Saturday, April 7, 2012

vintage suitcase becomes medicine cabinet!

Update: Annabel Vita gave me a link to the post she did about vintage suitcase uses that inspired me! You can see the post here. It doesn't have the liquor cabinet photo but another medicine cabinet idea that I must have subconsciously remembered - too cool!

Annnnd now for one of my favourite home projects that I've done so far!! No surprise that it's part of our bathroom remodel. :) It started when I saw this cool vintage suitcase turned into liquor cabinet on Annabel Vita's blog (sorry I can't find now which post it's in but it's there somewhere!):

I was just starting our bathroom remodel, and at some point it occurred to me what a great medicine cabinet a vintage suitcase might make. You see, we don't have any cupboards/closets in our bathroom except this white medicine cabinet over the sink (this is a Before photo of our bathroom!):

I wanted to DIY a great big framed mirror right there (see the foreshadowing there for future post??) but husband objected to something about how I tend to get rid of storage with my projects. Haha. Soo we agreed that a medicine cabinet over the toilet might be just the thing! I stalked craigslist/ebay/amazon/etsy/thrift shops for a few weeks until I found what looked like it might be perfect for the space, for $48 on ebay (leather edges/handle):

This is actually after my first step, which was to buy some inexpensive black shoe polish and polish up a few scuffs on the black part of the suitcase. I thought it would make the lovely scuffs on the edges/handle 'pop' more. Yum contrast.

I knew I wanted to redo the fabric inside, but wasn't sure how I would do that till it came in the mail and I realized the original fabric was just wrapped around some cardboard and glued in. I decided to rip it out and replace it with my own posterboard+cloth combination. First, ripping it out (our current kitten foster, Lynx, loved helping me):

You can see the original fabric was mauve-ish and stained. Here's another shot with Lynx's help, and the new material that's going to go in (it's leftover curtain fabric from our living room curtains in Seattle!):

Once I got all the fabric/paper out, I used two $0.67 sheets of posterboard from Walmart, and cut them to size to fit in the suitcase (with Lynx's help, of course):

Sized them a few times to be sure they would fit in the suitcase:

Then used hot glue to glue the fabric pieces around the paper:

I used wood glue to glue the new cover pieces into the suitcase, with a v. complex system for holding everything in place while it dried:

At this point it sat in the corner for awhile, and Lynx gave it her stamp of approval:

Next it was time to make a couple shelves. I had some plywood leftover from my bathroom vanity makeover, which I cut to size and decided to cover with some map paper. I glued the paper on with wood glue (love that stuff) and modge podged it afterward to make it nice and waterproof!

I also covered little pieces of wood with cloth to serve as subtle but adjustable shelf supports. We drilled holes through the supports and then screwed short screws through the supports and into the sides of the suitcase. Surprisingly, it has worked out great - and if we ever need to adjust the shelf placement, the cloth can help hide old screw holes:

We also added a magnetic closure on the side, with the same careful short screw approach:

I wasn't sure how to hang it sturdily, but in the end we just took the hooks off of our old medicine cabinet and reused those hooks with our short screws into the suitcase, and two anchored screws into the wall:

And - success!

A shelf for each of us and a little shelf to share with floss/toothpaste/etc. Actually husband has more man-products than these ;) we were in the middle of packing for a weekend adventure when I took this photo!

What can I say, except that I love it and it totally makes me smile when I use it :) I screwed little hooks onto the inside of the door for toothbrushes, little scissors, etc. So far the cloth hasn't gotten wet/dirty, but it would be easy for me to replace or change if I need to go that route, so I decided to try it this way first. A couple more for eye candy:

We've been using it now for a few weeks, and it's holding up great! I love how it plays with the subtle wall colour and our art from Beth about having roots in different places. I like to think that Lynx approves too, although she was quickly adopted and is off to encourage other people to play with fun projects late at night ;)


  1. Fun project! Did you put a mirror on the front? I'ld like to see what it looks like closed. 

  2. Thanks Marie! Ha you're right I completely forgot to get a photo with it closed! I was too busy not giving away the other projects I've completed in the bathroom ;) I'm going to have a bathroom reveal in another day or two, so I'll include photos of the closed suitcase in that! No mirror on the front, since I built a big framed mirror on the sink. Love it. :D

  3. What a cool idea!  I could totally see doing this as a jewelry organizer too.  I saw a medicine cabinet style jewelry organizer and your suitcase made we want to smoosh the two ideas together.  Wonderful!  I'd love for you to come share your post at my link party.

  4. Ooh a jewelry organizer would be such a great idea!! And perfect for those smaller vintage suitcases! Thanks for inviting me to your link party, I came over :) I'm new at this so it's fun to connect!

  5. My goodness! I just found your blog and was enjoying it when I saw a link to mine, hello! Here's the original post about the liquor cabinet
    This looks great, and I love the rest of your blog too.

  6. Hi! Yes I'm glad you saw it, thanks for the liquor cabinet link!! I enjoy reading your blog :) I think I found you through YHL originally? And then I was meaning to comment on one of your posts to tell you about this cabinet but then I couldn't remember whether I did or not already :p 

  7. Haha I love that you actually mention making one into a medicine cabinet - I must have subconsciously remembered that for my idea! Too fun.

  8. Ha, I'd forgotten I had - it was a long time ago so maybe you never saw it. :) Glad you like my blog and happy to have found yours! (I think I followed your old one a while ago but only just found this one). 

  9. How fun if you had followed my old blog! We must have intersected through YHL originally, I reckon. :)

  10. Followed you over from YHL, just died of adorability.

  11. Next time try Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift stores for suitcases. They usually have them between $2-$10, no matter what the brand. I have found many American Tourister and Amellia Earheart suitcases for little to nothing. Now I have great uses for them. We're in the process of buying a new house and I am already excited to display my suitcases everywhere !!!

  12. Hey, thanks for the tip! I have tried looking at thrift stores but unfortunately here in Oklahoma the thrift stores are not as good as other places I've lived so I never found a suitcase. It's always a good thing to keep an eye out for though!

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  14. Love it! And to have Lynx in there along the way - it's like a magazine article already all ready for a smart publisher!

  15. Ha thanks Dad! The cabinet is still holding up great, I still relish its shiny vintage appeal while brushing my molars.


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