Frugal Craft Space - File Cabinet Makeover

After years of having our kitchen island serve as my craft table, I am excitedly creating a craft space in our guest room where craft supplies and equipment can remain set up and ready to go!  I envisioned a large craft table supported by two 2-drawer file cabinets.  The cabinets provide great storage, but were less than attractive and desperately needed a makeover.

The first criteria for the new craft space was to be frugal and to use items we already had on hand whenever possible - basically, the same criteria for any project we undertake. No surprise there!


Two metal 2-drawer file cabinets
Four decorative drawer pulls
Zinsser 123 Primer
Latex Paint
12 large wood paint stir sticks
Paint brush
Mitre saw box or hand saw 
Loctite Power Grab adhesive
220 grit sandpaper
Wood filler

We already had one file cabinet and located another of the exact same height at a local thrift store for only $15.  Along with being thrifty, an added bonus is that older metal file cabinets are made really well and provide sturdy and secure support for heavy tabletops.  

Gave them a quick cleaning and lightly sanded to rough the paint up and smooth any scratched areas.  

I also removed all the hardware on the front of the drawers because I wanted to add decorative drawer pulls and hopefully have the cabinets look more like furniture and less like industrial office equipment.

Hubby drilled holes for the decorative drawer pulls I bought at Hobby Lobby.  The four pulls cost a little over $8.

Next I painted the cabinets and drawer fronts with a coat of primer - Zinsser 1-2-3.  This stuff is amazing - is thick and goes on smoothly and evenly - great coverage.  I've used it on metals, wood and plastic with great results.  

This is where the project took a slight detour.  Instead of following my instinct and immediately framing out the drawers, I decided to try covering the drawers with birch paper.  Love the look of birch - it had to turn out great, right?  

Well ... it didn't look "bad," just not the look I was after in the space that I had envisioned.  Lesson learned!

To get back on track, I painted over the birch paper and let it dry. 

Then I grabbed our handy little mitre saw to cut the wood stir sticks to frame out the front of each drawer.  No fancy angled mitre cuts - just straight cuts.

Mitre Saw Box

The 5 gallon size wood stir sticks are surprisingly straight.  We had several, but not nearly enough to frame all the drawers.  Took a trip to the paint department at Lowe's and asked to buy 12 of them - did not expect them to just give that quantity to me at no cost.  Surprisingly, that's exactly what happened!  A pleasant surprise!

When all the wood pieces were cut, I adhered them to the drawer fronts using Loctite Power Grab adhesive.  This is another product that I use a lot for all types of materials.  It instantly adheres, but is repositionable for up to 15 minutes.  And, it comes in a convenient  resealable tube - so much easier than a bulky caulk gun.  No mess and no waste.

Loctite Power Grab

After letting the adhesive dry, I filled any gaps with wood filler, let dry and sanded.  Then it was finally time for paint!

I used a white interior latex satin paint from my stash - in Sherwin Williams Downy.  

And, the cabinets are now exactly as I had first envisioned - fresh and clean and ready to be filled with fun craft supplies.

Hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek at my new frugal craft space and I'll be back to share how we installed the table top, along with more of the "in progress" details!

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I look forward to your thoughts and ideas!  I try to respond to comments via email as soon as I can. If your email address isn't available, I will comment here. Thanks so much for visiting! 

 (I was not compensated in any way for this post - 
the opinions expressed are my own based on my personal experience.)

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  1. Wow you did a great job with the redo of the cabinets!
    Thanks for joining and sharing this at Cooking and Crafting with J&J!
    We hope to see you again!

  2. Love how you transformed the file cabinets! Such a clever idea!

  3. Carolyn, You are so creative , Love how you used paint sticks to frame out the drawers.. Smart and beautiful. Cant wait to see the table top installed..

  4. Wow Carolyn, you'd never know two metal file cabinets are hiding under those beauties! I think your mission was accomplished­čśŹ

  5. This looks SO pretty!! :)

    I would love for you to share this with my FB Group:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  6. I love this and want to transform my four-drawer filing cabinet to something similar. I have one question, though. How do you get the drawers open if you take off the little sliding piece that unlatches the door?

    1. Hi! I open the drawers using the decorative drawer pulls ... a slight tug and the drawers open. Push closed to shut. No drawer locking mechanism needed. Thanks for popping by!

  7. HI
    Love your project. I cannot figure out how to remove the drawer locking mechanism on each drawer. The little silver button that slides so you can open the door. How did you remove it?

    1. Hi! Thanks so much! There was a panel on the inside of my cabinet drawers that was held in place by the drawer pull screws. I removed the drawer pulls and then pried the panel off with a screwdriver. That exposed all the drawer closing hardware which I removed completely. Would love to see your completed project! Hope this helps!

  8. Had you not used the birch paper, how would you have covered/filled the holes on the drawer fronts where the hardware was removed?

    1. I would have used caulk or wood filler to fill them and sanded smooth.

  9. Loved what you did and I am in love with the drawer pulls. Looked at HL site but could not find them. Can you give me the item #?

    1. Thank you! We bought them several years ago and unfortunately I dont have the item number. They may no longer be in stock. I searched for "drawer pulls with swirls" on Amazon and there are several similar styles available. Hope this helps!