Painting A Cabinet With City Name Stencils


I am currently in the process of creating a travel themed room for my 9 yr old son. As a military family, we move and travel a lot. I found this $15 wood filing cabinet, at Goodwill, and decided to create a subway-style word art project, representing our travels.

I wanted the words to represent the places my son has visited or lived.

How I gave this cabinet a make-over using paint and stencils:

cabinet with two drawers
Two Drawer File Cabinet.

This is what the file cabinet looked like when I saw it in the thrift store. I took the top pull off before taking the picture.

cabinet open hand on screwdriver screwing in hardware
Removing the hardware with a screwdriver.

Before painting the cabinet, I removed the hardware with a screwdriver.

Open can of House&Canvas Chalk Finish Paint with brush on lid laying on blue tarp
House&Canvas Chalk Finish Furniture Paint In Sterling.

I decided to go with a light grey color for the cabinet. I used House and Canvas chalk paint, in Sterling.

I love how neutral and light this pretty grey is.

hand brushing House&Canvas Chalk Finish painit on wood surface with brush
Painting using chalk finish paint.

I always recommend using a round bristle brush, when applying chalk finish paint. It leaves little brush strokes and creates a smooth finish. I like to use round brushes from House and Canvas paint. They have various sizes to choose from too!

Cut out paper laying on carpet, paper is cut into different shapes and with different city names
Stencils of major cities.

The focus of my stencils was travel since this piece will be going into my son’s travel themed room. I created stencils of different places we have lived or visited. I figure it will serve as a memory too. 🙂

These days, you can easily find stencils in any craft store! I personally like to create my own, using my Silhouette Cameo 3 machine. This is very similar to a Cricut cutting machine. I just used scrap vinyl to create my stencils. If you do not have a cutting machine, you can always purchase lettering stencils from the store. 🙂

Cabinet painted white on blue tarp with city names painted on the drawers.
Stencils on the drawers of the painted cabinet.

I wanted to create something similar to subway word art. I decided to keep all the wording on the front two drawers. You can always decide to go another route and place your stencil in any location you please.

Stenciling word art a cabinet drawer.

When I first started stenciling a few years ago, I always seemed to have issues with my paint bleeding under my stencil. It was so frustrating!

I read somewhere you should always first apply a layer of your base color before you apply the stencil paint. By doing so, it seems to eliminate that bleeding issue. I always apply one layer, let it dry, then apply my stencil paint color.

House&Canvas Furniture Paint can with internal label. Brush on lid with paint on it, tarp in background
House&Canvas paint without the label.

For the stenciled lettering, I wanted to go with a darker color than the cabinet. I loved the idea of keeping the color in the grey family; so I decided to use House and Canvas Chalk Paint in River Rock. This grey is more of a medium-dark grey and really compliments the lighter grey.

Painting stencil on cabinet using House&Canvas Oval Brush.

After my layer of base paint was dry, I very carefully applied the darker grey on my stencil.

I know they make small brushes for stenciling, but I used what I had on hand. Personally, if you are new to working with stencils, I would suggest using a smaller brush. It gives you more control.

I find it easiest to apply a very small amount of paint on your brush and use a light dabbing motion when applying to the stencil. Make sure to stay focused, as it can be very easy to accidentally get paint outside the perimeter of your stencil.

painted cabinet with stencils taped on and paint applied to stencil, sitting on a blue tarp.
Painted cabinet with painted stencils.

I decided to go ahead and paint a few of my stencils before adding all the wording. This allowed me the opportunity to get a visual of what the wording would look like. I also needed the space the stencil vinyl was taking up, to apply more words. Lol.

House&Canvas wax brush applying wax to the cabinet drawer.

Once all the stenciled words were applied, I used House and Canvas Furniture Wax, in Walnut, to seal the chalk finish paint. I wanted the piece to have a vintage feel, which is why I chose a dark wax.

close up of 2 drawers on cabinet, black hardware and city name stenciled a white chalk finish paint
Cabinet drawers with the hardware reattached.

After I waxed the cabinet, I reapplied my hardware.

Castors and wood blocks on the floor
Castors and woodblocks.

I decided I wanted to add a bit of an industrial feel to the wood cabinet. I had these wheels lying around, and thought they would be a great addition. I found these wheels at a dollar store while living in Japan.

tube of E6000 white industrial strength adhesive. on counter
E6000 white industrial strength adhesive.

E6000 glue is my go-to for all craft projects! I absolutely love the strong bond it provides.

Glue being applied to wood, castor in background with some glue on it.
Glue is applied to wood.

I used E6000 glue to attach the wheels to the wood pieces. This was my preference, but you can choose to use screws instead.

Castors on wood blocks ready for the bottom of the cabinet.

After gluing the wheels on the wood, I let it sit overnight.

Dressor upside down, castors being glued, clamp being used.
Gluing the castors to the cabinet.

I used the E6000 glue to attach the wood pieces to the bottom of the cabinet. Wheels are definitely not necessary; and adding them can be done in other ways as well. I just chose to do it this way.

city names on file cabinet painted white. decorations in background, globe, chair, books.
City name word art on a file cabinet with castors.

I’m really happy with the outcome. This will be the perfect addition to my son’s travel themed room!

Use code MILITARYWIFE for a discount on your House and Canvas order.