A Tale of Two File Cabinets: A DIY Success

I live in a very spacious apartment and have lived here for a decade, these two things have combined into a remarkable collection of stuff. Now, I like my stuff, not all stuff, but my stuff. I get a measure of happiness from a shelf full of books or a closet full of clothes or shoes that I love, or a stack of adorable salad plates just because they are more fun than regular white ones. That being said, the combination of not moving and not running out of space has led to MANY MANY shelves of books, an almost obscene number of shoes, and more stacks of plates than any one person really needs. I am not apologizing and I will not be ditching everything to live in a Tiny House with an e-reader, a spork and multi-use dish, and only two pairs of underwear. However, over the last few months I have been slowly weeding out my collections and donating, recycling, or giving away things I have no use for and/or will not fit into the Arizona house. Some of this has been really hard and left me in a sobbing heap on the floor. Other times the cleaning out and tidying up has been invigorating.

Over the years I’ve collected a number of small tables and side chairs, some from thrift stores, many as donations from friends or relatives, and a few that I picked up off the side of the road, clean up, and use on a regular basis. Two such items are small two-drawer file cabinets, one a donation and one a thrift store find. In a spurt of genius and productivity I tackled both with some serious DIY juju and the results were far better than I had anticipated.

Metal File Cabinet DIY:
New Paint and Patterned Contact Paper

Metal file cabinet DIY_feistyharriet_July 2015 (1)

My Dad had this laying around his basement and while I was doing some rearranging after Blue Eyes moved to Arizona I thought I could use it to house my growing collection of camera equipment (lenses, lights, tripod, monopod, cases, tubes, extra bulbs, cleaning equipment, a few books, etc.). This cabinet was in good working condition, but was pretty rough. I scrubbed it twice and scraped off the stickers and wiped it all down one last time with acetone. I pulled the drawers out, figured out how to take off the label plates, and taped off the handles before I sprayed the drawer-fronts with a coat of primer and then two coats of white from my stash of spray paint. I found some pretty butcher block contact paper on Amazon and carefully cut it to cover the frame of the file cabinet. I used some strong clear tape on the edges to make sure nothing peeled up and tried to keep everything as straight as possible.
Metal File Cainet DIY_feistyharriet_July 2015 (4)

Metal File Cainet DIY_feistyharriet_July 2015 (3)

Ta-daaaaah! For $11.00 in contact paper I have something pretty and clean and modern-looking. I’m sure you could spray-paint the whole thing, but to be honest it seemed easier to just order some contact paper for the body of the cabinet instead of lugging the whole thing down a flight-and-a-half of stairs and then all the way back up.

Wood File Cabinet DIY:
New Paint and Awesome Hardware

Wood file cabinet DIY_feistyharriet_July 2015 (2)

I found this at a thrift store twelve years ago for probably $5 dollars and at the time I was a poor starving college student who needed a bedside table that would double as storage for my socks and underwear. This was narrow enough for my tiny, shared bedroom and the insides of the drawers were super clean. Sold. Ahem…that was twelve years ago, and other than a little dusting here and there this has remained unchanged ever since.

I unscrewed the drawer handles and sanded everything with 150-grit sand paper, I wanted to scrape off the top layer of the shiny veneer so the paint would stick. After wiping everything down twice to remove any extra dust I used several thin coats of this gorgeous deep red paint/primer combo I had leftover from another project. It took about three coats to fully cover the veneer and I added another one just in case. After a lot of deliberating on how much of a splash I wanted to make with hardware I ordered these chunky hexagon Chinese door knockers and a few packages of brassy corner plates.  As soon as I saw the hardware in person I knew I had made the right choice in those hefty pulls: go big or go home! My friend B. had to drill me a new hole for the hardware and I came home, drilled drawers in tow, and promptly ordered my very own cordless drill. The paint made a huge difference, but after screwing in the handles and adding the corner plates I was speechless and completely in love.
Wood File Cabinet DIY Chinese Hardware_feistyharriet_July 2015 (1)

Wood File Cabinet DIY Chinese Hardware_feistyharriet_July 2015 (2)

Hello! Look at them knockers!! I still think I need to pull the casters off, but for now it’s nice to be able to roll this around instead of scraping it along my hardwood floors or hefting the whole thing with my puny arms.

Each of these projects was a single evening of happy painting or papering. Amazing what a little imagination and elbow grease can do, right? And kick-ass hardware improves everything. EVERYTHING.

Harriet sig