Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Family Treasure

Has anyone seen this at Restoration Hardware for $1,695....

...or this one from Pottery Barn for 1,299?

Using vintage (or vintage-looking) trunks as coffee tables seems to be the new "it."

My grandma reads as many home decorating magazines as I do. She called me one day and said that she saw a picture of a trunk coffee table in a magazine, and she also had a trunk in her basement. She was wondering if I wanted it.

Of. course. I. do!

When I went to her house, this is what met me:

An old, ugly, painted trunk that's lid didn't fit properly...

...with 100 year old fabric nailed to the top.

I can't even describe to you the smell this trunk was emitting....

Upon further inspection, however, I noticed the potential beauty this old trunk had.

Those are hand-cut decorative L-brackets.

I was swooning.

This was my great-grandfather Reis's trunk. I had never met him. I've heard many stories of him.
He came to the States from Russia in the early 1900's. He made this trunk, and it held everything near and dear to him on his journey.

....hey....maybe that's where I get my skills from...

Do you see why I was so excited about this restoration project?

After 2 days of stripping paint, fixing the old hinges, removing rust off metal, trying to get that 100 year old musty smell out, and putting 5 (yes...5) coats of polyurethane on, I finally had my coffee table.

It goes great with the rest of the living room.

It now holds board games. The kids can just pop open the trunk and get some impromptu gaming on!

I am in love with the little details. Who knew such beauty could have been covered up by all that paint?

My grandma couldn't believe that was the same trunk. She was so proud of me for restoring her dad's trunk.

I will soon be stopping by her house to pick up a picture of her dad. She wrote all the facts about where he had lived in Russia, what year he came to the States, when he was married to my great-grandma, etc. on the back.

It's so nice to have such a functional family treasure in the house.


Cost: about $15 of spray paint-stripper. I already had the polyurethane.

It might be a while until my next project post. My husband is going back to school on Thursday, and we are desperately trying to clean out the basement while we still have time at home. The finished part of the basement will be my new craft room. Yay! We have been doing small projects (like moving furniture), but nothing worth posting. I might have a furniture re-do to show you. I might do it on Saturday. I don't work, and there's no classes because of Labor Day, so as long as the weather holds up, I will get that done!
I will try to throw some recipes out there so that you don't get bored with me!


  1. That is absolutely stunning!!! Amazing job Britt!

  2. Oh wow! I've been wanting a steamer trunk coffee table for awhile, but all the ones I've seen at consignment shops are too small- how awesome is it that your grandma gave you this one?! It looks fabulous- you did an excellent job restoring it.

  3. I would absolutely LOVE to have a trunk like that! Beautiful! Great story. I think you should list the whole story on this post!!!!!!! I'm highlighting this at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com

  4. I am amazed that that is the same trunk! You did a fabulous job and I love the story! Doesn't knowing the story behind an item make it so special?!


  5. OH.MY.GOODNESS!!! That is a stunning makeover! I inherited a trunk similar to yours from my grandma, but it was made out of metal, and I was too intimidated to try what you did. Yours is simply beautiful - that took alot of hard work, and it paid off! Great job!!

  6. That is such a beautiful trunk. What a special piece of family history to have.
    Well done.

  7. Wow, that must have been such a tedious project, but what a payoff!! It's so gorgeous, and I absolutely love the history behind it.

  8. Wow, what a GREAT job! I love it! It's a great way to preserve some family history, too. Grandma's are wonderful.

  9. Beautiful! You did a wonderful job restoring that old trunk! I love that there is such history behind it too!

  10. Oh my word! That's just amazing. Seriously. You're gifted!

  11. That is just beautiful! I have had a trunk as coffee table for 10+ years and we also use it for board game storage! Yours is just lovely though and the backstory is perfection. Congrats on an excellent restoration!

  12. amazing & kudos to the hard work you put in but so worth it, even more so with the family history behind it! can I ask what kind of spray stripper you used?? thanks!

  13. Wow, that is gorgeous! It is so eye catching now. Well done! I'm a new follower & I'm happy I found your blog. I love seeing furniture transformations!

  14. oh wow! that's just beautiful! I think it's extra cool that you will have the full story to go with it- that's the stuff of Antiques Road Show gold!

  15. found your site through the diy showoff . the trunk looks great. and im your newest follower

  16. Amazing Brittany! How did you restore the hinges???

  17. Everything was bent from years of abuse and missing screws. So the trunk wouldn't close from misalignment. I took the hinges off, put them in my bench vice, and hammered the crap out of them until they were straight again. Not an easy task, seeing as everything was built with more quality than they are these days.
    I tried finding some old screws (they only had flat-head types, not phillips like now) but I had no luck. The hardware store only sold phillips or phillips/flat-head combos.
    So I just used some of my own phillips head screws to reattach it.


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