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A Vintage Suitcase Makeover

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I restored an old and rusted vintage suitcase into a brand new looking piece of luggage. This makeover isn’t too difficult and doesn’t have to be perfect because the imperfections add to the vintage charm.

The finished vintage suitcase after it's been painted white, gold, green and black.

Guess where I found this old thing?  

If you have been coming here at all for any length of time you will know it came from my basement. I am starting to believe that everything from the dreaded basement must be vintage. This old suitcase was in really bad shape.  It had scratches all over and the metal framework holding it together was bent out of shape.  

I certainly had a big job ahead of me.  But if there is one thing I love, it’s a good challenge. And so we begin with my vintage suitcase makeover. 

top of a rusted vintage suitcase, used as the "before" image.

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How to Paint a Vintage Suitcase

I started with the sides and painted them using my favorite Enchanted by Americana Decor Chalky Finish Paint from DecoArt. It went on nice and smooth and I ended up using 2 coats. I created my own color because I’m a pain like that. I mixed in some white to the Enchanting to make a really soft olive color. 

Painting the sides top and bottom of a vintage suitcase white.

The next step was to take care of those awful looking corner bumps.  I used DecoArt Metallic Lustre in Burnished Brass and rubbed them to a fine sheen. I think gold would have been too much in this case. 

Painted the brass corner bumpers in gold.

I used the same polish on the inner frame parts that close. In order to get straight lines, I pressed up a piece of cardboard on the edge and then just painted along. 

Painting the inner framework in gold

The edge clamps were also treated in the same manner. 

Painting the edge clams in gold.

The outer framework was refreshed with a black acrylic color. 

Painting the outer metal frame black.

Now for this vintage suitcase, I had an old world look in mind. You’ve seen those old suitcases that had straps on them.  Well, I wanted to create that look. I taped them off and  painted them with my Enchanted color. Painting these straps gave me a backache. But one must suffer for one’s suitcase.

Painting green stripes on top of suitcase to look like straps.

I then had to go back and retouch up some areas.  As one point, I remember taking a hammer to the areas of the frame that were bent out of shape. You can see below that it is still out of shape, but that is as good as it’s gonna get. Anyway, I want you all to remember that it is a vintage piece.  Can’t make it too perfect or it’ll lose its charm.

Using a paintbrush to touch up a spot with paint.

And here she is, my beauty!

The finished vintage suitcase after it's been painted white, gold, green and black.

Doesn’t she look just spiffy?

close up of gold painted clasp.

I am really loving the contrast between the brass and the black frame.

Corner view of the painted vintage suitcase.

I chose to leave the bottom blank.  No point in breaking my back all over again. 

The bottom of the vintage suitcase, ust painted with white paint.

At one point I had considered painting the straps all around the vintage suitcase but realized that the clasps were not symmetrical.  They were placed at different dimensions away from the ends of the suitcase. Even the central edge clamp was off center. You can see it here where it is not centered with the handle, whereas the bottom clamp is.  

Showing how the front of the suitcase has gold clasps that are not symmetrical to the handle.

By painting the stripes all around, I think it would have called more attention to the irregularities of the suitcase. ​

The finished vintage suitcase after it's been painted white, gold, green and black. It's placed on top of a brown table and beside a basket filled with driftwood and rocks.

While working on this project I found a site on the internet, Brettuns Village,  which restores trunks and old suitcases.  It is very informative (that’s how I learned the names of all these pieces) and it even has a page on how to restore your own vintage piece. 

Close up of the gold painted corner bumps.
Close up of the green painted stripes.
Close up of green painted stripes, gold clasps and gold bumper on the vintage suitcase.

Of course, I’m not finished yet. I’ll show  you what’s inside very soon. 

A different angle showing  a close up of green painted stripes, gold clasps and gold bumper on the vintage suitcase.

​I really love the softness of the color, it makes the hardware look so clean and the brass stand out.  I would definitely consider this vintage suitcase makeover a trash to treasure project. Do you think I chose the colors well? What about that brass?  Do you have any old pieces like this?

 And now for some rest… 

Vintage suitcase makeover overlay with a close up of the painted vintage suitcase.

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Beverly

Sunday 28th of July 2019

Mary, Your suitcase makeover is amazing. Congrats, you are being featured on Over The Moon Linky Party. https://eclecticredbarn.blogspot.com/2019/07/over-moon-linky-party_28.html Hugs, Bev

Michelle

Monday 22nd of August 2016

She's beautiful Mary, so glad you found her in the basement and the backache was soooo worth it. She really looks amazing.

Mary

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

Yes that backache really was worth it. I look at the before sometimes and cannot believe it.

krista

Monday 22nd of August 2016

That was impressive transformation! I had my doubts but you pulled it off.

Mary

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

That suitcase was parked in my hallway for half a year, after it had been rescued from the basement. So it really was long overdue.

Jessica

Monday 22nd of August 2016

I love this! I love the colors you chose, too. I agree that gold might have been too much, but the brass color is just right.

Mary

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

I was going for that feel, you know the olden days when people traveled on the Orient Express.

Keri

Monday 22nd of August 2016

Mary, I can't believe this is the same suitcase!! You did an amazing job at restoring this piece and making it beautiful once more. I really like the color combinations you chose. The difference in the clamps makes me wonder if it was taken apart at one point or had to be fixed. Hm, it's like a mystery suitcase lol. I can't wait to see what's inside the case.

Mary

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

Yes it is. And it took me a long time to restore it because I wanted to do the right thing. I even ended up on the internet reading about authentic suitcases.I suspect that it may have been hand made or something, because machines are pretty concise.

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