Retro Filing Cabinet Makeover

2 Materials
$20
4 Hours
Easy

In a previous iteration of this retro filing cabinet, I had fun turning it into a planter. There’s nothing I won’t turn into a planter, as so many of our recent projects will attest. Today’s post is a quick one to show you how Hubs made over the filing cabinet for his mancave.


Retro Filing Cabinet Find

We often upcycle roadside rescues, but It’s amazing what you can find left behind inside a rented or newly purchased house. My brother-in-law used to sublet parts of his house and over the years many people came and went…. and abandoned their stuff in various rooms. When he finally moved out of the house himself, he wanted to leave a clean slate which meant completely clearing it of years of accumulation from past renters. Hubs jumped at the opportunity to reclaim this old filing cabinet before it would have hit the curb on moving day. He didn’t know at the time where we’d ever have room for it but he grabbed it anyway.

retro filing cabinet makeover

I’ve said it time and time again, but they just don’t make things the way they used to. Modern filing cabinets today seem so thin and wobbly. This one has definite heft and sturdiness!

retro filing cabinet makeover

The filing cabinet languished in the garage for over a year. When the mancave was done, Hubs turned his attention back to it. It was finally time to restore and put this retro gem back into use!

retro filing cabinet makeover

Paint Match

The colour inspiration came from this  I gifted Hubs for his new mancave. The grey-green colour has a definite retro vibe! I’m not one for home decor that’s matchy-matchy, but in this case we made an exception.


Both Hubs and I have the knack for being able to achieve a close colour match by mixing paint together. Hubs mixed a bright green with black and grey and came up with the colour samples shown below. If you don’t have leftover paint hanging around, it’s easy enough to get your local paint store to colour match any colour!

retro filing cabinet makeover

Prep Work

Hub prepped the filing cabinet by sanding it down and priming it. He gave it a few coats of the custom paint with a spray gun. He also cleaned up the hardware and reinstalled it.


Don’t Forget to Protect Your Floor!

The one thing we always do without fail is to add felt along the bottom of anything that comes into contact with the floor. We purchased a sheet of thick felt and cut it into strips.

retro filing cabinet makeover

We put down a piece of cardboard to protect the floor and tilted the cabinet onto its back to expose underneath.

retro filing cabinet makeover

We measured and cut each piece as we went, sticking the self-adhesive strips of felt onto the bottom.

retro filing cabinet makeover

The felt provides a nice buffer to prevent scratches on our brand new hardwood!

retro filing cabinet makeover

A Timeless Upcycle

We stood the filing cabinet up and put it in place between the recliner sofa and desk, where it’s doing double duty as a side table and storage.


The green paint gives it a fresh new look but it still retains its vintage charm. I love that there’s more than one label slot to mark the contents of each drawer, and those handles are classic!

retro filing cabinet makeover

As you can see below, it’s a great match for the Ikea lamp. The 'desk' right beside it is a hoosier table that we found for only $5 and refurbished for our wedding to display the seating cards.

retro filing cabinet makeover

The filing cabinet has a great feature: a tray that slides out! At first Hubs was using the tray for his remotes, but then I made him an industrial remote control caddy which cleared up even more space to put his snacks!

retro filing cabinet makeover

The mancave is a fairly small space (we turned the majority of the basement into my craft studio), but it functions perfectly for Hubs whether he’s chilling out watching a movie or poring over his own hobbies.

retro filing cabinet makeover

Other than using the filing cabinet as a surface to put his snacks, Hubs uses it to store his stamp collection. It’s a hobby he started in 2010 after a visit to the Canadian Museum of History in our nation’s capital. An exhibit showing the historic progression of Canadian postage stamps, which has since closed, sparked a newfound interest in Canadian stamps. I guess it’s only fitting that an old filing cabinet should store even older ephemera 


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retro filing cabinet makeover

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Suggested materials:

  • Filing  (second hand)
  • Felt  (Lee Valley)

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Linda Klass
    on Sep 9, 2018

    What kind of paint did you use on the cabinet? It looks great!

    • Birdz of a Feather
      on Sep 9, 2018

      I don't remember the brand offhand (I'll check with Hubs) but it was one specifically formulated for metal.

Join the conversation

3 of 27 comments
  • Bud Barringer
    on Sep 25, 2018

    we did ours painted also -plus put wheels on it use it for all our files -checks & insurance papers & policys-& travel maps &etc added to my husbands desk -works out great!!!!!


  • Vicki
    on Oct 8, 2018

    I use 3 & 4 drawer Filing Cabinets with high drawer sides for clothes in the bedroom, fed up with narrow drawers that are hard to slide out.

    Also the shorter ones on wheels with 2 narrow top drawers are great for bedside tables.

    2 stained timber desk height filing cabinets, with a long cover board on top stained and varnished, matching the cabinets are great for desks, with area in the middle kept for seating.

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