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Easy DIY Metal Filing Cabinet Makeover

This is an easy makeover that will totally transform any hum drum ho hum metal filing cabinet into a lovely piece of home decor.

front view of DIY metal filing cabinet makeover after

I love a good practical piece, but it’s always preferable if it’s pretty too.

Metal Filing Cabinets in need of makeover

metal filing cabinets

These are the two mismatched metal filing cabinets as I found them a few years ago at two different thrift stores. They were a great deal at just $10 each. While they both work perfectly, they have never done anything to make me smile. They are so blah and boring, and I just couldn’t put off their makeovers any longer.

They actually butted into the project line, ahead of many other deserving projects, and they just wouldn’t stop bugging me. Sometimes you just can’t move on to other things until you do that project that is annoying you the most. lol.

Before starting this makeover I gave both cabinets a very good cleaning. The cabinets have a lot of little nicks on them, and some rust here and there. Especially the brownish one.

Supplies needed for this metal filing cabinet makeover

  • Dollar Store faux wood wall stickers
  • floral wallpaper leftover pieces
  • decoupage medium
  • brush
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • utility knife
  • gold spray paint

rust wood wall stickers and floral wallpaper scraps

To give my filing cabinets their makeovers I’m using some dollar store faux rustic wood wall stickers, and some leftover wallpaper scraps that I found at a thrift store a while ago. I already used some of these wallpaper scraps in my liquor store cardboard boxes makeover, which I’m using in my craft room for storage.

white rustic wood wall stickers

These dollar store wall stickers are pretty awesome. They were $3.50 for a package of eight 4 inch by 24 inch stickers. These are easy peel and so much fun to work with. They also had a brown version, but I much prefer the white.

Applying dollar store wall stickers onto metal filing cabinets

applying rustic wood wall stickers onto front edges of metal filing cabinets

I measured and cut the pieces to cover the front edges, leaving the middle strip until I got the drawers done. These stickers stick very nicely, but you can also pull off and reposition if needed.

applying rustic wood wall stickers onto top of metal filing cabinet

I started by covering over the top, making sure to stagger the pieces down the sides. These stickers are nice and opaque and you can’t see anything through them. Not even the brownish color of the cabinet.

putting holes in sticker bubbles with utility knife

If you get any bubbles that you can’t smooth out you can just poke a teeny hole with the utility knife, smooth the sticker and the bubble should disappear.

applying rustic wood wall stickers onto side of metal filing cabinet

Then I made my way down the sides. Put a piece of wood or something under the filing cabinet to hold it up so you can trim pieces at the bottom with a utility knife.

trimming edges of wall stickers with utility knife

These wall stickers cut like butter so trimming was super easy wherever it was necessary.

another side view of rustic wood stickers on metal filing cabinets

Once the two filing cabinets were all covered with the wall stickers it was time to work on the drawers.

Applying wallpaper onto filing cabinet drawer fronts

applying decoupage medium onto metal filing cabinet drawer front

Luckily the hardware on both filing cabinets was easy to remove. Once that was done I applied a good coat of decoupage medium onto the drawer fronts. I’m using Mod Podge, but any decoupage medium should work.

You could certainly also cover the drawers with the stickers if that’s the look you want, but I’m a flower-loving gal so I had to do a floral wallpaper.

applying and trimming wallpaper on metal filing cabinet drawer front

Measure and cut your wallpaper piece and smooth onto the drawer front, getting rid of any bubbles as you go. Once in place, you can trim to fit with a utility knife or you can leave the trimming until after the wallpaper has dried in place. Since this wallpaper is much heavier than regular paper I was able to trim right away. That allowed me to make sure the edges were down nicely, and I applied a top coat of the decoupage medium within a few minutes.

letting decouapged wallpaper dry on metal filing cabinet drawer fronts

Once the wallpaper was dry I put the handles back temporarily on the one filing cabinet because you can’t open and close the drawers without them. The other cabinet was still curing.

rustic wood wall stickers applied to strip of metal between filing cabinet drawers

Once I had my drawer fronts done I measured and cut pieces for the metal piece that runs between the drawers. I cut it wide enough so it wraps around the top and the bottom of the piece.

Then I removed the handles to spray paint them, and I gave all the drawer fronts two top coats of the Mod Podge, letting it dry in between.

Easy DIY Metal Filing Cabinet Makeover

metal filing cabinet handles spray painted gold

I really wanted to go with gold hardware so I spray painted the handles and inserts with a lovely soft metallic gold spray paint. I also painted the label holder thingies, and the lock that was on the one cabinet, but I’m still undecided whether or not to put them back. I’m leaning towards not.

To put the handles back in place I used a pencil tip to make the holes through the wallpaper, and I cut out the wallpaper for the inserts with a utility knife.

one side view of DIY metal filing cabinet makeover after

I switched the placement of the filing cabinets so the shorter one is closer to an electrical outlet. Eventually my printer will be placed on top of it.

other side view of DIY metal filing cabinet makeover after

I really love the gold handles. There are a few pops of a goldish color coming through on the rustic wood stickers so the handles tie in well. Not to mention there are some goldish hues in the wallpaper.

metal filing cabinets

So here are the filing cabinets before again.

top view of DIY metal filing cabinet makeover after

And the much improved after. This DIY metal filing cabinet makeover was easy, quick, and pretty inexpensive too.

I used 28 pieces of the rustic wood wall stickers, which is a total of $12.25. And the cost of the scrap wallpaper, spray paint, and Mod Podge was minimal. So I’m rounding out the cost at $13. In total it took me about three hours, not including drying time between Mod Podge coats on the wallpaper.

I’m super happy with how they turned out. I’m now on the hunt for a third filing cabinet that will match one of these two in size, and the one that doesn’t match will be moved to another spot in my craft room.

Until I can find one I can live with these two not matching in size. It’s such a huge improvement to what they were before. Every time I walk into my craft room now they do make me smile.

And they’re no longer bugging me. lol.

I hope this project has inspired you.

If you enjoyed this project please pin it and share it with your friends.

Easy DIY metal filing cabinet makeover with faux wood wall stickers from the dollar store

Thanks so much for reading and until next time,

keep on keepin’ on!


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  1. Wow, those look really beautiful now! I haven’t seen those wood grain stickers yet but I also haven’t been to the Dollar Store in a while. Curious about what you store in those. I’ve found the drawers kind of deep and awkward for storing craft supplies. Maybe you’re using file folders though for stickers and things? I’m curious 🙂

    1. Thanks Tania! And it was so easy to do. There’s nothing exciting being stored in them85, which is another reason I wanted them to look nicer. Just boring bills and taxes. But they have to be stored somewhere so it might as well be pretty. One cabinet is for personal stuff and the other is for the blog and etsy shop.

  2. Tuula,Thankyou so much.I acquired a metal file cabinet that locks with a key for $7. Thrift shop find.This was 2 years ago.You have inspired me to take this off my to do list of projects.Thankyou ❤️

    1. Wow! That’s a great deal Kathy! I’m so happy that my filing cabinet project has inspired you. 🙂

  3. MaryEllen says:

    These look amazing! Thank you for the How-to tips!

  4. Very nice way to refurbish a plain ole metal filing cabinet, Tuula! I like the faux wood grain wrap idea and the drawer fronts are so pretty too.

  5. Wow! You really hit the nail on the head this time!! I have a filing cabinet just like your tan one! Let me get out my calculator to figure out how long I’ve had it…… just about 22 years. And I’ve been planning on making it look better all that time. Know how many ideas you’ve given me? I couldn’t begin to count! But this looks perfect!! Thanks again, Tuula!

    1. Thanks very much Dona! There are really so many ways you can transform filing cabinets. I’m so glad my project has inspired you. 🙂

  6. Your file cabinets look great! And they look even better with the gold handles/pulls. Well done, you!