before & after: chad’s filing cabinet planter

today’s final before & after project comes from d*s reader chad kelly. after seeing a converted file cabinet-planter at a local nursery (with a $600 price tag!), chad decided to try the idea in his own garden on a lower budget. chad found a great filing cabinet on craigslist for $10, put it on its side, made planter boxes for each drawer and then spray painted the entire piece a bright yellow. add succulents and voila! a budget-friendly planter made from an old filing cabinet. great work, chad!

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your pictures!]



What an amazing garden statement piece! So simple, yet so bold. And to think, this was created from an office filing cabinet. I love it!


Really cool idea–it came out great. I just looked at his blog and he’s got another great before and after on there involving a slab of wood and hairpin table legs.

karly / Design Crisis

i actually have a smaller filing cabinet I was planning on doing this very same thing to (crazy!) but, i hadn’t planned to put in the planter boxes (I’m lazy and again, mine is smaller) can I get away with skipping them?


I’m new to this website, and it looks like I came at the right time. Clever, awesome idea! I love it!


karly, you should totally do it without the boxes… the small cabinet wouldn’t need that much soil!


This looks awesome! I wonder that the bottom of the file cabinet looks like though…


Awesome! My deck isn’t big enough for something like that but it definitely gives me inspiration to try something new in the garden.


It’s funny, my neighbor just took a couple of the drawers, leaned them against each other, and stuck a bunch of potted flowers in them. I couldn’t decide if it was trash or art.


I absolutely love it, but how were drainage holes integrated? Was a water-proof/rust-proof paint used? I would switch out the wood mulch for stone, grit, or gravel, as wood mulch tends to harbor moisture near the crown of the plant which increases the chance of rot. I’m totally going to run with this idea!!!


I had a question about drainage as well, but would it be enough to drill a couple holes into the bottom? I have a crappy old file cabinet that I don’t need for files, and I need a planter… so if this isn’t as poorly thought out as the rabbit hutch post was, then I would love to re-enact!


this is awesome! now i can’t wait til i find a discarded filing-cabinet by the side of the street so I can drag it home and try this out on my terrace! i’m also curious about the drainage issue though.


Love it, It’s funny you can see the yellow on the grass, I’ve had many colors of grass in the past. HA!



a few holes should be more than enough, especially if you have a layer of rocks in there. :)



I noticed there are no photos of the bottom of the file cabinet (in its original position). They tend to be open, is it so for this one or was it boarded up or what?


How many times did you have to spray paint the cabinet to get the color to be that even and bright? Thanks.


thanks for the kindness! yeah, i used treated plywood loaded with gravel at the bottom of the boxes- hopefully it’ll drain and last a while. also, the cabinet had a finished bottom- mine was Anderson Hickey. Think it took about 4 cans of Rustoleum yellow to get the job done!


I am so stealing this idea for my yard! I LOVE it! I work at a school and they are constantly getting rid of old filing cabinets…New project time! Thanks so much for this clever idea.


OMG!!! I love this! I am in need of a long tall planter for both sides of my house and this idea is perfect and CHEAP!


GENIUS! it’s amazing that you took something boring, cheap, and ugly and turned it into something that looks professional, expensive, and beautiful!!


I’m hitting the garage sales this weekend!!! I was just thinking of how I could build one of these in an easy way! Geesh, some people are just so darn creative!!!! This is over the top in re-purposing!

Jo in NZ

Loved this before and after. Tis so easy, but has huge impact!

alexandra keller

this is fantastic, reminds me of a good friend (has several of these filing cabinets & loves to putter in the yard). but what are we going to do with the drawers?!

Jessica Jensen

That is so stinking awesome! Wow! If I have a garden someday, I hope to do this! What a great idea and a wonderful way to recycle a cabinet!


WOT!!! That’s damn creative. Now that’s thinking out of the box.
Scouring Craigslist as we speak!


great way to add a touch of boldness to a yard! looking at those file cabinets, i think they could work as unique indoor storage as well! maybe even a storage bench?


I love this iece, Its recycled but still looks clean and modern! I love a smooth surface and this planter idea is just that! Great creativity and execution!


Not only it is a great green project but am loving the colors and plants chosen. Well done!


what type of paint would you use to keep a metal file cabinet from rusting outside?

Debbi S. in Texas

I am SO doing this…using my husband’s broken lateral files he will NOT get rid of


I can’t wait to go garage “sailing” and find a cabinet I’m doing it orange and planting bamboo like a previous blogger! Excellent site!!!!!!!


I am looking forward to trying this idea next spring! I love the yellow!!


Thanks for this blog! I was looking for a way to do this and I was able to make my own! I’ve listed some tips if you’re making your own!


Love this, I have a spot that kinda needs a little retaining wall and this could do the trick. I thought it would also be nice to put molding on the sides of the filing cabinet before painting.


Wow! I’ve been trying to design an outdoor room on a budget and low and behold, you have given me the perfect DIY for my planned boarding walls! What a wonderful idea!!!


I’m filing that under fabulous. I just picked up 8 free cabinets before they threw them away.