diy project: vintage suitcase charging station

I love repurposed vintage, especially when it’s combined with new technology. The sleek, monochromatic look of contemporary gadgets meshes perfectly with the candy colors and rounded shapes of mid-century design, and today we have an awesome project to celebrate this happy marriage: a vintage suitcase charging station by Sara and Stacy of SugarSCOUT.

Combining their love of vintage with their penchant for DIY, Sara and Stacy decided to modify a Samsonite to store and charge multiple devices at once, either tucked away in the closed case or displayed out in the open. It’s a relatively straightforward project, but if you’re not ready to tackle the power tools involved, you can pick up one of the pre-made cases in SugarSCOUT’s shop. In the meantime, I’m on a hunt for one of these awesomely pink Samsonite cases. Thanks for sharing, ladies! — Kate

Have a DIY project you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full how-to after the jump!

We love train cases. Like to the point of ridiculousness. And even more so, we love vintage goods that don’t just look good but also serve a purpose, solve a problem or make life easier. That brings us to cord control — cords are ugly, unkempt and uncouth, and generally unfit for eyes that aim for lovely. With so many goods to charge, it was only a matter of time before we found where our perfect station would take root. With a rainbow of train cases in our inventory, we booked it! — Sara and Stacy


  • Goo Gone and a brush or rag
  • white peg board
  • pencil
  • jig saw
  • sander or sandpaper
  • power drill and drill bit
  • hole cutter bit the size of your grommet
  • power strip
  • three-plug outlet extender piece, if you like
  • fabric of choice
  • cardboard and cork board
  • glue gun
  • large grommet (you’ll only use one side of the grommet)
  • 4″ of ribbon for the pull


1. Preparing the train case:
Usually these luggage pieces come with an acrylic tray, and if so, it makes a great template for your peg board. Remove the acrylic tray, mirror (if there is one) and the interior pocket on the back of the case. Removing the pocket helps during the drilling of the hole on the backside a few steps later. The pocket can easily be removed with a sharp blade of any kind by running it along the seam. Clean it well inside and out. We find Goo Gone to be magical for getting all of the unsightly markings off your vintage case.

2. Cutting the peg board:
Measure twice, cut once. A jig saw works well for all cuts (although, in the process photos, you’ll see the hands of our sweet neighbor (thanks, Harley) who was kind enough to help us out with the process while some photos were snapped. He used a table saw for the straight cuts on the peg board and then the jig saw for the corners and inner hole for the three-plug extender piece). You’ll notice that the rear edge of the peg board is cut through the center of a row of holes — this makes for slick alignment and fishing through of cords from beneath. A power sander or a sanding block can be used to buff down the corners if necessary.

3. Placing the plug extender into the peg board:
If you have cut a good, snug fit for this piece, you can just place it in the hole you’ve cut and get it flush against the front of the peg board. We found it easiest to hot glue it in place from the back with a steady bead of glue on all four sides. A different glue or even caulk could also be used.

4. Adhering the ribbon pull to the peg board:
Because the peg board will be a tight fit and you’ll need easy access to the power strip, it makes sense to add a tab of ribbon to easily pull the peg board out. We used about 4″ of ribbon, folded it in half and glued it to the edge of the peg board.

5. Drilling the cord hole:
Again, measure twice, cut once. Your best bet is to find a grommet that fits the largest part of your plug. These can be found at most hardware stores, but we actually scouted ours at a fabric store near their window treatment section. On the back of the case, trace the inner diameter of your grommet with a pencil. We like to place the hole off to the right or left side, which seems to work well when feeding the cord through the back of the case. After you’ve planned out the placement of the grommet, drill a hole in the center of your circle. This will be a starter hole for your larger hole-cutting attachment. After the hole is cut, glue your grommet in place.

6. Preparing the cork board:
Create a rough paper template of the space you have to fill. Then lay it flat and work on making your shape even and symmetrical, if that’s what you’re shooting for. Use the final paper template as a pattern on the cork sheeting. Once you do that, back it with stiff cardboard. Use spray tack or another glue to attach the cork to the cardboard. Then you are ready to stretch the fabric over the cork board and glue it in place.

7. Adhering the cork board:
You may not need to adhere the cork board if you have a good, tight fit. You’ll notice most of the old Samsonite train case pieces are designed to hold a mirror in place on the inner lid without any adhesive. The mirror just slides up into the groove on the top section of the lid and then snaps into place on the bottom near the hinges. This can also be done with the final fabric-covered cork board. If you feel more comfortable gluing it, you can easily do that, as well.

Plug in, and you’re wired!

  1. Lauren says:

    Such an innovative idea! I’ll have to find someone to help with the power tool part, but otherwise I’ll be on the lookout for a case like this. I’m hoping my grandmother has something stashed away I can use :)

  2. Rosanne says:

    I have his “train case” from my mothers pink collection!!! I use ut for all of my mani-pedi supplies!!!! Think of mom every time I use it! Just decided to dress it up a little and give it a prominent place in my bedro0m! Thanks

  3. What a cool idea, Sara + Stacy! Looove the bright pink color + cool look + functionality! Glad you shared this fab idea!

  4. Stacy says:

    Hey Thanks Emily….we appreciate the compliment! We hear about many crafty folks getting out the power tools to make their own but are also selling them like crazy out of the sugarSCOUT etsy shoppe too!

  5. Whitney says:

    LOVE this idea.!!! Had an old small case like this just sitting around!! Now my mom and I aregonna make it for me to take off to college for charging all my things!!

  6. What a great idea for a small case, combining practicallity with style, thanks for the post, and so vintage too.

  7. Grace says:

    How does the plug extender get power??

  8. Stacy says:

    Hey Grace,
    A small extension cord runs from the plug extender to the power strip inside.

  9. Rona says:

    Hi there! Just wondering if you repurposed the suitcase? I have an identical one that’s plain burgundy and would love to “redo” it like yours if its possible.

  10. dani caplan says:

    Really cool idea and very saleable, can just see these being sold in Camden Market, London.

  11. Jody says:

    I like the idea of adding in the built in plug for items that need to be plugged directly. As a refinement I think that a similar plug for USB devices would be a nice touch as well. Regardless, I LOVE this and am hoping to make something like it some day. I’ll need help as I am not all that handy. Meantime I’m looking for the gromit. I’ve also seen many cases like this turned into craft boxes and sewing kits. I love some of the ideas. Thank you for the inspiration.

  12. Ron says:

    What a cool do it yourself project! It’s a great idea. I bet people would buy this

  13. muddleme says:

    kinda funny that there are SO MANY details for the cork board and other steps, and absolutely NONE for how to set up the actual plugs/cords/devices…. are the cords going thru the peg board holes? wait, that’s not possible…. jammed in between the edge of the peg board and the case? I thought it’s supposed to be wedged in there super tightly? CORNFUSED

  14. Marje says:

    Had me going, too. But I figured it out. Look carefully at the two items on the left.
    Each has a cord going from the back end of the item, through a gap on the back edge of the pegboard. Each gap is half of a pegboard hole. This is why the board was cut through a row of holes on one long edge.
    Now my problem is, where do i find an extension cord short enough to run from the flush mounted plug and the power strip without giving me a messy bundle of wire under the pegboard. My electronics honey always said not to bundle cords as that might cause a fire. But most of the instructions and photos are excellent. Job well done. Sure will keep all my re-charging in one place so I don’t have to search the house for the phone and MiFi!!!

  15. Antal says:

    Hi, just a reminder. Bundeling cords with high current is indeed dangerous and could lead to fier. These rechargers howevery have such low current that you do not have to sorry about that. The only thing I would recommend as a personal alteration would be so ventilation holes as chargers often generate a good amount of heat. Just some holes in the back would do the trick I think. Love the idea!


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