Old beat up steamer trunk

Tracy Jo
by Tracy Jo
To restore or not to restore, that is the question? Any ideas on what I can do with this? The top has a slight bow to it so hard to use as a table. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.
  47 answers
  • Fonda Finney Fonda Finney on Jul 12, 2014
    Blanket storage?
  • Julie Moyna Julie Moyna on Jul 12, 2014
    Yes!!!!! Restore or actually even just clean it out. I have a few I have posted in my profile. I love trunks! First if it's musty, I line the bottom with fabric sheets until I'm ready to clean it...they really help. That is a great piece for sure!!!!
    • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 12, 2014
      @Julie Moyna I had it at my cabin for a few years and have just brought it back to the city. The inside doesn't smell musty, but I will use your dryer sheet trick if I store blankets in it. Would you repaint it or leave it rustic like this? I will check yours out now.
  • Goldrushgal Goldrushgal on Jul 12, 2014
    This one is actually in such good shape I would restore..I found one on the side of the road with many missing parts that I decided to give it a white shabby chic look. If mine would have been in as great a shape as yours would never have painted it. I have a camelback one that I restored for blankets which needed many layers of paint removed. Turned out great. I bet with a good coat of paste wax yours would be beautiful. And if the inside smells musty put some charcoal brackets wrapped in newspaper inside and close the lid for a few weeks.
  • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 12, 2014
    I bought it a few years ago at a garage sale for $30.00, figured it was a pretty good find. Thanks for the feedback.
  • Kimberly A Kimberly A on Jul 13, 2014
    Absolutely restore it!!! My sister just restored two. They were my great grandmother and great grandfathers that they got for travel on their honeymoon in the late 1800's so they had huge sentimental value to the whole family. You can buy thin cedar sheets to reline it or just clean it and wallpaper the interior. One of ours had cedar and the other was wallpapered. Just sand or wire brush the metal and repaint it with Rustoleum paint. You really can get it back to nearly new. Use it to store anything including out of season clothes, blankets, anything that is more seasonal such as holiday items, etc. Just use it and enjoy it, you will be so glad you did.
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Jul 13, 2014
    I think I would restore it, although I have seen many painted ones that are simply stunning. Up to you, but yours looks like it is in pretty good shape so I might keep it as is and just enhance it with some polish or refinishing glaze. Good luck! Show the after please!
  • Lisa Lisa on Jul 13, 2014
    I love these style trunks, I revamped one about 2 years ago and I use it as my blankets, extra sheet storage now, but first I used it under my tv which held the normal cable box, dvd player and stuff like that, It was a conversation piece that got alot of attention. I paid $75 for mine.
  • Angelia Christenson Angelia Christenson on Jul 13, 2014
    My hubby would want it restored and i prefer the look it has now. So hard call for this house...sorry if no help but id put at foot of bed if no other trunk or chest is at foot of beds already. It would also hold dang near ALL my cds which would suit me just fine versus having to dust them all the time cause they are displayed currently in alphabetical order by genre...ha. (hubby would have to build me some trays for the inside to keep them organzied though.
  • Lynn Rainsford Lynn Rainsford on Jul 13, 2014
    I say yes, take it apart, sand and re-stain it, put a clear coat of varnish on it, and it will look like a million. I did this to a trunk 36 years ago and have used it as my night stand/ blanket chest since. Love it!!
  • Anna Erishkigal Anna Erishkigal on Jul 13, 2014
    The paint on this trunk is a bit more distressed than would look good in most people's houses. We have an antique upright-grand we touch up with genuine carnuba wax shoe polish (black). Perhaps you might try that with brown to minimize the scratches while keeping it's value as an antique? Or Minwax has a 'wood filler' for stained wood that is really a form of stained wax. Also, please disable the lock. Children can get locked in these and suffocate.
  • Shelly Janczak Shelly Janczak on Jul 13, 2014
    I have a trunk that I leave the lid open to display all my souvenirs from my honey and my travels and adventures.....
  • David Rupp David Rupp on Jul 13, 2014
    Check the value it could be worth a lot more like it is !
  • NurseJen NurseJen on Jul 13, 2014
    Wow! That is a beautiful trunk! Can't wait to see what you decide to do with it!
  • Susan E Susan E on Jul 13, 2014
    Minwax makes a product "WoodFinish Stain Marker" which is stain in a felt tip pen. It actually lasts a long time. I use it to touch up the nicks on my grandmother's mahogany bedroom furniture. Won't work if you have a chewing toddler in your household though.
  • Charlotte Fairchild Charlotte Fairchild on Jul 13, 2014
    A nautical varnish went on my trunk that looks similar to yours! Norwex makes a freshner with more natural chemicals, and fewer of them to boot. I have thought of putting new fabric in mine. I don't have to do much. Just make boxes and place inside the trunk. In one trunck I worked on I used contact paper (I was 19 years old).
  • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 13, 2014
    Thanks so much for all the helpful comments, I will post a picture when I'm done.
  • Kim snead Kim snead on Jul 13, 2014
    I have an old trunk I bought at a flea market. We polished all the metal on it with drumel brush, then I oiled it really good. Looks great. I wanted to preserve the original look, think of all the places the trunk has been. Oh if only it could talk, what stories it would have!
    • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 13, 2014
      @Kim snead So I'm not the only one who thinks "if this piece could talk" :-) I'm doing a driftwood mirror at the moment and think the same thing about the wood. Thanks for the comment.
  • Julie Moyna Julie Moyna on Jul 13, 2014
    I don't know why question seems to have been flagged or reported? Anyway to answer your question...I always throw some new lining inside when I am going to store anything. Either decoupage or shelf lining. Just to be safe. And always like I said, fabric sheets. Especially when putting blankets, or linens inside...cheers!
    • See 1 previous
    • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 13, 2014
      I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and get busy with this one. I am just finishing a driftwood mirror and will start on this beauty next.
  • Veronica Shultz Veronica Shultz on Jul 13, 2014
    When I buy an antique, I believe that if I get more use out of a "restore" then I do so. Even if that means painting. I want to enjoy my purchase and not worry about it's resale value.
  • Wendy Johnson Wendy Johnson on Jul 13, 2014
    nice trunk, I am commenting because I want to see what you choose. Hope you dont mind. I love old trunks. I have one my grandmother gave me when I was a teenager but I have never changed it.
  • Marie farrell Marie farrell on Jul 13, 2014
    If you want to use as table use thick clear Glass cut to size. regarding restoring i would check the age and value first I have a medium size one and i choose to do touch up staining and on the inside i place all the perfume samples from magazines in the trunk with our winter blankets ...
  • Carol Ann McDaniel Carol Ann McDaniel on Jul 13, 2014
    Some one already messed with it by drilling holes and putting in rope handles. I have restored and utilized many, many trunks. If you want original go to vandykes and get replacement hardware and straps. Plug holes to keep out critters. Paint on a thin coat of beeswax and mineral and buffout. To be really useful. Remove the ropes. Add handles. Add a solid bottom, either in or out and add low wheels. Paint with poly and you have a moveable side table. If it was lower you could use it as a coffee table. I've been using a 1.5 foot thick one as such for forty years. It had a pressed paper top that we coated with poly. We also used two in poor condition as our rural mail box by building a frame to set in concrete. Then another frame to connect them. Then more concrete. The top trunk has two large rural mailboxes that were antiqued bronzey. There are address numbers in the flip down Lids and on front on tge lower trunk. The entire thing gets another coat of poly every year. Woe the stupid head that tries to bash these mailboxes.
  • Julie Julie on Jul 13, 2014
    I have the exact same trunk. Can't wait to see what you decide to do with it. At present I use mine on a covered patio to store garden fertilizer, tools etc.
  • Darla DeMorrow Darla DeMorrow on Jul 13, 2014
    Think "outside the box". Are you interested in repurposing? Maybe set it on it's end, fix it open permanently, put shelves inside and use it as a bar, a bookshelf, nightstand, any type of vertical storage. For young kids, you can set it on it's end, secure it open, hang a rod, and use as a mii closet for dress up. Stick it on a covered porch for a dramatic plant display anchor. Put it in your closet or bedroom, line it, as someone mentioned, and use it as your donation box, where you put things you are ready to donate. Make a trip every time the box is full. Hope you find a great use for it.
  • Jan B Jan B on Jul 13, 2014
    Yours is a more rare trunk in that the top is rounded - very nice lines! I have a similar trunk from my grandfather that I've been looking at for 25 years, wondering what to do! I'm torn between paint or decoupage. Enjoy your project. Looking forward to seeing what you do.
  • Mssmatch Mssmatch on Jul 13, 2014
    Top is 'rounded'-?-- I see a flat top In photo,I have several hump top trunks that have an obvious rounded top
  • Deborah Dustman Deborah Dustman on Jul 13, 2014
    @Tracy Jo I have one like this, too, but haven't done anything with it since I bought it at an antique store for $35. I am excited to hear about and see what you do with it.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 13, 2014
    I would try to just clean it good and follow Kim Snead's advice. I would then use it as an accent piece...it would be pretty anywhere...and use it for storage...maybe the winter coats and outer gear.
  • Mssmatch Mssmatch on Jul 13, 2014
    Then, u have a bow top steamer trunk! Post pics after u decide how u r going to fix it up
  • Dee Layman Dee Layman on Jul 13, 2014
    What if you put glass on top using spacers on the corners to make up for the bow? cork spacers would be cool
  • Carol Harris Carol Harris on Jul 13, 2014
    I love it the way it is, I would clean it good, use it for a coffee table, put a throw off one end of it, maybe a tray or basket on it, its lovely. and great for storage too
  • Candace P Candace P on Jul 13, 2014
    looks like it is in good shape just scratched. Before you do anything I would see what's the value in because it's worth anything and you paint it you ruin the value
  • Suzanne Melton Suzanne Melton on Jul 13, 2014
    Brettuns Village Trunk Shop in Maine offers parts, tools, and books for restoring old trunks. They'll even restore your trunk for you. If you decide to restore your trunk yourself, you'll find many inspiration photos here, too. http://www.brettunsvillage.com/trunks/
  • Ida Granny Ida Granny on Jul 13, 2014
    Don't fix the trunk up in any way, it is worth more in its original way. With all the nicks & scratches. Leave it alone.
  • Colimbia1 Colimbia1 on Jul 13, 2014
    @Tracy Jo I have two trunks and love them. One is a family heirloom and the other bought at a yard sale that was in poor shape and we redid it and put cedar on the inside. With both of them I used Plexiglas instead of glass and put coasters under the Plexiglas from a vacation in Australia. The coasters have Aboriginal art on them. The other one I used beer coasters from different pubs we visited there also. LOL! Great for hide away storage. Can't wait to see your completed project!
  • Sara Adams Vieira Sara Adams Vieira on Jul 14, 2014
    There was a very similar one next to the trash so I brought it home. I also haven't a clew what to do with it. How is the inside?
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Jul 14, 2014
    I would leave it as is.. The skins dings scratches are the scars of its journeys and give it such character.. any paint or changes to make it more modern or updated would diminish its charm and mystery... the glass top idea was good as well as a basket or tray on top. Make sure you have checked it out good on the inside for hidden pockets and so forth, I had a suitcase given to me and after having it for a few years a friend of mine decided to look inside, and found a beautiful mans diamond ring tucked away in one of the small compartments. The man who had given it to me had passed away... So The ring was a great find. My friend that found the ring just had to have it... So he bought it from me. You never know what could be hidden away in something , especially if its traveled around a lot!
    • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 14, 2014
      @Buster Evans Wow, cool story. I may have to have a snoop now. Someone has used it as a work bench over the years, there are a couple of saw marks on the top where they went right through it with the saw.
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Jul 14, 2014
    Well its definitely been around and seen things....
  • Susan M Susan M on Jul 14, 2014
    I have one very similar in size and condition. I cleaned it and use it as coffee table. Rub it with an oil once a quarter or so
  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Jul 14, 2014
    I'm fortunate to have two trunks. One is a larger steamer trunk that I use for all my sewing notions. The other is a trunk similar to yours. I bought it refinished on the outside, and did a little work on the inside. Also put safer hinges on it, because as lovely as it is, I use it for storage in my livingroom/den and the hinges were shot. It has a lovely wood finish on the outside and a tray that lifts out. Make it work for you. The large steamer is painted, the smaller one isn't. It's yours, so enjoy it!
  • I would leave it as it is and either use for bed linen or in the bathroom with lid open and towels rolled up and stood up sentry style! It's lovely.... :)
  • Also I'd maybe give it a good clean and light light sand before coat of wax just to highlight the natural patina!
  • Glenda Kemp Glenda Kemp on Jul 15, 2014
    We inherited one very similar that originally belonged to my husband's grandfather. It was in such bad shape I wouldn't bring it into the house. Sanded and painted the black parts (that were flaking and pealing) black and left the gold color. Used one coat of polyurethane and it is beautiful. The inside had flaking paper that dissolved when touched. Bought some very inexpensive thin light gray carpeting at Home Depot and glued it on the inside. Looks very nice. Use it for all my gift wrapping papers, bows, etc. Unique and pleasing to the eyes. We wanted to enjoy it more than worrying about the worth.
    • Tracy Jo Tracy Jo on Jul 15, 2014
      @Glenda Kemp That is how I feel Glenda, there is no value to it, just a cool old piece that I will clean up and make functional for my needs. Thanks
  • Glenda Kemp Glenda Kemp on Jul 15, 2014
    Photos attached.
    • Wendy Johnson Wendy Johnson on Jul 16, 2014
      @Glenda Kemp It is lovely Glenda. And really old trunks aren't that valuable except to you and in sentiment. or unless they have some rare historic significance, so we should do what we want and enjoy them.
  • Julie Moyna Julie Moyna on Jul 18, 2014
    Hemp oil after a good cleaning is what I put on the trunks I don't paint. It will seem dry but trust me, let it soak in and set for almost a month! You will see the beautiful aged wood and it will be ready to throw a coat of either clear or dark wax on it I'm sure your truck will appreciate it. Less is more though with the hemp oil. MMS has a great one that is pretty reasonable. But I'm sure any wood oil or wax will be fine. Please show us when you're done!!!
  • Lynn Rainsford Lynn Rainsford on Aug 25, 2014
    I have the trunk my grandmother brought over from Norway, and it is rusty, old, and a bit cruddy, but remnants of her stickers are on the outside from her passage, and I don't dare disturb that provenance, but I have completely restored others in my house (I have 3 others) and they look great!