The thing I love the most about rehabbing furniture is the history behind your original piece. To think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of its personal story is so overwhelmingly fascinating to me. So, to say I was flooded with curiosity about the trunk in this post is an understatement. It’s a military style shipping trunk from what I believe is 1954 (I can kind of make out the packaging date from the stamp) that I had found at a random thrift store in Raleigh for $20 (!!!) and immediately knew I had to have it. Didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, but I needed it. Every thrifter knows the feeling.
This piece had all the character and masculine features to go perfectly with our masculine-meets-feminine eclectic apartment. I got it home, gave it a more thorough inspection, and realized this piece would be a perfect coffee table with storage! I also realized this trunk needed a bit more love than I thought (rotted floor, rust, paint splatters, ect), but no worries! Nothing a crafter can’t handle 🤗
The first thing that needed to be done was reinforce the bottom. I also knew I wanted to put industrial casters on this, so I would need something to drill into. I measured the bottom (inside and out. Your measurements will be different for each) and took a trip to Home Depot complete with pictures of my trunk. I had no idea what kind of wood I needed, but thankfully the employees there were happy to help and very knowledgeable. I came home with a thicker (about 1 in) and nicer wood for the outside bottom, and a very thin particle board for the inside. I sawed off the corners of the large piece to blend a little better. I screwed the board down with eight 1.5 inch screws as close to the edge as possible so it doesn’t come up through the floor. Then put the particle board inside and just used a couple small nails to hold it in place.
Obviously I wouldn’t be able to camouflage the wood completely, I also didn’t necessarily want to. I wanted the wood to compliment the piece, add to its character. Plus I was adding some super cool casters to it, so I kinda wanted people to look down there. I went and got a couple different stains (Minwax “Red Chestnut”, “Red Mahogany”, and “Jacobean”) and began experimenting. I had tried my best to scrub off as much rust as possible, and was mostly successful, but some of it had to stay. Which is fine for my character loving heart. I chose a bronze color for the hardware (Ill go into more detail on that later) so I also needed to pick a stain that complimented redish brown tones. The first picture shows the Red Chestnut; it just wasn’t dark enough for me. The last picture shows the Red Mahogany; which was the winner.
Now for the most tedious part of the whole process. Spray painting the hardware. I got a bunch of newspaper, painters tape, and an X-ACTO knife and got to work. I meticulously taped around every edge of the hardware and then taped news paper to the green body to protect it from spray paint (Rustolium metallic Bronze).
So much work, trust me I know 😅 I needed lots of breaks with the taping part. I’m not naturally a perfectionist so being this precise was somewhat agonizing. All worth it in the end though, Friends!
Now that the outside was coming together I felt like the inside needed a little bit of love to really bring this piece together. I found some really great feminine fabric and lined the insides and hid my, let’s say, less-than-professional seams and cuts with some trim. For the edges that I couldn’t use that tactic I just put a line of hot glue on the back and folded the edge in. No sewing necessary! All I used was some spray adhesive for the walls and a hot glue gun for my trim.
All that’s left are the casters! In the pic way above you saw those wee little wheels that just weren’t going lift this as high as I wanted, and also, casters are cool! I want them to be loud and proud down there! So I went back and got 3.5 inch casters with breaks. Very important to get at least two of your four casters with breaks so you don’t have a run away trunk every time you put your feet up. Also place the two with breaks diagonal from each other so the resistance is even.
For the casters I spray painted them with the same Rustolium as I did the body hardware, then let them dry a couple of hours. I placed them a couple of inches inward and about an inch from the top so that it wouldn’t be sticking out too terribly much depending on what direction the wheel was turned. A little toe stubbing clearance lol. Screwed them straight into the bottom wood piece using half-inch screws.
I am so proud of this piece and I hope this gives you some inspiration for when you stumble across your own little time capsule! All it takes to bring something back to life is a little elbow grease and imagination 💕
Here’s what you’ll need for your own Trunk Coffee Table:
- A trunk (le duh).
- A measured piece of 1in wood for the bottom and very thin particle board to line the inside (if needed! Not all trunks need the extra layer inside. But to add wheels or feet, you’ll want the extra thickness on the bottom.)
- Sand paper to scrub off loose paint/rust.
- A pack of 1.25-1.5in screws for the bottom board.
- A pack of 1/2in screws for legs or wheels.
- Stain and brush for the bottom wood.
- Painters tape and news paper.
- X-acto knife.
- Spray paint for hardware. Again, if needed/wanted. Your trunk could be born-this-way-beautiful and you only need legs.
- Fabric to line inside.
- Spray adhesive.
- Glue gun/sticks.
- Casters or legs.
Enjoy! Feel free to comment or shoot me an email with any questions or pics of your own one-of-a-kind coffee table trunk! Id love to see them 🙂 Happy crafting!