Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Vintage Steamer Trunk Re-Do

Last month we bought a beat up vintage steamer trunk at a garage sale.  It was in pretty bad shape.   First of all, it was locked when we bought it and there was no key.  Plus both the leather handles were missing.  But it had a lot of redeeming qualities -  This is a vintage trunk with a lot of history. It is at least 86 years old. How do I know?  Well, because the original steamer trunk stickers from a long ago voyage are still intact and you can read the year - 1929, as well as the value - $ 2,050.00. The original owners initials - WHR - are still on the trunk.  My heart was thumping because that is really!!

We were dying to open it because we were sure it had something awesome inside, like money, old letters, money, pictures, clothes, money.  Louie grabbed his tools and drilled out the top part of the  lock.  We were so excited to open it - to find nothing.  The inside smelled bad, altho it did have its original lining.  And it was really dirty.  Did I mention it smelled really bad???   Oh, it was awful.  So I got out the bleach and water and scrubbed it down really good.  I stuffed a couple of Bounce sheets inside and closed the top.  Then every day for a month I dragged it outside, opened the lid and let it air out on the deck.  And every night I dragged it back inside and closed it up with the dryer sheets.  Slowly the nasty smell disappeared.  Thank goodness!

The first thing I did next was paint the entire outside of the trunk with black paint....

Next up we tackled the issue of the handles.  Louie removed the shredded ropes and replaced them with an old leather belt that we cut to fit.  Doesn't that look fab?

I also decided that all the original stickers and the initials had to stay.  You just don't see that kind of thing intact anymore.  So I carefully went over them with a few coats of polyurethane to preserve them....

Look closely at the next photo.  See the top sticker that says COLLECT?  You can just make out the date  - April 15, 1929 and the value of the trunk contents $ 2,050.00.   It also says American Railway Express Co. Santa Monica, CA.    It really makes me wonder who owned the trunk and what it was filled with.  Where were they going?  Did they travel across country?  Did they take a steamer ship across the ocean?  My mind reels at the possibilities.  Oh, the stories this trunk could tell...

Next up was my favorite part of the whole re-do.  I had spent quite a bit of time thinking about what to do with the inside of the trunk.  The original fabric was still intact for the most part, but it was quite dark and rather stained.  We even went to Michael's Crafts and pawed through different sheets of paper but nothing felt right.  It had to be something really cool and worthy of this trunk.  And then one day the perfect idea hit me.

A couple of weeks ago we helped a client empty his house before he moved.  He was getting rid of a huge stack of vintage sheet music.  My heart sank when I saw him toss the box into a dumpster.  Well, it took me about 2 seconds to climb up there and drag that box back out.  I'm not too good to dig around in a dumpster, believe me.  When I got the music sheets home I was floored to discover that there were dozens of sheets of music from the 1930's thru the 1970's.  Just gorgeous pages with fantastic graphics.  How could anyone just throw that away?  I packaged them up and I've been selling them in my Etsy shop.  So I grabbed one of the packages up off the shelf and started laying pages out across the floor and before I knew it I had them laid out in a pattern to cover the inside of the trunk.  First I applied them with Mod Podge and then after everything dried overnight I applied 3 coats of polyurethane for a lasting and durable finish.  It worked really well and I left pieces of the original lining peeking out here and there.  Here's the back wall and the bottom of the trunk...

The left wall......

The right wall....

The front wall....

And the lid.  The lid is my favorite.  Just check out the graphics.  I want to swoon!!!  I don't know about you, but I think the music sheets were the perfect choice.

The last thing we had to deal with was the one thing that was the pain in the butt all along - the broken lock.  I searched all over the internet trying to find a replacement key but couldn't find one anywhere.  I went thru the bag of old keys that I had and found nothing that worked.  I even tried to pick the lock using an assortment of things like thin screwdrivers and paper clips.  Suffice it to say that I will never make my living as a lock pick.  Nothing worked.  Now I had this beautiful trunk with a broken lock.  I couldn't have been more annoyed.  Finally I found a website that made replica vintage locks and I ordered one as close as possible to the original. Louie worked his magic and drilled out the rest of the lock and installed the new one. It looks great and works perfectly.

So here's the finished trunk.  Are you ready??  The front....

The back.....

Left side.....

 Right side....

 New lock and working key....


The lid.....

This is a large and roomy trunk. The approximate dimensions are:
40" long
22 1/2" wide
25" high

My kids said they are getting far too accustomed to seeing me sitting inside trunks.  LOL!

This trunk has lots of uses....

As a musician's instrument case
A magician's trunk
A front room coffee table
Linen/blanket storage
Toy box
Storage unit
Window seat

This trunk re-do was truly a labor of love and a lot of time went into it.  I think it may be my favorite one yet.  Now just keep your fingers crossed that it sells.  I have it listed.  I still haven't sold the last one that I did and I'm running out of storage space.  I promised Louie I won't buy another one until one of them sells.  I don't know if that's a promise I can keep.....

If you're interested in vintage sheet music for a project like this or something else, I have a couple of packets left in my shop.  Use the code BLOG10 for a 10% discount.

On another note - if you're not using Ebates for your online purchases you're letting money slip thru your fingers in more ways than one.  First, you get a rebate on qualifying purchases from hundreds of stores.  Second, if you refer friends, YOU get sign on bonuses.  Check out these bonus rates....

Click on my link here to sign up.  Yes, I do get a bonus for referring you, but more than that, YOU are on your way to getting free cash back.  I've been a member for a year and I've gotten checks back every quarter.  And guess what, there are no fees or charges to join.  This bonus sign up goes thru 12-31-15, so sign up now before you start your online holiday purchases and you are on your way to extra cash in your pocket.

Linking up with....
Vintage Inspiration Party 11-17
Party in your PJ's # 82
Worthwhile Wednesdays # 95
Let's Talk Vintage # 58
Sundays at Home #83
Craft Frenzy Friday 11-12-15
Vintage Inspiration Party Nov 10, 2015
Vintage Charm #5


  1. What an amazing transformation! Your creativity knows no bounds.

  2. Sounds like a lot of work! Looks fab! I cringed a little-- I'm allergic to musty smells and dryer sheets!! Who throws away old sheet music? At least donate it to a thrift store or something!

    1. I agree. Now I am SO glad they did tho and that I saw them.

  3. This is my favorite re-do of all! Don't-cha know, WHR would be so pleased!

    1. You know, I didn't think of that, but I'd love to know what he thought. :-)

  4. I love this trunk! You do so well with these things!

    1. Thanks Dolly. I really enjoy doing them so I hope they sell so I can continue doing more.

  5. Kim, it is gorgeous! The sheet music was just the right touch! I love it!!!!

    xo Dianne

    1. Thanks Dianne. When I finally thought of it, it just felt "right." :-)

  6. You really worked hard to give this old trunk a new life. But I know how tiny you this thing might be small! haha! Enjoy your day sweet friend. Hugs, Diane

    1. LOL. It's actually the largest one I've done so far. They keep getting bigger and bigger.

  7. Oh my gosh Kim, I loved your first trunk redo, but I love this one more, only because of the history - we are a lot alike this way...this is what I love about old things the most, the history! And it really makes me mad that someone would throw that sheet music away, but I am so happy that you rescued it!
    Did you say peep peep when you were inside this trunk? ;)
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Hugs, Kimberley

    1. ROFL - I always peep. :-)

      This one is a hard one to let go of but I don't have the room to keep it.

  8. Wow, what an amazing transformation. I'd have a hard time letting it go after all that work. She's a real beauty. Thanks so much for sharing at Vintage Inspiration Party.

    1. I wish I could keep it but I just don't have the room. :-(

  9. Gosh you're cute! Love you sitting inside your trunks :) Lovely upcycle on a great old trunk. Lining it with the vintage music paper was inspired, Kim. Thanks for linking up with Vintage Charm!

    1. Thanks for hosting the party!

      I could sleep in this trunk it's so big!

  10. Featured your trunk this week! Thanks so much!


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