Card Catalog Craze on the Cheap


January 23, 2013 by Decorum DIYer


I know we have all seen the card catalogs that keep popping up everywhere.  I, myself, am quite smitten with them.  I love organization and vintage furnishings.  I am old enough to remember actually using the card catalog in the school and community libraries.  Card catalogs are definitely a nostalgic piece of furniture from a bygone era.  Have you seen how much these original card catalogs cost?

Here are a two card catalogs for sale via my local Craigslist:



$300 (and probably closet to my inexpensive diy solution)

$300 (and probably closest to my inexpensive diy solution)

So, perhaps a diy version is in order?

A quick check with Pinterst reveals quite the craze.

A $25 night stand (this one found via Craigslist, but certainly any second-hand source would do) that could easily be transformed into a stylish card catalog, but with many more storage options.

Sure, tiny drawers are cool, but really, what would you store in those tiny drawers?  There are some cool ideas out there to fill those tiny drawers, but I think I like the look of the card catalog cabinet more than the actual tiny drawers.

Take this ordinary night stand/end table that has three drawers.  The $25.00 asking price isn’t too bad (although I’d ask to pay $10 with immediate pick up to open up negotiations.)




And this one offered at $45.

The key to making these look like a card catalogs, without much work, is that the drawer fronts are milled in a way that looks like nine, small drawers. Of course, if you have the tools, a few simple dado cuts, or grooves, would recreate the look on a flat front drawer.

You could paint this little dresser any color,

or re-stain (pretty sure it is solid wood) another color.

Keep the table top edging or cut it off for a more sleek, streamlined look.

Then, simply replace the drawer handles with something like the file drawer pulls below:


Brass label holders from Paxton Hardware at just under $1.00 a piece. For $9.00, you have a completely different look!

The cabinet could be left with a flat base or even perched atop some cool new legs:

You can choose any style of leg to suite your decor and taste.

You can choose any style of leg to suit your decor and taste.

Mid-century modern legs, perhaps?


Hairpin legs?


The possibilities are endless.

Here are a few examples of diy’ed card catalog tables for more ideas!

 (Most of the below were made from scratch or using original card catalog units,

not as furniture revamps)


Via ‘DIY on the Cheap’


Via ‘Not Just a Housewife’


Via ‘Mad Props Boston’ – linked disabled.


Via ‘Oakland Avenue’ (and quite possibly my favorite).


Via ‘The Daily Telecraft’.

So, what do you think of card catalogs?

I think the biggest attraction to me is all of that lovely hardware – like a room’s jewelry.

Until next time…, happy Craigslisting and furniture revamping!


8 thoughts on “Card Catalog Craze on the Cheap

  1. cassie says:

    i love this look! it is amazing what a difference just a hardware change can make!

  2. This is a genius idea! I’m going to keep my out for a little side table with teeny tiny drawers, so I can transform it into a card catalog. (There’s just something about those teeny tiny drawers that I delight in…and what a great craft organizer it would make!) Thank you for sharing your creative and frugal ideas with us; always looking for ways to save some moolah.

    • I like the teeny, tiny drawers as well. I love the nostalgia of the card catalogs more. The little drawers are great for crafting (or even even Lego storage????). I just thought that this would be a great way to get the look, but still have the functionality of a regular night stand/dresser.

  3. I think card catalogs are pretty cool but having a small home, I would prefer to bring in something with more storage room. Those little drawers don’t hold too much. So I appreciate your idea of faux fronts. I was super impressed with the one Not Just a Housewife made! It looks incredible. My favorite is the Oakland Ave one, too. So chic!

  4. BecccaDing says:

    My favorite is the the same one as yours too! Gorgeous!

  5. That one from DIY on the cheap is gorgeous..but I love all the wood colors where I know many prefer all the painted versions. What a great idea to make your own/furniture revamp.

  6. Lindsay @ Makely says:

    I’m super partial to the one on hairpin legs (because I LOVE hairpin legs), but I’m so glad you included Stacey’s (Not JUST a Housewife) version. Her’s looks so good!

    Following along in my reader – can’t wait to read more of your blog!

  7. Dina Wilson says:

    I love card catalogs, however, my need for one is more academic than artistic. I teach students with special needs. I have created about 3000 word and picture cards for my students and would like a CC for to store them with drawers for students to sort the cards alphabetically, by category, or by any number of different criteria. My budget doesn’t allow for the price I am seeing for these practical objects. If anyone knows where I can find and affordable CC…please let me know. Thank you for your consideration.

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