File cabinet makeover with fabric

As a part of the office space we’re diy’ing, I needed a pair of file cabinets to act as the base for a new desktop. And since we’re not certain this space will be a permanent commitment, I want to begin with a low-budget version that we could easily upgrade or move, should we choose. A thrifted a pair of cabinets from my local Goodwill was the perfect solution.

For $9.99 each, meet my newest piece of office equipment.

On the list of functional, they were perfect. But on the list of good looks, not so much. So I used a relatively simple solution to fix the problem – decoupage.

In a matter of hours, my cabinets went from this:

To this:

wallpapered file cabinet

Love it? Here’s what you’ll need for this file cabinet re-do:
decoupage supplies

  • High-gloss spray paint in color of choice (I used Rust-Oleum paint + primer in one)
  • Heavy duty spray adhesive or Modge Podge
  • Polycrylic sealer or spray-on sealer
  • Gloves
  • Exacto knife
  • Heavy-duty craft paper or wallpaper of choice
  • Measuring Tape

The prep work included removing the cabinet drawers and cleaning the cabinet. Next, I removed all drawer pulls, cabinet labels, and any locking mechanisms. There was a metal cover on the inside of each drawer which easily pops out to expose the back of the screws, etc. (Don’t be deterred by the complexity of the locking hardware, these pieces were made to be easily installed and typically pop off with a simple twist or screw.)

Next, I spray painted the cabinet + drawers. *Note: I only painted a light coating on the outer rim of the drawer fronts where the paper would not be covering. This gave coverage only where it was needed and eliminated the need to sand off the high gloss prior to decoupaging the fronts.

After the paint dried, I began papering the cabinet fronts. This takes a little thought + preparation as you want to match up your pattern from the top drawer to the bottom drawer. And if you’re doing two cabinets, like me, try to match the patterns on both cabinets for consistency (that’s a recommendation made in hindsight).

Aim for perfection but don’t expect it… In the end, getting “close” will be perfectly fine.

decoupage tutorial

Once the papers were properly cut to each drawer, I marked the back of each to its corresponding drawer (see my intricately informative pic below). You will appreciate this step when you apply the paper.

papering instructions

Line up the paper on your cabinet front exactly as you want it, then keep your hand positioned on one half. With your other hand, carefully fold back one half of the paper to expose the cabinet. Spray the exposed portion of the cabinet with your spray adhesive and gently let the paper fall over it while pressing from the center to the sides. This will remove any air bubbles as you adhere the paper to the metal.

Once one side of the paper is adhered, do the same to the other half of the paper. Allow it to dry for the recommended time.

designer file cabinet

Do you see that I was off a little from side to side? I just rolled with it and matched up the same position for the following cabinet so that they were consistent in their inequalities. Like I said, aim for perfection – just don’t expect it.

Once your adhesive has dried the recommended amount of time, it’s time to seal the paper. I placed three coats of sealer using my Minwax Polycrylic. I like that I can control the thickness a bit. But a spray sealer is another good option.

papered file cabinet tutorial

Do you see how the paper began to bubble as it got wet? I knew it might be an issue with paper as opposed to wallpaper or fabric; but I didn’t mind because it gave the design a slightly distressed look which I prefer. Once the coats of sealer were dry, I gently pressed most of the bubbles back out while the paper re-adhered to the metal. The bubbling effect is the nature of paper. If you don’t care for a distressed look, I would opt for wallpaper or fabric.

Last, I replaced the hardware and re-installed the drawers into the cabinet body. I was initially going to replace my hardware so both cabinets matched; but because I wanted gold and needed a 4″ center, that meant a pricey special order. Instead, I opted to paint the existing hardware using Rust-Oleum’s Hammered Gold. I love how it turned out.

painted hardware

papered file cabinet

wallpapered file cabinet

They are oh-so similar, but not a perfect match. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Here they are in place, working as the base to the desktop

diy work station

work desk

I have to say, I’m really happy with this low-cost diy version so far. Total cost for the desk, including desktop, two file cabinets, and the supplies used to diy them cost around $60. For comparison, I could have purchased the smaller desk below from Amazon for $600.

decoupaged file cabinet

Me likey!

We were able to accomplish quite a bit this weekend. But, as hub’s tend to do, he decided to upgrade the package to the television we installed over the desk. Because of that, we have to wait for the installer to do his magic before we can permanently attach and accessorize. Delays, pesky delays.

I suppose that gives me time to do some really, really exciting things like sort, organize, and purge years + years of files that have been conveniently forgotten neglected from our old file cabinets. Oh, joy!

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