DIY: Card Catalog Credenza Tutorial

I am so excited to show you this DIY today! This project literally took about a year to complete, but it was totally worth the wait. Ever since we moved in to our house, I've been on the hunt for a long credenza for our entryway. First it looked like this when we moved in (seller's furniture):




And now, it looks like this: 
Card Catalog

Yes, that's right, we hopped on the DIY card catalog trend and made our own credenza. About a year and a half ago, I stumbled across this amazing DIY from Dream Book Design. 


I loved it. And then I became obsessed with finding an old card catalog and making a version of our own. So for about five months, I regiously checked Craigslist for card catalogs, but they're pretty hard to find these days. My dad was telling me he remembers they were giving them away for free back in the day at schools and libraries all over the country, but now I feel like finding one is searching for a needle in a haystack! So after five months of searching, I finally found one on Craigslist. I called the seller immediately and made an appointment that night to view it after work. Then I promptly called my husband and screamed like a banshee.

I was pretty happy.

Mike and I met the seller after work (uhh, can you say terrifying? That's another story in and of itself) and the seller said he had more than 15 calls that day about it, so if we wanted it, we needed to take it STAT.

We took it.

Here she is!



It's a 45 drawer card catalog and it came in four pieces. You can see the three-row set on the bottom left, then there's a two-row light colored piece on top, a one-row set in the middle and another three-row set at the bottom. It all came apart easily and goes back together pretty solidly - kinda like legos. There was no "top" to the piece, but that was okay with me because I had bigger plans for it. 


For any locals, you can see it came from Anoka Ramsey College - kinda cool. 

So after five months of looking, it sat in our entryway, just like in the photo above for about three months. One weekend, my parents came up to visit and I told them all about my vision for the card catalog. 

Now, when I told most people what I wanted to do it with it, they just looked at me like I was crazy - including my husband (he's supportive, but confused). But my dad - he totally got it. He loves working with his hands and fixing things up. Side note: He and my mom are renovating an old school, all 33,000 square feet of it, into their home and I'm so proud of them for living their dream. They just moved in about three months ago - but it's only about half finished. I must, must write a few blog posts about the project - it's going to be amazing - what am I saying? It's already amazing! 

Anyway, my dad (as I knew he would) got super excited and he and I brainstormed all the ways we could make it work for the house. So, that weekend off it went to my parent's school to sit in storage (they have just a little more space than we do) until Mike, my dad and I could all work on it together. 

It sat in the school for about eight months. 

Then over Christmas, Mike and I were able to visit for a little longer than normal, so we took a full day and a half to work on it.  We decided to only use the two three-row sets to make the credenza, since we couldn't make it even on both sides using the pieces we had. So we still have about half of the other card catalog to do something else with (sweeeeeet). 

Here's the "mock up."

Card Catalog

I didn't get pictures of every step, but here are the basics of what we did:
  • Pulled out all the drawers and removed the hardware so I could get started polishing the brass pulls with Brasso and painting the drawer faces
  • Drilled the two main pieces together
  • Used some wood my dad had at the school to create a new top and bottom for the credenza. We made the top piece about a 1/2" larger on each side so it would have a small overhang and rounded the edges for a finished look. The bottom was cut to the same size of the card catalog and we kept the square edges. Then we glued and drilled those on to the top and bottom respectively. 
In case you were curious, here's what the top view of the pieces look like. 
card catalog

The drawers, all lined up for me to paint (two coats).

card catalog Drying.



card catalog



Polishing the brass - Brasso worked really well. I just used an old white T-shirt and rubbed, rubbed, rubbed away!


Card Catalog


There's a lot more steps in there than I could ever recount and honestly, we couldn't have done it without my dad and his knowledge. Plus, I only did the painting and polishing; I left any and all labor that required any actual skill to Mike and my dad, so I actually have no idea of all of the work that went in to it. I like to console myself by reminding myself how hard and laborious painting can be, how I have to suffer from a sore wrist and forearm from moving that paint brush back and forth, back and forth - those guys have no idea how I much pain I went through so they didn't have to... 

Anyway, I wish I would have, but I didn't get a shot of the progress we made in the school. When we left for the drive back to Minneapolis, the drawers were painted, and the body was put together but wasn't painted yet, the hardware hadn't been put back on, and I still needed to wax the entire thing.

So for the rest of my Christmas vacation it sat on a drop cloth on the floor while I painted it with two coats of Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Graphite. I had heard so much about that paint, how you don't have to sand or strip the wood, the great coverage it gives and how great it looks on furniture, so I decided to try it out. I also sealed it with Annie Sloan's Clear Wax - two times on the body and three times on the top. I didn't purchase the waxing brush, I just used an another old T-shirt of Mike's and it worked perfectly.(For more info on using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and wax, check out this post.)

I love how the color turned out and it was awesome to not have to sand or prep the wood in any way. It saved a ton of time and I thought the coverage of the paint was great. I'm definitely glad I got the Clear Wax as well, it changed the entire look - giving it a deeper color and a slight sheen, plus it's water repellant.

The paint and wax are really expensive, so I'm not sure I would do it again, but I am really pleased with how it turned out and the time it saved me.

So, for another six weeks, the card catalog sat on the floor in the entryway, waiting for its pin legs to come in the mail so it could reach its full height.


Card Catalog

The pin legs come exactly like below, and all we had to do was screw them into the bottom of the card catalog. We ordered them from hairpinlegs.com and chose to go with four three-rod hair pin legs for extra stability, that thing is heaaavy.

Card Catalog

Tada! It was finished!

Card Catalog

A few more shots:

Card Catalog

Card Catalog

Card Catalog

The number one most common question we get asked is, "What do you keep in there?" Lots of things! 

I'm pretty Type-A and this feeds right into my obsessive organizing love. To get an idea of the size of each drawer, a wine bottle fits perfectly inside. Here are some other things we keep in there: 

Exhibit A: The drawer for things that cut paper.


Card Catalog

Exhibit B: Paper!
Card Catalog


Exhibit C: Things that keep things together.

Card Catalog

Exhibit D: Hot Hands Drawer - Did I mention I live in Minnesota?

Card Catalog



Give me two tries and I guarantee I can find what I'm looking for. Mike and I have considered labeling them or even numbering them and having a corresponding chart so that he can actually find things (he doesn't use it as much as I do), but right now it's kind of a fun game of "guess and check" - at least it's fun for me to watch.


So that's it! The story of our DIY Card Catalog - I'm so grateful to both Mike and my dad for going along with my crazy plan and for doing all the hard work on this project. I could have never done it without them. I am so glad this thing is done, but I can definitely say it was completely worth the work (and shocker - Mike agrees)!

Now, what to do with the extra pieces we have left over?



21 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, I'm SO impressed! This is one of the coolest DIY projects I've seen in quite some time. You should submit it to Design Sponge or something! :)

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  2. I just love it! It looks amazing- and you should submit it to D*S!!

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  3. GORGEOUS!!!! The color is perfection and the legs are to die for!!! Thank you so much for emailing me to tell me about it!!! Makes me want to get out my paintbrush and order my hair pins RIGHT NOW!!!

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  4. I totally love it!! Fantastic job!!
    xo Becca

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  5. Thanks everyone!! Glad you like it!

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  6. Hi Laura! Found your blog through Design Sponge and I have a question about the paint (which I love and am considering using for a dresser re-do!) - did you mix the graphite with anything (white or otherwise)? On the Annie Sloan website, the graphite looks black, but the card catalog almost looks to have a teal tint to it (in these pics at least!). Thanks so much!!
    Katherine

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  7. Hi M & K! Nope, didn't mix it with anything at all - I agree with you that the color looks different from the Annie Sloan website - we were a bit surprised at the color when it dried, but we're still happy with it! I would say these pictures are pretty true to the color in real life, even when people come over people say they like the "deep, slate blue" we used, so I just roll with it! If anything it's a little more grey/blue than teal...maybe the brass nearby is what sets it off? But it's definitely not a deep, dark black like the website shows. Hope this helps!

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  8. This is gorgeous! I love the color and the legs!

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  9. I am in LOVE with your card catalog credenza. I have it posted on my Pinterest page.

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  10. i would love to feature your card catalog if that would be ok with you please let me know, its absolutely beautiful!

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  11. That is so cool! Love what you did. So not envying all the work with polishing the handles and painting all those drawers. Great storage. I'm going to have to stalk Craigslist for one!

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  12. I am in love with this, you should be so proud! May I ask how much you estimate you spent on the whole project?

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    1. Hi Kristen! About $450: $300 for the card catalog (BUT only used about half of it for this project - so we could still make something else out of the rest!); $150 for the paint, furniture wax, pin legs (which took up most of the budget) and other small materials. Thanks for your comment

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  13. A friend of mine pinned this today and I flipped!!! This is absolutely amazing and gorgeous! I applaud the time and effort you put into transforming your idea into an actual piece. The letting it sit for months, then at your parents for months (totally me, my dad has a shop filled with a corner of my junk, i.e. "ideas" collecting dust) then again in the floor in your new place staring at you everyday, sounds exactly like me! Hahaha. I'm so inspired by this I'm now determined to find one and create my own interpretation of your idea. Thank you do much for sharing this, as well as the story and process! I also love the color you chose (thx for mentioning that paint!) and the mid-century modern style legs (thx for the link too!). Very, very awesome.

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    1. Thanks Jules! Always great to hear someone inspired to do their own project after seeing it - you'll have to send me some pics if you ever find a card catalog!

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  14. Laura, I love this but how sturdy are the hairpin legs? And the paint color is lovely but I almost thought they were steel drawers instead of wood and think they would be great all blonde. I sure wish I could find my own someday as I worked most of my life in a library.

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    1. Thanks echoamy! Good question - the hairpin legs are VERY sturdy. I was worried about that when I ordered them (that's why we went with the three rod ones) but their solid steel and I've never felt that it was unstable or going to collapse. The card catalog itself is super heavy, but the legs hold up great! Hope you find one!

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  15. Absolutely obsessed since inheriting an old metal free-standing with small drawers - unit. I call him my little monster. His 2 smaller siblings live in the garage (for now). FYI for polishing brass;generic ketchup. Less work & inexpensive. Kosher salt helps for an abrasive for the initial uck you sometimes must go through. Inherited mom's black chandelier. Surprise...Brass chandelier. You did an excellent job. Shalom, Pixi

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  16. I just Google searched "card catalog buffett", and your card catalog picture came up in the images. You're famous :) I love reading your blog - your DIY's are awesome!

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  17. Just love this! You did such a great job :)

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