I need help restoring this trunk

by Jess
I have this steamer trunk that is in really bad shape and I want to restore it as best as possible. How and where do I begin??
  13 answers
  • Lori Haught Harper Lori Haught Harper on Apr 20, 2016
    Check out this video of the time lapse process showing an upcycle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSRUmyyOu8Y Hope it helps!
  • Becktribe1 Becktribe1 on Apr 20, 2016
    I've never done a trunk, and this one looks a little complicated. Take a number of pictures so you will have a record of where everything goes! What is your DIY level of skill? Definitely check out the videos above, then start taking all the hardware off.
  • Colimbia1 Colimbia1 on Apr 20, 2016
    I would use Pinterest and search on steamer trunks redo, restoration, DIY or ideas, etc. You will find tons of ideas as well as complete directions and advice for what you want. My advice to start...carefully clean it up and go from there. From this one picture it looks like you have a trunk with good "back bones" to start with. Good luck! Hope you post your finished product.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Apr 20, 2016
    Your'e biggest questions have yet to be asked. Do you want it to look antique or new? Restored or refurbished? With original age and character retained or stripped off then 'made up'? Be careful to ask and answer these questions first.
    • Jess Jess on Apr 26, 2016
      I want to restore it as stated in the question. I want it to be as original as possible.
  • Catherine Catherine on Apr 20, 2016
    I have the identical trunk (mine has a different fabric inside). The interior needed a good airing out and the outside was pretty worn so I painted all of the exterior except for the handles, trim and locks with a mid tone brown semi gloss latex paint and then once that was dry I applied a slightly darker minwax stain and polyurethane in one over top to help protect the new finish. The trim I painted in an antique bronze and the rivets I painted in an old gold colour. I did this in 2006 and it has held up beautifully as a coffee table in our family room.
  • Mimi Mimi on Apr 20, 2016
    I have one that the top was sagging on, I removed the rivets, and am stripping the inside material (fabric/paper). I have to sturdy the flat top inside with a new wood panel, drill holes where the rivets go, revivet (that's not really a word is it?) lol, recover the inside with fabric, and possibly a thin batting, and paint the outside, including the new rivets (in a bronze or antique gold and reattach the lid to the bottom. It's quite a job, but the trunk had sat outside on a shops uncovered porch in a stack of other pieces, and when I spotted it I knew it would be more a labor of love than anything else. The man actually gave me the trunk, he said it wasn't worth the work... Man, was he wrong, you have to know these pieces were made to last for the abuse they have taken over the years. How many of us wouldn't have a sag or two after more than 100 years of wear and tear, and abuse? At least with some time, and love and lots of work They can be returned to their glory with a new look, as close to the original one as possible. Just go for it, and be patient, it will be worth it to you in the long run. Remember...it is just a diamond in the rough, a little polish and you will have something to be very proud that you saved. Wonder what stories they could tell?
    • Jess Jess on Apr 20, 2016
      Thank you! It was stored in a garage for years. Got a lot of damage. But up for the challenge. Did you replace the leather handles, if so where did you get the material and how did you do it?
  • Vivian Schofield Vivian Schofield on Apr 20, 2016
    Marcela Pena's post An Antique Trunk With History This might help you.
  • Kayo Frazier Kayo Frazier on Apr 20, 2016
    Here's my 2 cents...Thank Goodness! It shuts completely...For the inside, remove all of the metal parts. Use steel wool or sandpaper to remove any paint or rust. Spray paint each metal part your choice any of the following rubbed bronze, copper, silver, or nickel. Remove the drawers, replace the paper/cloth on each drawer...I would go for a jewel tone color. (Amethyst, Emerald, Ruby) Carefully remove the pulls on each drawer & spray paint them the same color as the drawers. For the hangers, I would sand them down as much as possible to get rid of what looks like mold. You can seal it w/ a cherry stain & seal it w/ poly. For the outside...It needs a really good scrubbing. The locks, rivets & trim need a scrubbing w/ steel wool or sandpaper to remove the layers of paint & rust. Repaint the locks, rivets & trim black. I would repaint the red panels a dark brown bringing back to a more traditional steamer trunk. For the bottom of the trunk when it's upright, you could possibly add small casters on each corner to lift the trunk off the ground. Replace the leather strap on top... Add another one on the side so you can pull it while it's upright. Hope this helps.
  • Lilybelle42 Lilybelle42 on Apr 21, 2016
    I am restoring an old trunk and have found Brettunsvillage.com to be an invaluable resource for DIY advice and supplies: http://www.brettunsvillage.com/trunks/howto/howto.html Not only is it helpful but the writer of the instructions is hilarious (even if you are NOT restoring a trunk it makes for a fun read!) The site has earned a huge following and also features many before and after pictures. BTW, I am in no way affiliated with them and just discovered the site via a Google search on trunk restoration. Good luck!
  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Apr 23, 2016
    I scraped all the old paper/fabric out of mine, as it just held on to a musty smell no matter what I did (tried every recommended trick I could find), painted it with a good paint after airing the individual drawers etc. out in the sun. That was a few years ago, and the smell never returned. The outside was all sanded and painted. I have my sewing supplies and a few vintage finds stored in it.
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  • Rachel Rachel on Apr 26, 2016
    I have almost the exact same trunk. Mine is in somewhat better shape but I never could decide how to best refinish it or, how to use it upright. We've turned ours on it's side and use it in our family room to hold our television. Mine is painted black and I've always wanted to strip it down to see what is underneath but I haven't done it because I'm afraid if I took it apart to clean hardware and strip paint I might never get it back together correctly. I hope you'll repost later and show the results. Perhaps you will inspire me to gather my courage and bring back some of her former glory.