Restyle4Life

Sewing, Refashioning, Repurposing & Thrifting Through Life

Have Trunk, Will Travel

Every few weeks we go treasure hunting. These are my favourite days. It’s just so much fun and I love that Mr. Restyle is all on board for this type of outing. He never says no! I believe he enjoys our “vintage days” as we call them as much as I do.

This particular Saturday it was his turn. He’s not the type of husband who asks for much. He wanted an old trunk. he found this:

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Beat up old 1800s steamer trunk.

I am going to admit, I had no idea what to make of it. There are old things and then there are old, useless things. To me, this fell into the old and useless category. I mean, what on earth are we going to do with this? And more importantly, where in our house would we PUT this thing? I know people use them as coffee tables but this one isn’t flat on top and I really didn’t see it going with what will soon become our vintage 70s inspired living room but I gave in. I said yes. Yeah, I let him buy it.

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The inside of the trunk contained paper that was peeling off. I think the paper was there to disguise the wood and make it seem “prettier.”

We searched everywhere on this old thing and couldn’t find any manufacturer’s marks. The only thing on it was the old sticker, which, with a bit of research, we discovered came from a train station in Switzerland.

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Sticker from “Basel” train station, Switzerland.

This made things a little more interesting so we investigated further. We know it’s a European made trunk, but we do not know in which country it was made. Since there is very little hardware on the trunk, we know only that these styles were made and used in Europe from the 1880’s until as late as the 1920’s. Many parts of this type were used for many years, even on American made trunks.  Most likely the trunk is from about 1890 to 1910. It is a bit of an unusual style with the single slat across the top, but the double locks was not that unusual for European trunks.

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Lock Detail

Estimating value is difficult for this since there are not as many examples being sold for comparison, so it often comes down to what someone believes it is worth to them. It is an interesting piece and an antique in original condition, so the estimate of its value based on similar items at auction or in shops in the U.S. is between $200 to $350. Our cost: $85.

Maybe we’ll hold on to it for a while. When I think about how old it is and where it’s been, I only wish I had the story of the person or people behind it. Where were they from? Where were they going? Were they leaving everything behind and starting life in a new country? How did it turn out for them. If only these treasures could tell us…

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Refashion of a Different Kind

Well, this was not the way I wanted to start a refashion/sewing/thrifting blog. I had hoped to be up and running on a regular basis by now but I have good reason!

I have been looking for a bedroom suite for a very long time and I’ve just not been finding anything in the stores that is worth the money on the price tags. It all looks so incredibly cheap and poorly made. I guess we really do live in a disposable world. Oh sure, it all looks beautiful when it’s brand new but there’s something about plunking down several hundreds of dollars on some particle board/plywood/veneer/fake wood or whatever this stuff is made of, especially if it’s going to be for a teenage boy and knowing my kid-well, let’s just say he’s not the most gentle of creatures. I just didn’t see it lasting very long.

So, I found this beautiful solid cherrywood suite online and although it’s not young and hip and modern, it will last a lifetime and he actually LIKES it! I got if for a really good deal. The only problem is, the lady who sold it to me had the tops of the dressers covered in doilies and of course, I didn’t check but there are some nicks and scratches and water stains on them. The good news is that it’s genuine solid wood and constructed with dovetail joints. I know the manufacturer (Andrew Malcolm, who was quite well known quite a few years ago) and since the seller had lived in her house for 55 years, I knew it would last in mine.

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I originally wanted to just lightly remove whatever varnish was on it and stain it a darker colour because I didn’t like the colour as it stood. I had done this on my oak kitchen cupboards without any issue. This is where I ran into a problem as finishes from 40, 50 years ago are not polyurethane but rather shellac, lacquer or something similar, therefore the stain did not penetrate and just beaded up-argh!!!

I found a product from Minwax called Antique Furniture Refinisher that claims to remove old finishes without stripping or sanding. Fantastic! Note, that if you’re going to do this yourself, this particular Minwax product does NOT remove polyurethane. For that you’ll have to use a different product.

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Well, this is what I’ve been doing instead of sewing, thrifting and refashioning but I hope to be up and running soon. In the meantime, this project is going to take a lot of my time. So far, I’ve removed part of the top of one dresser and I was astonished to see the beautiful cherrywood underneath. I read that cherrywood does not really need staining. In fact, I can see that a simple clear coat protectant of some sort will really let the natural beauty of the wood show through. I’m so excited to get this done. I’ll post pics of the project when I’m further along.

There are some great links on how to refinish antiques. Here are a couple I’ve referenced:

How to Refinish Old Wood Furniture with Minwax

Refnishing 101 from Rachel @ Thrifty Inspiration

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