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Office in a Chest




You'll have easy access to all your essentials -- and be able to tuck them away at a moment's notice. It requires only minimal construction to reconfigure a chest.




  • 1/2-inch-thick cork
  • Craft glue
  • Two strips of molding
  • Small nails
  • Paint
  • Wood glue
  • Adjustable hanging file-folder frames


  1. Step 1

    To make the bulletin board: Cut a piece of 1/2-inch-thick cork (available at office-supply stores) to fit the underside of the lid; affix it with craft glue.

  2. Step 2

    To make the sliding supply organizer: Cut two strips of molding to fit inside the long sides of the chest; use small nails to attach a strip along each side, several inches below the lip, to support a tray (as pictured).

  3. Step 3

    To make the tray: Cut a piece of kraft paper the length and width you'd like the tray to be (make sure it will be wide enough to rest on the strips of molding), and mark the depth needed on the template.

  4. Step 4

    Bring the paper to a home-supply store that sells wooden drawer organizers, and arrange enough organizers on top of the paper to cover the surface. At home, paint the organizers to match the chest, and let dry. Use wood glue to attach to one another.

  5. Step 5

    To create a filing system: Insert adjustable hanging file-folder frames inside the chest.

Martha Stewart Living, August 2006



Reviews (31)

  • rweiss789 23 Apr, 2013

    This is perfect! I live in a studio apartment and I'm in the process of starting my own consulting business from home. This is going to help keep my little 300sq foot apartment organized and neat!

  • raspberryrosy 27 Aug, 2011

    This is incredibly brilliant! It's so attractive, you could leave the finished trunk right out in the open! For example, it could be a coffee table, or, with a cushion on top, a useful bench right in your entry!

  • Sherylann55 26 Aug, 2011

    This is a great idea. Love it and am going to get one soon!

  • mstarCA 26 Aug, 2011

    ooooo great use of a trunk! I've been longing for a vertical file cabinet; prefer the double use (as bench seating).

  • raenstorm 26 Aug, 2011

    I definitely see how this is a great idea. It is nice because the lid can close and hid everything. I have a place to put my printer, so that is not an issue. I can't wait to make this for my bedroom.

  • teresamoran 26 Aug, 2011

    I use a chest in my living room as a coffee table. This would be perfect to keep hanging files for all the "tidbits" I cut from magazines and then tend to stack and eventually lose. It would take just a second to move what's on the chest and then I could file things in appropriate files where I could actually find them later. Thanks for a great idea.

  • middlekid 26 May, 2010

    I don't see how this is a good idea. You can't put anything on the lid, like a printer, so that is space that is unusable. You'd be better off buying a credenza style file cabinet and mounting the bulletin board on the wall.

  • jessica07 15 Jan, 2010

    Very good idea!

  • Mama_Melody 6 May, 2009

    I am SO going to do this to store and organize all of my ScRapBookinG supplies!!! What A GREAT IDEA!!! Thanks!

  • aluciahall 11 Feb, 2009

    What a great idea!!!

  • justmannieee 20 Jan, 2009

    This is a WONDERFUL idea! I LOVE it!

  • wildcats5 17 Jan, 2009

    I like this idea and plan on making it. I will be looking for a chest this summer. What an excellent idea for space saving and for hiding necessary items. Thanks

  • GwenHex 17 Jan, 2009

    i LOVE this idead. i changed it a little. i put a light on the lid and a little cork board. i did the tray, but did not use the dividers. it holds my laptop, so now i can work at it with light too!

  • suz2z 15 Jan, 2009

    You have no idea how excited I am about this project. I was ready to downsize and get rid of this chest that holds my summer clothes. I am disappointed that my regular file cabinets will not fit into my closet. I want to make a home office that is pretty invisible. This will help me hide things and repurpose an almost extinct chest. Now it will be awesome as an i ndiscreet filing cabinet and bulletin board. As I was prepping today to reorganize the space you made my day!

  • euni 15 Jan, 2009

    As the wife and daughter of cabinet makers, I I would suggest configuring/gluing the components for the divider boxes prior to painting. Glue des not adhere well to painted surfaces. Clever idea.

  • carolinealexander 15 Jan, 2009

    Great Idea, I am sure I have a chest around here somewhere.

  • dets 24 Sep, 2008

    I have a steamer trunk I use in my DR. It holds my candles, table clothes, oil for my lamps, 1 drawer has crayons and paste and craft stuff for the grandkids. I put a wooden tray on top to hold photos and others things so I can take it off when accessing the trunk.

  • tgonza98 4 Sep, 2008

    I have an unused hope chest (what was I hoping for?) that just takes up space. This will help us with our files in a way that the won't be unsightly.

  • Santiquebabe 13 Apr, 2008

    SheRa ~ Also, as insulated as freezers are, the old chest will serve as a fireproof box if the situation warrants ...

  • SheRa 1 Mar, 2008

    We have an old large chest freezer that we use to store scrapbooking photos in. The chest was put in the room and the walls built around prior to our purchasing the home. Now that it is outdated shoking any barefoot stranger that happens along as well as charging up the electric bill we have unplugged and transformed a little paint and she'll even look marvelous!

  • redheadedgal 28 Feb, 2008

    This chest can be found at Gothic Cabinet Craft here:

  • Starlett 19 Feb, 2008

    I have one like this that I use exclusively for needlework crafts. I love it!

  • homeecdhscomkalicia 11 Feb, 2008

    I have one like this and I store photos in it! Also mine is on wheels so it is easy to move! I use also for extra seating!

  • rosachoque 8 Feb, 2008

    Absolutely fantastic! In n n n ll keep all my stuff organized and will add asfinlayy's idea
    and add a cushion to it, so I can have a seat in my homeoffice. In n n n m running to the store right now! TKS ! : )

  • asfinlay 27 Jan, 2008

    Love this idea! You could also add a cushion on top for a bench, which would look good for a kitchen office.

  • jot1959 14 Jan, 2008

    I totally love this idea. I will be moving soon and would like to be able to keep things out of site. This would work well in a room with little space. Thanks for the great idea.

  • Soon2BVP 12 Jan, 2008

    I can't wait to do this! I have a cedar chest that my Grandmother gave me when I got married, and I think this would be a great use for it. I am going to put it in my office to make it look more beautiful.

  • Kathleen881 11 Jan, 2008

    Would this also work with a metal 'steamer' trunk? I've got 3 of those gathering dust in the attic!

  • NancyLovett 10 Jan, 2008

    To hh_246: You can find hanging file frames at any office supply as well as Sam's. Be careful about overloading since the sides rails can twist if left too long and loaded with tons of paper. Better to use two shorter ones end to end. They can be cut to fit whatever "box" you have.

  • KristinaHughes 10 Jan, 2008

    For HH_246, I'd suggest checking out IKEA. They have some that you can also paint that work great. I have these pine cubes from them that are like half the chest that would work really well too.

  • hh_246 8 Jan, 2008

    I was wondering where you got the wooden chest, and also where I could find the adjustable hanging file-folder frames. Thanks!