Are you looking for a way to add to your home office decor? Follow our steps to makeover your old and ugly file cabinet to give it a fresh look.
Our dining room turned home office is definitely made up of DIY projects that created our eclectic and fun office. First, we redid a large metal tanker desk in such a unique way that anything else we added to our office, definitely had to be FUN! This easy DIY file cabinet makeover was for sure that.
- Simply repaint the file cabinet using chalk paint, DIY chalk paint or spray paint.
- Use contact paper
- Use cheap frames to help build up the structure of your file cabinet.
- Use paint and stencils
- Use gel stain to makeover a wooden file cabinet
- Use painter’s tape to create a fun geometric painted file cabinet
After considering the following options listed above, we decided to try out covering part of our file cabinet with contact paper. We wanted an easy way to get a funky patterned file cabinet with less mess.
What is contact paper?
Contact paper is a decorative paper that has a very strong adhesive on the opposite side. There are so many different patterns and designs that you can find for a variety of DIY projects.
As I remember it, contact paper used to mainly be used to line drawers and old shelves. However, contact paper has come a long way from the ’70s.
How To Use Contact Paper
There are all types of contact paper out there. We ordered a blue and white design from Amazon. Unfortunately, it is currently not available. There are a lot of other geometric patterns that you can purchase for your own unique-looking file cabinet.
What if the contact paper doesn’t work?
I figured if I couldn’t pull this off, then I could just use my DIY chalk paint recipe as I did on a laminate entertainment center that I turned into dress-up storage for my daughter.
- Contact Paper: this paper is the same brand and similar to the same design we used. We love that it was inexpensive, modern and easy to use!
- Spray paint with built-in primer
- Painter’s Tape or even masking tape would probably work if you need to cover the wheels
- Deglosser (optional) You will use this in many DIY projects, so buying a large container to have is a great option.
Other Contact Paper Designs
One thing interesting about these choices is that they are all cheaper than the paper we used (not by much). However, I was set on wanting to use a modern, geometric blue pattern. There are so many amazing contact papers and designs that would really work for this project.
The “Before” File Cabinet
This file cabinet is a cheap (but functional) compressed wood file cabinet on wheels. I believe ours was bought at Staples a while ago or you can even find these on Amazon. When I was looking to see if I could find a place you could buy my file cabinet, I didn’t realize how expensive nice ones are!
So I guess I am glad that I decided to take this on as a DIY furniture makeover. While looking, I did think this would make a cool DIY Ikea hack on the Iris file with drawers.
How To Cover Drawers
The biggest challenge with these particular drawers is the dip for where your hand can open the drawers. To make this file cabinet look more professional than just using cheap contact paper, you have to neatly cover the edges.
Since the top edge is curved, I knew this would be a little challenging. However, it really wasn’t bad.
How To Use Contact Paper
Step 1: Cut Small Piece For Drawer Edges
Cut a strip that is 2 blocks wide. The blocks were on the back of our contact paper as a guide to help cut straight lines. I lined that up on the edge with a little hanging over the back.
Step 2: Carefully Cover The Drawer Edge
Carefully stick one part on the drawer edge. As you pull the backing off you need to make sure you are using your fingers to push out any air bubbles.
Wrap the extra along the back. Cut a small slit in the back near the curve so that the contact paper would lay nicely in the parts that we could see.
In the corners, you can also cut a little slit in the extra part so you can fold the corners nicely. This will allow the contact paper to lay flat like wrapping a present.
Contact Paper Tip
Have excess contact paper hang off the edge. You can always trim it away once you get the pattern on the right way.
Step 3: Cut & Wrap A Piece Of Contact Paper Larger Than Your Drawer
Cut a 12” (bigger than your drawer) piece of contact paper. Smooth out as you go and wrap around the edges.
Step 4: Trim Extra Contact Paper Off The Top
Once you wrap the edge and corners you can use a xacto knife to carefully trim an excess.
Step 5: Repeat For Second Drawer
Try to line up the design for the front piece. You will want paper hanging off the top and enough to wrap around the sides.
Step 6: Check For Air Bubbles
Rub your nail or piece of cardboard or old credit card on all edges to make sure that you made the contact paper stick.
Step 7: Take File Cabinet Apart
If your file cabinet does not come apart, you will want to spray paint before covering the drawers with contact paper.
Step 8: Prep Areas Not Getting Painting
Cover the wheels with painter’s tape. Sand any rough spots.
The top isn’t perfect on ours. It still was a cheap file cabinet to begin with.
Step 9: Wipe With Deglosser
Use deglosser to wipe down the surface to make sure the surface was clean and dust-free.
Step 10: Begin To Spray First Coat
In large sweeping motions work to cover your file cabinet with a spray paint with primer built in.
Step 11: Once Dry, Spray With 2 More Coats
Spray at least 3 coats evenly of spray paint. You can see that after one coat it may look a little splotchy. Don’t worry just add another layer after each coat dries. Get our tips for using spray paint on DIY projects.
Step 12: Let File Cabinet Fully Dry
Let dry overnight before bringing it into your home. If you bring it in too early, you may still smell the spray paint.
Spray Paint Tips
- Stick with one color for the outside of the file cabinet.
- This project is perfect for leftover spray paints.
- Make sure that you are using spray paint that has primer in it.
- Since our file cabinet drawers were able to be removed, this made it very easy to only spray paint the outside of the file cabinet.
Favorite Spray Painting DIY Project
Here is the spray paint I have used for many different projects, including one of our blog favorites: DIY tie dye painted flower pots.
This file cabinet DIY project cost us under $10. It all depends on the contact paper you choose to use, but I was very happy with this roll. And I have leftovers for another project.
I went back in forth between covering the whole file cabinet with contact paper or just the drawers. I decided the drawers would look great with the design. You can see how it would the design would have been too much if the whole file cabinet was patterned. Choosing a color that was already in our contact paper was a great design choice.
It has been over 2 years since this file cabinet was redone. It is still in my office. Only a few times have I had to press down the contact paper on the inside of the drawer to make it stick again.
Finished Contact Paper File Cabinet
Check out some of our other related DIY furniture projects!
We love saving money with inexpensive ways to update our home.
- Midcentury Modern Dresser Makeover: A Unique Redone Dresser You Don’t Want to Miss.
- DIY Outdoor Dining Table
- DIY Children’s Dress-Up Wardrobe: One of my all-time favorite furniture makeovers using something most people would throw in the trash.
Now I finally can get organized with my stylish (but cheap) file cabinet makeover project!
How To Makeover A File Cabinet With Contact Paper
- 220 Sandpaper optional
- Make sure drawers are clean and dust-free.
- Cut small strips of contact paper to cover drawer edge.
- Carefully stick one part on the drawer edge. As you pull the backing off you need to make sure you are using your fingers to push out any air bubbles.
- You may need to cut small slits in the back of the paper to get contact paper to lay nicely.
- Cut a piece of contact paper larger than the drawer front.
- Starting on one side, stick the contact paper on the edge and cover the drawer. Push the contact paper on as you go from one side to the other.
- Wrap edges around the back of the drawer edges.
- Trim extra contact paper with exacto knife.
- Repeat for the second drawer.
- Remove drawers and take file cabinet box outside.
- Prep areas you do not want painted by covering wiht painter's tape.
- Lightly sand any rough spots.
- Wipe surface with a deglosser. Make sure your file cabinet is clean and dust-free.
- Use a spray paint with a primer built in and spray first coat of paint. Let fully dry.
- Continue to paint 2 more coats with drying time in between. Let paint dry overnight.
- Put your file cabinet back together.
- If your file cabinet does not come apart, you will want to spray paint before covering the drawers with contact paper.
- Use large sweeping motions when spray painting.
- When applying contact paper, rub your nail or piece of cardboard or old credit card on all edges to make sure that you made the contact paper stick.