| | | | |

Furniture Makeover: DIY Chalk Painted Wood File Cabinet

This Post May Contain Affiliate Links. Please Read my Disclosure Policy.

I finally finished the vintage wood file cabinet I have in my studioffice.  It took a bit of time to complete, but worth all the effort in the end. It is my favorite piece of DIY chalk painted furniture now.

Chalk-Painted furniture-Tutorial-Using-Calcium-Carbonate

I decided to paint it with homemade chalk paint I made myself using Calcium Carbonate Powder.  I thought about staining it, but the veneer was in bad shape in too many places. Plus, when I started sanding, the wood color was uneven. I didn’t want to see all the variation and patched areas through the stain.

I am EXTREMELY happy with how it came out. It is one of those projects that turns out just how you envisioned and has you wishing you had done it years ago.

DIY chalk painted Furniture-Before-and-After-Makeover In My Own Style

This looks like one piece of furniture, but it is actually two separate and unrelated pieces of furniture that I combined to make into one very functional piece that fits perfectly in the space between the two windows in my studioffice.

The top shelf unit was a hand-me down from an uncle.  The bottom vintage file cabinet was handed down to Ed and me from his parents. I remember his Dad telling me that it was from the Pennsylvania Railroad offices in New York.  It was made by the Remington Rand Company – Library Bureau Division.

Two of our other favorite pieces of furniture were from his parents as well: Mantel and Armoire.

DIY Chalk Painted Furniture Makeover

I painted the top section (shelving unit) a year ago using Sherwin Williams Alabaster in a satin finish.  I painted the file drawers with the same paint, but I made it into chalk paint and used wax to bring out a subtle sheen on the surface. I did not age the finish with sandpaper or a dark wax. I used clear Johnson Paste Wax. Many think that chalk paint is just used when you want to distress and age pieces.

Vintage-Furniture-Makeovers using diy chalk paint

I know you are asking – Why would I use chalk paint instead of the unaltered latex paint so the pieces would match?

If I used latex alone, I would have to use two light coats of primer to make sure the tannins in the wood did not bleed through, plus two coats of paint.  Since I wanted to keep the drawers moving freely – too many coats of paint would have made them too thick and they would not close smoothly. With the chalk paint, I only needed two coats, plus the wax finish – the drawers now glide effortlessly open and closed and have perfect paint coverage.

Remember the Before?


Previously I had used the file drawers as a component in the partner’s desk that I built for the room.   I took that apart when I got a new desk.  I needed more storage in the room, but didn’t have the space – so I placed the shelving unit on top of the file drawers to create a brand new piece of furniture.  I bought bun feet at Home Depot over a year ago for it and then it sat just like you see it above for the past year just waiting for its makeover.


Many of you wanted to know how it was made or wanted to see the drawers open.  Like the armoire in the room  – the cabinet comes apart into separate pieces.  The veneer was damaged on both sides and on some of the drawers.  I needed to add wood filler to smooth it out. I then sanded all those patched places so the surface would look smooth once it was painted.


It needed feet to raise it off the floor so it would not block the HVAC vent.  The addition of the feet has given it a chic new look.


How to Make DIY Chalk Paint

I tried a different ingredient to make the DIY version of chalk paint for this piece. I used Calcium Carbonate powder. It works just as well as the Non-Sanded Grout or Plaster of Paris that I have used in the past.  I posted about and used this same recipe – just replaced the grout with calcium carbonate powder.


I was told the paint wouldn’t harden as much when calcium carbonate powder is added as it does with the grout or plaster, so I wanted to try it.   You can buy it at the health food store.  When the paint was dry, I waxed and buffed it to bring out a subtle shine. I will do another post next week about using the calcium carbonate powder– comparing it with the other DIY chalk paint recipes and CeCe Caldwell Chalk Paint.

Aging-Brass techniques

I removed the original hardware – pulls and label holders years ago. They were brown plastic and had a Bakelite quality to them. They were in bad shape so I replaced them with the brass.  Over the years the brass has aged nicely – not highly polished anymore, but a little pitted, tarnished with just a bit of the golden glow peeking through.


On white card stock, I printed out all the file drawer names that I created using  Microsoft Word. I used the font – Engravers MT. Visit my Free Printable Gallery to download your own labels.


I cut each label out along with a piece of clear acetate to protect each label and slid both in a holder.


How to Add Bun or Wood Feet To Furniture

Adding the wood bun feet to the underside of furniture is quite easy.


You will need a Straight Top Plate for each foot. They sell them at Home Depot. Make sure you get the straight, not the angled type – the packaging looks the same.


The screw on the bun foot screws into the center hole on the plate.


The plates get attached with screws to the corners on the underside of the furniture.


Add one to each corner, flip the piece over and you are done.


It took me a year to finally tackle the makeover and get this piece done.  My studioffice seems so much bigger now that the cabinet is happily pushed back against the wall and the HVAC vent can flow freely.


For all of you that have asked – here is a look inside what the file drawers look like.  Tabbed folders fit perfectly in the drawers.

Would you like to see more DIY chalk painted furniture as well as other furniture makeover ideas?

Head over to my Furniture Gallery pages—-> Furniture Makeovers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Absolutely beautiful! You have inspired me to go to garage sales and find a treasure like this. Thanks for the great tutorial too!

    1. Thanks Krafty Max – It is quite a unique piece. I have had so many readers asking me to show the details of the cabinet so they can get one made like it.