Tutorial: Operation Stencil File Cabinet

 In our small apartment, my filing cabinet had always been an eyesore. We never had any place to put it, and so it ended up in Cora’s room (which was half storage). It was blah and gross looking. I saw this stenciled filing cabinet online and was totally inspired.  I was determined to stencil this bad boy.

Here are some stats on the project:

  • Took me a week or so to finish (because I could only work on it while the babe was sleeping)
  • Roughly a 20-30 hour project
  • Was my first stenciling project ever
  • 5 drawer filing cabinet- which means a lot of stenciling especially with a busy pattern
  • Stenciling the width of the cabinet (which was 3 repetitions) took at least 30 min -1 hour)

TOTALLY worth the time!! I am in love with it! It is now a “piece” that I love to show off instead of hide. I can put it anywhere in my house from now on, which is great for renters like us who have different spaces to fill every time we move.

stencil file cabinet doing it darling

Supplies needed to stencil a 5 drawer filing cabinet:

Paint (base) ( used a quart can of cream)

Paint (stencil) (used two sample cans of blue)

Medium to large stencil (mine was the Zamira pattern and cost $30 from Cutting Edge Stencils)

4-6 inch paint roller

Paint tray

Paper Towels

Painter’s drop cloth

1. Begin by setting up in a well-ventilated area. Take the drawers out and remove handles. Paint the entire file cabinet and drawer handles your base color. Let dry several hours or overnight.

file cabinet tutorial doing it darling
original file cabinet (unpainted)

2. Read stencil directions. Using the stencil, decide how you want the pattern to show on your front drawers. From there, go around the whole cabinet and mark with pencil where the registration symbols should line up  at the top edge to be sure that you don’t go crooked.

stencil file cabinet tutorial doing it darling

3. Start stenciling!! (Believe the instructions when they tell you to blot your roller and that less is more when stenciling!) I stenciled the sides first. I stenciled as far as I could toward the bottom. Once I could no longer lay the stencil flat, my husband leaned the filing cabinet back, so that the edge I was working on was in the air and I could lay the stencil flat and finish the bottom strip.

stencil file cabinet tutorial doing it darling

4. I did the drawers last. They are harder to do because they push in as you press the roller on them. My husband helped on this part and held the drawers flush with the front of the cabinet by holding them from underneath.

*If you are doing this project in increments be sure to wash your stencil after every use. If you let the paint dry on the stencil, it can make it brittle and cause it to break.


5. If the paint bled as you stenciled, go through with a small paint brush and touch up any blots or mistakes you have made. If you choose a busy pattern, it’s a lot more forgiving of mistakes.

And Walah! After a lot of hard work, you’ll have an amazing furniture piece!

stencil file cabinet tutorial doing it darling

So proud of this project!!

Wishing you happy stenciling! Excited to hear about your stenciling adventures!



3 thoughts on “Tutorial: Operation Stencil File Cabinet

  1. It’s funny-I can spend 20-30 hrs upcylcing and sewing girls dresses from a bed ruffle, but this stencil project seems so overwhelming to me! Matching the stencil pattern each time! GOODNESS! You go girl for rocking that!

    1. Thank you Elif! It really IS funny.. because I don’t have as much patience for sewing projects! haha. Although I am working on that. So far we’re just around 5 hour projects like pillow cases and curtains.Mostly It’s not really the sewing that intimidates me, but the high chance that my machine will go haywire and double the length of the project 😉

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