File Cabinet: From Drab to Fab!

I’ve got a fun project for you guys! I don’t know about you but I absolutely hate how boring and drab a file cabinet is. I mean I know they are a necessary part of life, whether you use them for work or to house your important personal documents, but do they have to be so darn ugly?!

File Cabinet
File cabinet – don’t mind our fluff ball!

The quick answer is no! There are lots of different ways to up-cycle a file cabinet and today I’m going to show you how I did mine. PS: I was lucky enough to get this file cabinet for free which I highly recommend. Check out your local FaceBook marketplace for any    discounted or free file cabinets. A lot of times businesses will be giving them away because they no longer need them or are upgrading to something else. That’s how I got mine.


  • Rust-Oleum furniture paint (can) – I chose Navy
  • Rust-Oleum furniture primer in gray
  • Mini foam roller and foam replacement rollers
  • Rust-Oleum metallic finish spray paint in gold
  • Drop cloth/Ram board or other protective material to work on
  • Marble contact paper


The first thing that you want to do is clean your piece. I used Method’s all purpose cleaner and cleaned the inside and out. This will ensure you have a smooth surface to start with.

Next, go ahead and prime your piece. Note that you only want to prime the exterior three sides and front frame, not the drawers. We will be using the contact paper on those. Now is a good time to remove the hardware before priming. That way you can prime this at the same time. This will ensure your spray paint will adhere better.

File cabinet with primer
File cabinet with primer

Time to paint!

I ended up doing three coats in order to get the color depth and saturation that I wanted. Be sure to let it dry properly in between coats. I would recommend painting an entire coat and letting it dry for at least 8 hours but be sure to check the label as well. This will prevent any the paint from being tacky when you apply the next coat. I used a foam roller for the large areas and a brush for the smaller more detailed areas.

While the frame is drying you can spray paint your hardware. A good two coats is all you need here since you’ve primed it. Again make sure to let it dry properly in between coats.

Finished hardware
Finished hardware

Now for the drawers!!

This is definitely the most fun, yet most tedious part. Don’t worry about getting air bubbles though because I’ve got a trick for you! Start by taking you’re drawer out of the file cabinet and laying it upside down on the back side of the contact paper. Trace an extra inch on all sides to leave enough room for the edges, and cut this out. Flip you’re drawer back over and starting with either the top or the side (I like the top) peel off a corner of the paper and start laying it over the drawer front. Once you’ve got it all covered (including your edges) check for air bubbles.

TIP: use a sewing needle to pop a tiny hole in the center of the bubble and lightly press out the air creating a smooth surface. 

Do this for all four drawers and you are ready to put you’re hardware back on.

Finished drawer front
Finished drawer front


After you’ve put all your hardware pieces back on your drawer you can put it back in the file cabinet. And voila you’re done! So how easy was that?! And so worth it because now you have a unique statement piece to hold all those necessary papers.

File cabinet
Completed file cabinet

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  1. Wow! That is a lovely transformation! 😀 I usually rely on spray paint. In fact, I found a lovely gently used file cabinet at the Goodwill for 5 bucks and I spray painted over that ugly gray to make it purple and sparkly. Thanks for sharing.

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