Trunk-Cabinet Conversion


Many people, myself included, like the look of old trunks. They have been used for many years as decoration, coffee tables, etc. But I don't think we've ever found a good use for these.


"Sold_____ 189__".

Not filled in, but 110+ years old I assume.

Plus they're dirt cheap. Paid $10 for this one of eBay, local pickup. I've been on craigslist pickups where people just give them away once they know you like old stuff. They sentimental value to their owners, but they just take up room in the garage. Knowing it'll get used makes it easier to let go.

What's not to love? A long ago era, when a trip was a multi-month adventure. I'm always looking for a way to use these.

I needed a cabinet in the kitchen for the microwave and thought I'd try the trunk.


The trunk sat in the cache for a year. Not forgotten.

I needed a kitchen cabinet for the microwave and toaster oven. I hadn't planned for these. Thought they'd just sit on the butcher block table, but that was awkward. I had one open spot, and the trunk fit. The width of the trunk was just enough for the appliances.

I have a sort of superstitious belief that when objects fit like puzzle pieces that they should go together. So, full steam ahead.

Remove Interior Canvas

These trunks can smell a bit musky. So I removed the interior canvas, paper and glue. Plus, there was no way I could clean this material once it was a working cabinet.

A common "restoring" techique for these old trunks is to remove all canvas and leather leaving the wood structure visible. Then varishing everything. They look pretty cool, but they'd no longer trunks to me. Like a house without the exterior siding.


The way this cabinet would be positioned three sides would show. Wanting to keep the top visible I decided to cut out the bottom.

This would also allow the trunk to be used as a decorative trunk in the future. I try to build so the object has the best chance of reuse in the future.

Grinder to cut the sheet metal covering the bottom.


Saber saw to remove the wood.

I saved the parts for future projects. 110+ year old wood...cache.


I screwed a wood frame inside the trunk to reinforce the sturcture. This more than made up for the lost bottom. This frame also held shelves.


In kitchen peaking above the butcher block table.

Looks kind of cool. I did put the microwave and toaster oven inside. For a couple of weeks I looked at this in the kitchen and it never seemed right.

Indeed, it isn't right. Closet and trunk, perfect match. Bedroom and trunk, OK. Living room and trunk, starting to get tacky. Kitchen and trunk...full blown tacky. So I removed the trunk cabinet from the kitchen.

This experiment, though costly, may have saved me from worst down the road. I had the idea to make all the kitchen cabinets look like trunks, using trunk parts. I won't be doing that. But, trunk cabinets in a closet? Oh yeah.

Update: The trunk cabinet was moved into the living room to hold office equipment. The couch hides part of it so it doesn overwhelm.