After Jimmy and I remodeled our office earlier this year, things were looking pretty good…except our storage situation. All the important stuff we had to keep track of (tax papers, medical records, ideas for bestselling novels written on bar napkins) was sort of scattered around: some in an accordion file, some in a really cute Liberty of London file box, and some in a horrible plastic box from Wal-Mart. Something clearly had to be done, but I dragged my feet for months because the prospects were so grim. We wanted 4 drawers and didn’t have much money to spend, which made our prospects look something like this:

file cabinets

Shudder. “Filing cabinet beige” haunts my nightmares. It’s just so boring, and after spending all that time and energy to make the office so pretty and shiny and white, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But last week Jimmy got fed up (rightfully so) with the lack of organization, and bought a used model on good ol’ Craigslist for a whopping $15.

file cabinet - before

Mmmmm, isn’t it beautiful? Urgh gag blerg. Between the awful, bland color, the banged-up drawers, the rusty hardware, and the missing label holder on the top drawer, I just could not look at it any longer. Fortunately, Jimmy was down for a little renovation. So we snagged a can of Rustoleum Painter’s Choice Primer and three cans of Rustoleum Painter’s Choice Glossy White (at $3.99/can, it set us back $16), set up some Dexter-esque plastic tarps on our screened-in porch, and we were off to the races.

filing cabinet with primer

After one coat of primer, things were looking very…zebra-like. But I’ve primed metal before, and I knew it would look OK once it was covered with actual paint. It took 4 thin coats to cover such a large surface area, which we did over the course of two days and then left to dry for 24 hours.

Next, we needed to do something about those drawers. Since we were missing a label holder (and I wasn’t crazy about them anyway), we wanted to do something to cover the holes. We decided to bust out the trusty Mod-Podge and cover the fronts in some cool paper. Here we had a difference of opinion; I wanted to go for a more tone-on-tone effect, with a textured white paper, and Jimmy wanted something green to go with the walls of the room. We raided Hobby Lobby and brought home a few papers, then laid them out for comparison:


The silver polka dot wrapping paper we already had, as well as the moss green Paper Source paper (we lined our renovated buffet with it and had some left over–more on that in a later post). The others were from Hobby Lobby. The pearl embossed paper was my first contender, but once we held it up to the cabinet we saw it was way too ivory and clashed with the white of the cabinets. The silver Moroccan-print was better, but the scale of the pattern was too small and busy on the large drawers. I was ambivalent between the last two, and Jimmy really wanted the green, so we went with that one.

Decoupaging with Mod Podge, if you’ve never done it, is super easy. First I measured the fronts of the drawers and cut out paper just slightly larger, so I could wrap it around the edges. I covered the back of the paper in a decently thick layer of Mod Podge, then stuck it on the drawer, smoothing it from the center out to the edges to make sure there were no bubbles. Then I made sure to smooth down the edges really well. After it dried for about an hour, I put another coat of the Mod Podge over the front of the paper, to make it durable and give it a slight sheen.

mod podgeThe last hurdle was dealing with the hardware. The handles that came with it were fairly ugly to begin with, and they’d aged poorly–covered in rust and even somewhat bent. We found some great retro-style handles at Lowe’s for only $1.25/each ($5 for the whole thing!). Unfortunately, when we went to screw them on, we discovered the holes were just the tiniest bit too far apart–like, literally, two millimeters on each side. Jimmy fixed that right up with my trusty Dremel tool, and our new handles were in business.

This morning, we got everything put back together and moved back into the office. Are you ready for the “after”?

filing cabinet after

file cabinet after

Ahhh…that’s better. No more nightmare beige! I think the new handles are a big upgrade, and the color and pattern make it interesting enough for me to want to actually file things. We snagged a green basket from Target to plonk on top in case I get lazy–at least there’ll be somewhere to put things until I get around to filing them.

filing cabinet before & after

What do you think? Would you do something similar, or do you have a secret passion for beige? I’d love to hear your comments (and Jimmy would love for someone to vindicate his paper choice)!