It is funny how and when new ideas and new projects spring to life. I was
inspired to complete this chest refurbishing
project while running on a tread mill at the gym. One of the monitors in front of the treadmill was airing The Nate Show. Jessica Alba was showing viewers how she gave an old blanket chest a new identity by applying a little DIY elbow grease. You can watch the segment at Curbside Pick-up with Jessica Alba. I was inspired by her use of wall
paper on the chest, and it happened that I had some fantastic spare wall paper from Bradbury and Bradbury. I would be remiss not to tell you about their unique and wonderful wall paper. For starters, all of their wall paper is silk screened. The silk screening makes the wallpaper look like someone has painted a mural on your walls (or project) when it is hung. This makes the wallpaper great for adding incredible detail to repurposed furniture. I have this wallpaper in my office and have enjoyed it for years. You can see in the photo that I used the left over chair rail.
I wanted to try out repurposing a blanket chest into a DIY coffee table. But first I needed a blanket chest and a place to put the finished coffee table. Decisions, decisions.
My parents just bought a new couch and a chair for a TV room. They had not yet purchased any tables. However, my grandmother had an old blanket chest in her basement, and nobody wanted the worn down chest. The stars aligned this summer when I visited my parents and traded some babysitting hours from them for my own creative crafting work. A DIY coffee table was born out of the old blanket chest.
1. Remove unwanted hardware and trim from the chest.
I removed all of the trim and hardware from my chest. Although I did like the trim on the bottom of the chest the trim did not continue around the back of the chest. If you plan to use your finished chest as a coffee table it is important that all sides are embellished in a continuous manner.
2. Repair any damage to the chest. My chest was around 50 years old. Although it was made of cedar, it was veneered in Maple. Unfortunately, much of the veneer was coming loose. Some was even missing. I glued and clamped all of the loose veneer on the chest, and then used wood putty to repair any uneven surfaces that were created when I removed the trim and the veneer. Apply the wood putty with a putty knife, and let it dry.
3. Now sand all surfaces with 100 grit and then 220 grit paper to create a proper surface for the paint to adhere too.
4. Cut the trim to the proper lengths, using a chop saw (also known as a compound miter saw) if available. If your trim has a 3-dimensional pattern, consider the best places to cut the trim. You want the corners of the trim to have the same detail from the pattern leading into the corner (see the last picture in the post). Otherwise stated, you want the pattern in the trim to be symmetric or continuous as you view the corner. The trim can be cut and added to the chest to form a linear detail around the four sides of the chest (that is what I did). Or, the trim could be added to the side of the chest in a big rectangle, a rectangle that traces out a border much like a picture frame. This decorative panel (or picture frame) would be made by cutting the trim to form a rectangle that could be attached to the front of the trunk. The wall paper would then be used inside the rectangle, almost as if the wall paper was the picture in a picture frame. Obviously you would want to add the paper to the chest first and then add the trim over the wall paper. This will create a much more refined and finished look to the panel.
5. Prime the chest and the trim using latex paint. The trim is not yet installed. Prime it in a clean area, free from debris. The trim should be propped up off of the floor (for example between 2 sawhorses) during priming. If you lie the trim flat on the ground or on a cardboard box then the paint will stick to the ground or the box and leave a rough edge on the trim after you pick it up.
6. Paint the trim (still not attached to the chest) and the chest. I used different colors for the trim and the chest walls for added interest.
7. Attach the wall paper to the chest. If making a panel, check that the wallpaper is centered. If you add a border as I did consider if there is a part of the pattern that can be extended or shortened without looking too asymmetric. I wrapped one piece of paper around the front of the chest and placed this part of my pattern on both back corners. I then added the wall paper to the back of the chest to line up with the same part of the wall paper pattern. The chest now looks like it has no seam in the wall paper.
8. Attach the trim with a little wood glue and an 18 gauge nail gun, or by hand. The nail gun is far easier! Sorry, I have one. And I had to use it!
9. Fill nail holes with spackle.
10. Sand the spackled nail holes with 220 grit paper. Then paint over the spackle.
The chest I made is a fun addition to the family room. We went to our local glass shop and had a piece of glass cut for the top, making it even more robust to use and abuse. I hope you enjoy your new conversation piece also. Don’t forget to add a before and after picture to the inside with your name and the year! Folks will be shocked at how you used this tutorial to turn a worn old chest into a beautiful new piece of furniture!
Best wishes, and as always, please leave comments to the blog posts. I truly appreciate your feedback!