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DIY File Cabinet Makeover (You Won’t Believe It Is Contact Paper)

Add to your home office with this stylish DIY hack

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.

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6 Ways to makeover a file cabinet

  1. Simply repaint the file cabinet using chalk paint, DIY chalk paint or spray paint.
  2. Use contact paper
  3. Use cheap frames to help build up the structure of your file cabinet.
  4. Use paint and stencils
  5. Use gel stain to makeover a wooden file cabinet
  6. Use painter’s tape to create a fun geometric painted file cabinet

Our DIY file cabinet makeover plan

After considering the following options listed above, we totally decided to try out contact paper and spray paint on our file cabinet. We have done so many different wall paintings using painter’s tape. I knew I could pull that off, but was totally looking for a way to easily 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?

First off, I guess we should explore what contact paper is and uses for it. 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 ’70’s.

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.

How to makeover a file cabinet with contact paper?

I am sure there are all types of contact paper out there. I ordered this one to try because I loved the geometric pattern and the price was pretty cheap. 

Geometric contact paper on file cabinet

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. 

Supplies needed:

Contact paper: this paper was pretty 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 may DIY projects, so buying a container to just have is always a great option.

Other contact papers we considered using on our file cabinet

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

Before file cabinet makeover

This file cabinet is a cheap (but functional) compressed wood file cabinet on wheels. I believe ours was bought at Staples awhile 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.

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 to cover the file cabinet drawers with contact paper?

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.

Steps for contact paper file cabinet redo

1. Cut a 2 block strip. 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. 

Cutting blue 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. 

Redoing a compressed wood file cabinet with contact paper

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

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.

Wrap contact paper around file cabinet drawer

Contact Paper Tip

At first, I tried to be perfect and line up the top so that I wouldn’t have to trim it. However, then I ended not keeping it completely straight so some of the wood was showing by the time I got to the other side.

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

Green xacto knife cleaning extra contact paper

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

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.

How to use spray paint on the file cabinet?

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.

Here is the spray paint I have used for many different projects, including one of our blog favorites: DIY painted flower pots.

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

2. I used a deglosser just to make sure the surface was clean.

Use deglosser to prep file cabinet

3. I also had a few rough stops that we sanded. The top isn’t perfect, but what do you expect for a cheap file cabinet to begin with.

White spray paint used on file cabinet

4. Spray at least 3 coats evenly of spray paint. 

5. Let dry overnight before bringing it in your home (stinky)!

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.

Blue geometric file cabinet

Since this file cabinet makeover only used half of can of spray paint and less than half of roll of contact paper, I would say under $10 for sure.

Finished Contact Paper File Cabinet

File cabinet madeover with contact paper and spray paint

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!

And follow our us on Pinterest to be inspired with all our DIY ideas!

Notebook and glasses on DIY file 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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Wednesday 7th of October 2020

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


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!


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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