Monday, April 16, 2012

Fabric Covered File Cabinet Tutorial

I finally did it... I finally got my fabric covered file cabinet done!

At the beginning of the year, one of my "must-do" organizational projects was getting a bill paying center set up. Well, here it is, the middle of April, and I'm finally done. Better late than never.


Although I consider myself mostly organized, I have to admit I was a bit scattered with the bills. I had one place where I keep the incoming mail, another for the bills, and yet another (and another) for paying and filing. Not a good idea.

A file cabinet was the best option and one that I could keep in my kitchen, since that's where I tend to do most things lately. I was going to start hitting the yard sales, but then I remembered I had this strange little file cabinet hanging around. What's better than free?

It's smaller than most single file cabinets, but it had everything I needed. A place on top to keep a mail caddy, a space that will hold a basket for incoming mail, a drawer for pens and stuff and most importantly, a file drawer to... well, file!

But it was ugly! It's covered with faux wood-grain laminate and the edging was falling off. What to do?

Paint and decoupage. My first decoupage experience with paper turned out so-so, but I wanted to try my hand with fabric. I've seen a couple of projects that look fun... and cute. I dove in and you know what... it worked out better than I thought. Want to take a look at how I turned an ugly file cabinet into... well, something isn't too bad to look at?

The first step was sanding the entire cabinet down with a fine-grit piece of sandpaper.

And then covering the feet with plastic. I could have spray painted the feet, but sense I'll be rolling it around a lot and didn't want to chance a lot of chipping, I left the feet alone.

Then it was time to paint. I didn't prime the cabinet first, although that's always best practice.  Instead I used multiple coats of the Fusion paint (that's made for plastic surfaces... and works great, BTW).

And when I said multiple coats, I really meant that. I found a lot of lot light coats work the best to avoid runs.

And since I only wanted to paint the outside, there was a lot of wrapping, taping and more painting to get the edge of the drawers that wouldn't be covered with fabric.

But after I started painting I realized that the spots under where the edging came off should have been filled. There was lots of voids. So I that's what I did... filled them them with spackling. When that dried,  I sanded the surfaces smooth and... yes, painted some more. (It took a can and a half to finish this little cabinet!)

Once everything was tried, it was time to decoupage. I'm sorry I didn't photograph this process  thoroughly. Even with a helper (thank goodness for an extra set of little hands), it's was a fast and furious race to get the fabric down without the decoupage media drying first.

I wanted my fabric pattern to be seamless, so I cut one piece to fit over the top of the cabinet and the front of the drawers. I cut the piece a couple inches wider than the entire width of the cabinet. Then we laid down a thick coat of Mod Podge on the top of the cabinet and laid the fabric down. We used our hands to smooth it down and then a spatula to really get it tight in the corners.

Then laid down more Mod Podge on the front of the drawers and smoothed the fabric down over the drawers. While the Mod Podge was still wet, I was able to move the fabric to make sure the pattern aligned, especially at the drawer lines. The fabric is only on the flat surfaces. There wasn't enough room to wrap the fabric around the drawers. (What I love about using fabric for this decoupage process... unlike paper, fabric doesn't wrinkle back up!)

After the first coat dried, I was able to cut and trim the fabric. This was just a rough trim at this point. I also folded the over the front and back edges of the cabinet with more Mod Podge.

Then it was just a matter of continuing to cover the surfaces with Mod Podge. In all, I put on about five coats on the top and the drawers, letting the Mod Podge dry between coats.

After everything was tried, I came back with a sharp utility knife and trimmed the ragged-looking edges. Oh, and I added new knobs, too. I was going to use the original handles and repaint them. Unfortunately, the dog ate one of them.

Finally it was ready to fill up and use.

 All-in-all, I'm happy with my little fabric covered file cabinet. What do you think?

Linking to:
Coastal Charm Nifty Thrifty Tuesday
Craft-o-Maniac Monday
The Girl Creative's Just Something I Whipped Up
My Romantic Home Show and Tell Friday 


  1. Oh my gosh what a transformation. Most would have tossed that piece but you made it new again. I am doing that for nightstands from some bad looking pieces in the garage. I just need to get to it.

  2. So cute! A great fast and inexpensive transformation!

  3. If my filing systems are like that, I would definitely be confident enough to store important files that I need to keep.