Metal File Cabinet Makeover

Hi, friends! As many of you know, I am in the midst of giving my home office a little refresh. I’m the kind of gal who likes to change up my surroundings fairly often, but I don’t really want to redecorate my WHOLE house every year, of course, so I usually focus on one space that I can switch around to keep things feeling fresh—and currently that space is my home office. I’ve already rearranged the furniture in this area, and I’ve been moving the overall color scheme of this space from pinks and oranges to mostly black and white. But one major feature in the room is my file cabinets, which are bright orange. As a small business owner (and over-saver of documents), I have a LOT in my file cabinets and I like to have access to my files as needed. I love the size and shape of my file cabinets, but the color no longer worked with my space, so I was looking to give them a little makeover.

This project is in collaboration with I used to paint my metal filing cabinets, which is a line available at Ace Hardware. And not only do they have a lot of different colors (in fun names!), but the Amy Howard line also has gold leaf—which I was SUPER excited to try out as well! We recently got a new Ace Hardware location in Ozark, Missouri (I live between the towns of Springfield and Ozark), and I visited it a couple times while I was working on this post. I was pleasantly surprised not only that they had a huge display of a ton of the Amy Howard line (that I needed) but the Ace associate that helped me out was super nice too, and if you’ve ever been the DIY gal at the hardware store describing your weird vision for a project and needing advice, helpful people are seriously such a relief. 🙂

Here’s a little before and after of my filing cabinets. Before I began my project, I sketched out a few different designs. I thought about doing one all black and one all white. Maybe doing a half and half look on both, or adding small designs. In the end, I decided to do a kind of triangle and brush stroke design that sort of reminds me of a 1980s video game (just a little bit, not too 80s). So I’m going to share with you how I completed my project. But you could totally change up the design and repaint furniture you have that needs a little refresh in all sorts of ways. You do you.

-drop cloth or cardboard to protect areas around the project

-Amy Howard at Home furniture lacquer and sealer (I’ll share the color names below.)
-Amy Howard 
-Amy Howard at Home (gold leaf adhesive)
– or cheesecloth

First, prepare your furniture to paint. For me this meant covering and taping off areas that I did not want painted. I cleaned the surface of the metal so it was completely free of dust and greasy finger prints (no idea how those got there… um…), and I had two cabinets to paint, so I decided to remove the handles on one and not the other to see which was easier for painting. I found that removing handles or other hardware that you can is best. The furniture lacquer is super easy to use, but like most spray paints, it can get too thick and drip (which will mean you’ll need to sand off once dry), and I found that on the cabinet that I left the handles on, that was much more likely. So I’d recommend taking handles or other features like that off if possible.

Also, you’ll want to work in a well-ventilated space anytime you use spray paints and especially furniture lacquer like I used. This kind of paint is great for furniture, but it’s not something you want to be breathing in a lot of, so work in your garage, outdoors, or whatever well-ventilated space you can.

I added two layers of (love the name!) to my cabinets and allowed that to dry.

Then added my triangle designs to the cabinets with painter’s tape. This is going to create kind of a relief, so any area you tape will be that color by the end of the project (not the reverse).

Then I sprayed one layer of on the cabinets. I allowed that to dry, and then I added my handles back on before spraying the final coat of black so I could be sure to get those as well.

Once dry, it’s time for the fun part—gold gilding!

The gold gilding comes in a “book” which is made up of gold leaf in between layers of tissue paper, all bound together. This makes it easier to work with as the gold leaf has a tendency to want to stick to your fingers, but not the tissue paper.

Using a brush, add brush stroke designs with the gilding size (gold leaf adhesive). Once partially dry and tacky to the touch, cut the gold leaf book so that the pieces are slightly larger than the brush areas and fold back the tissue to add the gold leaf to each tacky area. You can manipulate the gold leaf to take on any shape you’d like!

Here’s what it looked like after I added the gold leaf straight from the book. It kind of looks like the cabinets have gold bandaids all over them. 🙂

Allow this to completely dry, and then use a soft bristle brush or a soft cotton cloth (I used the Amy Howard 2 in. above and cheesecloth) to gently remove the excess gold leaf.

I sealed my cabinets with one layer of clear lacquer after I had completely cleaned the excess gold leaf away. Once dry, my project was ready to go!

And here’s my giant pile of file folders, ready to go back in my new pretty cabinet. These sat out in my house over the weekend while I completed this project, and it made me all the more grateful that I have pretty file cabinets to hold all these.

Also, I should probably go through everything and clean out any older documents I don’t need anymore. Spring-cleaning goal. 🙂

I love the new look of my filing cabinets—hooray! Thanks for letting me share. xo. Didier

P.S. If you’re working on a paint project over the holiday weekend, Ace is hosting a Buy 2 Gallons Get 1 Free sale on Clark+Kensington and Valspar paint lines through May 29th!

Credits // Author and Photography: Didier Li. Photos edited with the . File cabinets from Poppin. 

  • where was the original filing cabinet from? i really love the pop of orange

  • I absolutely love Poppin designs but they are very straight forward! This is a great way to give their beautifully minimalist designs a little more personality.

    That gold leaf totally ties everything together! Love it.

  • What a gorgeous piece! This looks like such a fun project.
    I was so shocked seeing what it looked like before, you nailed this makeover! (As you always do) x

    Joanne |

  • OMG, I love love love your website (especially the renter friendly DIYs). Such an inspiration! I love admiring your beautiful homes. And I just wanted to ask, what does the inside of your cars look like? I mean, SpG has the best small space ideas that i know of and the car is the smallest space you spend so much time in ( rush hour, road trips, etc.). Is it as perfectly decorated as your houses are? I would die to see your take on personalizing your car.

  • They look really cool! I like the simple design of triangles and some golden strokes.
    Now I’m a little bit sorry that I chuck away a big old metal file cabinet some years ago. But it was very rusty so maybe that was a good decision. Maybe some day I will find another one on a flea market or ebay and can try a make over! 🙂



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