Before we get to today’s post, I just want to take a minute to send you all big, fat virtual hugs! You guys, the outpouring of love and support (and voting) for my Better Homes & Gardens project was truly AMAZING! I told someone that I’ve never been less disappointed to “lose” a contest because what I gained out of the experience was more than I ever could have dreamed, and number one on that list is great friends, in the people I competed with, the people at BHG, and especially with and all of you.  So, seriously, THANK YOU, from the very bottom of my heart!! To to all of you who are new here WELCOME and THANK YOU!!!

So, now onto today’s project. I know I’ve posted my kitchen, Adelie’s bedroom, and my laundry room in the last couple of months, with a few tutorials, but there’s still a lot more to post, so we’ll continue to jump around between rooms for the next little while. It’s really a good representation of how my brain works most days–complete chaos going on in this head of mine people. Today, we’re back to Adelie’s room with one of my favorite pieces: the painted vintage trunk!

I should start off with the disclaimer that painting a vintage trunk like this would normally go against everything I believe, but this thing was Gross with a capital “G.” There’s rust and patina that’s beautiful, and then there’s rust and patina that’s like a tetanus shot waiting to happen. This trunk fell into the second category.

A friend gave it to me, and she got it from a house where we’ll just say…A&E could have filmed an episode of that show about people who “collect” a lot of stuff–you know what I’m talking about. And here’s a little deep, dark secret: the inside smells like someone hid a body in it. Luckily, it closes tightly enough that we can just shut it, never open it again, and doesn’t give off any sort of odor. Out of sight (or scent in this case), out of mind, right?

So, enough with the backstory, here’s how to paint a rusty, old vintage trunk (or really anything rusty for that matter).

Start with a stain blocking primer. I’m no expert on the properties of rust, but whenever I’m painting something rusty, I start with a primer like Zinser or Kilz. These primers are thick, so they have great coverage that gives you a true color when you apply your paint, AND they block stains (hence the name). For this project, I used my favorite sponge rollers and a brush to get in the little nooks and crannies.

Ideally, I would have left the leather straps alone and not painted over them, but they were old, brittle, kept breaking off, and they weren’t all there to begin with, so I just painted everything (except the leather handles and backside of the lock flap thingy). Next I painted it with Mint Condition from Sherwin Williams. Well, actually, first it was Pantone Emerald. I tried to be all cool and do the Color of the Year thing, but it just was NOT me, or what I was going for. There’s a lesson here friends: stick to what you love, not what the trends say you should love. I also tried to venture out of my comfort zone on fabric and go bold and colorful. It was a hot, awful mess. Let’s just not even talk about that gold leaf mmmkay.

I think this was actually what killed my motivation for this room, and caused it to sit, untouched, for close to a year. Anyway, back to the point of this post. I painted the trunk Mint Condition from Sherwin Williams, and my love for this piece, and this room project was renewed.

Onto the upholstery: (the pictures sort of jump back and forth between fabrics here, but you get the idea). The only tool you’ll really need is a staple gun. They are around $10, you can get them at any hardware store, or even Walmart, and I promise you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Start with a piece of particle board (I think this is 3/4 or 1 inch thick), cut down to the size of the top of the trunk (I had Lowe’s cut mine for me). Then, cut a piece of foam to lay on top of it. I just use a cheap foam mattress pad from Walmart (they’re about $10 and you’ll have lots left over). Tack down the corners with a staple in each corner so that the pad stays in place.

Next, lay out your fabric, cut it to size (with a couple of inches extra on each side), fold the fabric over and start stapling. If you’re using a uniform pattern (like stripes), keep checking periodically to ensure that you’re keeping the pattern straight as you staple.  Start with one side, then the opposite side and pull the fabric TIGHT as you staple the second side. By the way, not sure why so much overkill on my stapling in this one. One row of staples should do you just fine.
The corners are sort of like wrapping a gift. Pull one side tight and staple it down, then fold the corner over and staple it down. Watch the corners to make sure they’re not looking messy, foldy, and puckery. Sometimes you have to kind of pull the fabric around and pull the folds to the underneath side. 
Then attach your cushion to the trunk by screwing underneath the lid, up into the wood on the bottom of the cushion.
On a bit of a related note, if you’ve got an AWESOME makeover project of your own, be sure to stop by Wednesday because my fellow BHG Makeover Madness finalists and the BHG editors have something super awesome up our sleeves and YOU can participate too!


  1. says

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this trunk update. And it’s so fun because I’ve got a mini trunk I’m going to be using in our guest room and it’s getting a very similar mint green update. No cushion for mine, but I adore the fabric you selected.

  2. says

    What a unique project! I also never would have thought to paint a trunk, but you’re right it needed it! I turned an old steamer trunk into a coffee table, such versatile pieces!


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