Flat File Storage: Ikea Hack

Posted on June 23rd, 2013 in Decorating

I’ve wanted flat file storage for so long. When you hoard paper like I do, and you’ve got large pieces of art paper, you want a place to put them. I looked into buying flat file cabinets like the ones that architects use for blueprints, and they are super expensive. Plus, they’re heavy and humongous. I then looked at cabinets for construction and poster paper that are used for schools, and they were also expensive. They make large stackable trays for paper, and I thought I could do that, until I found out each tray was around $100. Not able to find an inexpensive or used solution on Craigslist or eBay, I decided to make my own flat file storage with the help of some Ikea parts. I figured out I could buy table tops – the most lightweight and cheapest ones Ikea makes – and make a flat file shelving system out of it.

The table tops I bought were the Linnmon. They are about 24″ x 40″, which is a great size for papers up to 24″ x 36″. And the white tabletops are only $5.99 each. I got six of them.

Then I attached Ikea Capita legs to them. These legs are usually used for bathroom cabinets. The 4″ legs are $10 for 4. I needed six sets, one for each table top. For the bottom table (the one that would be the base), I actually used the 8″ legs, which are $14 for a set of 4, because I liked the look of it being higher. I also bought an extra set of them so I could attach 6 legs to the bottom, so there would be extra support.


After putting the Capita legs on each table top, I put some Liquid Nails on the bottom of each leg and stacked the tables on top of each other. Just a dab of Liquid Nails was enough.

flat_file2It was easy as that, and a lot cheaper than buying a traditional flat file cabinet. I also love that it’s at a comfortable height so I can work at this table standing up. Here’s the finished product. That thumping you hear is the sound of me giving myself a pat on the back. flat_file_storage1



  1. Tiffany Johnson says:

    This is incredible! You never cease to amaze me!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Tiffany! I looked everywhere for a cheap solution, so I was so excited when this worked out.

      • These look great and the light weight quality is ideal for any artroom providing bench space on top.

        I sourced second hand map cupboards from second furniture stores and picked up two cupboards for a couple of hundred dollars each. Six drawers in each and large enough to handle A1+ sheets. When you need to store good quality paper a closed cupboard is more secure and keeps the paper dry and clean.

        They are a bit on the weighty side but ideal for senior secondary stock or studio storage

  2. Ada (new york) says:

    No cutting involved … is just MY KIND of creation! Great idea, great built.

  3. Webster says:

    I cannot wait to try this idea! We just moved and I finally get to pull all my art supplies out of the closet and into my own studio (still in design phase). And no more of my husband complaining “They are everywhere and WHAT are you going to do with this foam?” I should be fair in admitting I often used mixed media (whatever I could find) in my earlier life. I just found a 40×60 antique library desk c.1939 as a work space as well. And now I have a new fun person to follow. Thank you so much for posting this clever idea. (And I LOVE Xanadu…skating, Olivia AND Gene, crazy colors and Greek mythology…need I say more?)

    • admin says:

      Oh, I’m jealous of that antique library desk. How cool is that. Thanks for your note, my Xanadu muse.

  4. Pam P says:

    Oh, my!!! You are FREAKIN’ BRILLIANT!!… I will be checking out all of your past posts and ideas! (I ended up here, after finding the decoupaged chairs on a craft site… Glad I did!)

  5. alex says:

    just did this and i love it!!! great idea and witty article : )

  6. Ann D. says:

    Brilliant idea; thank you so much for sharing. :0)

  7. GuinR says:

    Even I should be able to do this. I can definitely use this in my crafting area.

  8. Danielle says:


  9. Amanda says:

    You are every artist’s hero! Thank you!

  10. Jodi says:

    Yes! I’ve been searching for an alternative to buying an expensive flat file 🙂 Did you use Liquid Nails for both sides of the legs, or did you actually screw the legs in then just glue the bottoms to the next level?

  11. Joanne Grant says:

    Absolutely Brilliant!!!
    I am an artist, who probably like most artists have way too much stuff!! Paper included!! Somehow, not sure how I got here, (Mrs. Karma must be smiling on me or something) I found this post. Yeahhhh!! Lucky me!
    I could not make this fast enough. Headed to Ikea for the supplies and put it all together. So easy. I didn’t glue them together though, for me anyway, I wanted to be able to easily rearrange them, and they are really stable just stacking them.
    I put everything in the file, and realized how much I loved this in my studio, so I headed to Ikea and got more supplies to make another one!!
    I hope you don’t mind, I shared my results on my blog, and linked back to your post for the directions on how it is done.
    Thanks for sharing your brilliance!

    • admin says:

      Joanne, you made my day! Wow, they look so good in your studio. Thank you for telling me about making them. And you’re right, they’re stable just being stacked, too. Thanks a bunch!

  12. David J. says:

    Thanks SO much for sharing this information. I too need a storage solution and don’t have 700, 800 or 1500 bucks to spend on a flat file drawer system!

    Thanks for making a difference…

    David J.

    • admin says:

      David, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a note. I’m glad you found this idea useful too. Couldn’t believe how expensive flat files were. Happy to help the fellow artists of the world! Jonathan

  13. Gaby says:

    Hi!!! what a great idea!!! I need to use some of the Linnmon tables for a exterior project, would you think they will be fine in an exterior ambient? Since I live in another country I need to purchase trough the internet and I need someaone to tell me if this tables can resist rain, etc if they are outside, what do you think?… Thanks you!! Really love your blog!

    • admin says:

      I don’t think the Linnmon tables will hold up outside. However, Ikea does have solid wood tabletops that would handle rain if sealed properly. Or perhaps you could buy slabs of wood from a local lumber yard or hardware store and just use the Ikea legs. Thanks for writing!

  14. ellen says:

    Finally was near an IKEA to purchase the components… putting it together now. I’ve tried everything to store our flat items… this is a great solution. And do we have paper….art teacher for 32 years, mom to an architect and graphic designer. thanks!

  15. Megan says:

    I am amazed at this solution! I am a printmaking student at my university, so I use the flatfiles there to store my work. Problem is, Im graduating in less than a month- and have been trying to find an affordable solution for my home studio! This is perfect for a 21 year-old’s budget! I can’t thank you enough for sharing this solution!

    • admin says:

      I’m glad you can use this idea! I know this really helped me out. IKEA also has a few different sizes of the table tops to suit your needs. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  16. femmenoir says:

    Flat file storage is so expensive, and I’ve been looking for affordable alternatives. This is one of the best I’ve seen.

  17. Louis Sanchez says:

    I am thinking that using a 78″ linnom table and 4 or 5 of them stacked might just make a really cool entertainment center to house all of my dvd players, wii, receivers, etc… could go right under my painted on wall 120″ screen.

  18. Carm Fogt says:

    Thanks so much for this idea. My husband and I built our version of this yesterday and I just love it! We used 6 inch legs for the two lowest shelves and then built a table to cover the entire unit. I’d put a picture here if I could. If you’d like to see the way we did it I’m on Facebook.
    Carm Fogt.
    Just troll through my photos or posts from yesterday (4/15/14)

    • admin says:

      I love your version of it. Such a great idea to build a table to cover the entire unit. Isn’t it fun to use? Thank you so much for letting me know about this! Best wishes, Jonathan

  19. Ruth says:

    This IKEA hack is exactly what I want. Please could you tell me where I can get it one in England.

    Thanks Ruth Davies

  20. Sherry Telle says:

    This is a wonderful solution to my problem! I am very excited to try this!

  21. Sanya says:

    Had to pay a bit of a premium for the supplies since I’m in Canada, but I am now the happy owner of my own ikea diy flat file– thanks Jonathan!

  22. Teri says:

    I am in love with this masterpiece!!! I’m an architecture student and I need a place for all my supplies, construction documents and school projects. I can’t wait to make one for my office

  23. Megan says:

    I think you’ve found a great project for designers and architects! quick questions…since the pre-drilled holes on the table top are for a different leg and therfore don’t line up with the new holes, did you drill holes for the capita leg? If so, what size drill bit did you use?

    • admin says:

      Yes, I drilled new holes, but I don’t remember what size drill bit I used. I think I just eyeballed the screw and picked a drill bit that was slightly smaller. Thanks!

  24. Anna says:

    I’m teary eyed in my heart! I’m a poor art school teacher and this is JUST what I needed!!! You’ve brought amazing joy to my life today! Thanks for sharing!

  25. A says:

    Genius hack!

  26. Karla says:

    Wonderful hack! A quick question- about how tall is this contraption? Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi Karla. It’s about 40″ high. Taller than a regular table, so it’s a good height for a work surface. I put my cutting mat on the top. But you can make it as tall or short as you want, since you can stack as many tabletops and legs as you need. Thanks!

  27. Nancy Akerly says:

    what a great idea! I have mine half put together, but I am pleased with the way it is turning out I had to stop to thank you! My papers are going to have a home at last, other than numerous cardboard sleeves. Thanks so much for your great instructions and this marvelous idea!

    • admin says:

      Hi Nancy, I’m so glad you are making one of these flat file storage racks. Hope you love it. I need another one already! Thanks for writing!

  28. Jennifet says:

    Fantastic idea! Thank you so much!

  29. Months of frustrating searches for a flat file… OVER! I want to kiss you over the inter webs! Thank you thank you thank you!

    • admin says:

      You’re welcome! I know, I searched forever for a flat file I could afford. They are so expensive! This did the trick. Thanks for writing. Kisses to you too.

  30. Amanda - San Jose, CA says:


    I can’t thank you enough for this amazing idea!! I know I’m finding it years late, but better late than never. (And it was posted on my birthday – this was meant to make it my way!) Your exact frustrations were my own as well, and I can’t wait to assemble this this weekend. The price of the table tops went up (still incredibly affordable) and they no longer have the 8″ legs, but I think I’m going to do something slightly different for the bottom legs anyway – legs with casters, perhaps, or maybe hairpin, and I already have a beautiful rolling storage crate for underneath. I’m also thinking I might cut one of the table tops in half for the top to have a handy little 1/2 shelf for my most-used items. So many ideas to play around with here!

    Again, thank you so much!!

    • admin says:

      Hi Amanda! So glad you found this article. It sounds like you’re going to do a really great version of this storage piece. I love the idea of a rolling storage crate underneath. I think I’ll try that! Good luck, and let me know how it goes! Thanks for your note!

  31. Michele Castiglioni says:

    This Is Amazing!! I need to make this for my classroom posters!!!

  32. Jessica says:

    This is incredible! I am an elementary art teacher who is short on storage…I am making some this summer for sure! You are brilliant! Thank you for sharing!

  33. Felicia says:

    This is just the cutest ever. I like it. great place to put printer or die cutter on top and store the paper. Wow!!

  34. Anna says:

    This was beyond brilliant and I must say one of the best things I’ve seen on Pinterest !!! I went to Ikea and was extremely fortunate to find 7 large table tops in the clearance section for $4.90 each! The legs were more expensive at 12.90 for a set of 4. My drawing paper is quite large and this worked perfectly! I must thank you for this one!!!!

  35. Ohmercy says:

    Just BRILLIANT!!!
    This is a great idea. I’m looking for flat files too- I’ve been looking on Craigslist but still expensive. I need them for more attractive then the plastic drawer towers I have for bead storage. I wonder what kind of slide out “drawers I could come up with- hacking your hack!!!

  36. I’m a pen and ink artist and my original drawings, prints made from my drawings, supplies for making prints, padded mailers for shipping…. Maybe you can see where this is going. It was out of control. In about 2 1/2 hours yesterday, I assembled your design. It’s awesome. Thank you so much! For the first time in years, I feel organized and ready for the holidays.

  37. Donna Ruff says:

    As an artist who works with paper, I can’t thank you enough for this. I sold the flat files I had had for 30 years when I moved for the umpteenth time and was at a loss. This was so smart and so easy. I posted it on Facebook too.

  38. Margaret says:

    This is ingenious. I have been trying to organize my studio for a long time but the cost of paper storage units are astronomical. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  39. Linda says:

    Just made this, so easy and brilliant! Thank you!

  40. Denise Sayers says:

    Great idea. An Ikea opens within 40 miles of me this summer, so I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with all their things.

  41. Tania says:

    This is genius!!!! What a great solutionntonan oh so expensive problem. I bet you were so excited after this lightbulb event!

  42. Sissi says:

    Absolutely fantastic! I think I’m going to use your system and build myself a platform bed by piecing a bunch of these table tops together horizontally and covering it with a bedskirt, so thank you for the inspiration! Out of curiosity, did the Capita legs match the pre-drilled holes on the Linnmon or did you have to drill new holes yourself?

    • admin says:

      The Capita legs did not match the pre-drilled holes so I made my own. Also keep in mind that the table tops are hollow (or filled with that cardboard stuff) so it doesn’t take very much weight and I’m not sure how sturdy it would be to support a mattress and a person.

  43. Eva says:

    Thank you for a wonderful and inspirational idea for what all of us have been looking for! You made my day by finding you!!! Can’t wait to return home and start building it!!! Thanks again!

  44. Laura says:

    Such a fantastic idea! Can’t wait to try it. I just need to Source some cheaper materials because I’m in Australia & the table tops are $20 each here & the legs also $20 a pack 😔 I love this though! Thanks for sharing 😊

  45. Amy says:

    We just did this today for my studio. It took over half a day because of the drive to Ikea, but so worth it! I’ve been trying to figure out how to work the flat storage issue and you were the best option. Thank you!

  46. Jeremiah says:

    thank you much.
    this is gonna be so sweet.

  47. elizabeth says:

    this is really impressive!! well done.

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