DIY File Cabinet Makeover

8 Materials
2 Hours

The Hubs and I have been doing a few projects around the house on his days off. We also gave our small entryway a makeover HERE. As I was at my desktop finishing up computer work, I couldn’t help but notice my ugly file cabinet. It had seen better days.

File Cabinet Before

I have been concentrating on so many other projects, I had never noticed how shabby and neglected my file cabinet looked. I had purchased it from an auction a few months back and had planned on painting it. But, as you can see, that never happened.

The file cabinet was boring. It needed some pizazz! The Hubs had a few scrap pieces of decorative trim he used from a previous project. I knew it would be perfect for outlining the drawers and breaking up the boxy look. You can get this decorative trim at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Decor Trim

The Hubs measured the area around the drawers where he would place the trim. He cut four (4) pieces, two long pieces for the vertical sides, and two short pieces for the horizontal sides. On the ends, he used a 45-degree angle cut to form the rounded corners. This allowed the trim to fit perfectly together on the corners.  

Decor Trim Cut

I removed the hardware, including the “L” corner brackets. 

Removing Hardware

I found this beautiful bronze pull on Amazon that I will be using.

Bronze Pull

Next, I lightly sanded the entire cabinet with 220-grit sandpaper to rough it up. I did not need to remove the existing paint layer. The drawers were left in the file cabinet because they were too complicated to remove!


Before I started painting, the trim was attached to the drawer faces using wood glue and a nail gun.

Adding Decor Trim

The first task was to stain the décor trim pieces.  (Note: I should have stained the trim before attaching it to the cabinet. However, the Hubs had to work that night, so he wanted his portion completed, and we didn’t think about staining it first).

My stain choice was Dixie Belle’s Voodoo Gel Stain in Tobacco Road. It is a beautiful brown.

I used a small chip brush and applied the stain, using a cloth to wipe off any excess.

Applying Stain

I allowed the stain to dry overnight. I knew I would have to tape off the trim so I would not get paint on top of the stain so it needed to dry completely.

The next day, I taped off the trim. (I probably should have stained the trim and painted the cabinet and then added the trim. The Hubs had to work the next day so he had to get his part done.)

I surveyed the paint colors that I had in my stash when I came across Dixie Belle’s Spanish Moss. I wanted the file cabinet to be a tad bit brighter, so I mixed Dixie Belle’s Cotton and Farmhouse Green into the Spanish Moss.

Mixed Paint

The file cabinet took two coats of paint to achieve full coverage. 

After the paint dried overnight, I hand sanded the painted surface with a piece of 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface.

Using my tack cloth, I removed any sanding dust. The final step was to apply the wax. I used one coat of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax making sure to apply it to the trim as well. Simply follow the directions on the back of the can.

Paste Finishing Wax

Lastly, the Hubs added the new bronze hardware. He had to drill a new hole because the new hardware was shorter than the original hardware.

I love the way the file cabinet turned out. The green is calm and relaxing. I can’t wait to get it into my home office. What once was a $10.00 ugly duckling is now a stylish and classy piece.

Head on over to the blog and subscribe and get my free Ebook! It will list the items to look for at thrift stores if you are interested in flipping!

"It's not about what it is, it's about what it will be."


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Resources for this project:

Dixie Belle's Spanish Moss
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