5 Expert Tips To Choose A Filing Cabinet

If you hate clutter and somehow find yourself spending more time looking for the documents you're after rather than doing the actual work, you need a filing cabinet! These functional bad boys are perfect to streamline your document management and optimize your workflow, whether you're based in a traditional office or at home. If you want, they can even feel cohesive with the rest of your existing furniture.

Not sure how to choose a filing cabinet that can fit all your papers without taking over the room? It's a good thing we've cataloged these expert tips for you!

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1. What are the different types of filing cabinets?

Filing cabinets come in a large variety of designs and materials, but understanding whether you need a vertical or lateral model will immediately help you weed out half of your options:

  • Vertical cabinets are the most popular choice for home offices since they can be rather similar to more traditional pieces of furniture, but they're a great space-optimizing option for smaller offices, too;

    Because they rely on front-to-back filing systems, vertical cabinets can be quite deep, so make sure you measure them properly to avoid ending up with a model that looks a bit out of place next to your existing furniture;
Brown 3 Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet
3-Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet
White 4-Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet
2-Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet in Black
Black Letter Size Vertical Filing Cabinet
Wood and Metal 1-Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet
  • Lateral cabinets are designed for high-volume offices, especially those with wide floor surfaces; they usually feature two long drawers, but you can also find models with more if you need some extra filing space;  

    Lateral cabinets can hold a larger amount of paperwork than most vertical models, and they're particularly useful if you're planning on following a letter-by-letter filing system.
Small White 3-Drawer Lateral Filing Cabinet
Classic Brown 2-Drawer Lateral Filing Cabinet
Vertical and Lateral Filing Cabinet in White
Wooden Lateral Filing Cabinet
Light Wood Lateral Filing Cabinet
White and Brown Wood 1-Drawer Lateral Filing Cabinet

2. How many drawers should a filing cabinet have?

The number of drawers depends on two factors:

  • How much paperwork do you need to store? Run a little inventory, but make sure you leave some extra room as you're likely to build up more paperwork over the years; depending on what you're planning on storing in it, it might even be handy to have a separate drawer per type of documents;

  • What's the layout of your room? If it's rather wide and you could do with some additional storage space on top, a long two-drawer lateral cabinet will do; however, if you haven't got a lot of floor space, it's better to go for taller cabinets in thinner designs to avoid ending up with a crowded feel.

3. What are filing cabinets made of?

Filing cabinets are available in three main materials. Given the importance of what they're going to store, you should consider practical matters such as durability as well as personal preference and the style of your office or room:

  • Durable, sturdy and professional, metal is the best choice for office cabinets; however, usually monochrome and available in a variety of hues, metal cabinets can easily match the accent color in your room's palette, too;

  • Wood is another durable choice that, thanks to its traditional look, is better suited for home offices;

    Available in different styles and finishes, these versatile filing cabinets will allow you to complement the style of your existing furniture or, if you prefer, be the main eye-catching accent piece in the room;

    However, keep in mind that, in the rare but tragic event of a fire (especially in an office), your documents will undoubtedly be lost unless you specifically look for a fireproof model;

  • While it's not as durable and reliable as the other materials, plastic is a handy budget-friendly option, also available in lots of colors and designs and better suited for modern settings.

Brown Wood Long Filing Cabinet
Grey Wood Lateral Filing Cabinet
Small Metal Steel Vertical Filing Cabinet in White
Plastic Filing Cabinet in Brown
Metal Mobile Vertical Filing Cabinet
Grey Wood Vertical Filing Cabinet

4. What features should I look for when choosing a filing cabinet?

  • Mobile: mostly vertical, these compact options can often fit underneath your work desk; they're especially handy if you sometimes need to have all of your paperwork close to your workstation but the layout of your office doesn't really let you keep a more permanent option nearby;

  • Anti-tip: allowing you to open only one drawer at a time, this feature can help you ensure your and your colleagues' safety, and is particularly helpful in large lateral filing cabinets;

  • Open shelves: an open shelf (or two!) above the drawers lets you add some decorative elements to your home office, allowing the filing cabinet to blend in even more naturally with the rest of your furniture;

  • Lockable: if you're going to store particularly sensitive documents (especially in a traditional office), you might want to look for a model that lets you lock the drawers with a key;

  • Fireproof: better safe than sorry, right? If losing your documents would be a total catastrophe, choose a model (usually made of metal) that can keep the flames away.

Fireproof Metal 3-Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinet
Lockable Mobile Vertical Filing Cabinet
Lockable Wooden Lateral Filing Cabinet
Medium Mobile Vertical Filing Cabinet in Brown
Slim 2-Drawer File Cabinet in Blush
Metal and Wood Modern Filing Cabinet

5. What style filing cabinet is right for me?

Just because its focus is on functionality, it doesn't mean that your filing cabinet should look painfully out of place!

If you want to ensure some consistency, whether in your office or at home:

  • Identify the room's color palette and stick to one of those shades;

  • Is there a dominant material, especially next to where you're planning on placing your new filing cabinet? Look for a model that maintains it.

If this filing cabinet is going to be in your home office, you might also want to complement its décor style:

  • Metal, plastic or painted wooden models with sleek shapes work well in modern rooms;

  • For a mid-Century modern feel, try and look for dark wooden cabinets with long drawers and outward-pointing legs;

  • Vertical monochrome models will help you maintain a clutter-free look in your minimalist room;

  • Minimalist filing cabinets in natural wood or in a color from a nature-inspired palette (such as white, yellow, gray, dark blue or forest-green) can help you add a Scandinavian spin;

  • Complementing more decorative styles such as shabby chic and French country can be a bit of a challenge given the practical function of filing cabinets; however, discolored white wood and harmonious shapes with lots of elegant details will do a great job;

  • For raw industrial styles, focus on bare metal cabinets or models that involve a combination of metal and wood: for example, wooden drawers in a dark metal frame or with metal handles;

  • Would you like to spruce up your home office with some eclectic bohemian vibes? Choose a filing cabinet that includes colorful wooden features and conveys a unique handmade feel.

Lily is a modern designer with great appreciation for sleek architecture, a love for art in its many forms, and a passion for sharing her experience with people. If you’re looking for advice on how to modernize your old-fashioned place or make your new restaurant a visual blast, she’s definitely the one to ask.