Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tutorial - Mod Podge File Cabinet (Mistakes & All)

I bought these filing drawers on sale for 40% off at Michaels. They are just what I need to keep my files in perfect order, but they were so boring! I've always wanted to try my hand at decoupage, so now is as good of a time as any. I even made a couple mistakes which I am more than willing to share with you in case you are (or plan to be) a decoupage first timer as well. I don't want you to waste time on the mistakes I made, or skip the steps I should not have skipped. Now that I've given this a try, I am definitely going to do it again! OK, here goes...


Mod Podge (this is the brand I used)
Liquid varnish (optional, but it gives a more durable finish)
Foam brushes (size depending on the size of your project)
Toothpicks (to keep your holes, if any, gunk free)
Disposable containers for liquids (preferably with lids)

**I used a rolling pin for smoothing out my fabric on my drawer fronts. I would not recommend using a rolling pin on any product other than Mod Podge. Mod Podge is non-toxic and water soluble. Your rolling pin will be washed clean with soap and water, and you don't have to worry about toxins soaking into the pin.

**If you are covering something where the drawer will go inside the cabinet (actually similar to mine, although I didn't encounter a major problem) you might have better luck using scrabooking paper or wrapping paper and cut it to the exact measurements of the drawer front. With the layers of Mod Podge, Varnish, and fabrics, you could be adding too much bulk for the drawers to close properly. In hindsight, I should have used the paper, but since I used a very lightweight fabric, I didn't have a problem I couldn't fix later. Will explain this toward the end.

You can also use the "crazy quilt" look where you cover just the front of the drawer with odd shapes and decoupage them on randomly until the whole front is covered.

1.  Remove any hardware, handles, or knobs if you are able to. If you are unable to remove them, you will have to work around them, but in most cases you will be able to remove them. 

2.  Measure the area you are going to be covering.

Sher's Mistake #1 - I did not measure where my holes were for my handle. This made finding them a bit of a challenge when I wanted to put them back on. So if your hardware has four holes like mine, measure at least one of the holes.

3.  Rough up your surface slightly with some sandpaper. To be completely honest with you, I have no idea what kind or grade I used. I went to my husband's workshop and grabbed a sheet. I do suppose you wouldn't want anything too rough or too fine. Find a happy medium. Clean away any dust with a damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth.

4.  Cut your ironed fabric about one inch or two bigger all the way around your project. You will trim away any excess later.

Sher's Mistake #2 - At my first try, I cut my fabric the exact size of the drawer front. Do not do this with fabric! Since fabric has a bias, it tends to stretch and you will not get nice straight edges when it becomes wet. Bummer, because I loved my first fabric choice so much. Fortunately, since the Mod Podge was still wet, I was able to wash it off and start over.

5.  Pour some of your Mod Podge into a disposable container. Using your foam brush, apply a generous amount on your surface, including the sides (unless you are using paper, then don't do the sides). You need to work quickly because this stuff dries quickly. I used a toothpick to keep the holes (my screw holes for the drawer pull) from accumulating the Mod Podge.

Place your fabric on top of the prepared surface. While you are doing this, place the lid over your container so it doesn't dry up. Smooth out your fabric on the top, and the sides. I found that a rolling pin helped for this part. Let this dry completely (15 to 20 minutes) before the next application of Mod Podge.

6.  Now that your project is dry, you can trim away any excess fabric that is hanging over the edges. I also trimmed away the corners so that they would lay flat. You also want to make sure that the area where you folded the fabric around the edges, is glued down very well so you don't add bulk. Too much bulk will not allow you to open or close your drawer freely if your drawer is designed like mine. 

7.  Now you can add a layer of Mod Podge on the fabric top and sides. You might even have to slip a little more Mod Podge under the edges at the sides so the fabric sticks well. Make sure you don't have any blobs or excess Mod Podge along the sides of the drawer front. Allow to dry 15 to 20 minutes if you plan to add another coat. 

I let mine dry for a few hours because instead of adding another coat of Mod Podge. I wanted a more durable finish so I used a varnish sealer over the Mod Podge. I found that only one coat was needed for the varnish. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the varnish you are using, if you choose to use varnish.

8.  I let my drawers dry overnight, then in the morning I reattached my drawer pulls.

Since my drawers slide into the outer cabinet, I did have to do some extra fabric trimming with an exacto knife. There was also a couple spots where I had to secure a little better with a little more Mod Podge (under the fabric edges) at the sides of the drawer front. It did take a little effort to make sure my drawer slides in and out easily. You may or may not have this issue, depending on your drawer front, or if it is even a drawer you are covering. Like I mentioned before, I probably should have used paper and only covered the front, but all in all, I'm still glad I did it! I love the look and it was well worth the effort.

Now, to tackle the re-organization of all my files!  


  1. Oh what a fun DIY! I have an old filing cabinet that could use a makeover. Thanks for the tutorial. I'm pinning it. =0)

  2. I like the transformation, and I like that you pointed out the mistakes you made during the process. I always wonder if bloggers always get things right the first time (I certainly don't!).

  3. The filing cabinet looks great. I like the fabric you chose. I've done some decoupage before but never anything this big.

  4. Love your cabinet makeover! I've never tried Modge Podge, but I love your end result!

  5. I thought this was very makeover clever, and it looks good.
    two questions, if anyone can answer please do. What is Modge Podge? And is it available in the UK? If not does anyone know the equivalent?

    1. Mod Podge is a decoupage glue. It is similar to normal PVA glue, but maybe a little thinner. It is also guaranteed non toxic and acid free. I know Hobbycraft used to carry it in the UK. There is DecoPatch as well, which is similar. Or just diluted PVA glue would work if you are on a budget.

  6. Cute idea to convert ' boring' furniture !

  7. Great tutorial! Your revamped filing cabinet looks fab!!

  8. It looks great. Gotta love Mod Podge! I think fabric is a great choice.

  9. I've never decoupaged before. It looks like fun! I love how it transformed an otherwise dull file cabinet!

  10. What a fun idea! A great way to dress up your cabinets. Thanks for the tips!


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