Turning a Vintage Trunk into a Side Table

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It’s the last Tuesday of the month, which means that it’s time for another It’s So Ugly It’s Cool thrift store challenge hosted by Jess at Domicile 37. I have to admit I dropped the ball a little bit on this one. Here I am trying to give you a before/after post, and I forgot to take any before pictures. Oops!

The good thing is, I didn’t change the item in question that much, so I think you can use your imagine to envision what this trunk with no legs looked like. It looked like a trunk.

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Anyhoo–I found this particular trunk in the trash pile at an estate sale. It really wasn’t in bad condition, as you can see–I’m not entirely sure why they were throwing it away. I went super quick/easy in my makeover of this piece. I just cleaned it up a bit (as I said, it didn’t need much–it was more that I felt like it was dirty than that it actually was dirty) and added some inexpensive wooden legs from Lowe’s. The legs I used are about $2.50/each, and I had to buy some hardware to attach it (which I didn’t end up using–more on that later), so considering that the trunk was free, I am all-in at about $12.50 on this project. Not bad!

If you had a really nice trunk and wanted to do it up right, I’m sure you could get some awesome legs from Pretty Pegs or use some vintage legs and make it spectacular. With how low-to-the ground I wanted this to be, the legs aren’t too visible, so it wasn’t really worth it to me to invest in a pricier option.

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To clean the trunk, I used a combination of water, baking soda, olive oil, and dish soap (you can read a good post on cleaning trunks here). If that sounds like a gross mixture, it kind of was. But remember, the cleaning was mostly about the psychology of believing it was clean rather than achieving some kind of specific result. I read that using that mixture would provide a gentle cleaning, so as far as I know, it did! When it was dry, I finished by polishing it with regular old furniture wax–the same kind I used on my mint dresser makeover.

To attach the legs, I simply drilled into the bottom of the trunk to make a hole slightly smaller than the screw on the leg. Usually I am not allowed to drill things because I have a bad reputation for eyeballing rather than taking precise measurements, but in this case eyeballing (I think I used the width of two or three fingers from the edge as a guide) was good enough. This kind of old trunk is really only made out of cardboard, so it is not at all difficult to puncture with a drill.

After attaching the legs, the plan was to secure them with a washer and then a nut on the inside of the trunk, but as it so happens, my cleaning activities exacerbated the rustiness of the hardware, and I haven’t been able to get the trunk open since! I’m pretty sure I could if I pulled hard enough, but the trunk resting on the legs makes them secure enough anyway; it’s not worth risk ripping the lid off the trunk.

My only piece of advice is that when you go to buy the washers/nuts bring the leg you are using with you and let the nice folks at your local home improvement store help you out. There are about a bazillion sizes inside all these little drawers, and you will grow old trying them out or become crazy attempting to guess which would fit.

I didn’t have any spot for the trunk when I found it, but it ended up fitting exactly into this little nook beside my closet. Sometimes admittedly I throw clothes on top of it for days at a time, but when it’s visible it’s a pretty cool accent.

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Have you ever found anything cool dumpster diving? Tell me about your treasures in the comments!

And don’t forget to check out the other intrepid DIYers! You can also share your own projects on Instagram using the hashtag #itssouglyitscool.

 
 
VINE & LACE

20 comments

  1. It’s beautiful Britt! Really, a lot of the times when I come across something neat like this, I just can’t understand why someone would want to get rid of it in the first place, but I’m glad they did, because you’ve given this piece such a beautiful new life!

    1. Thanks Iris! It’s odd because they were selling another trunk just like this one at the estate sale. The other one was in a bit better condition, so perhaps they didn’t think anyone would buy this one. Either way, I was glad to take it off their hands!

  2. Love this. I did this a couple of years ago to a little vintage suitcase… Perfect for fitting into a small spot and still allow some storage. Looks great!! I love that the light wood legs have the same tonal quality as the metal buckles.

    1. A suitcase would be so cute! Great point about the legs. Hadn’t even though of that, but going to pretend like I did. 😉

    1. I have the trunk for a clothes holder. My husband has a chair. The chair is almost never even visible, LOL! I know, I hate that it won’t open. Justin swears that I’m not pulling hard enough, but I can just see myself ripping the entire thing in half.

    1. Thanks so much, Kathy! I got really lucky that it fit so well in that nook! So did my husband–I was going to make him build me some shelves otherwise. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Jess! It was easy peasy! And now I don’t have to reach as far to throw my clothes on it. 😛

  3. Amazing! I love your style Britt and this trunk is so gorgeous!!!!! Great score and the legs are the perfect touch.

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