Upcycling Your Office File Cabinets

by Maryann Ross Levanti 06/20/2021

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Is your workspace feeling a little blah lately?  The new year is just the right time to make a change!  Make it part of your New Year's resolution to create a cheery, bright, and welcoming workspace by upcycling your old, dingy file cabinet into this blackboard-sided, pretty yet utilitarian piece of office furniture!

You'll Need:

  • A filing cabinet or cabinets
    You probably have a filing cabinet sitting in your office or garage already and if not, you can easily source one from a thrift store or used office supply warehouse.  If you do buy your file cabinet(s) used, be sure to check them carefully for rust and make sure you can easily open and close each drawer before making your purchase.
  • Spraypaint and spray sealant
    Choose a cheery color several shades more intense than your wall or carpet color. 
  • Blackboard paint
    Blackboard paint is the best thing since sliced bread.  It may seem like an expensive buy, but you won't use it all on this project unless you're working with multiple filing cabinets, and you'll find yourself wanting to use it all over your house: it's addictive!
  • Tools to remove your hardware
    You will need a screwdriver to remove the drawer handles and locks from your file cabinet.
  • Sandpaper
    You'll need fine-grained sandpaper for this project.  An electric sander would come in very handy!
  • Primer and/or Sealant
    You'll need to use a basic primer to ensure that your paint stays put!
  • Garbage bags and painter's tape
    If you don't have a dropcloth, several large black garbage bags taped together with masking tape do just fine!
  • Spongy applicators for blackboard paint (or a small roller)

Steps:

  1. First, remove all your hardware: the drawer handles, locks, and so on.
  2. Sand your filing cabinet.  Your goal isn't necessarily to remove the paint, but to create a rasp to which your primer can adhere, and to remove any peeling paint or flakes of rust.
  3. Remove the drawers and lay them out on your dropcloth.  Next, use a spray primer to create a tacky surface to which your paint can adhere.  Make sure you spray everywhere you'll paint, including your fittings if you plan to paint these.  Some blackboard paint doesn't require a primer; read the instructions on your paint to find out.  
    Note: Spray the back of the cabinet as well as the front; you never know which way it will face in the future! 
  4. Wait the prescribed amount of time for the primer to dry.
  5. Next, paint the left, right, and back of the cabinet and the space between the drawers with blackboard paint using your roller.  Continue applying coats until the look satisfies. 
  6. Using painter's tape, wrap a garbage bag 'cape' just beneath the top of the cabinet so only the top is exposed.  Then, spray the top of the cabinet with your spraypaint.  Then do the same with the drawers.  
    Note: Slower is better: do several light coats instead of trying to apply a great deal of spraypaint at once.  Check out this great article for ultimate spraypainting tips!
  7. You may choose to apply spraypaint to the hardware, keep it plain, or paint it with blackboard paint as well.  If you choose to spraypaint your hardware, be sure you've primed it thoroughly, first.
  8. Keeping the 'cape' in place, spray a sealant over your spraypaint.  Do not spray the sealant over your blackboard paint.
  9. Once the cabinet is completely dry, re-attach your hardware and place the drawers back inside the cabinet.

Now you have a beautiful, bright, blackboard-sided filing cabinet!  The blackboard paint along the edges of each drawer allows you to label the contents with chalk markers and easily erase them if you rearrange your filing system.  You can put to-do lists or draw your calendar on the sides.

Some Additional Ideas for this Project:

  • Do the entire filing cabinet in blackboard paint!
  • Apply stick-on decals before applying a sealant over your paint.
  • Mod Podge over textured paper, wallpaper, contact paper, old maps or newsprint to the front of your drawers rather than spraypainting them.  Apply a sealant as usual when you're done.
  • Use painter's tape to create amazing patterns on your drawers or on the top of your cabinet.
  • Edge the top and bottom of the drawers -- or the top of the cabinet -- with washi tape.  Use Mod Podge and sealant to ensure it doesn't peel up over time.
About the Author
Author

Maryann Ross Levanti

I'm Maryann Ross Levanti, looking forward to meeting you and helping you find your new home and/or sell your current one. I've lived in Fairfield County the majority of my life - grew up in Westport, (Coleytown, Coleytown, Staples), undergrad at UPenn, masters from Edinburgh, Scotland. I'm ABR and GRI certified, and hold a broker's license in real estate, as well as a provisional appraiser license. Additionally, I am the exclusive agent for CCO Habitats - a HOBI award winning building company which regularly offers new construction homes as well as renovated homes to the market in Westport. In my 20 plus years of selling homes, I've learned many things - among them - the customer is not always right. Nor am I. However, if we work together we have a much better chance of being correct and either getting your home sold or finding the home that best suits your needs. Yes, I'm outspoken and opinionated. But anyone with a license can open a door - wouldn't you rather have doors opened by someone who actually tells you the truth and is willing to put her years of experience and knowledge into working 24/7 for you to help you understand what you're getting into? You may not always like what you hear, and there are no crystal balls in this business. But I believe an informed decision is always better. Hopefully you do too! As a yearly winner of the Connecticut Five Star Realtor award and frequently repeated recipient of customer service awards indicate; my priority is you, my client, and my clients appreciate it. Put my local knowledge, professional skills, ethics and dedication to work for you - give me a call 203.984.5157.