Vintage chest turned coffee table

I love this project. It actually might be my most favorite one ever (I know I say that about a lot, but this one… swoon).

It was actually somewhat of a happy accident. I was browsing through craigslist searching for various things, one of them being a coffee table. I spotted an ad for an old footlocker/chest, and through the small pixelated pictures knew it could serve as the perfect coffee table with a little elbow grease. The best part was the price: $20! That was music to my single-income-budget ears.

So I forced asked my sweet husband to drive down there the next morning and pick it up for me. Apparently, trying to squeeze it into the passenger seat of our 2-seater was a super dramatic event and I can never buy anything big again because we don’t have a truck. Fine. But it was worth it, because it was better than I had expected.

So it’s a little … black. But loaded with potential. And it came with this really cool storage divider.

Ignore the peeling paper… someone had lined it with faux-wood grain wall paper-like material, which I spent a good 30 minutes trying to remove. Not an easy task.

I grew tired of that and decided it was a project for next weekend, which I’ll get to shortly.

Here’s the inside with the storage compartment removed:

So my plan for this thing was to paint it a soft, very pale turquoise and apply a bit of distressing to enhance the vintage feel. I’ve never done something quite like this, but this “weathered” style is a good idea for me because every time I screw something up it adds character instead of becoming something I need to go back and fix. So yeah, I’m down with the shabby chic.

Anyway, the first step was to remove some of that black paint to reveal the metal underneath:

I went ahead and purchased Zinsser’s oil based primer (recommended by Centsational Girl), and got down to business.

Here’s after a few coats of primer:

After the primer was dry, I began mixing my paint. For this project I bought a pint of Valspar’s “Crystal Sea”. I went a few shades darker so I could mix it with white to create the perfect pale blue, and I would have lots of blue paint leftover for other projects. Brilliant, right? I thought so.

I ended up using somewhere around 4 parts white to 1 part blue. I bought an empty can to mix and store it in so I have plenty leftover to paint our future dining room table to match.

Before I got to painting, I decided to give it a quick coat of the pure blue to create more tones in the distressing:

Then I mixed my perfect pale blue:

It looks a lot darker in this pic than it really is!

I applied a coat of my mix, let it dry, then sanded over the edges so the metal showed through (sorry no pics of this process, it was at night and I was late to a game of Charades at the neighbors).

I also needed to address these handles:

Painted black leather is not the look I was going for, so I found some woven rope-like material and thought it would be cool to wrap it around the handle:

And the finished look:

With this piece I wanted to make sure it stayed protected (since it would be near food/drinks/cats), so I applied 3 coats of Minwax’s water based polycrylic as the finishing touch (also recommended by Centsational Girl). I’ve never used anything like it before and won’t ever refinished a
piece of furniture without it!

And finally, here is what $20 (plus paint supplies) got me:

(yes, there’s way more pics than necessary here but I couldn’t help myself with this one)

And that is the tale of my new most favorite thing in the world in our house right now. It was also good practice for painting our dining table (as soon as I find a cheap round pedastal on craigslist!)

As for the insides… right now the interior is still white primer while I figure out what to do with it. I’ll probably leave it white and give it a coat of polycrylic for durability.

As for the storage compartment, I was thinking about wrapping it in some pretty coordnating fabric. Maybe a natural/jute material to tie in with the handles? Or maybe something with white and aqua in it? We’ll see… hope to tackle that next weekend.

Enjoy your week!

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13 thoughts on “Vintage chest turned coffee table

  1. I have a trunk sitting in my garage waiting for it to be painted just like this one!! I just bought it at an auction sale a few weeks ago for only $12- with hopes of being used as a coffee table as well 🙂 Because yours turned out so gorgeous, you have kicked started my motivation level to start on mine!

  2. Hi Debbie! I just updated my House Tour page with a complete color + source list, go check it out! As for the handles… well… I'll need to do some touch ups soon. They were holding up well for a while but time has taken its toll. I'll be sure to take pics of the wear and make a post when I get around to the touch ups!

  3. I love the color….have you thought about adding castor wheels to the bottom of the trunk? i think it would be really cool, and easy to move around if you fill it with storage stuff!!

    hugs, cindy

  4. Fantastic!! I have one of those from college (not vintage) and it's a horrible green and gold color. Glad to see I can give it some love to make it usable in my home. Love your site. 🙂

  5. just reading this now….LOVE IT! I have an old truck from college that I am totally going to redo similiar to this!! so glad I found your site!

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