How to Create a Dresser From a Recycled Filing Cabinet

by Jessica Alvarez

How to make an old filing cabinet into a sleek space-saving dresser with a little creativity, under $15 in supplies and very little time. Hope you enjoy!


  • 2 cans of spray paint in desired color for drawers
  • 3 cans of glossy spraypaint* for cabinet
  • *or a quart of multipurpose gloss latex paint
  • Paintbrush (optional-only not using spray paint
  • 1 or 2 cheap baking pans as paint trays
  • 1 old filing cabinet
  • Optional cleaning supplies and elbow grease!
  • Painters tape
  • Optional ratchet with hex bolt
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    Begin with a simple filing cabinet. The one I found was old and beat-up, but for $10 at a thrift store it was the right price and a great size (think height,not width for small spaces)

    Step 2

    Take out drawers and clean all the dust and miscellaneous paperclips out

    Step 3

    Clean out both the inside and outside for proper paint application. Lining the drawers with contact paper, fabric or scented drawer liners is optional. I chose not to, but I may in the future!

    Step 4

    Decide if you want to keep the hardware. If you don't, make sure you find drawer pulls that fit the screw holes. I chose to keep the label windows to identify and label what goes in the drawers.

    Step 5

    Unscrew hardware. Tape off anything that doesn't come off so you don't get spraypaint on it. Use a ratchet and a hex bolt to take handles off. Or tape them off if you don't have the tools!

    Step 6

    Keep all the hardware and screws together.

    Step 7

    Now that your small pieces are gone, clean the front of your new drawers. The small square that doesn't unscrew can be taped off.

    Step 8

    Take the empty filing cabinet somewhere that you can paint and leave it out to dry for a few hours. I took mine outside and brought it back in when it was dry but I had help-it's a heavy, metal piece.

    Step 9

    No matter where you paint, put a tarp or towel down. It can get really messy really fast if you are using latex paint from a quart. I wanted to have a "shabby chic" brushstroke look for the outside.

    Step 10

    If you don't want brushstrokes and want less mess, spraypaint is the way to go. I wanted it to have a brushed on feel, a light coat works well for that effect.

    Step 11

    Cover entirely. Top, sides and back.

    Step 12

    Next, spraypaint your drawers. I tested these at the store so I knew they'd be sharp and glossy, a good contrast to the white. Have fun with the colors, the drawers can all match or be a few shades!

    Step 13

    2 of mine are light blue, 3 a darker bright blue. Color is entirely up to you. Consider stencils, chalkboard paint, etc.

    Step 14

    Let stand for about an hour or until completely dry.

    Step 15

    Reattach hardware

    Step 16

    And you're done! Add clothes, paper, whatever your heart desires.

    Step 17

    Note the great effect glossy spraypaint has.

    Step 18

    Remember to fill in all of the front spaces with white. I missed a couple of spots on the second drawer.

    Step 19

    Step 20

    And Voila! New to me dresser-this was so much fun and inexpensive to make. I hope you enjoyed this guide; good luck on your journey to making old artifacts functional and beautiful again!