Repurposed Filing Cabinet-A How To Guide

Ahh, summer time.
The time that you can get caught up.
Or-you can get bogged down with 1000 projects and feel like you are about to lose your mind.

Which one do you I fall under?  Depends.

Last week, I spent the week at the beach.  My mind went to complete mush.  It was fantastic.

My one and only post last week was for my Fabulous Find Friday Linky.  {Which, by the way, you can still link up any time.  It doesn't have to be on Friday.} Did anyone notice the brain-fart that day?  I had titled it "Fabulous Find Friday-Beach Addition".  Duh.  Not "Edition".  Nope, beach-brain-mush. {obviously I have no real shame because I'm bringing attention to it all over again}

I realized it while on the beach-face down in the sand.  No joke.  I jumped up, pulled out my phone and desperately tried to edit it from my phone.  Ahhh, the iPhone.  Thank you, dear iPhone.  I was able to fix it.

Since I am back and trying to check things off of my to-do list, I thought I'd post this how-to for repurposing your filing cabinet.  I've had several questions and requests about it.

I'm going to start at the end of this story and work backwards, OK?
Here's my final product:

I learned through trial and error and thought I'd share it with you in case you were thinking of tackling this project.

Bottom line.  Don't Mod Podge unless you are an EXPERT.

See the one on the left.  Well upon closer inspection it is a HOT MESS.  You can see wrinkles.  The glue dried funny...yadda, yadda, yadda.

I had also Mod Podged {Blogger doesn't like that word, but it's real.} the one on the right, too, and it was WORSE.  Like a four year old had tried to do it.  Bad.  I went in the next day and tore it all off.

Let me tell you the error of my ways.

Take said fellow on the left.  He's made with scrapbooking paper and Mod Podge.  First off, the scrapbooking sheets were 12x12.  Unfortunately, the drawers are 12x14.  So, I had to piece together a little strip so that I could cover the entire drawer.
Mistake #1- I should have used wrapping paper {maybe} and it would have covered the entire drawer. 
Mistake #2- I should have taken the drawer handle off.  Instead, I trimmed around it with an Exacto knife.  It was OK, but again, would be better if I had taken off the handle.
Mistake #3- I am NOT a Mod Podge Expert!

Enter fellow on the right:

He's made with contact paper and paint!

What Went Right #1- I took the drawer handles off and measured the contact paper to cover the entire drawer.
What Went Right #2- The contact paper was forgiving.  That contact paper, by the way, was from TJ Maxx.  Cute :)
What Went Right #3- The pink drawers are painted.  Those drawers, to me, look the best.  Duh.  I should have painted the entire thing.   I used enamel paint that I rolled on with a sponge roller.  You will see pictures below.  I knew I couldn't/ wouldn't spray paint it, so this was the only way to cover it and know it would last.  Enamel paint is not the best to work with, but I just threw out the sponge roller when I was finished so that clean-up was easy.

Now, as far as all of the black...that's two different materials-black contact paper and black electrical tape.  It was easy.   You have to get that contact paper at just the right angle and it will go on smoothly.  The outsides that show all look great.  The two sides that are in the middle are more wrinkled, but I didn't care.

Here's a shot of the painting.  Step 1 {on the top}  prime it.  I used Kilz primer.   Step 2 {on the bottom} paint with enamel paint.  I bought mine at Lowes.  Here's what the paint looks like.  Then, below that, my drawers.  {I never tire of showing you my drawers...teeheehee.}

Here's a close up of the electrical tape.  I used it to cover all of the narrow strips.  (Like on the
top, between drawers, etc.)

Here's a side view of the black contact paper:

So, there you have it.  Repurposed filing cabinet.

If I had to do it all over again it would be contact paper and paint all the way :)

I like the way they both turned out, but I like the one on the right better.  Also, you might be going...blah, they aren't the same.  I know.  I like it that way, too.

See you tomorrow with my Monday Made It {not these, either}.  Then, I'm going to be a little MIA for a while so that I can get that darn to-do list down to a manageable size.


  1. They look fabulous! I consider myself to be pretty experienced in the Mod podge department, but I've tried covering large-ish surfaces before with it and the same thing happened to me! No bueno! I love the contact paper idea!
    Rowdy in Room 300

  2. Love them! They are so cheerful! You have inspired me!! Great job!
    Peace, Love, and First Grade

  3. Wait until you see my Monday Made It post tomorrow! We will be able to have a laugh together ;0)

    Teach on a Limb

  4. I like it!! My cabinet's so ugly. I covered the outside and top with some fabric and it looks much nicer (just folded it like a present and hot glued) but I love the drawer fronts. So pretty.

    Buzzing with Ms. B

  5. I love them! I think they look beautiful! Who knew filing cabinets could look so good!

  6. WOW! I saw that pin, and have looked at it longingly numerous times - but I'm almost a modpodge virgin (gasp!) so I wasn't willing to try it, now I have a plan of attack! Thank you so much!

    Mrs. Castro's Class

  7. Super cute!!!! They both turned out great!!!! :)

  8. I'm so doing this with my filing cabinets!! Thanks for the detailed tutorial!! :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  9. Wow that's an intense filing cabinet project you got yourself into, but you should be really pleased with the outcome - it looks fab and I'm super jealous I don't have one of these in my classroom now. Funny thing is I discovered today that I'm not a Mod Podge expert either while sealing my newly painted terracotta pots - definitely had some leftover clumpage. Great to find another 4th grade teacher & happy to be your newest follower. I would love for you to visit my blog and enter my 1st ever giveaway!

  10. Oh I love this! I am pinning yours! I am on the verge of tossing my filing cabinet...hmmm. Then again, maybe not!

  11. I love this idea! Mod Podge sort of scares me. I am pretty sure it and I would be a disaster. Contact paper sounds more my speed.
    The Idea Backpack

  12. I love the highlighter bucket sign. Do you have it to download or can you tell me where to find it?

  13. Thanks so much for your post. I am about to do my file cabinets and I bought paint (for the sides and top) and scrapbook paper (for the drawers). I too have to two different sized file cabinets just like yours and realized that the scrapbook paper wouldn't fit the larger sized drawers. So I wasn't sure that I wanted to tackle it. Now I think I will try finding some contact paper that I like for the drawers. I will let you know how it goes.


  14. Love this! May have to try it. MAYBE. My trouble is finding cute contact paper. I'll have to try TJ Max. OH! Lightbulb! What about the cute Duct tape everyone sells? Maybe that for the drawer fronts and contact paper for the sides...?

  15. I was totally thinking contact paper would work! Thank you for proving my hypothesis ;) I do like your idea of the electrical tape. I will surely be doing this to my beige *blah* filing cabinet... and maybe my teacher's desk...


  16. Thanks for this great tutorial post. I made modge podged clipboards this summer and posted about it last week. I too think modge podge can be challenging. My mom is a modge podge expert so I run to her when I get into trouble. I am going to try the sponge roller paint for my file cabinet.

    What color are the original files before you put the black contact paper on them?

    First Class Teacher

  17. This is great! I would like to do this in my classroom someday! Did your school not care that you glued and painted their property?

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  19. Those are so adorable. Thanks for the tutorial - it was helpful and entertaining. :o) Gotta try it. I just made those crate seats last week so maybe this will be next?!? Great job!
    Traditions, Laughter and Happily Ever After

  20. I wonder if duct tape would work? I may try that. My daughter-in-law uses duct tape to cover boxes to use in her pre-k classroom, so we shall see.

  21. Why wouldn't you spray paint the black? What am I missing?

  22. Good info! I'm going to tackle a project like this soon and your tips are very helpful in my planning :-) THANKS!

  23. This is a great idea! I'm a teacher and our cabinets are so ugly. I think adding some creativity to my classroom would help!!! We got a bunch of cabinets from OSI.
    I cant wait to start this project with my kids! #creativity

  24. Lucky me, my filing cabinets are already black, just have to do the drawers!