Learn How to Transform an Ordinary File Cabinet Into Extraordinary

22 Materials

Detailed tutorial on how to turn a file cabinet into extraordinary using paint, wood and corrugated metal.
Start with any metal file cabinet. This is the before photo of our file cabinet. Make sure to clean the cabinet using TSP before painting or gluing.
I painted the drawers and handles with dark brown chalk paint. After it dried, I dry brushed some grey chalk paint lightly over the brown, and then lightly stenciled the numbers.
We bought 1x4 pine boards, cut them to the correct width and length for both sides. I stained all the wood with 2 coats of Minwax Special Walnut. After it was thoroughly dried, I applied one coat of Minwax Classic Grey and then wiped it off, leaving only as much grey as I desired to keep. I finished this off with 2 coats of Minwax Wipe-on Poly. Make sure everything dries between coats. We used heavy duty construction Gorilla Glue on the back of the boards and clamped them until they dried.
Obviously, you need to buy a piece of corrugated metal. There wasn't anything left after we used the above, other than tiny scraps.
There's different ways to cut the corrugated metal. We used a reciprocating saw with blades for cutting metal. Afterwards, I used the tin snip above and leather work gloves to trim the metal to fit in perfectly. Make sure to use leather work gloves and goggles when working with metal.
Three holes were drilled top and bottom on each side and self-tapping screws were used to secure the corrugated metal to the cabinet.
I had a pine board cut to fit the top and after it was securely glued on, we applied the moulding.
Just make sure you use moulding with a flat back to it.
After the moulding was on, I filled any gaps with stainable wood filler and used the same stains as I used on the wood. This is looking down onto the top of the cabinet.
After it was finished!
Here it is in our newly decorated guest bedroom. I have much more detailed information on my blog that you'll want to read, along with ALL the materials and tools that were used, including links to the exact products that were used.
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 36 questions
  • Cathy smith
    Cathy smith
    on Feb 16, 2020

    Not sure what the numbers are for??

    • Sal1603
      on Dec 23, 2020

      To me it’s obvious. They are just basic numbers! Shows what ‘floor’ you’re on, four numbers in order, a simple few numbers to keep your mind working not to mention cute and simple wall, more if you need....think as a child.....

  • Most fun
    Most fun
    on Feb 17, 2020

    Looks great! Love this idea!

  • Joanie
    on May 9, 2020

    I'm a lover!! The numbers don't mean a thing to me. TO YOU? I would put a handle of some sort on the metal door.. I love corrugated metal. I like the idea of rolling wheels also. Just what do YOU USE it for? It is beautiful, but what is its PURPOSE??? I'm a little lost here.......please clue me in, because I do like the looks.

    • Carmen
      on Dec 24, 2020

      I think it would make a great place to keep extra bedding, extra towels for guests, just another creative storage unit.

Join the conversation

3 of 451 comments
  • Pascale Mohr
    Pascale Mohr
    on Dec 24, 2020

    I would have put a mirror in place of the metal. Nice job.

  • Ohhhdear
    on Dec 24, 2020

    Personally, the distressed, greyed-out look leaves me cold. Chalk paint doesn’t stand up as well to wear as a good quality gloss or semi-gloss latex enamel. Cost is about the same. Why use the corrugated metal which really serves no purpose? I would use a mirror, or mirror tile on both sides so you are not limited as to placement. All that said, though, this is a great upcycling idea!

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