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Vintage Luggage Makeover.

 

Last spring I got an email from an Art of Doing Stuff reader who lives in my general area.  She said she had spotted a vintage suitcase out for garbage pickup while she was out for her morning walk.  She lugged it home, emailed me and asked if I’d like it.

 

Old Suitcase 7

 

Um … YES.  Garbage finds are my favourite finds and I didn’t even have to go root through garbage for it.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with the suitcase but I knew I could think of something.

The suitcase was in relatively good condition, but definitely couldn’t be used “as is”. I’d have to fix it up, clean it up, paint it up … something.
Old Suitcase 1

 

One year ago the title of this post was going to be  “How to Paint a Suitcase!”.  By spring it was going to be, “How to Turn a Suitcase into a Gardening Shed!”.   Around July I decided the title would definitely be  “Put Wheels on a Suitcase for Easy Underbed Storage!.  Then fall arrived and the title became “Shove that old suitcase in your basement.  It’s ugly and a pain in the ass!”

But then I made a discovery.  I decided to peel off the travel stickers that were on the suitcase.

 

Old Suitcase 2
One of the stickers was covering up a hole in the outside fabric of the suitcase. It looked like wood underneath.

 

Old Suitcase 3

 

I figured if I just peeled a little more of the fabric back I’d be able to see if the whole suitcase was wood. Just a little. Just enough so I could see if it was wood. If I was careful about it, I could always just glue the fabric back down.

 

Old Suitcase 4
Hmm. Not sure. Might need to peel a tiny bit more back.
Old Suitcase 5

 

Yup. That’s wood alright.
Old Suitcase 6

 

Down to the basement to set up for suitcase surgery. I’d get everything ready and then come down in the morning to start working on it.

 

Old Suitcase 8

 

And I stuck to my plan. As long as you call 2:00 a.m. morning.

It was like an addiction this suitcase. I couldn’t stop until I knew exactly what was underneath. Then once I knew what was underneath, I was satisfied and promptly walked away leaving it sitting on my workbench for the next 4 months. It runs in my family this sort of behavior. Rip something apart until you know what it’s made of or what’s going on and then walk away because your curiosity has been quenched.

 

Stripping Old Suitcase
Last month I got back to work on it.

To strip the suitcase I:

1. Ripped  the fabric off with my hands.

2. Scraped off some of the glue residue with one of these.

3. Sanded the rest of the glue off with a palm sander.

 

Old Suitcase Stripped Of Fabric
Now that the suitcase is stripped you have 3 options:

 

1.  Leave it as is with no finish or sealant.

2.  Seal it with a coat of Varathane.  

3.  Stain it and then Varathane it.

Old Wood Suitcase
Even though I loved the clean look of the pale wood, I wanted it to have a bit more age and character so after MUCH debating I went with stain then Varathane to seal and protect the suitcase.
Staining Suitcase
Are you wondering what this suitcase ultimately became? Is it underbed storage? A mini gardening shed? Nope, nope.
8597088503_51f7889fa9_o-1
And yes. That is Rough Linen bedding. Smooth linen sheets and an Orkney duvet cover.
Suitcase Bedside Table 2

Suitcase Bedside Table 6

Suitcase Bedside Table 7

Suitcase Bedside Table 3

 

By putting the suitcase on an actual suitcase stand it instantly becomes the perfect height for a bedside table. Although it would look good on antique casters. Or on the porch with gardening tools. The one place it won’t be going is the basement.


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111 Comments | Filed Under: Design | Tags: , , ,

111 Responses to Vintage Luggage Makeover.

  1. Marti says:

    That looks wonderful, Karen! Makes me wonder what you’d do with roadkill? ;)

    Seriously, congrats on a gorgeous and useful project! I now want to shop my neighbors garbage a lot more closely!

  2. Raymonde says:

    I never would have guessed those suitcases were made out of wood! It looks great and now, I want one!
    P.S: Why did you remove the inside lining? Was it gross? Did it smell bad? What did you replace it with? Inquiring (nosy) minds want to know!

    • Karen says:

      Raymonde – I honestly can’t remember why I removed the lining. It *was* a bit musty. I think it was getting in the way of me removing the fabric on the outside. I replaced it with white Mac Tac. Which was a big pain. ~ karen!

      • cheryl seals says:

        I feel a new project coming on ! What is MAC TAC ? A tutoral on how you put inside back in would be great! We know you can do it! thx

        • Karen says:

          Hi Cheryl – Mac Tac is stick down shelf paper. And as much as I’d love to do the tutorial, my suitcase is done. And after half a year of himming and hawing about doing it, I’m not about to revisit it, LOL. Basically you just cut the shelf paper to size and stick it down. That’s it! ~ karen

          • cheryl seals says:

            Karen, I wasnt thinking about the fact that your suitcase was already done, can’t do tutorial when it’s finished! (I DOPEy )hehe Thanks for telling me what MacTac is..I think a project is in the making, along with the bizzilion others I have going on.. I used a very very sad beatup suitcase as a planter a few years ago..Nailed it to an equally sad wood stool with the lid open,lined it with a black trash bag (not the it really mattered) and made it into the cutest flower garden! I leaned it against the wall on porch, so lid would stay upright, tied some rusty garden tools an one lone holey glove to handle, really was cute…My friend liked it so well the next year after she had surgery it was sitting on her front porch all newly planted when she arrived home… thx cheryl

  3. gloria says:

    Loved The Book Thief.

    • Patti says:

      The book thief is currently sitting on my bedside table, as well, but I just haven’t been able to bite into it as much as usual. Makes me sad.

      On the flip side – Karen! You’re a genius! I LOVE it! Such a great idea! You’re so full of them!

    • Phedra says:

      Me too! It was a great read.

  4. Amie Mason says:

    Wow! Gorgeous styling. I love and adore your style! I feel inspired to go an finish the piles of started projects laying around my back yard…. maybe…hmmm

  5. Pixieskulls says:

    Wow! you ARE fancy! That came out great!

  6. Kat says:

    I’ve seen alot of suitcase redo’s but never one stripped to the bone. Brilliant!!! I love the Hudson Bay blanket (well it looks like a H B blanket)

  7. Jen says:

    The garbage in my area sucks! :(

    So jealous. It’s gorgeous.

  8. jane says:

    Beautiful. And your Hudson’s Bay blanket is too. Mine are that winey red.
    One word of caution: Bedbugs love the interior of old luggage. Check carefully….

    • Karen says:

      Jane – Thanks. But there’s literally no interior left! I ripped everything out of it. However, yes … bedbugs are definitely something to be cautious of when pulling things out of the garbage. Always check seams and such. ~ karen

  9. Rhonda "SmartyPants" says:

    Adorable — and I jumped to the conclusion that the storage aspect was nil because of the top being covered by book, lamp, vase, etc. and then you ‘trumped’ my thought with an “Aha!” and stored some items that would not be used that often but would be necessary to have close by in case the evening turned chilly, etc. Good job, Karen. I am intrigued once again and will now be looking at roadside offerings, thrift store bottom-of-the-bins or the Sunday afternoon end-of-garage-sale giveaways with a new eye. I only wish I could be present when my three kids and their S.O.’s go rummaging through my ‘finds’ after I am long gone and wonder why their mother had a stash of old suitcases, aquariums, porcelain birds, candles and candle holders w/mirror squares so I could tell them, “Blame it on that blogger Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff. It’s her fault for making such pretty stuff from thrown away vintage luggage, capturing and hatching Monarch butterflies, turning $ Store crap into IKEA-like crap, and inspiring me to have 20 or so hostess gifts on hand even though I am too busy making ‘stuff’ to be invited anywhere I might need to take a hostess gift.” (There – thanks for giving me the time to say that as I had no idea it was building up quite like it did – whew, I feel so much better!) :) Love ya.

  10. mimiindublin says:

    It’s fab! Brilliant idea to use it as bedside table. My friend uses one as hat storage.
    Omg, that trait runs in my family too…rip things apart to see how they work, then abandon them! Are we related Karen?

  11. Lori says:

    Awesome!!!!!

  12. Abby says:

    I love this! I’m going to rummage through my grandma’s attic next time I visit-there has to be an old suitcase up there!

  13. Tricia Rose says:

    That is so clever – I love the way it goes with the wood of your (fancy!) bed. I’m going to Pin this one…

  14. Nancy Eileen says:

    Love it!

  15. Bonnie says:

    Wow! I love this!
    Another amazing creation from an amazingly creative person.

    Karen, you rock!

  16. Laura Bee says:

    Lovely! Wow! I’d love this look, but I have too much stuff on my bedside table.

  17. Jamieson says:

    Beautiful!

  18. Suanne Jefferies says:

    I love your “how to” posts the very best. I think we need another round of Dollar Store make overs though….it’s been awhile. The suitcase looks so awesome!

  19. It’s gorgeous! Who’d have thought something so tattered could turn out to be a beautiful piece of furniture?! Fantastic work! xo wendy

  20. Reg says:

    Really nice project. Garage sale season is coming up if garbage day doesn’t yield any treasures. Sure free is better, but garage sales aren’t expensive if you have something in mind.
    My best garbage find was about 10 ft. of wrought iron fencing in two 5 ft. sections, a couple of years ago. It’s still stored in the shed, but one day I’ll figure out what to do with it.

  21. Emily says:

    That is awesome! I am also a big fan of shopping at the “curb store.” My current coffee table was picked up off the curb.

  22. Jules says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE..huge fan of decorating my house with trash..

  23. Gina says:

    Awesome!!!

  24. Mary Kay says:

    Karen – I would never of guessed there was wood under there – it came out fabulous!!

  25. Lynn says:

    Love what you did with the suitcase, Karen!

  26. Julie says:

    Looks fantastic Karen – can I have it back now you have done all the hard work? Only Joking Julie

  27. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    Love this project! I think we might be related. I also stop and start projects all the time. I usually have 2 or 3 going at once which drives my husband crazy. It’s just the way we creative types
    “do”.

  28. marilyn says:

    gorgeous!!

  29. Melissa Leach says:

    What an amazing project, well done! I’ll be watching for roadkill recipes.

  30. Debbie W. says:

    Oh thank you for this post!!!!!!!!!! When my grandmother passed away last year, a suitcase just like this one was found hidden in the back of her closet. I took it, loving the oldness of it but didn’t know how or where I’d even be able to use it – since mine is in quite a bit rougher shape than yours. Now I am itching to see what is underneath!! I love that you took something that has a history and brought it back to life. I always think that whoever the original owners were of these old pieces, are somewhere happy knowing that their things are being loved and appreciated!!

  31. MelissaM says:

    I think you are pretty cool. I mean, I thought you were pretty cool and all. But now? NOW I KNOW YOU ARE TOTALLY AWESOME BECAUSE YOU HAVE /THE BOOK THIEF/ ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND!!!!

    Please tell me you read it and that you keep it out to 1) start fabulous conversations with others who have read it and 2) tell anyone who hasn’t read it to drop everything posthaste and read it.

    • Karen says:

      MelissaM – LOL. It’s next on the list to read. I put it on the bedside trunk because it looked good there. I am currently finishing up a book that I absolutely *LOVE*. Love, love, love. The Book Thief is next on the list. :) ~ karen!

  32. Diana says:

    Well done, well done!
    Like it very much. It perfectly fits to the floor!

  33. taria says:

    wow! I had no idea that those were wood. I have maybe 8 of them in the shed. You lucked out with the leather edges being in good shape. Can’t wait to try this. thx.

  34. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    what’s the name of the book, Karen?????

  35. Eric H. says:

    Sweet looking suitcase, great project and a great find by your reader!

  36. Jessica says:

    What a serene and luxurious bedroom! The warmth of the woods and the crispness of the whites are a beautiful combination. Great things are worth waiting for, so be glad that it took you this long to refurbish the suitcase – a year ago you may have done something completely different with it!

  37. Lynn says:

    AH-mazing!
    Gorgeous.
    Perfection.
    Quite like YOU!

    {WOOD! who knew????}

  38. Tracie says:

    Gorgeous! The perfect spot too. Love the bedding as well, so jealous….:)

  39. rev59@shaw.ca says:

    what a find! it looks awesome.

  40. SarahL says:

    I love how it turned out. Using it as a bedside table is Brilliant.

  41. Debbie says:

    Bravo!!! Love your beautiful room and what a surprise the wood was … very cool

  42. Natalie says:

    Beautiful job! Very creative.

  43. Cindy Marlow says:

    I KNEW there was some reason I was collecting all those vintage suitcases! You have redeemed me in the eyes of my scoffing friends and children. I applauded you.

  44. Cindy Marlow says:

    Stupid autocorrect screwed up my blog address.

  45. heather says:

    I’m already off to Sally Ann’s to get me one of those! Love the HB blanket and loved that book too.
    Great work!

  46. Auntiepatch says:

    BEAUTIFUL!

  47. JBess says:

    I will never look at a vintage suitcase the same way again! WOOD. Had I known there was wood- sandable, stainable wood, a lot more of these would have come home with me!

    I’m so excited :)

  48. Tricia says:

    Oh my, what a fabulous find! Now I just have to find a similar dumpster diving comrade in the South Eastern parts of the states!

  49. Jrn says:

    Karen- I am so envious! It is absolutely gorgeous. And so perfect in the bedroom. Staining it was the right decision. It looked fine with the bare wood but this is a whole other level.

  50. mickey says:

    Incredibly awesome!!!

  51. Evlayn says:

    I love old luggage – recently bought a steamer trunk in excellant condiditon. I use it for craft storage.

    I only get old suitcases with good linings – that’s my favorite part – I could never have taken the lining out of yours since it looked to be in good condition. I have an old Samsonite with silk lining, cream background with little red palm trees.

  52. rktrixy says:

    Really, really nice. It has a visual simplicity to it that I really like… my first inclination would have been to leave the old fabric on, put a light cotton batting on and upholster it. Attach little feet. Ta-da – ottoman/storage. But the wood is really really lovely.

  53. toekneetoni says:

    *humbling bowing to your genius*

  54. Erin says:

    Looks great Karen! I have three vintage suitcases in my stash – they’ve been here for more than ten years (OMG, did I just admit that?!!) My plan is to stack them according to size and add bun feet for use as an accent or end table but I need to think about it a while. After all, I wouldn’t want to be too impulsive! Oh and my favorite trunk is covered in houndstooth.
    Enjoy your table!

  55. Bonnie G. says:

    Sorry, I typed Erin( daughter’s name) instead of my own.

  56. Nancy Carr says:

    Great transformation.

  57. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I have three very old Samsonites that I suspect are wood..luckily they are in great condition and don’t have to be re-done..They are just worn enough to give them character..I wonder how people lugged them around after they were packed full of stuff..You did an awesome job and save it from the trash..I commend you both..Now hand over the HB blanket and nobody gets hurt!

  58. Laurinda says:

    Lovely!

  59. Jill says:

    The Book Theif is number 1 on my fav books right now. The writing and characters are so beautiful it will make you cry. I’ve had this idea of making a suitcase nightstand for my guest room for as long as you’ve had that suitcase, but you’ve completely owned that project!Congrats on finishing! Beautiful work. Thanks for inspiring me!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jill. Wait’ll you see what I have to inspire you with coming up in a few weeks, LOL. Inspire might be the wrong word. Frighten probably works better. :) ~ karen

  60. Laura M says:

    Gorgeous wide plank flooring in your bedroom. Is it original to the house or did you add it?

  61. Mariella says:

    Hi Karen,
    Beautiful project. Quick question. What stain color did u use? I often wonder if the color of the stain will vary once applied on different thpe of wood.

    Thanks,
    Mariella

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mariella – The type of wood is almost as responsible for the finished colour as the stain itself. I used a mixture of a few different stains including Minwax Early American and Puritan Pine. I used each individually, mixed them together and in some cases swiped one over the other on the actual wood, in order to get a more aged look to the wood. When you want to stain something get a few different stain samples to try and test them in a discrete area of the wood. ~ karen!

      • Mariella says:

        Hi Karen,

        Thank you for the advice. I tried the wood stump project u posted a while back, but mine turned down very dark. I stained it because i thought it was too light. It wasn’t until i read it again that you mention that poly would make it dark and then it would light a bit again. I love the honey color that u do on your pieces. Thank you.

        -Mariella.

  62. stephbo93 says:

    Wood?!? No wonder the things are so damn heavy!! Great job!

  63. katy oneill says:

    You’re amazing. I’ve been lugging around my grandparents old case just like that one since I was a teenager (I’m 40 something now) each time I’ve moved (a zillion times). I’ve always known I wanted to restore it or repurpose it somehow, but UNTIL TODAY, I never found quite the right project.
    Somewhere I think my mother still has her old Hudson Bay blanket even.
    She also has an old Hudson Bay jacket I keep wondering how to use or repurpose.

  64. mayr says:

    J’adore your clever brain!

  65. erica says:

    That looks AWESOME! The way you described your transformation process seems so familiar to me!!! Thanks for inspiring us again….

  66. Beth H. says:

    That is really beautiful! The next time I see a suitcase like that at a yard sale or estate sale, I hope they don’t mind if I tear a small patch off of the covering to see what’s underneath. I never knew those were made of wood. Great inspiration!

  67. Barbie says:

    Oh I love this!! I will now be on the hunt for one of those for my daughter who needs a nightstand. Where did you find that cool suitcase stand? With my luck I will find the suitcase that is perfect and then never be able to find that cool stand! It looks antique as well.

  68. Sara says:

    Gorgeous! Your procrastination paid off.

  69. Pam says:

    Wow, I was so surprised to see the suitcase as a nightstand. I love it , also love the rough linen and that cute mirror over the bed

  70. sera says:

    Looks beautiful! Ages and ages ago I bought four of these at an antique mall and stacked the up to make a bedside table. I even had them out in my living room for a while, but they are currently being used as storage and are tucked in the back of my closet. All three of mine were leather and weren’t in terrible condition, although they do smell a bit musty inside. I guess that’s the real reason I have fabric softener sheets.

  71. Feral Turtle says:

    It is totally beautiful Karen!! Amazing that you thought to strip it down instead of painting it. What a find. We did something similar with old army trunks. I think they were for hauling music equipment or bombs…not sure. http://www.feralturtle.com/2011/07/junk-in-my-trunk.html
    Have a great day! Cheers.

  72. Alixandra Bouchard says:

    Bahahah you are the smartest. I JUST found a suitcase too! But mines not wood I dont think. But still a good idea for it!

  73. Kelly says:

    Ugh. Sometimes I hate you a little bit because you’re so darn clever! Now I want one of these, and I just know that the next 17 vintage suitcases I pick up from the side of the road will have nothing but ugly sticky plastic underneath!

    Thanks for the inspiration though. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for suitcases and roadkill to turn into nightstands.

    • Karen says:

      Um … Kelly … I don’t think you wanna turn roadkill into a nightstand. Clearly roadkill is much better suited to becoming a lamp. ~ karen

  74. Diane McEwen says:

    Brilliant! I love it. You are very clever Karen.. It turned out beautiful. I had some old Samsonite faux leather cases and it broke my heart to get rid of them when we moved into a small apartment. However, I will now keep looking for one or two similar and do just this. All I have to do is move into a house with a guest room!! The house we are in now is also very small.. Most of my lovely stuff is in storage.. One day Diane… One day.. I enjoy your site very much. I have been going through all my different blogs I follow and thought about deleting some because I don’t have time to follow them all.. It is a shame as people have such wonderful ideas and are so talented. You my dear are not on the delete list! You are very diverse and talented. See you again soon.. :)

    • Karen says:

      Phew! LOL. ~ karen

      • Diane McEwen says:

        :) thanks Karen. I am just reading your beeswax sandwich bags instructions. Gee who knew! I am passing it on to share so my daughter can be impressed not only with you but with me too.. She will know I actually read and try to do the right thing with regard to Mother Nature… but I do love re-using my veggie plastic bags and this will impress you, I re-use cling film (plastic wrap) too if its clean, as I wrap bits up for my dogs or I wrap bones etc. for the freezer until garbage day.. whatever won’t go into the compost. Now that’s pretty on the button me thinks! (Y) Best of luck with your Spring Project too. Sounds like something I would have done many moons ago.. Keep well..

  75. Kelly says:

    I am trying this project but the fabric is not coming off easily at all, any suggestions?

    Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Kelly – Just keep pulling and scraping with a razor squeegee thing. But be careful! You can also try heating it up with a hairdryer, but I’m not sure if that will help or not. ~ karen!

  76. bridget says:

    what an awesome find!

  77. Tony Hoover says:

    Stumbled across this while looking for a bed. I want to use my old suitcase for storage under a bed but want them visible. Was thinking maybe a Shaker Pine but not canopy. I want it simple. I have the same blanket that I throw over the end.
    Nice job by the way. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Going now to see more of your ideas.

  78. Rose says:

    I have 14 vintage suitcases, all different sizes, colors…don’t know what to do with them…

  79. rusty says:

    I have a sax case looks just like that. The leather strips on the side need to be re-sewn. Is that possible?

  80. Lindsey says:

    About a year ago my mom gave me an old fabric sided train case. I have been searching for months for how to redo it, but all I get are sites that tell me how to cover it in fabric. When I came across your post showing the wood, HOLY LIGHTBULB!!!!!!!! I took it outside today and ripped off the nasty fabric. The bottom wood piece came off, but I can replace that! And the top will get replaced, but the body is in great shape when I get it sanded down. I will go buy a razor squeegee tomorrow to get the rest of the paper lining out, and then drive my hubby crazy by calling it that. Thank you so much for showing us this great project. And I will definitely be staining mine and not covering it up.

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