Vintage Steamer Trunk Repair

I found this steamer trunk at an estate sale a few months ago. I really liked the dark green and brass colors, but it had this big glob of tape residue on the top and a water ring.



I thought I could get the white stuff of with some Goo Be Gone, but apparently the tape residue was as vintage as the trunk and it would not come off. It didn’t even think about coming off. It was pretty discouraging, actually. I didn’t originally want to sand it, because I was worried about messing up the finish that was still good. At this point though, the rest of the finish didn’t matter if there was a huge white chunk of ugly on the top. I had pretty much given up on restoring it, so the whole thing turned into more of an experiment. After a lot of sanding and scraping most of it was gone and the top was still really smooth. Unfortunately I slacked on taking a picture of this step. I found a paint color at Home Depot that was almost an exact match to the green, so painting was the next step. I wanted to paint the bottom side of the trunk first, so I could see how close of a match it actually was and if I would still like it.


The bottom had some wear too, so I sanded it a bit and then painted. I thought the color was great, so I set about doing the most annoying part of this whole project, taping off EVERYTHING. UGH! So tedious.


This is the bottom again. I used a little bit of filler to get rid of a few scratches and dents. Again, it’s always best to experiment on the side where no one will see it if you’re displaying it in your house. I did this same thing on my dresser though, so I figured it would turn out fine.


Much better right? I intentionally didn’t want the paint to be 100% perfect, because I like the worn look. After I repeated this whole process 5 MORE TIMES, to finish all the other sides, It was a huge improvement. Something was still missing for me though. I decided to try something I’ve seen on Domestic Imperfection, she calls it the “Dirty Cowboy Treatment.” Basically, you just add some stain or glaze to it, to give it the nice worn look. I put it across all of the painted surfaces, with extra in the edges and corners. I think it’s perfect now!


Somehow I wrote this whole post without noticing the cat in the picture below… it’s so nice to have company when I’m working outside! You can also see Keen ears poking up on the right side of the box… silly animals…



Right now it’s just stacked in my room as a make shift end table. I’m not sure where it will end up, or if I’ll even keep it, but it was a good learning experience!


36 thoughts on “Vintage Steamer Trunk Repair

  1. Good job! When you’re into anything antique or vintage, some know-how and WILLINGNESS to do a little repair is key to finding and enjoying wonderful treasures. Love your trunk. Thanks for visiting and LIKING my fun with true vintage fashion, too. I hope you’ll come back and tell your friends if you enjoy what I do.

  2. Reblogged this on hairballexpress and commented:
    Kats like to make things look better too (but being kats, we can usually accomplish this by simply sitting on things)- but things aren’t this easy for humans so this is an important post. Nicely written and very good information. Good job, human.

  3. Pingback: Dome Top Steamer Trunk Repair | Two Thumbs
  4. That trunk is gorgeous! Speaks to me. Try chalk paint if you haven’t already. No sanding no priming required! Everything I do (almost) is chalk paint. Saves time and is gorgeous… Nice job!

  5. Love the renovation of a good old trunk–what a treasure! I have a dome-top one that is in great shape–I jeep winter mittens, hats, etc. in there but they get musty. Do you have any ideas for freshening it up? Did you encounter that problem? Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    • Thanks for your comments! I actually do have a trick that I use for a lot of my drawers and trunks. I use bars of soap! The ones that I are in the wrappers still are the best ie ones that I normally keep from hotel rooms. They can stay in the wrappers and still make everything smell fresh without having a particular scent like flowers or cinnamon or whatever. Not that those things aren’t nice, but the fresh soap scent isn’t so overpowering. Give it a try!

  6. This post put me in mind of a trunk that my grandmother owned. When my younger sister and I were in our early teens, she had us re-paint it for her when we were staying with her. I think she was trying to keep us occupied but it was a brave gesture, nonetheless. It didn’t turn out nearly as well as yours. The trunk is still kicking around and I cringe every time I see the gobs of gold paint dribbled on the black lacquered surface.

      • I have this same trunk in my garage. My daughter and I are thinking of cleaning it up and wonder if you can tell us what the covering is. Is it leather or canvas? My daughter found it out on the street when she lived in San Francisco. A paper tag on the top says Hirschfelder and Meany “Manufacturers of Dependable Baggage” San Francisco, CA.

  7. Wow! I’m impressed with what you did. I wonder if peanut butter would’ve removed the tape marks. It got gum out of my hair once ! They say peanut butter can remove just about anything off of just about anything. Next time. ; ) It certainly looks great and I love your cats ! So appreciative ~
    The Castle Lady
    Oh ! By the way, thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you like it enough to check me out again.

  8. Hi, I have a chest very similar to yours but the fixings are all very rusty, do you have any tips for improving them without bashing the surrounding areas? Thank you!

    • The rusty edges could look really nice as they are, but if you want to sand them down, a dremel is great for detailed sanding. If you want to cover the rust completely, I’d go with the old fashioned taping the area you don’t want painted and painting the rusted areas after you’ve sanded them. 🙂

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