DIY: Repurposed Suitcases

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One of my favorite things to do is find crafts for the items I see left on the curbs regularly – like any metropolis, San Francisco has got a great street corner economy going: everything from clothing to furniture can get set at the end of the street (or near a trash can or tree or bus stop), and at some point, someone, will come and grab it. And for about the past week, there’s been an abandoned suitcase around the corner from my house, kickin’ it next to a hydrant. Then it rained, and the maybe-I-should-grab-that inclination vanished. However, the next time I see one, I’ve got a slew of repurposed suitcase crafts at hand. Such as:

Add legs. After cleaning out (and relining) your street scored suitcase, screw in legs and turn it into a small table. Consider which legs will best suit your case: tall and ornate legs for a simple case, short or brightly colored for heavier purposes. Alternatively, you can just stack the cases themselves to create a table – extra credit if you top it with a framed mirror. If you’re a hard-core crafter, you can turn your new table into a craft table; if you’re a jewelry designer like my friend Lauren, you can turn your case into a display box.

Add legs & padding. Clean, reline, screw in legs and then get to work on your stuffing. In the tutorial I found, you tuft the pillows which sounds difficult but looks pretty straightforward. Then you’ll need to reinforce the suitcase with plywood, stuff with foam and sew in the pillows. Screw it up half-way through? Easy, it’s now a pet bed. (More pet bed examples.)

Add hooks. Clean. Reline. Decoupage the outside (to cover flaws) if you like. Drill where you’d like the hooks to hang at the bottom of the case, then drill and anchor the case into the wall. You now have a suitcase shelf. There are a few different methods of this: with a mirror and shelves, travel vanity version, the super uncrafty way (removing the hinges and stacking the case), and the super crafty way (literally sawing the cases in half to create a series of shelves).

– Add wheels. Cut out front portion of case (or alternatively, find a some kind of clear panel you can adhere to the inside). Add shelves (I’m not gonna lie – that part is time intensive and requires some skill). Welcome to your new Rolling Bar Suitcase.
Add a clock face. You can add a clock face to almost anything – there are fairly cheap kits for this – but feel free to embellish with additional art or designs on your case.
– Add an accordion file. Glue or staple in, and you’ve now got a file cabinet.

Add plants. Drill holes, add soil, add plants.

Need more inspiration? Portable stereo suitcase. Suitcase dresser drawers. Or here, here, and here.


Images courtesy,, (again),, and

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Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

A freelance writer, blogger and poet based in San Francisco, Amber has written for PC World, InfoWorld, and the 16th & Mission Review. She has performed at City Hall, Litquake, the Brainwash, 16th & Mission, BlueSix, and SFSU among other places. Amber is also consummate fan of swearing, organizational freak, yoga practitioner, music geek, caffeine addict, and tattoo enthusiast who enjoys platform shoes, making out, thumb wrestling and fighting the good fight. She owns a bicycle named Gretel, a motor scooter named Elroy and a cat named Simon. She can be found in various virtual locations all over your interwebs.