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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116 Comments

  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!

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