Oak Filing Cabinet Makeover

I know, I know, I know! How could you paint an old oak filing cabinet? I know!painted oak filing cabinet Front Porch Mercantile

When this piece was in the shop I had several people give me the stink eye when they heard I was painting this oak filing cabinet. Let me start by saying it was in need of a little paint. There were holes on the side from where something large had been placed and it had some damage on the side from what looked like burn marks. Please don’t fill my inbox with hate mail, it really did need a paint job – AND I did have an antique dealer come look at it for me and give me permission. OK? :)

original oak filing cabinet- before - Front Porch Mercantile

Other than the holes and few burn marks, it was in original condition, which is rare – and awesome! I love pieces that I know have a story. I wonder where this piece has been? If only it could talk..

All the original brass hardware, all the drawer sliders were original and in good condition, it sparked a lot of interest in the shop.

It was spoken for right away by a client and friend from out of town. So it sat for sometime in the shop until she could get down, and all my regulars got to know it pretty good. I wish I had a $1 for every time someone said “if your client changes her mind…” but she didn’t.

Once a colour was chosen we got to painting her. A beautiful wood piece like this was calling out for Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, but what colour?

I decided to honour her history and chose an antique-y colour (I know, it’s not a word, but you know what I mean right?)


File Cabinet re-loved Front Porch Mercantile

custom Miss Mustard Seed Colour Trophy and Kitchen Scale

I love mixing Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, I mix blends and colours all the time, it’s a wonderful thing about Milk Paint. I mixed Trophy and Kitchen Scale and bam – loved it! A rich colour, with historic bones and lots of depth. Wow, ok, I sound all cheesy there, but really, there was a lot of depth of colour and I was really pleased with the mix.

I removed the drawers and hardware, filled the holes, gave it a very quick and light sanding and a good scrub (man that thing was dirty!) and it was ready to paint!

I painted 2 coats (with bond agent) distressed it and finished with hemp oil then antique wax. I love the durability of hemp oil once it is cured. Love it. I love how rich and colourful it makes a piece and I love adding antique wax over hemp on older pieces as well.

Hemp Oiling Filing Cabinet Front Porch Mercantile

You can see where the Hemp Oil is going on and how rich it makes your piece – I applied it with a brush and then wiped it

Hemp Oil on oak file cabinet drawers - Front Porch Mercantile

Before hemp oiling I lightly distressed it to age it a bit and bring out the character. I feel a piece like this needs to look like it’s  “been around” awhile. The hemp oil makes it rich and protects it, and then the antique wax aged and accented all the nooks and crannies and imperfections. My favourite combo to dirty up and bring out the character in pieces.

File Cabinet Reloved Front Porch Mercantile

We didn’t replaced all the original brass hardware, we cleaned it up, but did not polish it or replace as again, this piece needed to honour its history and I loved the way it turned out. It almost came home again with me. (Sometimes I have a hard time parting with painted pieces…is that weird or just dorky?) :)

original brass hardware Front Porch Mercantile

My client seemed thrilled with the end results and it is safely home with her it’s new home.

What do you think of the transformation? Love hearing your feedback and comments. But don’t hate me for painting the oak filing cabinet, k?

painted oak filing cabinet Front Porch Mercantile

Here is an updated picture of the filing cabinet in my clients home! Love it! Thanks J!

oak filing cabinet Front Porch Mercantile

Here it is in my clients beautiful home!

Do you want to paint a piece but don’t know where to start? Come see me at Front Porch Mercantile or send me a email (we have online shipping available too) would love to help you out, and don’t forget we offer monthly Milk Paint workshops as well! You can check them out here!

As always, thanks so much for popping by!



ps…this piece was featured on Finding Silver Pennies and Miss Mustard Seed’s Blog – thank you ladies!

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  1. This is lovely!!!!
    I can’t wait to try out Milk paint <3
    I wish you were nearby Wendy to help me out :)

  2. I think you definitely made the right decision. I’ve never seen a file cabinet look so good, and I totally understand why you hesitated to part with it. Love the color and hardware and everything!

  3. That is beautiful. I’m not sure I would have seen that much potential in a utilitarian filing cabinet. Great job!

  4. Your transformation is wonderful. I really like how the paint color and techniques created an industrial chic look. I transform a lot of metal cabinetry into chic storage for my crafts. Hope you can come by for a look!

  5. Looks great! I have a question about the finishing…I want to know if the hemp oil will give the milk painted wood a sheen/shine/gleam at all? I want to finish off my piece with something that adds a subtle shine and I’m worried oil won’t be enough.


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