One Man's Trash is Another Man's...Vintage Suitcase Chair

vintage suitcaseSo you've sifted through all of the vinyl, the nicely finished dining room sets, and the passable mattresses, it’s time to load up everything else in your locker and haul it over to the dump, right? I mean all this stuff is junk, isn’t it? The clearly identifiable collectibles are going gently into the back seat; but, I thought the rest of this has no real resale value. Confused yet? Okay, folks, I’m gonna make it up to you. Let’s just pause, put that down. Let’s just take a step back. No, I was wrong, I’m sorry, take a step forward. Now, take a step back. Step forward. Back. And then we’re cha-cha-ing! Early Val Kilmer credits aside—arguably a better performance than his depiction of Jim Morrison, I think—, do yourself a favor and flex those outside-the-box muscles. When you look at that pile of suitcases stacked up in the back of your locker, the first notion is about what’s inside of them. This will lead you to little more than utter disappointment. Really, what do people throw in suitcases but old clothes that didn’t make the cut when it’s time to move from studio apartment to first condo? But where your first reaction is to see a convenient way to carry everything else off to the dump, you are missing out on a great vintage opportunity.

Today’s DIY idea is all about those useless, hideously green old-school suitcases that wouldn’t give you much of any return as is. That said, with a piece of ¾” plywood, 4 legs (and top plates), some foam or pillows and your choice of fabric you have a kickass vintage suitcase reading chair. Boom! The legs will be available at any hardware store (Home Depot or Lowe's are great places to start if you don’t have something lying around that could provide them). More important of an investment here will be the foam (or use some of those pillows from the last locker you won and keep this project even more on the cheap). It should run you anywhere from $12 and up depending on how plush you’re trying to make this thing. Local fabric stores are also likely to let you have a pile of scraps from the week’s sales on the super-cheap. The fabric, once again, is entirely up to what vibe you’re getting from the suitcase itself.

tuft fabricDepending on the grain of the wooden legs, you can give them a fine sand and hit them up with a nice stain; or, just spray paint them and keep this DIY as efficient as possible. Either way, you’re definitely gonna dig the final product. The trickiest part here will be the pillow/foam covering. I didn’t know how to tuft fabric—in all honesty, I didn’t know that tufting was even a thing at all—so a quick Youtube search will help out those of you who are not wise in the ways of needle and thread. Once you’ve got your pattern, or stuck yourself enough times with a fabric needle to decide to bail on the fancy tufting thing, you’ll wanna baste the fabric over the pillow/foam with needle and thread.

Plywood that Suitcase!The old adage, “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” may be as accurate as any; however, your friends and/or typical vintage suitcase chair customer, might not be pillar of health and fitness. In other words, time to cut that ¾” plywood to size and fit it into the bottom of your suitcase. I’d suggest that you make the deeper of the two sides of the suitcase your bottom cushion, so throw the plywood in that side. Now just screw the four top plates through the underside of the suitcase and into the ply wood for added stability and overall peace-of-mind.


vintage suitcase chair

You’ll need some quality glue to throw down over the plywood to attach your foam. Layer it on thick and don’t be stingy with the foam either. Once you’ve stacked glue-foam-glue-foam to the appropriate height, throw on the top cushion and weight it all down with some of those college books from the other back corner of your locker. When all is said and done (and dry), attach the legs and step back and marvel at the vintage furniture that should net you a solid profit at your consignment shop, yard sale, or eBay account. Hell, it’d probably look pretty damn cool in your living room, too! Whichever way you decide to go, just keep in mind that there are endless and relatively painless ways to turn that not-so-obvious profit out of a lot of things you will find in your newly won storage unit. Best of luck, and keep checking back in for more ideas to maximize your profit margin. Have a good one, y'all.

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