Hello! If you’re visiting from Pinterest, welcome! Here’s a little bit more about me and what you’ll find here on Oakland Avenue. If you like this post, feel free to check out some of my other DIY’s. And if your a mom to a little (or two or three, etc.) I’d love it if you checked out some of my Motherhood posts! You can also find me talking all about mommy stuff over on Facebook and Instagram each day. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this post! ________________

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:

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 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’s what it looked like originally:

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 – 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.

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 polish 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


card catalog

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

Card Catalog

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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. 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.

For the pinlegs, all we had to do was screw them into the bottom of the card catalog. We ordered them from and chose to go with four three-rod hair pin legs for extra stability, it’s super heavy! Once those were on, it was finished!

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?