Nice Find Makeover: Vintage Card Catalog Cabinet

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The piece of furniture that has just passed through Christelle’s hands is a rarity these days. It’s a very heavy, unglamorous-looking metallic card catalog cabinet. It was worn out by years of intensive use.

Those who have only ever worked with computer files will no doubt be wondering what purpose a cabinet with so many little drawers serves. In fact, this cabinet has 60 small drawers. These cabinets were used to organize cardboard files by category or alphabetically. They were frequently used in libraries to reference both books and users. These cabinets enable a person to find a book of which any of the following is known (the author, the title). Card Catalog cabinets could also be found in government offices.

Today’s makeover candidate was used in a police station to collect information before the spread of computers. After years of loyal service, it was dethroned by a computer and put away. Fortunately, it was taken in by Christelle, who decided to give it a second life.

Supplies and Tools Used for this Furniture Makeover

Step by Step Makeover

Here’s what the cabinet looked like before the makeover: the paint was badly damaged. You can even see several layers of paint. Paper labels were still present in the label holders. A metal bar had been fixed to the top of the cabinet, just above the top row of drawers. It was all dented.


The makeover of this metal file involved meticulous stripping of each drawer and the cabinet structure. As you can imagine, stripping each of the 60 narrow drawers with their label holders was a real painstaking task. The damaged metal bar was simply removed.

The paint was very resistant. Christelle had to use a paint stripper to remove it. This is a job to be carried out outdoors, as the stripper gives off strong odors. I’d also advise you to wear a VOC respirator mask when using this type of product. 3M masks are easy to find and affordable.


To create a frosted effect, the cabinet and each of the 60 drawers were then delicately sanded. The result is truly stunning. This file cabinet has retained its craftsman charm. At the same time, its metallic appearance gives it an industrial feel.

This piece of furniture will fit perfectly into a modern interior or a loft. It could also energize a classic interior.

This card catalog cabinet would be ideal for an entrance hall or a living room. It could also serve as a storage unit for a amateur or professional seamstress. Buttons and threads of different colors can be neatly arranged in the various drawers. Imagine how many little treasures could be stored in these drawers.

Save this project for later!

I hope this makeover of an old piece of metal furniture will inspire you. Please feel free to share your own projects or ask any questions in the comments section.

Happy Makeover!

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