How To Line An Antique Trunk With Wallpaper

7 Materials
2 Hours

Have I got a good trash to treasure story for you!! When I was at a flea market recently, I stumbled upon this trunk, and the vendor practically begged me to buy it. Though I wasn't in the market for a trunk, my wheels started turning about how I could transform this old steamer trunk, starting with the inside of the trunk. This trunk needed to go from an old jalopy to updated and fabulous, and liner paper was my answer. More specifically, wallpaper.

What To Look For When Buying A Steamer Trunk

For some reason, when I'm walking around various places and shops, I'm always drawn when I see antique trunks. Perhaps it's because of the age of the trunk; or the silhouette; or the patina. Whatever the reason, 9 out of 10 times, I'm going to go check it out. I've found them anywhere from flea markets, to tag sales, antique stores to even thrift stores. A jack-of-all-trades in home decor, steamer trunks can serve as a coffee table, bench and obviously storage. Still, when you open the trunk, it most likely smells old and musty.

Inspect The Inside First

My rule of thumb when looking over a trunk before I buy it is to look inside and make sure it's in relatively good shape; no holes or black mold. If the wood has a big scratch, I'll need to be able to fill with wood putty and then sand smooth. The outside needs to be in pretty good condition, too. I won't buy one with rips or broken hardware, because I'm not a trunk restorer. I just like to make the insides look pretty. I've seen steamer trunks way over-priced, but for the most part, depending on the size, you can find one anywhere between $10 -$75. If I entertain one that is around $75, it needs to be in really, really good shape. The trunk I'm working with today cost me $20.

Here is a great steamer trunk idea!

Materials Needed

As with all craft projects, gather all of your materials and have them right at hand. Here are the steamer trunk lining material list:

  • Wallpaper
  • Mod Podge, matte finish
  • X-acto knife
  • Foam brush
  • Ruler
  • 220 grit sand paper
  • straight edge
  • Patience

First, lightly sand the entire inside of the trunk surface, smoothing out any rough spots that would show through the wallpaper, and would cause the wallpaper to crease or bump up. Next, vacuum out any dust, dirt and wipe down the inside of the trunk with a damp cloth. Luckily for me, the inside of this trunk was in good shape, and very little sanding was needed; just a good vacuuming and a wipe down of the damp cloth.

Measure the area where you want to apply the first piece of wallpaper and cut to length. Using the foam brush, paint the mod podge on the back of the wallpaper. Carefully place the wallpaper where you want it to go, making sure the ends are lined up with the edges of the trunk. Use a straight edge to smooth out wallpaper, making sure there are no wrinkles, creases or bumps. Attention to detail is key, and this is where your patience needs to stay in check.

Continue to measure, cut, paste and apply until you have lined the entire inside. A quick tip: remember that paper is designed to fold, so it is helpful when measuring the area with the paper, that you go ahead and fold / crease the corners. This way, you'll make sure that your cut length is just right, and the wallpaper will apply much smoother. I tell you this by experience.

Once the inside is fully lined with wallpaper, leave the top open and allow the mod podge to dry for 24 hours. This is a very important step because if you start to fill the trunk without letting the paste dry, the wallpaper will move, crease, look bad, etc, and you will have defeated your efforts. So, let the paste dry for at least 24 hours.

As you all know my history with wallpaper, both the good and the bad, my hat is off to anyone who hangs wallpaper for a living, and does it well (I'm talking to you, Aunt Karen)! Between concentrating on the measuring, methods, and math; listening to Hudson snore, and helping the kids build a fort in the den; my patience level was nil. But with each piece I mounted in place, my motivation grew as did my patience level.

All in, this craft project took me the better part of a couple hours, and of all of the craft projects I have done, this wallpapered steamer trunk is hands down my favorite, EVER. Like, I'm almost shocked at how well it turned out, and I truly believe that you can line a steamer trunk with wallpaper and do it just as well. For real! I sit back and look at this trunk and it's almost too pretty to fill and close. Almost.

Resources for this project:
See all materials
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info
Farmhouse 1820
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation
  • William William on Oct 22, 2020

    Great job and super tip. A lot of vintage trunks were lined with fabric or paper. I like to use spray adhesive but Mod Podge is a good solution. Easier to work with.

    • See 1 previous
    • Farmhouse 1820 Farmhouse 1820 on Oct 23, 2020

      Thank you William. I prefer to use Modge Podge because the over-spray of spray adhesive is a little too messy.