How to Decorate a Metal File Cabinet

Written by nina makofsky
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
How to Decorate a Metal File Cabinet
Add some zing to your cabinet. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A metal file cabinet is one of those utilitarian pieces that most people own, but few people decorate. In fact, that industrial design can drag down your room's decor. Invest some money and sweat equity into doing a metal file cabinet makeover, and add some interesting accessories that make the look stand out.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Rags
  • Cleaning solution
  • Measuring tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Drawer pulls
  • Fabric
  • Finishes

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Remove any papers and folders from the inside of the metal file cabinet. Use a screwdriver to take off drawer pulls or any other exterior hardware. Take a cloth rag and dust the exterior and interior of the cabinet. Dip another cloth rag in warm water mixed with a gentle soap and clean the inside and outside of the metal file cabinet.

  2. 2

    Consider different paints or finishes for coating the metal file cabinet's surface. Use special paints and spray enamels, or measure panels of contact paper to cover the cabinet. Modular carpet tiles can add texture, colour and patterns to a file cabinet. If you decide to paint, do two to three coats, allowing the paint to dry between coats.

  3. 3

    Embellish the metal file cabinet. On painted, papered or fabric surfaces, you can add a trim by painting with stencils along the edges of the cabinet. Your file cabinet update can feature paisley in bright orange or fuchsia, or some slim, sophisticated stripes in navy and stone grey. You can also use doilies or other objects with cutouts as stencils. For bolder graphics, affix wall decals featuring anything from graffiti lettering to nature silhouettes, abstract art to cartoon creatures.

  4. 4

    Choose new hardware for drawer pulls. You may need to drill larger holes, using the current holes as guides. Go with sleek and slender designs for a modern look, or wrought iron scrolls for a fanciful aesthetic. Mismatched handles have Bohemian Modern, or "BoMo" style.

  5. 5

    Adorn the top of your metal file cabinet. Treat the surface like a pedestal for a vase or statue. Use a miniature tabletop easel to prop a photograph or painting on your file cabinet. You can also scoot the file cabinet under and between cabinets and shelves to make it look like a built-in. To emphasise the profile of your new metal file cabinet, get a floating shelf the same dimensions as the top of the cabinet and attach it on the wall over the cabinet.

Tips and warnings

  • One of the quickest ways to quickly change a file cabinet is by using magnets. You can cut out magnetic tape to match the dimensions of the file cabinet, paint, collage or embellish the tape and stick it onto the cabinet.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.