I have a love for old steamer trunks. I think I have said it before on here, but I’ll say it again. For me, it is my love of history, imagining who owned them, what they brought with them, if they were traveling to a foreign land, or just relocating down the road. Aside from the history aspect, they are certainly useful if you have room for them in your house. Knowing this, my family gave me a smaller humpback trunk for my birthday. She had seen better days, but my sister said she knew I would love a good project, and the price was right at $30:)
This is what I started with. The inside walls were slightly warped due to water damage, and the outside was faded, and had a major chunk of metal missing on the front. I used water and soap to wipe the outside off, and vacuumed the inside out with a bristle brush attachment to get any loose paper off. I have never had a trunk smell (I wouldn’t want it, if it did), but I always use a bleach/water combination to wipe out the inside, and then let it dry.
After it was dry, I started on the inside. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of this process, but you can take a look at my Tin Covered Flat Top Steamer Trunk post. That process is the same thing I did there. I start by measuring the bottom of the trunk, and then cut cardboard to fit. I used a box we had gotten our computer in for this one. Once you have the cardboard cut to size, layer batting and your choice of fabric over it, and staple the layers together on the backside. For me, doing it this way is great because nothing is permanent. If I don’t like the fabric in 20 years, I can change it without hurting the trunk.
I use furniture upholstery tacks and hammer the fabric cardboard to the wood inside, making sure the nails are in line with the wood trim boards on the outside, just in case the nails are longer than the trunk walls. In the below picture you can see the warping. Also, since this trunk didn’t come with the tray that was in it originally, I had Double D take out the supports, so I could do one large piece to cover the side. That was a pain because the nails are actually bent around into a U shape.
However, before I started getting the inside covered, I had already begun work on the outside. This was the part I was dreading. I had to go buy a tin snip tool and then I got started. Below is a picture that explains what I did.
After I was done rearranging and nailing the metal pieces on the front, I used needle nosed pliers to bend the pieces of metal back around the lip. The metal was folded down inside itself so what I straightened out was enough to cover the wood. Yay! I used my brad nailer to make sure the metal pieces were attached to the wood. Then I painted the exposed wood a brown color to match the metal. This is what I ended up with.
But…I decided I didn’t like the crack in the wood on the left side, so I filled that in with wood putty, and repainted it.
Next was the top. It had a lot of fading, and the stamped design was no longer black like the sides and back. I got out my wee paint brush and started painting. This took the longest, and was the most tedious. I also did the front, since it was a bit on the faded side too.
Normally, I like to leave wood as plain wood, but for this one, since the body was mostly brown, I opted to paint the wood trim pieces black. I am so glad I did, just because it seems to make the metal embellishments pop. I also painted the key plate, and the metal trim around the lid.
Next I took it outside and sprayed a clear coat over everything just to give it some protection. In the below picture, I had the side already done, and just a few spots on the lid. All together, I put three coats on the trunk, in a matte finish. I love how the metal turned a rich brown, instead of the dusty look it had been before.
Almost done…For the inside, I decided I had to do something about the edges. The metal was sharp, and I didn’t want anyone to get cut on it, so I used some craft ribbon I had bought that already has a sticky back. It was actually the right width for the edge, so I peeled off the backing and ran it all the way around the edge of the sides. This way, the sharp edges are covered.
And here she is complete. What a difference. We put all of our blankets that we use in the TV room in the trunk, which works out great. I also included a before and after picture of both the inside and the outside.
I know there are many sites that will explain actual trunk restoration, and even give a bit of history on steamer trunks. I don’t consider what I do with the trunks I have worked on as actual restoring, nor am I in any way a professional. If a hinge is broken, or a handle is lost, I really won’t go through the hassle of locating a replacement, but it is still fun to see if I can pretty them up a bit, and especially to see if I can return them to a functional piece of history.
If you’re interested in trunks, feel free to check out my other trunk revamps:
Thanks for looking!
Linking up with Funky Junk Interiors, Redoux and Between Naps on the Porch: