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DIY File Cabinet Makeover With Contact Paper

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.

partial view of file cabinet with blue patterned drawer, white sides and glasses on top.

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.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy.

Makeover Ideas

  • 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

Our Plan

After considering the following options listed above, we totally decided to try out contact paper and spray paint on our file cabinet. We wanted an easy way to get a funky patterned file cabinet with less mess.

I have to say I have never used contact paper before. The closest I have come is to use the foam drawer liner inside our bathroom vanity. I actually had that because I thought I was ordering contact paper to use for this redone file cabinet idea.

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

I am sure 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.

blue and white patterned contact paper partially stuck on wood.

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. 

Recommended Supplies

  • Contact Paper: this paper is the same brand and close 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

oak filing cabinet with two drawers on wheels.

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

1. 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. 

hand holding orange scissors cutting contact paper.

2. 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. 

strip of contact paper on the edge of drawer of file cabinet.

3. Wrap the extra along the back. I had to 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.

4. Cut a 12” (bigger than your drawer) piece of contact paper

side view of drawer of file cabinet covered in blue and white contact paper.

5. 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.

oak file cabinet with drawers covered in blue and white patterned contact paper.

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.

6. Once you wrap the edge and corners you can use a xacto knife to carefully trim an excess. 

hand holding xacto knife cutting extra contact paper off.

7. In the corners, cut a little slit in the extra part so you can fold the corners nicely and so they lay flat. I was surprised and how flat this contact paper was after that.

corner of drawer in file cabinet with patterned paper on the edge.

8. Rub your nail or piece of cardboard or old credit card on all edges to make sure that you made the contact paper stick.

Spray Paint Tips

On the outside of the file cabinet, I knew I just wanted it to be white. I had leftover spray paint that I knew would be perfect. 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.

1. Cover the wheels with painter’s tape. Any brand will work.

2. Use deglosser to wipe down the surface to make sure the surface was clean.

hand holding paper towel to clean contact paper.

3. Sand any rough spots. The top isn’t perfect. It still was a cheap file cabinet to begin with.

hand holding Rustoleum spray paint in front of oak file cabinet.

4. 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.

file cabinet with one coat of white spray paint on it.

5. Let dry overnight before bringing it into your home. If you bring it in too early, you may still smell the spray paint.

Blue geometric file cabinet

How-To FAQs

How much did this DIY file cabinet makeover cost?

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.

Should you cover the whole file cabinet with contact paper?

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.

How has the file cabinet held up?

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

finished file cabinet on wheels with blue and white contact paper on drawers on oak floor.

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.

planner and glasses on white surface of filing cabinet.

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

Now I finally can get organized with my stylish (but cheap) file cabinet makeover project!

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Nikshoo Furniture solution

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google.

Andrea

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

This turned out really cute - I love the blue and white pattern!

Erin

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Hi Andrea. Thank you so much. I couldn't believe how easy it was to use this geometric contact paper on my file cabinet.

Mike Worley

Sunday 4th of October 2020

A definite improvement on the typical pressed-board-and-laminate file cabinet. Great post!

Erin

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Hi Mike. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I am so happy with my file cabinet makeover.

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