before and after

Before & After: A Trashed Card Catalogue is Brought Back To Life

by Maxwell Tielman


Since it’s almost Halloween and all we can think about are goblins, ghouls, and zombies, it seemed appropriate that we run a Back-From-The-Dead Before & After. Although I love a large-scale room renovation just as much as the next person, some of my favorite “flips” are the ones where people take something that was seemingly unsalvageable and left for dead and, through a little bit of Frankensteinian tinkering, breathe new life into it. This is exactly what Matthew Robinson (who shared his fabulous wooden button DIY with us yesterday) did with a discarded old door and broken down card catalogue. Found on two separate occasions, Matt combined these two previously unrelated objects into a beautiful, multi-functional sideboard. Check out Matt’s full tutorial and the rest of the transformation photos after the jump! —Max


“I found a card catalogue on my way home and took a taxi back with it,” Matt says. “Weeks later, I decided I was going to make a utility/kitchen island for the future. I saw something made out of doors in a local cafe and decided to go out and buy one.” After a bit of searching, Matt was able to track down an old, mint-green door in a house that was in the process of being gutted.

To begin, Matt ripped the door in two with a circular saw (be sure to watch out for old metal joining pieces!) and drilled holes into the bottom of each half for wheels. He then flipped everything upside down to situate the door legs along the card catalogue. “To hide screws,” he notes, “drill a wider hole half way in to left the screw set in. This can be covered with a wood dowel and sanded flush.” After the door pieces and the catalogue were joined, Matt sealed the two together with black caulk.


For the top, Matt found a small piece of butcher block for the top and used extra strips of oak to fill in the left over space. He glued and clamped all of the pieces together, smoothed them out with a sander, and oiled the whole board with a flaxseed and mineral oil mix. To finish the whole thing off,  Matt added a copper bar with pipe hangers for a dish towel and hooks on the back.

beforeafter_mattscc_4 beforeafter_mattscc_5 beforeafter_mattscc_6 beforeafter_mattscc_7

Budget Breakdown

  • Wood glue- $4
  • Pipe clamps- range from $15 and up
  • Wood-  $10.
  • Card catalogue – free!
  • Door- free!
  • Hooks – free!
  • Copper Pipe ( $8+ $3 for hangers)
  • Saw + belt sander $200, but you’ll need to have these things anyway for lots of fun projects.

Suggested For You


  • Please stop screwing up vintage and antique items that are usable as-is!

  • A good example of creative repurposing, giving old things new life. Nothing was wasted, several things were salvaged, and a useful piece of furniture was created. Lots of win there. Not my style at all, but I applaud.

  • You just happened upon a card catalogue on your way home from work? Jealous. Your project turned out great!

  • It must be kismet, I am just in the process of repairing two card catalogues, one is a single drawer (oak) and the other is four drawers (Rimu, New Zealand native timber). And they are both the perfect size for DVD’s. The larger one is going to have wheels and be used as a coffee table. And I am trying lime wax and liking the results, it’s just getting all the varnish off that is slowing progress, but I think it will look good and change from paint!

  • I loved the fact that u were able to keep the original appearance of the catalog and add a new function!

  • You did an outstanding job combining these pieces…..I love them. Good job

  • Nice idea, but honestly I’m not getting what’s the sudden fascination with producing these Franken-furniture pieces…

  • I have to agree with Cindy, I love the card catalog as is, It just doesn’t work for me either all pieced together,somewhat haphazardly it seems. The card catalog has a great patina, I would have just put some salvaged iron legs (maybe mid century boomerang?) on it to make it taller for use. Or maybe found somewhere to tuck it in and use as is, a shelf in a craft room, the kitchen, office, even bedroom or bathroom.

  • The card catalog has the charm, charisma and history that no amount of fiddling will enhance. These pieces of furniture need to be nurtured and appreciated (not slapped onto an old door).

  • I think this looks awesome! Beautiful! This person did a really good job- a project executed very well. Whats with all the negative comments? Why bother being rude? Whether or not its your style, he did an amazing job building and finishing this.

  • And I am a student in a Masters of Library Science program. I take no offense to how this card catalog was “handled.” These people need to chill.

  • One of the best card catalog redos I have ever seen… IN Love:)

  • What a fun, funky piece! And to those concerned with the original piece, nothing that he did appears to be anything that couldn’t be reversed with a little wood filler if he decided to give the card catalog a third life. Jeesh.