Well, it's not really a DIY painted suitcase, it's actually a briefcase or an attache case. This briefcase is leather, and I'm hoping it gives you an idea of how you can do a painted suitcase makeover. The steps are the same, just on a larger scale.
Initially, I didn't plan on painting the outside of the leather briefcase. I knew when I bought it that I would have to do something with the inside, but I was hoping to leave the outside untouched. But then, there was Plan B.
How Can I Upcycle a Vintage Suitcase?
- Decorative storage for knick-knacks, photos, or keepsakes.
- Turn it into a unique coffee table or side table by adding legs or feet.
- On a smaller scale, make a footstool or extra seating.
- Wouldn't a colorful vintage suitcase be cute as a prop for family photos?
- Are you a gardener? Use a vintage suitcase as a planter for small indoor or outdoor plants.
- Remove the lid (or not) and make a sweet pet bed by adding small bun feet.
- It could be storage, or a unique piece of furniture for a children's playroom. Think Barbies or Hot Wheels.
- Rest it on a chair in a guestroom as a way to organize and store linens or towels.
- Stack several vintage suitcases to disguise a hidden storage space for throws and or blankets.
- Mount a suitcase on a wall to use as a portable bar for outdoor events or parties.
- Decor! A painted suitcase is perfect as a focal point for a vintage or eclectic home decor style.
This is our Thrift Store Day, be sure to check out all the projects below.
Upcycling a Small Suitcase or Briefcase
So, then there's this. Upon closer inspection I saw why this was marked $4. Seriously, how did that happen? The leather suitcase (briefcase) was in such good shape. In any case, I felt it was worth the four bucks, so it came home with me.
Remove Suitcase Lining
I used a putty knife to peel away the old leather lining of the case. I opted to remove only the top and bottom, and to leave the sides intact.
How to Line Suitcase
Years ago, I bought a huge roll of commercial vinyl wallpaper at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I've used it over the years for various reasons, so naturally, I grabbed a piece to see how it would hold up for this DIY painted suitcase project.
Cutting it to size, and laying it in the case I was trying to figure out if I wanted to separate the bottom and top pieces. I've lined a suitcase with fabric, you can see that in my article How To Line A Suitcase.
The lining was trimmed and creased making it ready to be secured into place.
Battery Operated Glue Gun
This Ryobi battery operated glue gun is so handy. My project space was not near an electrical outlet. The key to gluing the lining is to use enough glue to hold it, but not so much that it is noticeable when it sets up.
You can see a little bumpiness of the glue at the top, but I did get it smoothed out a little better in the end.
Should the DIY Painted Suitcase be a Table?
I took the small briefcase/suitcase for a spin to see if it wanted to be a table. These metal legs were used on my Wooden Tables & Plant Stands a couple of years ago. In this image I have them stuck on the suitcase with heavy duty double stick tape. That is why it's leaning up against the couch.
Then I set it aside. Eventually, I will get to it I thought.
Fast forward a YEAR later, and I'm ready to finish this project.
DIY Painted Suitcase Supplies
Previously, I didn't think I would paint it. However, upon closer inspection, I just knew it would look better painted, especially since the hardware is in such bad shape.
I grabbed my favorite paint brushes and foam roller to make this a fairly quick and easy task.
I began painting with the small paint brush on the hardware and handle. You can see the ones I use in my Amazon store.
Visit the My Repurposed Life Amazon Store to shop my favorite items.
Dry Project Paint with a Fan
Because the suitcase has so many sides to paint, I used my Ryobi fan to dry the paint. It worked great, and really sped up my project time.
What to do About Bleed Through?
What do you do once you've already started painting and then you notice bleed through? That was MY dilemma. I was wishing I had wiped the leather down with my HTP Surface prep. My only choice was to continue to roll on very light coats of paint. Luckily, that did the trick.
I opted to NOT paint any of the inside of the suitcase. You can see here that I held it open so nothing would get stuck shut.
Grain Sack Stripe on DIY Painted Suitcase
Don't you love this grain sack woven stripe transfer from The Junky Chalker store? It's one large transfer that I have cut to make things easier. I used a small stripe on my Farmhouse Bar Stool project.
I'm not generally a fan of green, but I thought this Eucalyptus color would be perfect for the DIY painted suitcase, don't you?
How to Chalk a Transfer
Our screen print transfers are used with Chalk Paste (not paint). The paste is applied with a squeegee, and then wiped away. While the paste is still wet, the transfer is peeled away. Why are there little notches? That helps me if I choose to use all the pieces again, as if they weren't cut apart. I just line up the notches I cut to make it one large transfer again.
Again, I used the fan to dry the chalk paste so I could move right along to do the other side of the diy painted suitcase.
Do you LOVE it as much as I do? Do you think I should have made it into a table? Perhaps it's new owner can find the perfect place for it in their home!!!
Using a Suitcase for Storage
As I stated above, suitcases displayed in your home are really hidden gems. Stash something inside and no one will be the wiser! You can just display one, or you can stack a set of random sizes and kinds, painted in the same color!!
Store Sewing Supplies
Depending on the size of your painted suitcase and how much fabric you need to hide, this little guy works great for storing fat quarters! The case is resting on an oversized step stool. I made it out of leftover and reclaimed wood. Isn't it cute?
Store old Photos
Using a small suitcase (or briefcase) is a wonderful way to keep old photos close at hand. Share with family and friends, or just reminisce about the wonderful memories the photographs spur.
Creative Thrift Store Makeovers
As promised, here are seven more creative thrift store makeovers from my friends!
- Embellishing a Pair of Valentine Pillows
- Upcycled Lamp Parts Candle Holder
- Displaying Vintage Valentines With Yardsticks
- Succulent Wall Planter Using a Picture Frame
- Coastal Rope Lantern
- Easy DIY Rustic Light Fixtures
- Valentine Heart Mantel Decor
- DIY Painted Suitcase (You are here)
What have you scored lately? If you haven't found anything, are you using our ideas to update your own decor items for your home? We encourage you to think outside the box, grab a can of paint and do some DIY!
Gail Wilson is the author and mastermind behind My Repurposed Life. She is obsessed with finding potential in unexpected places and believes that with a little hard work and imagination, any old thing can be made useful again, including herself!
Gail reinvented herself during a midlife crisis and has found purpose again. She hopes you will find new ideas for old things and pick up a few tools along the way.