw the pan of grease was on fire, so got a larger pan and set over it, extinguishing the flames. The upper walls, ceiling, and wall cabinets were black with soot, and there were black streaks above the doors going into other rooms. The plastic wall tile behind the range had curled up, and some fell off. However, neither the cabinet above the fire, nor its contents, caught fire. If this had been a kitchen with wood cabinets, they would have caught fire, and there would have been major damage by the time the fire dept. could have arrived to put it out. It was bad enough as it was, with having to have six rooms cleaned and five of them painted. The cabinets were all professionally refinished at this time, and stainless steel installed behind the range.

Another advantage is they don't retain odors. If a mouse or other animal does its business in one, it can easily be scrubbed, due to a non-porous surface. Wood can be difficult to deodorize if anything soaks in.

As I've not done the new kitchen yet, I'm still deciding if I want wood, or to get new steel units. Most steel cabinets today are sold as "lab" cabinets, and not sold at kitchen dealers.

Post# 1026904 , Reply# 11   3/12/2019 at 19:06 (268 days old) by spacepig (Floridas Emerald Coast)        

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I personally love my metal cabinets although they have been a PITA to restore. I had to buy 4 different sets to get the sizes I needed in order to make them work in our kitchen. Two sets are GE cabinets, 1 set is newer Geneva (with the handle shown in the auction listing), and 1 is older Geneva (with the partial bakelite handle). I decided to go with white for the cabinets since my appliances are turquoise, and I wanted them to pop, vs. blend in. So, I've been painting all of the doors white, but keeping their original inside colors. The cabinets in the auction appear to be in good shape, and if you like the color, you probably wouldn't need to do much to them, as long as they were taken out with care.

As for the auction, if they were a little cheaper, I would probably buy them and store them somewhere, although I don't know where--lol. Of the cabinet types I have, the Genevas are my favorite, but the GE cabinets are more sturdy and heavy. If you couldn't use them all, I'd say you and I can make a road trip and split them between us!

Post# 1027065 , Reply# 12   3/14/2019 at 15:17 (266 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
Road trip!

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I’m open to a road trip—with someone who isn’t my husband because he would just be a damper on the whole adventure. Sharing will depend on how many I decide that I “need.” I’m considering doing two kitchens with them, but both kitchens are small, judging from the pictures, there will be extras!


Post# 1027579 , Reply# 13   3/21/2019 at 05:54 (259 days old) by spacepig (Floridas Emerald Coast)        

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I am thankful that my husband is supportive and mostly shares my madness about vintage things. However, he is not overly thrilled with having to travel and haul things around, unless it's fairly local. He is a good sport about it and is always happy that it we did afterwards. Since we already have enough metal cabinets (if there is such a thing) to do our kitchen in its current state, it would be hard to convince him to participate in another road trip for cabinets that we don't need (his opinion, not mine--lol!).

Post# 1032700 , Reply# 14   5/15/2019 at 11:45 (204 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
Sold! to me...

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Ok, guys, I did it! I just bought the Geneva cabinets for 3,600 including the fantastic stainless Thermador cooktop, hood and Corningware counter saver.

Now for the hard part--transporting, storing and installing.

One things for sure. I'm going to totally board up the house where I will be storing them and put a big lock on the door.


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Post# 1032721 , Reply# 15   5/15/2019 at 17:45 (204 days old) by appnut (TX)        

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Sarah, very happy for you!!!!

Post# 1032747 , Reply# 16   5/15/2019 at 22:09 (204 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        

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I'll be happier once I get them from Memphis to the country!

Post# 1032756 , Reply# 17   5/16/2019 at 02:17 (203 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Glad you got them!  If I recall you were going to split them up among 2 or more kitchens, did you work out a layout for your kitchen yet?

Post# 1032768 , Reply# 18   5/16/2019 at 07:06 (203 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
When you get them installed

You will love them!

Post# 1032773 , Reply# 19   5/16/2019 at 09:00 (203 days old) by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

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Congratulations Sarah!  Be sure to keep us updated with progress photos once the work begins.



Post# 1032776 , Reply# 20   5/16/2019 at 09:21 (203 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
Will definitely keep y'all posted!

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Thanks for the encouraging comments all.

Yes, I'm planning to use them in two kitchens. We're going to begin work on the first kitchen in a few weeks. Even though it's in the "big house," it's smaller than the one in the little ranch house.

Essentially, I plan to work on the layout of the big house kitchen--including whether or not to tear out a wall between the breakfast room to make the kitchen bigger, use the breakfast room as a butler's pantry or something completely different. I'll store the left overs until we start on the little house.

I've been planning on a big, white vintage double oven range for the big house. That's what my grandmother had. Now, I'm seriously considering whether to stick with that plan or use the stainless cooktop that's coming with the cabinets and get some wall ovens.


Post# 1032777 , Reply# 21   5/16/2019 at 09:27 (203 days old) by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        

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From what I see here, metal does have a leading advantage over wooden, if you keep those cabinets full, no startling echoes to worry about...

As for any further remodeling, just sell those, and shop again for new...

— Dave

Post# 1033814 , Reply# 22   5/28/2019 at 15:00 (191 days old) by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
I bought them

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Hi Y'all,

I just realized I forgot post to this thread and tell y'all that I bought them for $3,600. I'm going to Memphis to pick them up Sunday. Anyone in the area (just east of the loop) up for helping my son and me load?


Post# 1035206 , Reply# 23   6/12/2019 at 23:02 by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
Coming together

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What do y’all think about this potential combination? I’ve been thinking white 40” range, combo fridge and double bowl & drain boards white enamel sink...

Then I saw this Hotpoint fridge which I think would look great with the stainless cooktop and hood I got with the cabinets. And wouldn’t these Frigidaire ovens round out the set nicely? So, then what about the sink? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a vintage stainless sink with drain boards...


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Post# 1035208 , Reply# 24   6/12/2019 at 23:30 by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
And then there’s this

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Stamped from China would not be my first choice, but I am surprised that “whiz-wham” here it is in my first search. It’s exactly what I would want. Does anyone know if a vintage model of this sink this sink was actually made.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO sarahperdue's LINK on eBay

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Post# 1035215 , Reply# 25   6/13/2019 at 06:12 by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

No doubt that type of sink was made; very simple stainless stamping, with drainboards on either side. Just be careful of gauge and bowl may want to do some soundproofing (automotive undercoat/mastic) before installation if it's not already soundproofed. In looking further at your link, the single depression for a faucet might or might not work (it will be somewhat limiting, I'd think, unless you're doing something out of the wall).

Post# 1035314 , Reply# 26   6/14/2019 at 01:46 by sarahperdue (Alabama)        

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Yep, I don't think I'll buy this one. To say that it looks flimsy and cheap is an understatement. So, I think it's either a double bowl stainless and give up my dream of double drainboards or a white double bowl, double drainboard...

Post# 1035402 , Reply# 27   6/15/2019 at 11:00 by mixrman (Eutaw, Alabama)        

I have two double-bowl enamel sinks with double drainboards - you are welcome to one... BUT … both need to be refinished and I have no idea where to have that done.

Post# 1035414 , Reply# 28   6/15/2019 at 16:35 by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

If you're wanting a sink with drainboards, you don't have to put up with any junk imported from China. Both Just Mfg. and Elkay make drainboard insert type sinks, in addition to full one-piece tops - made in USA. Link to Just Mfg.


Post# 1035416 , Reply# 29   6/15/2019 at 17:04 by sarahperdue (Alabama)        
Thanks and thanks

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Thanks for the offer John. I wouldn’t want to use a refinished sink as my daily driver; the finishes just aren’t that tough. That said, I did have our main bathtub refinished and have the contact info on the person who did it somewhere. It’s definitely a trade off—looks for durability.

CircleW, thanks for the info. I had decided that I would not do the Chinese sink for any reason even if that limited my choices to white enamel with drain boards or stainless without drain boards.


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