When we moved into our house a little over 6 months ago there was only one room we didn’t paint–the office/craft room. Which meant it was used as our holding ground for everything that belonged in the rooms that were being painted.

image via Pottery Barn

And 6 months has gone by and it’s finally time to tackle the mess that’s still hanging around. I’ve been filling up a pin board with ideas of what I wanted to do in here, but my absolute favorites happen to all be made from Pottery Barn components. And well, at $270 x 4 for the cabinets plus the desktop, I knew our money would be better spent somewhere else (like maybe for baby #3). But I’m slightly obsessive and when I get an idea I research and search until I know just what I want until I’m completely consumed by it. And I was consumed 100% on redoing this office. I looked at pre-made cabinets-praying I’d find a deal like Young House Love, toyed with getting a bid for custom cabinets, and finally convinced myself that all I’d need to do was find 4 old filing cabinets at a thrift store, paint them, talk my husband into helping with a desktop and, voila! the desk.

For months I looked at thrift stores, but never brought home a single filing cabinet. Then one glorious day all the stars aligned. I stopped by the university surplus store and happened upon 4 matching filing cabinets! For $10 a piece! I was so excited. There were 2 with 2 drawers and 2 with 3 drawers (so twice as many as shown). I had looked all over for a 3 drawer cabinet without any success, and now here they were right in front of me! As I was giddily checking out, I mentioned that all I’d need now was a desktop. The man replied, “Oh, those have desktops that go with them. They’re out in the quanset.” I ran to the quanset thinking I’d find some little dinky tops, but what I found were 2 tops, each 6′ long (our room happens to be 12′ 2″ long!) for $5 a piece. I do not think it could have been more perfect. They were made to go with these cabinets, were only $5, and would require minimal help from the husband. SOLD!

So if you are keeping track I got 4 filing cabinets and 12′ of desktop for $50.

This is when the fun begins. I thought about painting them some bright, fun color but after taking another look at my pin board it was obvious I like white. And why mess with the what the pins tell you!

I stopped by Lowe’s and picked up 2 cans of white primer and 5 cans of  white satin paint, a package of sand paper and a sanding block to use between coats. The total cost: $41.

The cabinets appeared to be fairly new, there were a few scratches here and there, but over all they looked really good. When I opened the drawers I found all sorts of good stuff. The instruction sheets, dividers, screws, basically everything they came with. To prep for painting I first removed the hardware, then lightly sanded them. I tried to use our electric sander, but found that I liked using sand paper wrapped around a wood block even more. Then I taped off. I hate taping, so I made sure the little key hole was covered and then used garbage bags to protect the rest.

Painting took longer than I thought it would. Between waiting for coats to dry, and ending up with 4 coats on 4 filing cabinets it spread over 4 days. In the mean time I decided to paint the handles Oil Rubbed Bronze. It was one of those moments that I knew it would be a love or hate result. Thankfully it resulted in love and I can’t imagine why I ever doubted.

The husband helped move everything in and put it all together. He made sure the desktops were level and screwed them into the filing cabinets.

And just to keep it real—oh so real–I snapped this picture before we starting moving the old stuff out and the new stuff in. It was livable, but definitely not the best setup. What you don’t see is the little table I had on the left side under the window for my sewing machine. It was a total hod podge of surfaces.

We installed the desk under the window and it is divided into two work stations. One for the computer and the other for the sewing machine. Plus lots of drawers to utilize! There were even enough I offered the husband his own set of drawers.

I can’t wait to add some colorful accessories and make the space awesome. The newly re-covered chair is going to look great in here! And I’m sure you’ll admit it’s already showing more potential than what we started with!

And again, the bargain beginnings.

And what a few coats of paint can do!




  1. Can’t wait to see the pic of the finished office! You have given me an excellent idea to tuck away for the house we are hoping to build! Of course the hubby will have an office, I didn’t think it would be possible to share space with him for a craft room, but I think I can with your inspiration! Thanks!

  2. Laura Fahey Says: March 19, 2012 at 8:24 am

    LOVE IT!! Now I just need a room and a sale to find the goodies…lol.

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for this post. This is exactly what I want to do with my office at home. Now I have a great idea of using filing cabinets.

    I love how yours turned out.

  4. This is so awesome! I love the desk. I’m not really a wall-to-wall desk kind of person, but I love the way yours turned out. What a steal! 🙂 It looks lovely and all the storage is great!

    • We thought about attempting to turn one of the desktops into a corner piece, but decided not to risk ruining what we had so we stuck to the long desk! But I do love the corner pieces.

  5. I love how this turned out and the luck in finding all your pieces at once AND at a great price. Looks great.


  6. I love them! I think it’s going to be so cute. I bet you could make little tags like the PB file cabinets and use magnets. They would be easy to move around. Good Luck and I can’t wait to see the finished room.

  7. I featured your Easter Printables on my site today! Love them!!

    @ http://www.made-famous-by.com

  8. I have been trying to create this same idea for our house. With so many kids needing computer time to do homework we are wanting to add another computer station. I am seriously jealous you ran across all the cabinets and the tops!

  9. Nicole F Says: March 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    looks great!! I love it!

  10. OMG, what an incredibly perfect find. I have been looking online for filing cabinet desk ideas and this was one I came across. So jealous you found such a great find. I somehow don’t think I will be that lucky.

  11. Marianne Lou Says: August 11, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I am looking to make the something after seeing yours. It just looks wonderful! I was just wondering if you would share what company makes these? Does it say on it or do you not know?

  12. Can you tell me the brand name of the filing cabinets in your office? I am looking for some that are no taller than 25″.


  13. […] I’ve ever taken you on a tour of the finished room. You might remember when we painted the filing cabinets and installed the desk, or when I recovered my office chair back here. The good news is we still love our desk system as […]

  14. […] Office Make Over Filing Cabinets […]

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