February 27, 2013

Winter Pinterest Challenge: DIY Trunk Coffee Table

Last week Young House Love issued the winter Pinterest Challenge and today's the day to share our projects!

I've done my fair share of DIY projects but I've never actually participated in one of the Pinterest Challenges before so today's a big day for me!

Ready to see what I made?

I made a trunk coffee table for our loft!

I was inspired to make one after pinning these pins on Pinterest:

The one on the left is the Ludlow trunk coffee table from Pottery Barn. It retails for $699. I made my trunk table for $50. Big difference, right?

I honestly didn't think I was going to complete a project in time until I saw this listing for a beat up old military foot locker on Craigslist:

The listing was posted a little before 10:30 on Friday night and even though it was late, I texted the number anyway. After a little back and forth, I was able to set up a time to buy the trunk the next morning.

My mom and I drove to a sketchy neighborhood to meet with the seller. Money was exchanged, the trunk was tossed in my car, and we sped away.

After me and the trunk were home safely, I started to build the base. I measured the bottom of it and then cut up 2, 2 x 2 x 8 furring strips I had on hand. If you don't have any furring strips, they're only $1.82/each at Lowe's. Well, they are at mine. They might be a little more or less at yours :)

Anyway, I cut two long pieces, two shorter pieces, and 4 pieces for the legs. I made a 5" base since my trunk was 13.5" high and I wanted it to be 18.5" high. I'd tell you how long each piece is but that won't help you because the length of the pieces will vary depending on the size of your trunk.

NOTE: I also ended up cutting 3 more of the shorter pieces for center supports (not shown) but I'll get to those in a minute :)

After everything was cut, I balanced the pieces on the bottom of the trunk to make sure they all fit. They did!

I started building one side of the base by screwing two of the legs into one of the longer pieces. If you have a Kreg Jig, use that instead.

To attach everything together, I drilled a pilot hole and staggered the screw locations on each leg:

See how one screw is towards the top of the leg and one is towards the bottom? I did this so they wouldn't hit inside the wood. Again, use a Kreg Jig if you have one.

I attached the two shorter sides:

Then the remaining legs:

And the remaining long side:

Once the base was "done," we placed the trunk on top of it to see if it'd hold:

The whole thing was very sturdy but I wasn't sure what we'd be storing inside of the trunk. For safety's sake, we decided to go ahead and cut a few more pieces for center supports. You know, just in case we get wild and crazy and decide to stash a bunch of bowling balls inside:

I don't know if you can see it above but there is a bit of a gap between the trunk and the base because the "L" brackets on the edge of the trunk sit a little lower than the rest of it:

It doesn't effect the sturdiness of the trunk, and you can't see it unless you're lying on the ground looking for it, but I thought I'd mention it in case you get a trunk that has the "L" brackets too.

The center support pieces we added are the same length as the shorter pieces on the left and right so the cuts we're nice and easy!

After we measured the spacing, we drilled some pilot holes (insert Kreg Jig mention here):

And screwed the supports in place:

After I countersunk the screws, filled the holes with wood filler, and sanded everything down, I stained the base dark walnut:

Once it was dry, I took it outside and spray lacquered it. When it dried, we flipped the trunk over and positioned the base on top so we could drill some pilot holes through the center supports:

We did this so we wouldn't be guessing the location of the center supports when we screwed down into them from the inside:

Pilot hole guides from the inside:

Screwed on base from the inside:

Ready for some after photos? Here you go!

I'm slightly obsessed with this piece:

I LOVE all of the character it has and I bet it's seen some amazing things:

Check out those handles!

This plaque is on the back of the trunk:

I tried Googling it but came up empty. I'm assuming "USA QMC" is the manufacturer and maybe 1851 is the year the trunk was made or the year the company was founded? Anyone know anything about old military trunks? I'd love to know more about it!

EDIT: I received a comment from someone in the military and they provided more information about the "USA QMC" mark. The comment said "I wanted to tell you what the first two acronyms stand for on your trunk, United States Army Quartermaster Corps (USA QMC) and they would be the issuing organization. The quartermaster usually has all the supplies for the military from uniforms to cots to trunks. I'm guessing the JPNF 1851 is the unit and model of this particular trunk (since they come in all sizes and materials), but I am not sure." -- How cool is that?! Thank you again for the comment!

Anyway, our loft is coming together nicely with its new addition:

We still need some chairs and a rug and something for the blue wall but those things will hopefully be added soon. I'd also like to find something to seal the trunk with so it won't rust any further. Anyone know what to use?

Did you participate in the Pinterest Challenge? What'd you make? Any other furniture builders out there?

Disclaimer: I can't guarantee that your trunk will turn out just like mine. Differences in materials and tools used, and your skill level, will yield different results. I cannot be held responsible for a failed project or an injury of any kind so proceed with caution and build at your own risk. Remember: always use caution when working with power tools and read any instructions before beginning any project.

I'm sharing this project on Young House Love, Bower Power, Decor and the Dog, and The Remodeled Life!


  1. Love this trunk! I just recently updated one for a toy chest for my son!


  2. Woah, you rocked this Pinterest challenge, seriously! I was wondering what you were going to do after I saw your trunk pic on IG and you said you were making something with it.
    This is beyond awesome and what a lucky find just in time!

  3. Great project!! Your loft is really coming together.

    I would love to see a post from you about the tools you have for your DIY projects. I am intested in moving from small projects to larger projects but don't know where to start as far as saws, drills, etc.

  4. Ahhhhhhhhhh, this is beyond amazing! What a great job!!! I'm obsessed! :)

  5. Awesome trunk. It looks really great and it looks completely doable too. I love how it came out. Great Pinterest challenge :) Love what you made.


  6. I love it Caitlin! I hadn't see a trunk on legs before and it is definitely way cooler than flat. Nothing like making things happen until the last minute! I did the same!

  7. Julie - Thanks! Your trunk turned out so good! I love that you stenciled your son's name on top, too!

    Julia - Awww, thank you! :)

    Elizabeth - Thanks! That'd be a fun post! I don't use anything fancy - just a miter saw, an old drill, and the usual screwdrivers/hammers mostly. I'd love to get a Kreg Jig and some other fancy fun tools though!

    Thanks Gabbi! :)

    Thanks Katja! I LOVE the chair you made and that Mario art is great too :)

    Thanks Crystal! I thought about putting it on casters but it still would've been too low so building a base was our next best option! Off to check out your project :)

  8. Wow Caitlin! It's amazing. I loved it when I saw it without legs. I didn't know you could make me love it more!

  9. Uhm, you SHOULD be obsessed with this piece. It's freaking GORGEOUS!!! Did you have to do anything to the trunk other than add feet? It looks SO much nicer with the legs you added. LOVE LOVE LOVE

  10. That is freaking fantastic! For real. I love.

  11. What an amazing find!! Super jealous.

    And you're REALLY good at styling. I'm going to hire you. I pay in cookies. ;)

  12. Sarah - Thank you! I didn't do anything to it other than cleaning it with some Method cleaner. I wanted to keep it original and not alter it because it has so much character and I felt that altering it in any way would erase its memories. Plus, I liked all of the scratches and rust!

    Thanks Amy :)

    Thanks Michelle! Hire away! Cookie payment beats money payment any day of the week ;)

  13. This is amazing! I'm so in love with this! The blue color on the wall is awesome too!! So many things - i could go on!! Thanks for linking up!

  14. Thanks Megan! And thanks for hosting too! The blue is Valspar's 'Indigo Streamer' in case you'd like to use it in your home too! :)

  15. Oh my heck! I FREAKING LOVE THIS! You did such a great job. It looks so so so chic. I am seriously over the moon with this trunk. Nailed it :)

  16. Ohhhh my goodness, I so love that! I made a mirror for the Pinterest challenge - totally lame compared to your trunk!

  17. That trunk is straight out of my dreams!

  18. Gorgeous! What an incredible amount of luck, finding that trunk, and the table came out looking like a million bucks . . . or six-hundred and ninety-nine, anyway. Love it!

  19. that is AWESOME!!!! i have this idea pinned as well and love your take on it! love that dark blue wall, too!

  20. Well butter my grits! And think of all the junk in the trunk storage!! Classy & clever! You did a awesome job on this! L♥ve it! Also where did you get you diving helmet???? So cute!

  21. This is awesome! And I am jealous of your coffee table accessories, love! And that Chesterfield...and that lovely navy wall...:)

  22. What an awesome trunk! Those same types of trunks seem to go for hundreds of dollars around here. Love that little gold bum holding up your books :)

  23. Marking Our Home - I doubt your mirror is lame! I'm going to check it out right now to prove it's not :)

    Glad you like it Vanessa!

    Thanks Night Garden Design :)

    Thanks Cassie! Building the stand couldn't have been easier. I think it took longer to write the tutorial on how to build it than it did to actually build the thing haha

    Awww, thanks Geesha! The extra storage is going to be so nice! I got the diving helmet from HomeGoods a few months back. You might be able to find one on eBay!

    You're So Martha - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you :)

    Thanks Kelly! I saw some similar trunks on eBay that sold for $300 so the $50 deal was a complete steal! I'm not sure if the guy knew what he had haha

  24. This turned out so amazing! Adding legs to it totally transformed it! I have a couple of old trunks that could probably use similar treatment--isn't it fantastic how simply adding some short legs to something to get it off the ground makes it seem so purposeful?
    Also, I'm slightly obsessed with that amazing eagle mirror over to the left. Drool...

  25. Wow, I love this project so much! The bonus of hidden storage is awesome. Thanks for sharing! Must pin this! :)

  26. HOLY CRAP, this is amazing! I plan on shamelessly knocking this off as soon as I find the trunk. You did an AMAZING job!

    And please, tell me where I can find those pig book ends?! Actually, can I just move in to your loft?

  27. Thanks Staci! You should definitely give your trunks this treatment - it makes them so much more functional!

    You're welcome, Geesha :)

    Thanks Melanie! Pin away :)

    Thanks Shannon! Feel free to move in whenever :) Oh and the pig bookends are these little guys: http://www.cb2.com/gold-pig-bookends-set-of-2/s316059 from CB2.

  28. Hi! I found your blog via YHL Pinterst Challenge. I am in the military and I have a trunk that I wanted to remake so I checked out your project and fell in love with your blog. You have amazing talent. I wanted to tell you what the first two acronyms stand for on your trunk, United States Army Quartermaster Corps (USA QMC) they would be the issuing organization. The quartermaster usually has all the supplies for the military from uniforms to cots to trunks. I am guessing the JPNF 1851 is the unit and model of this particular trunk (since they come in all sizes and materials), but I am not sure. I thought you might want to check out the wiki page on Army Quartermaster, their emblem looks very similiar to your mirror, it is like it was meant to be together in your room. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartermaster_Corps_(United_States_Army)

  29. Thank you SO MUCH for your comment! I'm glad you like the trunk! I'll definitely be checking out the Wiki page and will update this post with the information you provided. Thank you again :)

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. First of all... thanks for checking out my herd of jars over on my new baby blog!

    Second - I love this project... and you were so lucky to score that fine trunk!!! Love the color, the handles, the rounded edges (would be a perfect coffee table in my house with 3 young kids)... even the way you styled it! Hello YHL book! Hello Nate! Hello gold pink book ends! Love, love, love it all!!!

  32. You're welcome Steph! Glad you love it all! :)

  33. Wow, this is so cool!! I honestly like it better than the Pottery Barn one, and you can't beat furniture that has some character :)

  34. AMAZING! The style of the legs is perfection, and I love how you styled it. The shot of the pretty handles with the sweet pig butt made me smile. High fives! :)

    Kelly @ View Along the Way

  35. Wow! this looks great! I would love to find one of these for my husbands office! :)

    Emily at Houseandhone.com

  36. Looks awesome! I love your styling.

    Sammy ~ Renew Redo

  37. I stumbled upon you through Pinterest, and saw this post. We have one of these monstrosities (ahem, a coffee table in the near future) sitting in my family room behind a couch. Now I know what to do with it! Thank you!

  38. I love your trunk and have one I'm going to do something similar with. You asked about something to treat it with. I was told by a handyman to treat them with something he called "ship wax". I haven't had a chance to check into it yet, though. Just thought I'd mention it.

  39. A quick Google of 'putting legs on a trunk' led me here. I'll be saving your page to dive into! Also - loved seeing the diving helmet piece. I'm hoping to repurpose and show-off my grandfather's navy trunk.

  40. My trunk's lock was difficult to operate even with the key, so I gutted it and used a magnet to hold the latch on. I had to glue the little part of the lock that turns so it wouldn't look like a big hole there. I used E2000 jeweler's glue. The magnet keeps the latch closed and is easy to open too.


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