File Cabinet Refurbish w/ Collage Drawers

This project was the most fun project I have completed in a while.  It’s also the first project I have completed in a while, though.  I am excited to share this with you! More on that fun splatter wall later.


This file cabinet was yet another Goodwill find – the price tag says $5.99, but all furniture was 50% off that day, so I snagged it even cheaper!  I originally went to an office supply store and almost had a heart attack at the price of new file cabinets – I guess I had no idea that they could be so pricey.

Here is the before shot.  The back side had a few small rust spots and there was one small dent on the front that needed to be dinged out, other than that it was in great shape.

One of the things I really liked about this file cabinet was this tag on the middle drawer.  It is a locally made file cabinet!

I started by sanding the entire file cabinet – front, back, insides, and outsides.  I started with an orbital sander that had way too coarse of sandpaper on it and ended up with a lot of sparks and the silver marks you see above.  Oops!  I then changed methods and sanded by hand – this was easier to get into the small areas.

After sanding, I wiped the entire cabinet with a wet rag and allowed it to dry thoroughly.  Next, I primed the cabinet with two coats of white spray paint.  Notice I taped the handle pulls with painter’s tape, because I wanted to preserve my Des Moines sign and the silver color of the pulls.

After the white base coat was completely dry (read the label on your spray paint), I moved on to the color coats.  I chose a vibrant purple, Valspar Purple Satin Premium Enamel Spray Paint, to make this file cabinet more interesting.  Our house has much more subdued colors than the previous house, so I am using furniture and accent pieces for punches of color.

I always use large pieces of cardboard for spray painting – they do not blow around like plastic and paper do.  Be sure to keep your coats of spray paint even and thin.  Thick coats will cause drips and runs.  Allow for dry time between coats – always read the label on all spray paint!

After allowing the purple paint to dry completely, I moved the file cabinet into the office space.  I got right to work on the insides of the drawers.  I opted not to paint them, but instead to use Mod Podge and magazines to create a collage lining.

I cut out all my pieces first and arranged them just how I wanted them.  Then, I brushed Mod Podge on the drawer itself, laid the pieces on top, and finished with a top coat of Mod Podge to seal it and make it glossy.  TIP: Running the edge of an old credit card over the paper will remove wrinkles and make the paper lay smoother.

Each drawer is different.  This is the yellow and black drawer with themes of Abstract Expressionism and still life images.  I used two magazines for these drawers – The New Yorker and Art News.

This drawer is the monochromatic with accents of red & green complementary.  What on earth will I do if magazines and newspapers ever go totally digital?!  Collage and papier-mache may die out completely.  Support your local paper artists and continue your magazine and newspaper subscriptions!

This drawer is the text drawer with predominantly cool colors.

I got to work organizing the file cabinet next.  We picked up some handy hanging file folders from Ikea last weekend.  The packaging worked great re-purposed at a drawer organizer, too.

Heart be still!  That orange!  Love it with the purple even more.

The file cabinet is all ready for the next stage – it’s pair – the wood computer desk.

This room is on its way to being my creative sanctuary – can’t wait to show you more.  I’m off to sand wood and, hopefully, seal the table top soon.


Published by Chelsea

Art teacher by day. Mother of 2 - day and night. Thrifter, crafter, artist, baker, chef, and DIYer in free time.

One thought on “File Cabinet Refurbish w/ Collage Drawers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: