Saving the Steamer Trunk

How cool would it be to have an extraordinary piece handed down for over 160 years? Well, this steamer trunk has belonged to my client's family since the 1850's. Oh, the stories it could tell...

Considering the age, I think it's pretty well preserved.  



The ENTIRE chest had been painted by my client's mother many years ago and she was ready to have it restored and restyled.

The trunk handles were missing so I began searching for replacements to match the style of the original.  Notice the tiny amount of damage on the bottom trim?  A shiny new replacement wouldn't have fit in with the character of the rest of the trunk so we decided to leave it perfectly imperfect.

M first step was cleaning the hardware and leather since EVERYTHING was painted!

Tackling the inside was not for the faint of heart. The original lining was disintegrating so client's Mom had tacked wallpaper inside the trunk with many, many thumbtacks.  I'm pretty sure she used her entire life quota on this project.  Ha!

The original lining was in such bad shape, it needed to be removed.

Once the wallpaper and lining were gone, the wood was in great shape for its age! I knew I didn't want to cover it up again.

All the wood straps were sanded and re-stained. The metal outside was also lightly sanded with a super fine grit to prep for painting.

After cleaning all the remaining residue from the original lining, I sanded down the inside of the trunk.

Then I used amber Shellac to seal and protect the wood. Once it was dry, the richness of the wood was amazing.

I didn't want to risk damaging either the trunk or the hardware by removing it. So I repainted the hardware {with a teeny, tiny brush} to match the body of the trunk.

The outside of the trunk was painted with a neutral base coat and then I dry brushed a few warm colors to give a naturally aged appearance.

I totally scored by finding leather handles similar to the original online!

A little Rub'n Buff toned down the new antique gold handle mounting hardware to make it look more authentic to the trunk's age.

All done and ready for many more years of being passed down in their family. This project was definitely my most unique to date and I'm so grateful my client trusted me with this treasured heirloom.

One final look at the before/after again. My client's family was thrilled with the restyle and it's now a treasured show piece in their home.