My Old Trunks

We serve a Creator God! No wonder we are creative too!

This week, I'm sharing one of my creative loves--old trunks! After you read this post, you'll know why trunks are a fitting theme for my nomad lifestyle. 

For years I've been buying old trunks at garage sales and flea markets. I've refinished all of my trunks and sold a few of them. But here's some that decorate my house today.

Bible Love Notes Decor Post

Trunk #1--I bought this trunk from a friend who couldn't sell it at her garage sale. I paid her asking price--$35. It was covered in dirty canvas like most old trunks, so I stripped off the canvas by washing/soaking it with water until the glue softened. Then I scrapped all of the canvas off with a putty knife. 

 After the wood was free of canvas and glue, I lightly sanded it and stained it. Last, I painted the metal trim.

Then, I lined the trunk with fabric. This is a technique a friend taught me. All it takes is liquid starch and cloth cut to the measurements of the trunk. You dip the cloth in liquid starch and smooth it over the wood with your hands or a sponge. Your aim is to get rid of all air bubbles, but it you miss some, you can always re-wet the fabric and smooth it again.

Christmas trunk
1989 Christmas

I purposely lined this trunk with a green calico print fabric because I use it to display Christmas gifts at Christmas time.  The rest of the year I use the trunk to store buy-ahead gifts (separated by family) in white office boxes. 

They are pieces of history--what wonderful stories they could tell of travel. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see what they held and where they went and who unpacked them? When I visited the Ellis Island Museum, it had a display of the most wonderful old trunks and suitcases, a reminder to me of what part luggage plays in human lives. What few things did those immigrants choose to bring with them to their new land?

Bible Love Notes
Trunk #2--This trunk was a soldiers' trunk from WW2. It had his info stenciled on the front when I found it at an estate sale. Because it was the last day of the sale, I paid half price for it. I've forgotten if $50 was the full price or the half price. 

I painted the trunk navy blue and use it as an end table in my living room.

 I lined this trunk with a brocade upholstery fabric.

It was the most difficult trunk to line because it has two inner shelves/drawers. I store all of my Christmas, Easter and Valentine decorations in this trunk.


They are fun to decorate with--to fill with birthday or Christmas gifts or seasonal wreaths. If they have shelves/drawers, they can be used to display items.

Wedding Trunk

This picture is from my daughter's wedding reception. I used my navy blue trunk to display my wedding dress, wedding photos of great grandparents, grandparents and parents, and the wedding shoes worn by my husband's grandmother.

Trunk #3--This trunk cost me $20 in a thrift shop. It was covered with leather that had been painted black. Because the leather was peeling and damaged, I scraped it off with a putty knife and cleaned the wood beneath it. But the wood was also damaged, so I painted all of it except the oak strips. Then I painted the hardware.

Because it's a short trunk, it's perfect for a coffee table. I use it to store DVDs. I'm a pretty casual person who loves denim--jeans are my favorite thing to wear--so my living room coasters are denim jean pockets.

Bible Love Notes

I like it as a coffee table because it's casual and not easily damaged by my grandchildren playing on it. I even let the 18 month old crawl and sit on it.

They are versatile and interesting-looking. They can be used so many ways: end tables, coffee tables, bedside tables, etc.
Trunk #4--This small trunk is actually a doctor's trunk that I got from my uncle's pawn shop. When I starch-lined it with a vintage-looking cloth, some of the screws rusted through. But I actually like it that way--I think it adds character and makes the lining look authentic.

It was covered with dirty, torn canvas, so I scraped it off except this one side that was painted with the doctor's name and location. What stories this little trunk might tell! 

They are excellent for storage. This was especially helpful when we were moving around with the military because we usually lived in government quarters without a garage, and sometimes our storage and closet space were limited.

Trunk #5--This trunk was the first one I owned. It's thick and heavy and holds odds and ends in my bedroom.   

It has a wooden shelf/drawer that I painted and stenciled with a heart.

They represent a theme in my life--I have lived in almost 40 locations in my 60 years of life.  After 21 moves with my family growing up, I married a career soldier.  Together we've lived many locations in the States, plus 3 years in Germany with the Army and 4 1/2 years in Hungary doing Christian work. God designed my life to be more transient than the lives of most people, and I have been blessed by His plans for me. He has helped me understand that we are all aliens and strangers here on earth (1 Peter 2:11)--our real home is in heaven! (Hebrews 11:8-10)

A Few Other Trunks (I No Longer Own):

My son refinished the outside of this trunk and I lined the inside and bottom of the divided drawer with blue calico.

In government quarters in 1989
I bought the old steamer trunk (below) at a yard sale in Ocean Grove, NJ. It was lined with cloth that had a bad odor, so I stripped off the cloth, painted the inside and refinished the natural wood of the drawers. I gave it to my daughter several years ago.

I bought this old trunk at a goodwill type store for $25. When I stripped out the smelly lining, the wood beneath it was in nice shape. 


So I sanded and stained it. It was a Christmas gift to my son, and I had a brass plate made for the front with Matthew 6:19-21 on it.

In the photo below from the late 90's, I am really "getting into" my work--starching cloth inside trunk # 2.

I'm so glad you visited my blog...And I'd love to have you check out my home page that features one-minute devotions each weekday. I don't send my creative posts to my subscribers, but I send these devotions and I'd love to have you sign up for a free subscription. I always include the links to my creative posts on those devotions too.

Thanks and come again, Gail 
This post was featured on 2805!

This post was originally posted under a different url and when I changed it, I brought these original comments with it:


  1. ShirleyJan 4, 2012 09:15 PM
    Oh, this brings back the remembrance of all the trunks my husband and I redid back when we had an antique shop. Taking off the canvas or burlap and restaining and waxing! I still have one just like trunk #5 up in my spare room.
  2. I love trunks too and think you've done a great job on yours! My parents collected them for years, which got me to collect them too. I love the character of them!

    Thanks for sharing.
  3. Honey at 2805Jan 6, 2012 04:52 PM
    These are all fabulous trunks!

    Thank you for linking this lovely post to Potpourri Friday!
  4.  Blue Cotton MemoryJan 9, 2012 11:53 AM
    Beautiful trunks! And the stories they could tell! Did you paint over the soldier's stenciled information?

    My boys love wooden boxes to hide their treasures in. They'd love these big "boxes" even more!
  5. Gail PurathJan 9, 2012 08:50 PM
    Hi Blue Cotton Memory
    Yes, I painted over the stenciled info on the front of trunk #2. It was drab green/gray and beat up a bit, and I opted for beauty over history!
    Actually, some trunk owners think removing the original exterior canvas covering or the inside cloth lining is wrong, but my trunks would have been too rustic for interior use if I'd kept the original canvas covering. And I wouldn't have been able to place items inside them if I'd retained the original smelly linings.
  6. PiperJan 10, 2012 10:31 AM
    I just found my 1st truck well its actually a 1953 footlocker... its a bit rough and looks as if it has been painted and a decal of an eagle on the front. When I saw it I intended to re-do it and put in my boys room for extra storage for my teenager. He liked it and immediately when to cleaning it and when I mentioned re-doing it...he said, NO! I like it just like it is.." So it has found its place at the end of his bed already filled with "stuff"
  7. Gail PurathJan 10, 2012 12:31 PM
    Sometimes the rustic looking trunks are a perfect thing...I can see how they might work well in a teen-ager's room. And if he changes his mind someday, you can always redo it then!
  8. Courtney ~ French Country CottageJan 11, 2012 06:42 PM
    BEautiful trunks- your stories about them are so interesting too. Thanks for linking up at FNF! :)
  9. Honey at 2805Jan 12, 2012 01:59 PM
    Hi! Just a note to let you know that your truck collection is featured today on Potpourri Friday!
  10. Ceekay- Thinkin of HomeJan 12, 2012 02:21 PM
    What a wonderful collection. Do you ever find the dates on the hinges? and have you Googled the Dr.s might be able to find out a bit about him. Just some thoughts...I enjoyed the stories!
  11. Gail PurathJan 12, 2012 07:42 PM
    Hi Ceekay, The trunks don't have dates but some have manufacturer plates. That's a good idea about googling the doctor's name...I'll give it a try! Thanks for the suggestions. Gail
  12. Curtains in My TreeJan 13, 2012 06:36 AM
    love the trunk collection , i seen you on 2805



  1. What a wonderful trunk collection! I really like trunks too, and have owned a few myself. Of course, yours have served an even more practical purpose - since you've moved so much. Some people "live out of suitcases." It appears you've lived out of trunks. ;)

    Thanks for linking to Time Travel Thursday. Hope you'll join the fun each week.

    Liz @ The Brambleberry Cottage

    1. Thanks so much for taking a look at my trunks...I enjoy showing them. Yes...I have lived a nomadic life for sure.

  2. Nicely done! Makes me want a trunk of my own ...

    Stopped in from Southern Lovely's Show and Tell.

  3. Wonderful trunks!! Thanks so much for sharing at Tasty Thursdays on The Mandatory Mooch. I hope you will link up again. The party will be live with features tomorrow night.

    Thanks, Nichi

  4. I love all of your trunks. I have 2 trunks that I dearly love!

  5. Wow! Quite a history of trunks. The soldier's and doctor's trunks are fantastic. They certainly are great for storing and displaying. I like the idea of using one for Christmas gifts. You've done a lovely job of restoring them all. Neat tip on lining them with starch and fabric. Best wishes for a wonderful rest of the weekend. Tammy

  6. I, too, love old trunks. I have my grandmother's that she used when she went to nursing school in the early 1900's. It has her name and the name of the nursing school - Royal Victoria Hospital - on it. I also have another with a curved top - that is red. Love your post!

    Thanks so much for joining in this week!


  7. I love old trunks, too. They are so beautiful and versatile. So happy to have met you through Claudia's Favorite Saturday.


  8. What wonderful trunks! I have always loved vintage trunks ~ especially steamer trunks. I don't have any as yet, but long for my first one. Your blog is lovely and I am your newest follower. I hope that you will stop by for a visit sometime. My gate will be open for you.

    Susan and Bentley

  9. What lovely trunks -- you've put in a lot of work to bring out their beauty. I have an end table that I'd like to replace -- a trunk would be a perfect. (I can always use more storage space!) Your Willow Tree angel jumped right out at me -- I also have that same one!

  10. I also love old trunks! I really need to show your post to my husband - he thinks I have too many trunks, and I only have 4!The first was a wooden one I used as a coffee table when my children were small. The second I bought at a consignment shop, and I think it needs to be stripped and refinished, but I have no clue how (Yet!) The third is a steamer trunk I could not resist from a thrift store, and the fourth was given to me when I helped a friend clean out her deceased sister's house.


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