IKEA Card File Drawers Hack

At the moment, amongst other things, I’m working on a totally new room makeover at my hive.

It’s a little space I’ve not shared previously. I can’t wait for the final reveal though with a little pair of hands constantly clutching at my pant legs (with an accompanying unresistable “pick-me-up” whine), let’s just say progress hasn’t exactly been fast, so as with pretty much everything else nowadays, I’m not holding my breath ’til it’s done.

Anyhoo, part of the makeover involves some new shelving and to pretty them up, whilst adding some handy knick-knack storage, I wanted some cute old mini card file drawers. They are relatively plentiful (if you have patience and know where to look – eBay, oldware stores, etc.) though in many cases buying some requires a deep pocket reach and, if you know me, you’d know I’m just a bit adverse to that kinda thing. So, rather than cash, I thought I’d spend some creative energy instead and concoct my own.

I started with this cute set of Moppe drawers from IKEA (for whatever reason I could only find them easily on the UK website so excuse the link).

I’m sure you’ve all seen them before – they’ve been the victim of many a good (and maybe a few unfortunate) hacks.

And these brass plated card holder pulls I found on eBay, plus some timber stain and sealer.

I did consider painting or ageing the brass though I’m planning on using some gold accents in the room so decided to leave it as is. I’m glad I did ’cause I do really like the end result.

Because I was planning on using the pulls to open the drawers, I no longer wanted the visible finger cut-outs.

Easy solution….just turn the drawers around. I know, duh right?

I began by giving the corners of the drawers themselves a reasonably heavy sand to round them off a bit. It’s just a small detail and by no means necessary though as you can see in the ‘after’ pics it does soften the perfection of the unit and imparts the illusion of some wear.

Next I applied two coats of timber stain (I used dark teak because that’s what I found in the shed :-)

To add a soft lustre and enhance the richness of the stain I then applied three coats of danish oil. If you’ve not used danish oil before, I highly recommend it. As mentioned, it imparts a soft sheen, enriches colour and nourishes the timber. It goes on like water and, in my experience, dries perfectly every time – unlike some sealers it is virtually fool-proof.

Once the oil was dry, I attached my pulls, banging in the nails with my customary the-kitchen-meat-mallet-is-closer-than-the-real-hammer hammer (which turned out to be convenient in more ways than one thanks to its you-can’t-possibly-miss-a-nail-with massive head). For something a bit different, I aligned the pulls towards the top of each drawer. Do I like it? I’m not really sure though I think it’s growing on me. Besides, it’s a pretty easy task to relocate them if I ever feel compelled – which I probably wont.

The nails which affix the pulls will inevitably poke through the rear of the drawer fronts so if this bothers you simply file them flush or trim them down prior.

The visible dove-tails are perfect for helping enhance the illusion of a true vintage piece.

To finish I designed some simple antique style tabs for the card holders.

Sure, I coulda just hand written them and tea-stained the paper, though I decided to exercise my current love of digital graphics and instead Photoshoped ’em up using a handwritten script font and a distressed background texture.

I was pleasantly surprised with how authentic they actually look.

For your convenience I have included my graphics as free printables (see the bottom of the post)! They will fit perfectly inside the 9cm x 4.5cm (3 1/4″ x 1 11/16″) pull slots.

I was a bit sceptical at how this project would turn out though it’s a heap better than I thought…so yay!

Small Drawers (IKEA Moppe $16.00)
Card Holder Pull Handles (eBay $2.95)
Timber Stain (Feast Watson Dark Teak)
Timber Sealer (Cabots Danish Oil)
Dreamer Script Font
Stained Paper Texture
Four aged index tabs with calligraphic font. View and download here.

  1. OMG, Genius! Now we all can afford an adorable card catalog. My favorite projects are the ones that make me go “AH! So SMART!”, I just may have to feature you next in my weekly series!

  2. mia says:

    One of the BEST hacks I’ve ever seen! Thanks for the great tutorial. Definitely going to try this one in the little boys room for small lego storage!

  3. I love this…what a great idea. It turned out beautiful and I love the color of the stain and the pulls!

  4. Cynthia says:

    Kristine, that’s perfect, thanks!!!!

    Your work is so organic. Love it!

  5. Jen Gilday says:

    Seriously brilliant!! It’s amazing. Got to add that to my Ikea shopping list!!


  6. Rebecca says:

    I really want to know what script font that is! I’ve been trying to find something like that for ages!

  7. Jorie says:

    Genius….love it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    love, love love…and love the CC article..well done! we appreciate you..so now only question is…what do you keep in your new little drawers????

  9. Anon
    At the moment they are still empty though I plan on using them for pens, pencils, note paper and little stationery knick-knacks.

  10. que de jolies choses ici!! j’adore!

  11. Maja says:

    Another great project Kristine! You got me hooked on danish oil! It is such a great product and we recently used it to revive a 60s side board – the sheen it gives is just amazing!
    OK, now off to IKEA :).

  12. I love how this turned out. I remember having one of these files in my teens, and I tried to pretty it up with some paint. hmmmm. let’s just say it ended up in my mom’s basement (aka-the project graveyard) I wonder if we brought it when we moved. I just have to try my own spin on this. I am amazed at how beautiful it looks, especially considering it’s meek beginnings. I am your newest follower!

  13. I love this! Now I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for my next IKEA trip! Thanks so much for sharing, it turned out so great!

  14. Suzanne says:

    Great idea…this will look great in our office! Going to have to pick a couple up next time I go!

  15. Wendy says:

    OMG – Thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou! <3 I want a card catalog for our home library, but the vintage real deal is budget UNfriendly - your solution is perfect! :D

  16. Carrie says:

    CRAZY Awesome!!!

  17. Karen says:

    Hi Kristine,
    I was so excited to try your project but apparently Ikea is no longer offering the wooden drawer set. (I live in Southern California). We visited the store nearby and they didn’t have them so I came home and looked them up using the item name and nothing comes up. Oh well, I still like the idea.

  18. Karen
    Oh poo, that’s disappointing. I only bought mine last month from an IKEA store in Australia. They had heaps though perhaps they are planning to discontinue them soon. I better go out and stock up while I can!

  19. Beautiful job ~ love how it turned out! ~ Judy

  20. shirley says:

    Great idea! They look fabulous! Maybe now I can make my own “vintage” drawers instead of pining over my mom’s that she found at an auction, hoping someday she will give them to me.

  21. Lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Desiree says:

    Kristine~great idea! I recently discovered IKEA and love it! I have to say that I started following your blog about six months ago and you have inspired me to start blogging! Thank you for all the ideas!

  23. Stephanie says:

    This is so, so great. Love the details you put into this post! I’m going to include it on my “links to love” this week. Excited to find you!

  24. Kristel says:

    Oh my, I want to head to my local Ikea asap….this turned out fabulous!!! Love everything about it, great job, and thanks for sharing.

  25. Anonymous says:

    LOVE it!!!! I love cubby holes, small drawers & organization

  26. It looks stunning! I love how you made it look so classy and elegant!Making one like this in my new office soon!

    Annabella MErlin
    Creative Photo Albums

  27. Jileen says:

    Wow this is so fantastic. Great Idea! We could def use this in our house. :)

  28. Justasiam says:

    They are unfortunately not available in Canada, either! That was personally disappointing.

  29. Alma says:

    this looks amazing….but these drawers aren’t available in canada? I could have sworn I’ve seen them

  30. Rachael says:

    in love!!! simply amazing!

  31. Wow, these are so creative! I love them and will be doing this this weekend with mine!

  32. You are so very clever!

  33. Martha says:

    Hi. Thanks for the comment on Anna’s table. She was glowing this morning! I love your blog. Am your newest follower

  34. I love it! They look so authentic. I wish I could find the drawer unit in the US but they stop carrying them some time ago.

  35. Queen Mary says:

    Oh my goodness! Total talent envy here! What vision you have! And I especially love your duh! moment with turning the drawers around — that is the exact reason I came to check out your blog — to see how you did it! Duh! Love it! You are brilliant! I came from Miss Mustard Seed, I think I’ll stick around awhile!

  36. vikki says:

    This is definately going in my Pinterest To Do Soon file. Thanks for the great idea. I have been craving one of those forever and the price of a real one is out of sight!!

  37. I’m really impressed by your blog’s graphics. Looks marvelous, and like a professionally-produced magazine layout. RD

  38. Serendipity. says:

    I’m so excited! I found a set at a barn sale today for $5…still in the original packaging! Thanks for the great ideaa and the labels!

  39. He and She says:

    I absolutely love these. They look so genuine and what a great tip about sanding the corners down to look worn out.

    I’ll definitely be trying this when we move.

    C x

  40. i love everything you do, but these are so so fabulous. i hope i can find a set of the drawers.

  41. Laura Zaraza says:

    I love this idea. Darn, just went to Ikea last Wed. And never saw those. Of course if I had seen this first-I would have looked for them. Wonderful idea. I repinned this idea. Thanks for sharing this idea. I will now put you on my favorites to follow. :0)
    Laura Z

  42. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely love this. I have these but they are the long 8 drawer ones that I picked up at the Thrift Store for $1.00! (OMG, I just love that place!) I wasn’t sure what to do with them, it seems some had tried to paint them black but maybe got discouraged cause they really looked hideous.
    This a great idea and I am even considering using chalk paint. I think I will use mine to store makeup. Unless I find another use for it. Thanks for the idea.

  43. Fantastic job. I had actually made a pledge with myself yesterday to start hiring people to do stuff and actually “buy” more things instead of making them. Congratulations on making me break my promise to myself in a record 18 hours. I’ll absolutely be making this. :) ~ karen

  44. Oh! And thanks to Kate ( Centsational Girl) for sending me over here. ~ k

  45. This is a great transformation, the “card catalog”really does look vintage! The dove tail edges also help with this illusion! Glad to learn about Danish oil too, I will be trying that on my next wood project. I will be sharing this great idea with my Facebook fans! Thank you for design inspiration!

  46. Anya says:

    Absolutely beautiful hack, Kristine. I have several bare wooden boxes that I want to turn more stylish/vintage so I’ll be trying your method soon.

    Thank you!

  47. Soy says:

    Great idea. I will totally try this out. Can’t wait. It will be a good weekend project.


  48. I have always wanted these but they are SO expensive — your knock off is fantastic!! Pinning!

  49. Connie says:

    Love how you finished the wood. I found a table recently, and I thought I would use Minwax, as that’s what I have here.
    Nice blog, Kristine !

  50. Omen X says:

    I have this very same IKEA box and use it for junk and paints. Now, I am going to buy what I need to repaint this into a masterpiece. I am so happy I found this on Pinterest. Thank you and wow!

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