We completed our first-ever grown-up brand-new furniture purchase in our previous place of residence. The midcentury modern coffee table, called Tribeca by architect and designer Isamu Noguchi, costs several thousand dollars for an original but only around $400 for a replica. Its smooth interlocking pieces of wood come in various shades and finishes, and the soft-cornered, thick, incredibly heavy triangular glass top has a slight green cast when seen directly from the side.
While I adored this simple yet stunning piece, it obviously didn’t quite match with the craftsman style, so I began searching for items that would fit in a bit better. Pinterest, of course, yielded plenty of results, and I fell in love with the look of the steamer trunk-turned-coffee-table. Many examples show a large steamer trunk used by itself as a coffee table, but others show more transformation.
Here is how we accomplished what we ultimately created.
1) find the right trunk(s) within your budget. I suggest doing this before you plan out the rest of the table, since these trunks vary so much in dimension, color, material, and condition. Many of the trunks I viewed while searching had an original owner’s personal information on them, something I would have certainly featured had I purchased one of those. Ultimately, I was able to find a fabulous Craigslist deal for TWO similarly colored trunks for $90!
2) restore anything that needs it. I wanted to use the slightly larger trunk for the coffee table and possibly use the smaller one on its end for a side table later on. The larger trunk’s original leather handles have been ripped off. Rather than repair those, we chose to leave them to add to the antique look. The canvas is also scratched and in a few places torn or faded. We also left those battle scars as evidence of the case’s travels. We didn’t restore the paper inside the trunks either. However, we did stain the wood trim all around the case to better match the inside of the house and to stand out more against the green canvas. Using the same stain as we did on the nearby fireplace helped!
3) add legs (optional). I felt that in order for the trunk to really transform into a coffee table, it should be lifted slightly. After looking all over etsy and ebay for vintage table legs, I finally found the perfect ones… At Home Depot. Really. The legs are raw wood, so were stainable. They are also unique, so each leg has a significantly different grain, which I love. We sanded and stained them with the same stain as we used on the trunk’s slats, but it seemed too light, probably because of the case’s age and original stain. We needed to add a darker layer of stain on top. TIP: in order to paint all the sides of the legs without wasting time for drying, poke the screws through a cardboard box. This will hold the legs steady but allow them to spin.
4) add glass. We considered leaving the table without glass, but when we thought of how many things could be spilled on such a great old piece, we reconsidered. It turns out the glass made the table look even more professional. We had a custom piece cut, including with rounded corners, for $40 in under an hour at a local glass store.
This table matches the home and our other furniture so much better! I’m really happy with the outcome of this one. End table possibly coming soon! For now the other trunk is just sitting in our window seat looking beautiful (nobody ever really sits there anyway).