Easy Filing Cabinet Makeover with a Picture Frame and Paint

I intended on throwing this old filing cabinet away. I told myself, “how can I keep something that I don’t have room to store anymore.” Since we moved and downsized, we don’t have the closet space to hide it. That’s when I decided to give it an easy filing cabinet makeover.

My plan was to ditch the old filing cabinet and purchase a few nice looking wood cabinets that wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Then I came to my senses.

Why would I get rid of the old metal filing cabinet when I could make it over with almost no money and little time?

Do you have an old metal filing cabinets? Don’t get rid of it! Let me show you how to repurpose it.

Stick with me; I’ve got a DIY fail I also want to show you. Not all of my projects are cupcakes and rainbows. 🙂

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Supplies needed to update a metal filing cabinet.

Let me show you how to give that old filing cabinet a major makeover!

  1. Clean the filing cabinet. Make sure you don’t have any debris left on the metal. A good way to clean metal is with vinegar.
  2. Remove the old hardware off of the front of the drawers.
  3. Open your frame and add the black contact paper to the front. Note; I removed the glass and added the contact paper to the cardboard backing.
  4. Use a hot glue gun to adhere the photo frame to the front of the filing cabinet drawers.
  5. Drill the drawer pulls into the front of the “frame.” The hardware is what secures the photo frames to the front of the filing cabinet drawers (you can’t count on the hot glue holding forever).
  6. Turn the filing cabinet over and drill four holes for the legs.
  7. Use the epoxy glue to add the legs to the base of the filing cabinet.
  8. Paint the rest of the filing cabinet with the Chalkboard paint. I decided to use chalkboard paint because it adheres well to metal and it gives it a smooth matte black look.
  9. Seal the Chalkboard paint with a good sealer.

Below are a few pictures of the process;

Easy filing cabinet makeover
You can see where I previously added felt to the bottom so it wouldn’t scratch the floor.

ready to paint!

This is where my DIY fail comes in. After I did some research, I decided that the best and easiest way to paint the filing cabinet black was with THIS spray paint. The can said it was specifically designed for metal AND it was paintable (in case I ever decided to change the look). Well let me tell you, not everything is as it says. Here is what the top looked like after I sprayed one application.

Yuck! It wouldn’t adhere to the metal at all and immediately bubbled after I applied it. This just goes to show that you always need to “test” an area before you go wild with painting (I’m telling myself this:))

Now what? I decided to apply Krylon’s Chalkboard paint. I wanted a smooth matte black finish, and since my first option didn’t work, I thought the chalkboard paint would be a good alternative. I knew from a previous experience that Chalkboard paint DOES adhere well to metal, so that’s what I decided on. Good news, it worked!

Below is a shot after the first coat.

I added a second coat of chalkboard paint and then a sealer and then I was done! Ready to see the reveal?

easy filing cabinet makeover
easy filing cabinet makeover
easy filing cabinet makeover
Easy Filing cabinet makeover

What a transformation! I’m so glad I decided to give it a makeover rather than pitching it!


Ready to see some more furniture flipping inspiration? Check out my very talented blogger friends below!

<These old, discarded pieces of furniture have a whole new look now.
  1. How to Reupholster a Vintage Sofa by Lovely Etc.
  2. Dresser Makeover by A Fresh Squeezed Life
  3. Painted Vintage Dresser with DIY Chalk Paint by Refresh Living
  4. Easy Filing Cabinet Makeover by Repurpose and Upcycle

As always, thank you for following along. Let me know what you think about this makeover!


23 thoughts on “Easy Filing Cabinet Makeover with a Picture Frame and Paint

  1. I love the finished product! How creative.

    I need a filing cabinet and have been eyeing them, but haven’t felt confident in repurposing one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. This so AWESOME! When we move i will have to have the filing cabinet in the living room. Your design is coming to the rescue of an eyesore! Thank you.

  3. I have 2 filing cabinets, 4 drawers, 52″ high x 28″ deep. Oops, forgot to measure the width, but they’re all designed to fit a 9″ x 12″ Manilla file folder, so common width. They’re just filled with junk, so I can Konmarie them in half an hour. What would you suggest I repurpose them as? You have great creative ideas, they must have a better purpose in life than detritus bins. Thank you.

    1. I’m going to make mine into a table. I only have one, so I’m going to have to create legs for the other side. BUT since you have two you could put a wood slab on the top and have a great desk. Is this something you would like to do with them? I hope this helps!

  4. Final result is great. When paint companies say their product works on metal…they are implying on clean base metal—and a surface not treated before. Every finish has it’s peculiarities, just because it’s metal (the filing cabinet) doesn’t mean that a wax or weird cleaning product hasn’t been applied. You have to follow cleaning and de-glossing on all surfaces in order to get most paints to stick. Your solution was great–and I love the finish it ended up with, and the unglossy black/dark gray is very classy!

    1. Thank you Sandi! I thought I had cleaned the surface thoroughly, but I guess not. Or maybe the product just didn’t work with the cabinet!

  5. That looks great, the frames make it look totally different don’t they? What a clever upcycle. Shame about the first paint, but we all live and learn 🙂

  6. What a change – ugly old metal cabinet to beautiful new wood-look cabinet. Not only did you do a great job in the transformation but you also did a fantastic job in documenting the process in words and photos.

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