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Filing Cabinet Transformation Using Plastic Light Diffusers

Filing cabinet makeover
On the way to school one morning I saw this 4-drawer filing cabinet on the side of the road with the word “FREE” spelled out in duct tape
Filing cabinet before
It was in pretty good shape, a few nicks and a little bit of rust at the bottom, but all-in-all, not a bad curbside find.   I didn’t really need an additional file storage in the house, but I can always use storage in the garage so I decided to make it over so it looked less like a piece of office furniture.

I removed the hardware from the front of the drawers and started with a nice blank slate:

Sanding drawers
I thought it would be fun to tackle a project that utilized Radiant Orchid, the Pantone Color of the Year, and so I immediately knew I would paint it purple.

To do that, I first sanded it down:
Sanding filing cabinet
I used Krylon’s high gloss purple on the entire thing (it took a little more than one can to cover it):
Purple painted drawers
At this point it was cute but since this was a garage project I thought it would be fun to work with textures (since even if it turned out awful, it wasn’t a big deal.)

I headed to the hardware store and wandered around looking for ideas on what would work.  In the electrical section I ran into these:
FilterIf you don’t know what that is, is the textured light diffuser panel that covers up fluorescent lights in drop ceilings and box fixtures.  To de-fract the light it made up of tiny repeating prismatic shapes.  I thought it would be pretty cool if I painted it.

The best part?  There were a few sheets on the shelves that were cracked and broken and so when I brought them to the store manager he let me have them FOR FREE since they weren’t able to sell then anyhow!  SCORE! (Once again, it never hurts to ask!)

I measured the size of the draw fronts and cut the panels apart with a tin snips (this was actually pretty hard to do since the plastic tended to splinter).  The key turned out to cut in super small ‘bites’ slowly following the pattern in the plastic.
Cutting fluorescent light diffusers
I actually cut 6 squares, even though i only needed 6 since I wasn’t sure how well they would hold up after I tried to drill though them for the drawer hardware (drilling was actually much easier than cutting it turns out):
Painting light filters
They looked pretty cool after they were painted.  I was psyched.

To line up the holes for the hardware I taped the panels to the front of the drawers and drilled from the back through the plastic:
Drilling holes
Next, I attached the panels to the drawers using liquid nails (for projects):
Liquid nails on drawers
I had a can of American Accents gold spray paint my neighbor recently gave me since they were moving. (I have never used this brand of paint before, nor have I tried the non-metallic gold finish and it was amazing stuff to work with. Great coverage, really good finish.. I was impressed with it.. especially since it was GOLD, which I usually can't stand.)

I used it on the drawer pulls and I loved the contrast:
Gold drawer hardware
I liked it so much I decided to also paint the front surface of the filing cabinet as well, so I taped it off and sprayed it too:
Taping off
And that was all there was to it. I reinserted the drawers and I was finished:
Textured drawers
The gold against the purple looked really cool. Filing cabinet tag
Here is what the completed piece looks like:
Filing cabinet after
It looks neat from far away, but it looks AWESOME close up (which is not always true for furniture makeover projects):
Finished drawersNow this color combo is not anything I would actually use in my house, but in the right place it would be fantastic!  It will look pretty great in my garage!
Textured filing cabinet
The texture almost looks like snakeskin.
Gold and purple cabinet
If you are curious what I have inside it.. Here are the insides of the drawers.

Hand tools and Gloves:
Hand tools
Watering Cans and Sprinklers:
Watering cans
Flowerpots and Grass Supplies:
Grass seed
Budget Breakdown:
Filing Cabinet: Free on Side of Road
Spray Paint (Purple): 2 @$3.98/each
Spray Paint (Gold): Free from neighbor
Plastic Light Panels: Free (because I took the broken ones)
Liquid nails:  Free from another project
Total Cost: $7.96

Drawer before after
I love how well this came out and now I am really tempted to use the diffuser panels on other projects, but maybe with less wild colors.  I just need to find more free furniture on the side of the road!
Filing cabinet transformation
So tell me what you think?  Would you use it in your house?

Linking up here, and at ThriftyDecorChick, HomeStoriesAtoZ and MyRepurposedLife

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  1. Our Pinteresting FamilyApril 29, 2014 at 4:33 AM

    Fantastic job, Kim! I love the texture you added to it and the color!

  2. Kim, that really looks amazing! I love the color and the use of the light panels - the texture is fabulous! I used similar panels in doors I built for my closet and I used the "score and snap" method which worked pretty well. You seriously did a great job!

  3. Cristina @ Remodelando la CasaApril 29, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    What a transformation! I love the texture the panels gave it, and the color combo is fantastic too!

  4. Dena @ Hearts & ShartsApril 29, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    Love this idea!

  5. Good to know. Seriously cutting those things were by FAR the hardest part. I spent 90% of my time on that part of it!

  6. WOW, what a transformation! Excellent job! Pinned!

  7. Kim, this is a fantastic makeover! The textured panels are so clever! I would love for you to share this with my readers at Trash to Treasure Tuesday, an on going post.


    Great job!

  8. Looks great! I'm always keeping my eyes open for ways to transform filing cabinets. They always feel so cold and remind me of being in the office :P

  9. Awesome!!!! Love it

  10. Yes! I would use this in my home. I love it!!

  11. Very creative! I like how you repurposed the lighting panels to add texture to the drawers. Great makeover!

  12. Looks amazing! Did you use the Krylon pain on the panels also?

  13. Yes. They are painted too. With the same color.


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