DIYdiy projects

diy project: vintage suitcase charging station

by Kate Pruitt

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

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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!

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  • My grandmother passed away and while cleaning out her house I came across a small suitcase nearly identical to the one you feature here. I remember her carrying that suitcase with her when we would travel together when I was a child. I didn’t want to discard the suitcase but had no idea what to do with it. Now I know EXACTLY what to do with it. When it’s finished, I will enjoy having something I will use so often that reminds me of her. Thanks!!!!

  • How unique, I carry my bag of cords and electrical chargers every time I leave the house, I never go any where with out my cord bag as my grand kids say.

    I will definetely make and use this , what a perfect idea.

  • ok, i am soooo impressed! This is both cute and clever…..and the pink marble suitcase wasn’t bad to begin with! ….a practical piece with a lot of pizazz!

  • Wow, this is so super cool. I’m going to have to make one of these!! I have a serious mess of wires next to my bed that needs tending to. Great idea :)

  • I’ve seen something like this before and it struck me as being a fire hazard for some reason. Cute though.

  • I like this idea. But I’m wondering….what do you use the top-mounted plug for and what does it plug into? Thanks.

  • I love this idea. My only concern would be whether there’s any fire hazard with the cord extension being covered up.

  • a HUGE thank you for all the kind comments….we’re so flattered over here at sugarSCOUT.

  • For Agy & Bright…..Thanks for your concern. However, the 3 prong power strip/surge protector is completely breathable through the peg board so no worries of spark there. In addition, everything you’re charging are low voltage items. Because it’s protected by the peg board, no dust is getting in to the outlets which can easily cause spark. There are also no flammable fibers inside the case.

    For Catherine….the flush mounted plug is for the small battery pieces you need to place directly into an outlet. A short extension cord can be attached between it and the power strip. When not in use, the battery charging piece can be stored beneath the peg board. If you’re custom making one, the great thing is you can build it to suit your needs.

  • I have one very similar to that one that was given to me when I graduated and one that belonged to my mother. I used my to store makeup and my mother’s for very special yarn!

  • Thanks for this! I bought a case like this at a garage sale for $3 and it’s been sitting in MY garage for a few months. I’m off to get the tools.

  • This box is handmade and the creator uses his or her mind. We can also think like them to decorate out garden. I thought to paint all the plants and trees of my garden with the white color from the base. I am going to paint only a little from the base.

  • Adorable! I have lots of vintage suitcases and now a new way to repurpose one of them!
    Mary @ Very Merry Vintage Style

  • Oh my! I LOVE this! I am always losing my cords and accessories, but this would be perfect to have all my stuff in one beautiful spot! How is it that everyone who posted seems to have random vintage suitcases in their closet?! I don’t, but I wish I did! Does anyone know where I could get one?

  • Hi Mamagoose….we have a few train cases in stock in our etsy shoppe. Some of the pieces have already been made into charging stations and we also have a few colors that haven’t been touched yet. What color are you hoping for? We can certainly scout out just the perfect fit for your needs. Give us a shout over at sugarSCOUT if you’d like help. Thanks for the sweet compliment!

  • this is amazingly clever. the cords to all of my electronics are always in a tangled heap at the foot of my desk and it’s awful. this is definitely a creative and cute idea. thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • This is a fantastic idea however I found the language a bit over complicated and distracting. For clarity it may help to remove the individual headings per step or shorten the descriptions for each step.

  • Absolutely lovely, what a great idea! I have a few ‘old suitcase’ ideas atm – this is definitely at the top of my list! Now to source a suitcase…

  • My Dear Uncle gave me one of these when I graduated, am I aging myself?, I had to give up using it due to TSB ( couldn’t lock it & w/o open & spill!!!)
    Now I can put it back to work, it’s red & one of my favorite colors!!!! Thank you so much, great use & will be out to remind me of Uncle Bill!!!!!

  • Oh Barbara….that’s such a sweet story and compliment! We’re flattered. We would love if you wanted to share your project with us after it’s complete! Feel free to send along photos of your final DIY charging station to stacy@sugarscout.com!

  • 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 :)

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!!

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!!!

  • 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!

  • This is one of the best and most detailed DIY articles I’ve seen in a long time, I definitely wanna try that. Dani Caplan is right I can see that being sold in London markets as well.