book page covered file cabinet

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I know, I know … I’m supposed to be filing.

But the minute I started checking out filing cabinets online I just couldn’t shift back to this pile.

Seriously, the second I hit publish on this post, I pulled my ugly beast out of the corner and got to work.

I took some pics of her dusty rusty, decrepit state.

I sanded her down smooth, probably should have worn gloves.

And definitely should have put a coat of clear varnish on her right then!

But I didn’t.  See, the air here is so salty, REALLY salty … but you don’t realize it.  It doesn’t taste salty.  There aren’t little specks of salt flying all around.

But then one day you can’t work the zipper on your beer cooler backpack, and your knives aren’t sharp anymore, and your filing cabinet that has been sitting in a corner, not near any open doors or windows, and hasn’t been swimming in the sea … is rusty and bubbling with corrosion.

So I knew I couldn’t just repaint her without ending up with the same result.  But I should have known that the rust would bleed through my book pages.  I mean, half of the faux co page recipe is water.
I should have known.  But I didn’t.  And short of putting an entirely new coat of book pages on her, which only a crazy very thorough person would do, I’ve got what I got. And luckily for me, I love her!  I mean, imperfection IS the new black.  😉

And, I know it looks like part of it is still wet in the pics … but it’s not.  Those are the areas that I had sanded down so obviously if the finish is a different shade it is going to show through the book pages that way.  Again, I didn’t really realize that was going to happen … but the haphazardness of it all suits me just fine.

The whole project took about 4 hours.  The body of the cabinet goes VERY quickly, the edging and the front are where you’ll need some patience.

Oh, and here’s some wisdom straight out of Book Page Math for Dummies … when you’re figuring out how many book pages you have available – I had page 350 to 460 left in the book I had already used for a Christmas ornament and my Pass It On projects – REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE 2 PAGES PER SHEET!

Any guesses who didn’t think that way?!?  Sigh.

My exact train of thought was – “I’ve got plenty, there’s no way I’ll use over 100 sheets”. The second part of that thought was spot on … it was the first part that gave me a little trouble.

Don’t worry, I’d laugh at me too.  :)

So, I had to break into another book.  And, because I can over think anything, I put some serious contemplation into it and came up with … Water for Elephants.  Have you read it? I highly recommend it.  I loved the book and Joel and I saw the movie together and we both actually liked it. Trust me, that does not happen very often.  Odds are significantly stacked against us since we go to approximately 2 movies a year together.

And then when I realized the book had pictures, I thought it’d be fun to include those on the front.  A little visual reminder of a fun little date night with my man every time I reach for some paperwork.  Smile.

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If you’re interested in faux-co-paging your own anything filing cabinet, here are my tips:

1.  White glue mixes really well with water.  I’ve never even seen Mod Podge in real life but I start with a 1:1 mixture of white glue to water, you can always add more water.  (If you have and want to use Mod Podge I suggest just following the directions on the bottle.)  :)
2.  Keep a small container of water close by.  Your finger tips will get sticky and this helps clean them, and provide a little extra moisture for book page workability around the corners.
3.  Let the layer of book pages dry completely before trying to work over it.
4.  After your book page layer has dried make sure all of the tips and edges are securely stuck, I use 100% glue for this step.
5.  If you end up with any bubbles after it’s dry, just cut a slit in the book page where the bubble is and re-faux-co-page it flat.  You won’t even notice it once it’s dry again.
6.  Tear your book pages to the size you need with the help of a straight edge … then you get the torn page look without a lot of wonky angles.
7.  Take your time.  Some sheets/corners/angles are just stubborn for one reason or another.  I had much better luck waiting it out to make sure it was right than rushing through to the next piece … and needing to go back.  :/
8.  Finish it off with an overlay of faux-co-page and a couple coats of clear spray varnish and you’re good to go.

All-in-all I’m stoked with the result.  She’s not buried in the corner anymore and placed prominently beside my work space she provides much-needed extra surface area.  The rust and lines might bother some, but her new-found eclecticness (not a word?) feels right at home here.

And look what I think is a fun little accessory for her.

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To see how to make the coral and shell picture holders click here.

And yes, you might notice in the pic, this little project has inspired me to get organized with my other office supplies.  And no, I’m not done with my filing yet.  One might call it procrasti-organizing.

What do you think?  Have you ever upgraded the look of your filing cabinet?  Do you even think this is an upgrade?  :)  Ever spend time on a project you really didn’t need to do to procrastinate doing something you really should be doing?

And find more of our upcycling ideas here, here and here. :)


  1. kirbycarespodi says

    I love this, Karah! I guess I didn’t realize that the salt air would corrode stuff so quickly, but I guess that’s because I lived near fresh water. (Lake Ontario.) It’s very cool.

  2. says

    I see the corrosion / rust as a great patina … one that the speciality stores around here would charge extra for! Love using elephants on a filing cabinet; since elephants “never forget” and filing cabinets are to help us remember important details, its a great metaphor. Also, I’ve collected elephants since childhood, so I go nuts for just about anything with an elly on it. Your remake of this cabinet is fun and clever and so much more interesting than simply a paint job, and hey, anything that can make any part of paperwork a bit more fun, is a great solution :)

  3. says

    I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! At the beach house, you can’t even leave your shoes on the floor of the closet, because they mildew :)

    Your filing cabinet looks amazing. Now get back to those taxes :)


  4. says


    This looks so lovely! Now I’m wishing I had a rusty file cabinet to makeover! I keep thinking I will try a book page craft but I can’t bring myself to sacrifice the book :) Now that you have a pretty place to keep all your files, I bet you will be that much more organized in the future.

    All the best,


  5. says

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s “procrastigizing.” :-)

    I should know: Just had a WHOLE WEEK off for spring break, during which I was supposed to do my taxes and…it’s didn’t happen. And now I have to go and fix up a file cabinet…and (oh yeah) get to work!

  6. says

    Eclecticness is a word (in my opinion) and this is one eclectic piece of fabulousness (also a word)!

    I read Water for Elephants – loved. Saw the movie – didn’t love so much! Funny – because the hubs and I see about 2 movies together a year too! But I do love the elephant book pages.

    Those coral photo holders – start snorkeling for some more and pop them in the mail to me!

    Now, stop procrastinating and start filing – your taxes that is!


  7. says

    I like the rust. It gives it an aged look that some might wish to create on purpose. On the other hand, if one wants to avoid rust from leaking through, a good all-in-one sealer/primer will help. I use Zinsser. There are a number of other good brands on the market.

    Great post. I love your creativity in upcycling & reuse.


  8. says

    Wow! I fell in love as soon as I saw the first picture……it looks absolutely amazing! The rust adds to the vintage feeling to it, I think! And I love the accessories in the vignette on the cabinet top… with the blues in the picture, the bowl of corks and the orange flowers….. lovely coastal decor! I love it!.Thanks for sharing this inspiring idea and for your sweet note. Happy week to you!~Poppy

  9. says

    This is a great project and just in time for me to makeover hubby’s file cabinet!! It’s rusty old self is just not fitting into my Mom Cave but he refuses to part with it. :)

    BTW — passed on the Liebster award to you! So glad I’ve found your “space”. :)
    xo Heidi

  10. says

    I love the honesty in your post!! I love pointing out things I would have done differently.. we learn from our mistakes right…. HOWEVER… I love the rust that’s coming through the paper.. it gives it a really nice look!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer… From Dream To Reality linky party!

  11. says

    I decorated two filing cabinets in our office, but I used fabric. I love your idea of using the book pages and the photographs. And the rust just makes it look more vintage and not newly done. I think it looks fabulous!

  12. says

    I think your filing cabinet looks great. I especially like the elephant pictures :-) Filing cabinets are usually boring black, grey, or beige – yours is fun and unique and definitely NOT boring :-)

    And yes, I’m the ultimate procrastinator – I’ll do one thing to avoid doing another thing for as long as possible!

  13. Heather says

    Love this DIY – you are so creative!! Great work – give yourself a big pat on the back! Have a wonderful weekend :) Heather @

  14. says

    I love it and love idea…but I’m thinking of using the phone books I never use and keep getting dropped by my door!! I too have a filing cabinet that sits in a corner that needs attention and filing to be done… I wonder if I make it pretty, if it will motivate me to file papers inside those drawers.

  15. says

    I just saw this via Eclectically Vintage. How cute is this!! I see old Filing cabinets, ALL THE TIME. I thought I was over them, until I saw what you did with the book pages. So clever, so cute, and so not a filing cabinet anymore. Great work.

    I just opened my weekend link party (it opens on Thursday afternoon), I would love it if you had time to drop by this weekend and link up this fantastic project, it needs to be seen!

  16. Jo-Ann says

    Sounds like a good idea. We live on a river and the dampness is great. Thank you for sharing. Blessings

  17. says

    This is a wonderful idea. I should be filing as well, I’ve just had to move my husbands filing cabinet into our family room, and I hate the way it looks. Watch out here come some papers and glue, and you’re right procrastin-organizing should be a word.

  18. Bliss says

    I love it. I have one complete with the rust you have. Pinning yours as a reminder I can make something great out of that old dinosaur.


  19. says

    happy monday to you karah…

    love this piece. book page art just makes me happy.

    my filing cabinet is now in the garage and is really rusty… good solution.

    i’m all about the imperfect too.

    i’m featuring you today from last week’s creative juice party. i’m also sharing this at pinterest and facebook. thanks for linking up and have a lovely week!

  20. says

    How awesome are you??!! I’ve got four filing cabinets, all in a different state of ugly, that I’ve been wanting to make matchy for a while now. And with my love of ModPodge, this is a eureka moment. Thanks for linking up!

  21. says

    Very lovely project! If and when I do it, I will probably give it a wash of burnt umber or some kind of watered down ink to add to the aged appearance. It turned out fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  22. Cat Martinez says

    Oh my gosh, I was just planning to paint some yard sale picture frames so they’d all match, but now I’m thinking…………mod podge book pages onto them! Yes??

  23. Carol says

    This looks so cute!! I want it!

    I am going to try this with a smaller container and use old recipe book pages. I have a Tall Ships Recipe book from the early 1900’s. I am NOT going to tear the pages out,,but will photocopy the recipes or reprint them on some sort of newsprint or thin parchment. That will add a nice little challenge step.. What a wonderful idea! Thank you.


  1. […] And real quick, does January just make you need to organize?  I am actually resisting the urge on many levels because the impractical nature of me trying to get organized when I really should just be gutting our master bedroom, bathroom and closet isn’t lost on even me.  But order and organization are taking over the interwebz these days and it reminds me of the time that I was going to organize my file cabinet and instead I ended up covering the outside in book pages. […]

Let me know what you think!