If you're here looking for ideas to upcycle an old wooden chest this post is for you! Today, I'm sharing an easy wooden trunk makeover. If the modern industrial look is your jam, this tutorial will show you how you can easily create that style at home – especially, if you're on a tight budget.
Looking for ready-made trunks?
TIP: If you're looking for a ready-made trunk to buy then check out my ideas at the end of this post.
Inspiration for the wooden trunk makeover
Last year, my youngest son started university in the city. He was extremely lucky to find a house to share with friends he's known since childhood and his room is a really good size. The only problem is that the room is in the basement and only has one sub-terrain window making the room quite dark.
It looks as if my passion for interiors and decorating has rubbed off a little because when it came to decorating his room, my son already had a design style in mind. To make up for the low amount of natural light, he was determined to make his basement room as cosy and comfortable as possible. When he showed me the designs he had in mind, I could see his style right away – modern industrial, without a doubt! I love the modern industrial look too so I was excited to help him achieve his goal of creating a cosy bachelor pad in the city.
wooden trunk makeover - sourcing
It was clear, that more storage was needed but my son also wanted extra seating for friends when they dropped by and was very taken by the idea of a storage chest of some kind.
Off I went to my computer to start trekking through eBay to see if I could find a candidate for a wooden trunk makeover. eBay is my go-to source for buying second-hand furniture. I have found most of the furniture for my makeovers there. I found the crafting table for my multifunctional room makeover on eBay just before we went into full lockdown last year. You can see how I upcycled my pine craft table here.
I found this chest quite quickly and best of all, the pick-up point was around a fifteen-minute drive from our house.
This is how the wooden chest looked before the makeover. I took these photos with my phone just after arriving home with the trunk.
It's hard to see that the chest has a slightly domed top. Luckily, it's only stained green on the outside but the inside of this wooden trunk is no pretty picture either. It has nails sticking out in places and patches of a soft, rubbery, glue-like substance everywhere. I love the patina on the hardware but it is starting to rust so that will need treating.
Get the FREE furniture flip checklist
By the way, if you are new to furniture upcycling, I have a handy checklist that you can take with you when you are looking for second-hand furniture. It's full of tips on what to check for so that you don't bring home a dud!
Easy wooden trunk makeover - how to create a modern industrial look
Here is the tutorial for upcycling this old wooden trunk in a modern industrial style.
A QUICK REMINDER: When attempting any DIY project, please take care to undertake the necessary safety precautions. You should always follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations when using any product or tool. When following my instructions for a DIY project, you are doing so at your own risk.
Wooden trunk makeover Step 1 – Prepping
The first thing I always do with old furniture (whether it's mine or not), is to give it a good clean. I use mineral spirits for this. During the cleaning process, you get to notice any areas which might need to be repaired. In the case of this wooden trunk makeover, I had to clean away the spots of glue and remove or hammer down all the nails which were sticking out.
This wooden trunk has been stored in a lock-up garage for quite some time so it has a musty smell to it. The mineral spirits will take care of that too.
Read my 'Easy Bookcase Makeover' post for more details on cleaning furniture.
Wooden trunk makeover Step 2 – Sanding
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MATERIALS NEEDED FOR SANDING
Sandpaper in grades 80 + 120 + 240
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The green stain doesn't fit in with the modern industrial style we are going for so I'm going to sand it away with my handy mouse sander. I'm starting with grade 40 sandpaper and once the stain is gone, I'll work my way up to 240-grade sandpaper which will make the wooden trunk really smooth. This pine trunk will be used as a bench so I need to make sure there are no snags that will catch on clothes.
I'm also going to sand the inside the wooden trunk. The sander will remove any stains which have been left over after cleaning with mineral spirits.
Wooden trunk makeover Step 3 – Brush the wood
How the wooden trunk looks after sanding
This wooden trunk makeover is coming along nicely. The green stain is gone and we are down to the bare wood.
Don't you think it looks so much better already?
Removing rust from hardware
As I mentioned above, I love the old patina on the hardware of this wooden chest but I'm going to need to make sure that it doesn't continue to rust. To do that, I'll paint some rust stopper over all the hinges, handles and any other metal parts. You will still see that gorgeous patina but the hardware will be safe from further rust.
Adding a wood trim to the wooden chest
To add a bit more interest to this wooden trunk, I'm going to add wood trim to the bottom. This is easy to do. For this, you would just need to measure the lengths needed and cut the pieces to size with a mitre saw.
You can attach the trim with wood glue first but then add some nails to make sure the trim is attached securely.
Wooden trunk makeover – Staining
You can stain the wood with your favourite stain or use a colour that best suits your home style. I'm using wood stain in the colour 'Vintage Oak' for this wooden trunk makeover. I'll be giving this trunk three coats of wood stain.
The trim will need a few more coats of wood stain because the new wood is much lighter than the original wood of the old wooden chest.
You can see the difference in the colour after just one coat.
Adding industrial style fixings to the wooden trunk
One of the last things this wooden trunk makeover needs is some metal embellishments. You often find metal fixings on industrial style furniture.
Corner brackets will be perfect for the corners of the wooden chest. If you can't get them in black (I could only find galvanised brackets), you can paint them black using paint for metal surfaces.
The Wooden trunk makeover is finished!
Of course, I had to style this wooden chest and take some photos before passing it on to my son!
The trunk is now with its new owner in the city.
I sent my son a 'before' photo of this wooden trunk but he didn't see it again until it was all finished. He was really surprised to see the transformation and says, it turned out even better than he thought it would. It looks fabulous in his modern industrial style room at the shared house.
So how much did this wooden trunk makeover cost?
- The wooden trunk cost €20
- Wood trim – a few euros (sorry I can't remember how much but it didn't cost a lot).
- Galvanised corner brackets approx. €6.00 for eight pieces.
- Wood stain, rust blocker (for the original metal handles and hinges and black metal paint (for the new metal brackets) - all of these were already on hand from other projects.
All in all, the project cost me around €30.00 plus the time spent working on the project. Not bad considering the transformation.
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This wooden trunk makeover isn't the only project I completed for my son's room. I have another DIY industrial furniture makeover to share with you but that's a tale for another day!
Please leave a comment!
I hope you enjoyed this post and the tutorial. If you did, please be sure to leave a comment below, it will really help me out.
Wooden trunk - ready-made options
If you loved this wooden trunk makeover but don't want to DIY it, here are some gorgeous ready-made pieces you can buy online.