Junk in the Trunk

Time for a fun project! I know a lot of you want to get into painting furniture – but you are a big baby scared to jump right into it. Well, an old trunk or chest is the perfect first project. I recently refinished one as a custom order, and thought it would be a great project to share with all of you!

Start with a dirty-ass trunk – pick one up at a garage sale, estate sale, Craigslist, steal one from your grandma, I don’t care. Just get yourself one. (I love refinishing old trunks because they make the cutest coffee tables. You can even add feet to them to make it a little extra fancy – or a piece of glass on top). My client found this trunk at a garage sale and knew it was a diamond in the rough. I have the smartest clients.


Step #1 – Prep

unnamed (1)I assume most of you would have passed up this trunk at a garage sale – big dummies. First, we have to prep the trunk. Rip out any fabric from the inside, removing as much as possible. The fabric may leave a sticky glue behind, that’s okay! Get out your hand sander and sand away to remove the glue. You don’t have to get it perfectly smooth because we will be replacing the fabric, but you want it smoother than your legs on a cold December day. Next, dust out the inside, and wash the whole outside with warm soapy water. Make sure you scrub in all of the cracks and crevasses. We don’t want to paint over dust and dirt. You can use a sponge with a scrubby side to remove any stickiness or gunk – then I suggest you throw that sponge away. We don’t know where this trunk has been. Let the trunk dry completely.

Step #2 – Prime.

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Use whatever primer you would like – my favorite is Zinsser Cover Stain Primer. I find that it locks in any leaky oils or paints that are on old pieces. Priming the trunk will help the paint stick to it as well. Don’t be lazy and skip this step, you will regret it later. Prime any areas you intend to paint. I planned to paint the metal straps on this trunk, so I primed them too. You could always tape off the metal parts if you would like to leave them original. Let the primer dry completely.

Step # 3 – Paint.

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Paint that trunk like you’re painting your eyebrows on for a hot date. My trunk took two solid coats. I mixed my own chalk style paint using a random white paint by Behr, and some Plaster of Paris. You can find the recipe to my paint here. Don’t forget to paint anywhere inside where the fabric will not cover. Or paint the whole inside if you aren’t ready to tackle fabric yet. I don’t need to explain how to paint, do I? Just paint it. The whole thing, using long smooth strokes. Let it dry completely.

Step # 4 – Details

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My client wanted a white and gold trunk – so I decided to paint all of the metal trim a nice fresh gold. I used Dazzling Metallics paint in Venetian Gold – one of my favorites. It’s gold without looking cheap and fake. To paint details I usually just use a small paint brush and freehand. But, if you feel like you don’t have a steady hand just tape off around the edges – make sure your paint is absolutely completely dry though. Otherwise the tape will peel off all of your hard work and you will want to cry and drink a bottle of wine. I sometimes tape wet paint on purpose if you get my drift.

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My client also wanted some little gold curly-fun-thingys on her trunk. So I used a stencil and the same gold paint to add some. You do whatever you’d like. Add some fun stencils, or be boring and don’t. Just depends on how cute you want your trunk to look. After I was done painting the metal, and adding the curly-fun-thingys, I covered the whole trunk in a glaze and wiped it off. My favorite glaze is Valspar Antiquing Glaze (found at Lowes). Glazing is easy – just take it in sections. Paint it on a section, covering it completely, wait a few seconds, then wipe it off with paper towel. The glaze will stick into all of the nooks and crannies making your piece look old. You can even wipe it off with baby wipes if you would like your painted areas to appear cleaner and not as dirty as the details.

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Glaze is not as scary as you think. See how it sticks into all the right places?

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Step #5 – Fabric inside.

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Ugh, I already know I’m not going to do a good job of explaining this – but try to follow me. I went to Joanne’s and picked out some cute coral fabric. Then I measured each place that would get covered in the fabric. I used a straight edge and drew out each square of fabric, then cut them out. Then all you need to do is cover the section with decopauge and lay the fabric square in the appropriate place. Smooth out and bumps and bubbles, and make sure you line up the fabric as perfectly as you can. Also make sure all the edges are glued down. Do this to all of the areas inside that will get fabric. That’s it. Let it dry completely.

Step #6 – Random annoying things.

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I had to do a few more things to this trunk. The handles were broken off so I found some new ones online and replaced them. I also added that little thingy where you slide labels into it – I have no idea what that is called. If someone knows, please tell me. I would appreciate it.

So that’s it – how to refinish a trunk. I’m not the best at explaining things, but I try! See how cute the trunk is now? It’s so cute I could punch you in the face and not even care.



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I know the pictures aren’t the best. My work space is a mess and I was trying to capture as little of it as I possibly could. Don’t you judge me. Come clean it for me then we’ll talk.

Until Next Time….

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