Introduction: Vintage Cooler Cabinet

Picture of Vintage Cooler Cabinet

My wife and I found an old sewing machine cabinet at a flea market and decided to turn it into a cabinet to hold iced beverages on our patio.  Although the cabinet  was in bad shape cosmetically (much of the veneer had peeled off) , it was structurally sound.   Someone had already removed the sewing machine which was fine, since we didn't need it for our purpose.

Step 1: Preparing the Cabinet

Picture of Preparing the Cabinet

The first thing I did was to finish removing the veneer that was barely hanging on.  Using a scraper, I simply ran the scraper blade under the veneer and that which remained came off easily.  The veneer on the top and the lid was still tightly attached, so I re-glued a few loose edges to keep it from coming loose in the future (photo 1).

The next thing was to build a platform for the cooler to sit in.  I selected two boards from my scrap pile and screwed them into the bottom of the cabinet (photo 2).

Step 2: Making the Cooler Fit the Cabinet

Picture of Making the Cooler Fit the Cabinet

The cooler I used was an old metal ice chest from the '50's.  The outside was rusty, but still sound, and the inside was still in very good shape.  I was initially going to sand and repaint this old ice chest, but my wife preferred the rusty look, so that worked for me!

Using a jig saw, I enlarged the opening at the top of the cabinet (photo 2) so the cooler would fit. 

Next, I measured the height of the cooler and made a pair of risers out of scrap wood (photo 3) to lift the cooler high enough so the lid would open (photos 4 & 5).  When the cooler is not being used, the risers are removed and stored inside the cooler to allow for the lid of the cabinet to be lowered.  Photo 6 shows the cooler in its lowered position.

Step 3: Painting

Picture of Painting

I painted the cabinet with an outdoor paint.  This will be used on a covered patio where it will not be rained on.  But since it will be exposed to humidity, I painted both the outside and inside of the cabinet.  I also painted the risers, and put some rubber pads on the top of them to keep the cooler from scratching through the paint. 

I painted the inside of the folding lid (and the top of the main cabinet) a contrasting color, which is shown in the next step.

Step 4: Add Some Trim

Picture of Add Some Trim

I purchased a couple of pieces of decorative wood trim, and painted the trim and the original knobs with a contrasting color.  I used this same color on the inside of the lid and the top of the cabinet.

Step 5: Ready to Party!

Picture of Ready to Party!

The final step is to set the cooler inside the cabinet and have a party!


opalannie (author)2015-02-13

side note; the cabinet belonged to my husbands grandmother who enjoys a good drink and I think she will get a kick out of it's new life. She is that kind of Grandma.

opalannie (author)2015-02-13

Love this. I am in the process of doing the same thing. I had no idea what to use for a cooler, no plastic container fits right, duh an actual cooler. Thank you.

Two things have I seen elsewhere that may be of use to you for the fold out portion are l. use the door on the same side for extra stability provided that the hinges are strong enough or 2. Make a tray of the fold out portion that sits on the top of the other portion by removing the hinges and using door/drawer handles as tray handles plus you could add feet so you would not have to disassemble when not in use. 2nd the bottle opener.

Thanks again. Cheers!

tmcgowin (author)2014-10-28

You should definitely mount a bottle opener to the outside!

Scumm7 (author)2014-04-26

Very nice looking piece. If you could find a good looking way to add some folding legs, you could use the open lid as a small counter for beverage related things.

parisusa (author)2013-09-15

Love this for so many reasons! Vintage furniture fan, sewing chick, drinker. Just kidding! I like how the cooler can be risen up! Great feature!

pianolover10124353 (author)2013-07-19

omg! are you looking to sell it?

vincent7520 (author)2013-06-01

Good idea !
Didn't you paint the cooler for any particular reason ?…

knife141 (author)vincent75202013-06-01

I noted why in step 2. Thanks for your comment.

vincent7520 (author)knife1412013-06-02

Oh ! My bad.

Beergnome (author)2013-06-01

Awesome! do the front doors still work? and if so, is there enough room in there for some booze bottles?

knife141 (author)Beergnome2013-06-02

Yes, the front doors still work. Since the cooler takes up most of the cabinet space, however, there's not much room for storage. Of course, a larger sewing machine cabinet might offer storage room. Thanks for your comment.

Winged Fist (author)2013-05-31

What an awesome idea! I've seen quite a few of these sewing cabinets discarded on the streets of New York City over the years, and could never figure out how to re-purpose them. You've come up with a brilliant way of salvaging not just one but two bulky remnants from the last century from the landfill! Kudos! (And I hope this Instructable inspires thousands of others to do the same;-)

One suggestion: you might want to consider adding a vintage wall mount style bottle opener on one side, for your non-twist off or pop top beverages;-) ( I saw one on ebay for about 6 bucks).

knife141 (author)Winged Fist2013-05-31

Thanks! I like your suggestion. Guess I'll start looking for a bottle opener!

klixtopher (author)2013-05-31

Awesome. My search for an empty sewing cabinet just doubled. One for my wife's modern sewing machine, and now one for a patio cooler. Thanks for sharing!

gonagin (author)2013-05-31

Very cool, I,m going to make one myself.

AmyLuthien (author)2013-05-30

I have that exact same sewing cabinet! I think my grandmother would turn over in her grave if I gutted it and put a cooler in it though . . . but this is a great idea! Be handy near the BBQ too, with that extra "counter" space ;) Years ago my father made a prop stand for the flip top, because when it's open, the whole unit isn't very stable and it would be easy to break. He just took an aluminum rod he had, mounted it to a round wooden base with a smaller felt-covered round wooden top (round being optional, he was being creative.) When you open the top, just lower it onto the prop and everything is sturdy and stable. When the top is closed, the prop stand sits next to the cabinet unobtrusively.

knife141 (author)AmyLuthien2013-05-30

I would go ahead and convert grandmother's cabinet -- I believe it is far better to use something passed down than to have it sit in a garage/attic/basement and collect dust. After all, things that aren't used often tend to deteriorate faster than something in use. Thanks for the comment!

AmyLuthien (author)knife1412013-05-30

Well, no, that would be a bad idea in this case 1. it's in pristine condition so has value all on it's own and 2. I do use it as a sewing machine ;) But otherwise, I agree with you 100%, it's not worth saving things that are not useful :D

Zadrac (author)2013-05-30

Beatiful. Great way to have a unique piece. Best wishes

knife141 (author)Zadrac2013-05-30

Thanks for your comment!

DavidM45 (author)2013-05-30

Perfect Idea, brilliant disguise for the ugly cooler and you don't have to bend over either!

knife141 (author)DavidM452013-05-30

Thanks for your comment. At my age, not having to bend over is a high priority!

jmekway (author)2013-05-30

WOW! I have two of these in my basement awaiting re-use. I now know what my "host/hostess" gift will be next time my brother and his wife have a big family shindig on his deck. Thanks for the inspiration!

I might add a bent-rod as an angle brace (similar to the rod that holds up your car engine hood) to give the top a little more stability/strength when opened for serving/pouring drinks. I'll have to study how my (late) Dad did it on a 1950's TV cabinet he converted to a bar storage/service cabinet. Hmmm . . .

knife141 (author)jmekway2013-05-30

The cabinet I used had a heavy steel brace built in that pops out to support the top when it is opened. After closing the top, the brace folds back inside. It isn't heavy enough to support someone sitting on the top, but it is certainly heavy enough to support food and drink items. Thanks for your comment!

grapenut (author)2013-05-30

Way cool!!

Chakazuluu (author)2013-05-28

You probably could stuff some more insulation between the cooler and the cabinet and made a super cooler...

HollyMann (author)2013-05-23

Amazing idea - never would have thought of creating a cooler cabinet. I LOVE it!!! Perfect for the outdoors. You have excellent style/taste in what you did with the paint job and extras. It looks amazing - I love it!

knife141 (author)HollyMann2013-05-24

Thanks, Holly. By the way, I can't sew a stitch or cook to save my life, but I've enjoyed your instructables!

HollyMann (author)knife1412013-05-24

Thank you!!! I didn't have time to see all of yours yet, but the ones I did see are incredibly creative. I love them! I also collect things and have an old adding machine too!

jessyratfink (author)2013-05-23

What a great idea - love the colors too! :D

knife141 (author)jessyratfink2013-05-23

Thank you! The colors were my wife's idea. I more of a simple black, white, or brown person. Thanks again.

HollyMann (author)knife1412013-05-23

She has excellent taste also! :) Good job!

l8nite (author)2013-05-23

that looks AWESOME

SlickSqueegie (author)2013-05-23

very cool! Nice work!

knife141 (author)SlickSqueegie2013-05-23

Thank you!

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric ... More »
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