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How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet

DIY How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I was way overdue for a four-drawer metal filing cabinet. For years, I’ve been cramming tons of important paperwork in a two-drawer cabinet and leaving everything else (like my old teaching files) in boxes. But every time I went to purchase a cabinet, I hesitated because black metal filing cabinets are so ugly. Every attractive filing cabinet I’ve found has terrible reviews. So I’ve kept making do with my two-drawer cabinet.

BUT. You can paint and decorate a file cabinet. Two years ago, I’d never painted anything larger than a 16×20 canvas by myself. Now that I’ve painted multiple rooms and pieces of furniture on my own, I’m less afraid to tackle bigger painting projects. I finally bit the bullet and got a filing cabinet,  fully prepared to paint it and make it look attractive for my office.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet - True Value's Baby Chick (satin) and Krylon's Surf (matte) | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Supplies for a file cabinet makeover:

  • New or old file cabinet. I purchased this file cabinet. (Order it online and get a few percent back with Ebates!)
  • One quart acrylic latex paint. I used True Value’s Baby Chick, satin finish. (The pictured can is a gallon because I’ve used this paint color for multiple home projects. But a quart is plenty for this project.)
  • Two cans spray paint. I used Kylon’s Surf, matte finish.
  • Small foam roller paintbrush.
  • Painter’s tape.
  • Decorative items for the file cabinet (i.e. fabric, magnets, photos, etc.).

You’ll also need some large cardboard sheets, paint canvas, or other protective covering for the garage floor or ground. I cut up the file cabinet box.

Here’s the new file cabinet in our entryway. See my little photo bomber?

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

If you’ve bought a new file cabinet, take it out of the box. Remove the large Styrofoam pieces and any plastic coverings.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

My cabinet had protective coverings on the label plates. I left these coverings on until I was finished painting.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Take the drawers out of the cabinet. This task was easier said than done. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a great tutorial either. You may have to experiment a little bit to figure out how to remove them.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Remove the drawer handles. This task was pretty straightforward. I used a large flathead screwdriver because the screws were in pretty tight, and a Phillips head would have stripped them.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Lay down your cardboard or other protective covering on the garage floor, driveway, or other flat surface in a well-ventilated area. Transfer the file cabinet base and drawers to the work surface. Tape off the edges of the unpainted areas so you don’t get paint all over the inside of the file cabinet.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Start painting! The picture below is midway through the painting process. I did 3 coats of paint for both the base and drawers plus a few touchups. The color of the file cabinet and the paint will dictate the number of coats you need.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet | http://www.roseclearfield.com

When you’ve finished painting the cabinet, reattach the drawer handles, remove the painter’s tape, and slide the drawers back in place.

Freshly painted 4-drawer metal file cabinet. A simple paint job makes such a difference! Click through for the full tutorial. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Painting the file cabinet makes such a big difference. Instead of having a big black hole in my office, I have a lovely, bright organizing unit. After painting the cabinet, I decided to add a few decorative elements.

Metal File Cabinet Painting Makeover! I decorated my file cabinet with fabric panels, magnets, and photos. Click through to learn more about how to paint and decorate your own file cabinet. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Metal File Cabinet Painting Makeover! I decorated my file cabinet with fabric panels, magnets, and photos. Click through to learn more about how to paint and decorate your own file cabinet. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The large squares are fabric. Some of them are from Jo-Anns, left over from my inspiration cork board. The other fabric squares are this nautical fat quarters bundle from PhatQuarters. We live half a block from Lake Michigan and love incorporating a few subtle nautical elements into our home (remember the guest bedroom?). I finished the edges with pinking shears.

I’ve also added a handful of button and music magnets and a selection of photos. I talk more about my button magnets here and explain how I make my music magnets here. I also have a couple magnets from our recent trips to Montana and New Orleans. A few of the photos are favorite 2016 photos with text overlays of favorite song lyrics. The rest of the photos are from my test roll with the Canon AE-1. I can’t even tell you how excited it makes me to have some prints of photos I shot with a film SLR camera.

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet DIY Tutorial | http://www.roseclearfield.com

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet DIY Tutorial | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I’m so happy with the final result. My file cabinet blends right in with the rest of my office, and I have all of the storage space I need for my files.

Save the project on Pinterest to make it later!

How to Paint and Makeover a Metal File Cabinet. A DIY tutorial from Rose Clearfield. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Have you ever painted or made over a file cabinet?
I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks for this process!

Continue your office makeover with a
DIY fabric covered inspiration board.

DIY Real Life Inspiration Board for a creative office or studio. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Check out my DIY section for all of my tutorials!

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Natasha December 19, 2016, 11:04 am

    Very cute! I love the blue color you selected, and adding fabric squares on the outside is a great way to spruce it up even more. I’m sure getting the drawers out is a huge pain since those drawers are usually designed with extra safety features to keep them from falling out!

    • Rose December 19, 2016, 2:20 pm

      Thanks so much! Yeah, it’s just not very intuitive, and I couldn’t find a tutorial to help me. I’m glad they don’t come out easily, though!

  • shopgirl anonymous December 19, 2016, 11:19 am

    Oh my goodness, I love this so much! We are moving soon and I want a fresh start for my craft room, and this is just the recipe to truly make it mine!!!

    • Rose December 19, 2016, 2:21 pm

      Thanks! That’s awesome! If you make over a file cabinet, please send me some pictures. 🙂

  • Clarissa December 19, 2016, 11:22 am

    This turned out great! Love the color combo choice too 😉

    -Clarissa @ The View From Here

    • Rose December 19, 2016, 2:21 pm

      Thanks so much!

  • Lorrin Sell | photographer of wild things December 19, 2016, 6:10 pm

    This looks awesome!! So much better than the original!

    • Rose December 19, 2016, 10:32 pm

      Thanks, Lorrin!

  • Dana December 19, 2016, 8:35 pm

    This is a great DIY project, I love getting to hear about other people’s DIYs!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Rose December 19, 2016, 10:35 pm

      Thanks, Dana!

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