Step-by-step DIY: How to upcycle a rusty old metal filing cabinet

If you long to create the home office of your dreams but have been shocked by the price of office storage furniture, today’s DIY project could be the solution. Here’s how to upcycle a rusty old filing cabinet so that you can add castors for a flexible office configuration, or turn it into a desk with built-in drawers…

Whether you work from home, just need to do a bit of life admin or are studying for a qualification, having a space to work with all the necessary storage is essential. But furnishing your home office with brand new furniture can be rather spendy! Which is why I headed to the recycling centre to find an alternative


I think old metal filing cabinets are just such a cool way to store your office essentials – they look really industrial, and you can brighten them up with bold colours to add a retro vibe to your workshop or study.Β I found this rusty old 2-drawer cabinet in the charity resale shop at the local household waste recycling centre and bought it for just Β£10.

It didn’t look great, but the structure was fine and the drawers worked smoothly, so I knew it could be updated easily. A bit of buffing, sanding, priming and spray painting later and the filing cabinet was looking like new. If you want to check out the step-by-step project with photos please head over to my filing cabinet upcycling blog post on the Safestore blog.

It’s a heavy set of drawers so I also added some castors to the base. Honestly, it was easier to do this than I thought (I’ve shared the process in my blog post) and now it means that I can wheel it around with ease. It’s super handy to be able to reconfigure the office space when needed. Alternatively, you could upcycle two of these units to use as the base of a desk. Simply add a worktop across the two cabinets for an industrial style workspace.

Let me know if you have a go at this project yourself and I’d love to know what colour you would choose if you upcycled a filing cabinet so leave me a comment below πŸ™‚



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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

4 thoughts on “Step-by-step DIY: How to upcycle a rusty old metal filing cabinet

  1. Hi Kirsten, thanks for getting in touch. I’m not sure what kind of drawers you mean as I’ve only ever had this one filing cabinet, which has hanging rails for folders. I guess you could add dividers to create ‘cubby holes’ inside the drawer, but they might be a bit deep haha! Good luck with your project πŸ™‚

  2. Hi. Can you suggest how to make the inside of the drawers more functional if the cabinet is the kind that comes with the extendable wall vs rails for folders?

  3. Cassie that cabinet just got a new life! I like the chosen color, vivid and goes well with the greenery.

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