Upcycle An Old File Cabinet Into A DIY Planter

Perhaps you've recently upgraded your home office or come across a surplus of metal filing cabinets at your local consignment store. You might wonder, what can you do with an old file cabinet? While this piece of office furniture typically serve one boring purpose indoors — organizing papers — it can actually be upcycled for a wide variety of uses outdoors! For example, an Instagram hack shared by Ashley Wilson shows that one brilliant idea is to turn it into a DIY garden planter. All you need to do is remove the drawers, flip the cabinet on its back, and add soil to create a charming planter box! 

Of course, using your file cabinet as a planter box is one thing, but making it look cute and last a long time outdoors is another. Luckily, it's fairly easy to customize your planter to bring your personal style to your outdoor space and survive in local climate conditions. Here's the step-by-step tutorial Wilson followed, as well as other ideas for making your repurposed planter more weatherproof.   

From cabinet to cute container garden

Ashley Wilson, the star behind At Home with Ashley, shared a brief Instagram reel to show off one of her latest home hacks. Well-known for her cute and eclectic style and interior design, Wilson decided to bring a pop of fun to her outdoor space by recycling a standard metal filing cabinet. In addition to the Instagram post, she also documented her progress in a blog post and a longer YouTube tutorial, making it easy for her viewers to follow along. To complete this DIY, you'll need an empty metal filing cabinet and some basic tools, such as a caulk gun and small paintbrushes. In her list of supplies on her blog, Wilson also included square, corner, and bullnose tiles, a porcelain paint kit and porcelain paint pen, construction adhesive, and white grout. 

Wilson starts by removing the drawers and inner glides of the filing cabinet, then flipping it on its back so the openings face upward. Wipe down the file cabinet if needed to remove dirt and dust from the inside and outside walls. Next, decorate the exterior of your file cabinet with paint or ceramic tiles, if desired, and finish with a seal or grout. Finally, move the planter to its outside location and fill the lower half with a breathable substrate. "I have cardboard, twigs, and chicken poo at the bottom. Then 3 bags of garden soil," Wilson revealed in the Instagram comments.

Working out the details

A metal cabinet isn't so pretty on its own, so Wilson decided to use her own hand-painted ceramic tiles, which can be made with a ceramic paint kit and a standard oven. "I feel like it brings my style outside. Which can be tricky," she wrote on her Instagram, "Now I have a high-impact planter for my garden for a really affordable price." She planted rose bushes and a few essential herbs, but almost anything could thrive in these DIY planters, especially if they have deep roots. 

While Wilson was happy with her results, she certainly noted some room for improvements. Commenters brought up some valid concerns, which Wilson agreed could be modified. "Looks cute but won't the file cabinet rust away pretty quickly once you start regularly watering the plants?", one user wrote. "It could," Wilson responded, "But I'm not worried about it in dry Utah. I've read other posts from people in my climate who didn't have problems with rust. I think the tile will help with it. I'd be worried about it in a humid climate." One way to adjust the hack for warm climates would be to add a barrier inside, like a plastic lining or spray-on sealant. Concluding her YouTube video, Wilson also recommended drilling some holes in the base for additional drainage, which is especially important if you live in a humid environment.