How to Make a Trunk Coffee Table From an Upcycled Steamer Trunk

There’s something so romantic about vintage ravel trunks isn’t there? Where have they been, who did they belong to and how did they end up looking so sad at a flea marekt or carbon sale? I picked up this trunk for £10 at a flea market and immediately knew what I was going to do with it - make it into a trunk coffee table.

I saw this grubby, vintage trunk and immediately thought; trunk coffee table

A bit of elbow grease and plenty of sanding turned it into this beauty which I’m rather proud of. It’s all pretty easy to do, you just need some time to let the layers of paint and varnish dry between coats. Oh, and a trunk. You need an old trunk.

How to make a Trunk Coffee Table Using an Upcycled Vintage Steamer Trunk - Trunk table DIY

So, here’s how I went about creating my trunk coffee table. I thought I’d share all of the steps so that you can make one too.

To make an upcycled trunk coffee table you'll need:

  • A wire brush

  • Sandpaper - course and fine grade

  • Chalk paint or furniture paint in your chosen colour

  • Clear indoor varnish

  • Paint brush

  • Newspaper/ dust sheet

  • Masking tape

Vintage, weathered trunk with wooden bands - Upcycled Trunk Coffee Table DIY

1)  Clean up

Firstly, give your vintage trunk a good brush down and hoover out. There were few few travel stickers stuck to the outside of my trunk which would have been lovely to keep had they been in better condition but I made the decision that they were far gone to save, so I scratched them off with a stiff brush. After a thorough clean up it will already look a lot better. If your trunk has lovely vintage travel stickers on the outside which are salvageable you can keep those on and paint around them at the later steps.

Inside my trunk I found an article on the minimum wage, things were different back then. THANK GOD things have changed. The article on the changes to the minimum wage shows separate bands for men and women; which was interesting and made me think about the gender pay gap that’s still a huge problem even now. Perhaps seeking to do your own thing and doing what you love is even more important for women, so that we can be more in control of what we earn - but, that's a debate for another day.

The Minimum wage - new order for Worcestershire found in a vintage trunk

2) Sanding (I know it's boring but it'll be worth it!)

Next, get to work sanding all of the wooden parts of your trunk. I also sanded the metal bits with a really fine sandpaper and it turned out that they were a super-shiny, if battered copper. Definitely worth the extra sanding effort.

Vintage trunk sanded down ready for painting - Upcycled Trunk Coffee Table DIY

3) Boring bit over, now time to paint!

Cover all of the wooden and leather parts with masking tape (plus any other areas you might not want to paint). Using furniture paint or chalk paint give your trunk a couple of coats - leaving it to dry in between. Once it's dry remove the masking tape.

4) Finishing touches

Finally, give the whole trunk (including the wooden, metal and leather parts two coats of clear varnish, leaving the varnish to dry between coats. This is pretty essential for protecting it once it becomes your up cycled trunk coffee table.

And now you have a brand new coffee table, made out of a trunk.

Better put the kettle on and get a brew on the go.

If you’ve caught the creative bug and want to make more tings with your very own hands, there are lots more DIY posts on my blog.

Upcycled steamer trunk painted with french grey chalkpaint
Trunk Coffee Table
Tea and cake on an upcycled trunk coffee table
Trunk Coffee Table Tutorial - Upcycle a vintage trunk into a coffee table
SEASONALJosephine Brooks