This DIY journaling station uses an old rattan suitcase and some metal legs! It is easy to make and is a clever way to keep art supplies in one convenient place. It doubles as a writing center and triples as a coffee table for any time of day.

This DIY is for you if you’ve always wanted a journaling station, craft desk, or writing center! It has plenty of space to store your gel pens, art supplies, or writing materials and uses a recycled suitcase.

BEFORE:

antique rattan suitcase with brass handles
interior of antique rattan suitcase showing a brown paper lining

AFTER:

upcycled suitcase turned into a journaling station DIY
Upcycled suitcase interior of a DIY journaling station by Thriving With Less

Upcycling suitcases

You can often find old suitcases at garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, or on-line. They come in a variety of surfaces including rattan, vinyl, thick plastic and even leather.

I found mine in an antique store for $40 which I later found out was a steal. Some of the rattan was unraveling and the lid was a little wonky. But inside was in excellent condition with plain, unpatterned paper which I could leave as is or paint later.

The rattan suitcase is on top of a painter's drop cloth and there are two black metal bench legs with screws

The main supplies needed for this journaling station are a suitcase, some legs, and paint. And if you’re going to add a shelf, you may also need glue and tape.

I chose the bench legs I did because the two center strips would ultimately hold a shelf to store class journals, supplies or works in progress. (plus both legs cost under $40!) The shelf uses two books and an old 18″ x 24″ upcycled canvas board.

But the shelf is completely optional! if you want an alternative leg style, here are some more ideas in metal or wood. Choose the legs’ height based on the space in which you’ll be using it.

Journaling Station – Supplies needed:

  • An old flat-surfaced suitcase
  • A cleaner for the suitcase and sandpaper
  • Chair or bench legs – I found this pair on Amazon for under $35 – screws and rubber floor protectors included.
  • Paint. (I used Pop of Color chalk paints in Lamb’s Wool and Royal Blue. Not only do their paints have high pigment levels, but they also come in small jars and are very affordable!
  • Masking tape or Frogtape. (optional: if you aren’t painting stripes or patterns, you won’t need this)
  • Cotton twill tape or heavy elastic band for holding art supplies or writing instruments inside
  • For the shelf (optional), you’ll need: two old 8″ x 5″ book covers, one old or new 18″ x 24″ canvas panel, or a strong adhesive like E-6000 glue, OR you can use an 8″ x 24″ 1/4″ wooden board cut to size.
  • Handles (optional) for sides

Tools needed:

  • Paintbrush (I use a 1.5″ chip brush — they dip perfectly into the small paint jars and are inexpensive!)
  • A screwdriver for the legs
  • One heavy-duty staple gun
  • Scissors for cutting the twill or elastic sandpaper
  • Boxcutters to cut the canvas board and book covers
  • A glue gun for making the bookshelf
A spray bottle filled with Spic and Span cleaner to wash a dirty rattan suitcase

Preparing the surface

Before painting, use a cleaner like Spic and Span to remove any dirt from the surface. Rough up the rattan or the surface of the suitcase with sandpaper, then remove the dust with a wet rag. Let the suitcase dry thoroughly before adding paint.

two jars of paint and a brush for painting a journaling station from an upcycled suitcase

To paint or not to paint?

My most significant decision was whether or not to paint the rattan. I struggled with this because I loved the weathered look of the rattan. But my home decor is lighter in color, so painting happened.

I chose the Pop of Color brand because they offer small jars of quality, highly pigmented chalk paints. They have a huge variety of colors and sets that are super affordable!

The chip brush is being brushed onto the surface of the rattan suitcase and is being held at a 150 degree angle

Use a 1.5″ chip paintbrush at roughly a 135 -150 degree angle to paint. Lightly skim the rattan surface with the sides of the brush and a small amount of paint. To keep the paint from falling into the crevices of the rattan, work quickly and brush very gently. You can add additional layers as needed.

If using a plastic or another surface, angle the brush as you usually would.

a newly painted antique rattan suitcase which is now an off-white color for a journaling station DIY project

The photo above shows the suitcase after one coat of paint. The brown rattan still shows through in places and looks gray versus off-white. Because I want the finish to be a bit more white, I am adding a second coat.

Attaching the black bench legs to the bottom of the rattan suitcase journaling station coffee table with 1.5" black screws

Attaching the legs

After the paint dries, turn the suitcase over and measure where to install the legs.

For mine, I centered the legs at the ends. The table legs came with 1.5″ screws which I used to attach the legs to the bottom of the suitcase. The screws came through the bottom on each suitcase side, and I panicked initially.

But as you can see in the photo below, I used the screw tips to hold plastic palettes on one end. And the screws on the other side are holding up old service manuals and sample letters.

TIP: If using a thinner surface suitcase, add a metal washer and screw the legs in from the inside and outside. This will give you some additional support even though the tips of the screws may show outside.

three screws poking up through the bottom of the rattan suitcase work to keep two plastic palettes upright

I was pretty happy with the outcome of the legs and was ready to move on to the next step.

THEN I NOTICED …..

The two brass hinges holding the top and bottom of the suitcase together are loose. And opening the lid causes the hinges to separate from the wood.

I have to resolve this issue, or else my upcycled suitcase journaling station will be a plain old coffee table.

The answer? ….. an old leather purse strap!

Leather piece holding the top and bottom of the rattan suitcase together with screws

I found an old leather purse in my closet and cut the thin strap into two 6″ pieces. Secure the straps to the inside of the suitcase’s top lid and bottom portion by using 1/2″ screws and 1/2″ metal washers.

Before securing the straps, poke in the leather with a hammer and nail – this allows the screws to go through the leather without it twisting.

The strap folds inwards and leaves a slight gap between the lid and the base of the suitcase. This allows the top to close perfectly and stay open without falling back too far.

A piano hinge could work too if you want to forego my leather strap option!

closeup of a wicker upcycled suitcase hinge  for a journaling station
a journaling station made from an upcycled rattan suitcase and metal legs is painted blue and white and has a shelf made from blue bookcovers

On the back, I cut three 3″ pieces of the leather strap and poke holes into the ends. Three 1/2″ screws will be used to secure each piece of leather to the case. And three 1/2″ hooks are securing the bottom to hang supplies, paintings, etc.

Because of the warping lid, I’ve added two more hinges for additional support and painted them white. The lid is now very secure, and the inside straps stop the lid from falling back too far.

Adding storage to the lid of the journaling station

Art supplies in the lid of the journaling station coffee table include watercolor paints, ruler, pens, scissors, palette knives, brushes, cutter, and brayer.

Use a 1″ cotton twill ribbon, elastic band, and a staple gun to add slots for supplies or tools. This adds great storage opportunities for holding brushes, palette knives, and other art or writing supplies.

Organize the supplies you want to store on the lid, and lay the ribbon or elastic over them. Staple the ribbon in place and secure the objects.

Now you can open the top of your journaling station, and nothing falls out of place!

NOTE: If you use a plastic suitcase, cut a piece of wood and glue it inside the lid. You may want to use silicone for gluing the wood to the plastic and allow it to dry overnight before attaching your ribbon for the supplies.

The book cover shelf – OPTIONAL

making a book shelf out of old canvas board and covers of books by gluing the covers onto the canvas board with a glue gun

If you want to add a shelf, you can cut a piece of 1/4″ wood to size and paint if desired.

Or try using an old canvas panel and cut it into two 8″ x 24″ pieces with a heavy-duty utility knife. Attach the two board pieces using a glue gun or strong glue.

Seal the edges with tape (I used black painter’s tape) to give the sides a finished look. (NOTE: you can also paint the edges to match the project colors or add an accent color).

two blue old canvas bookcovers laying on a table side by side

You can leave the canvas boards as you want and use them. Or if you want to add another creative touch, use old books!

First, cut the covers off of two 8″ x 5″ books (a pretty standard size). I do this by using box cutters and slicing the covers away from the first and last pages of the book.

Then grab all the pages and pull them away from the book’s spine. They should remove pretty easily but may leave some glue and torn page residue.

NOTE: Save the book pages to use for future art projects!

Lastly, lay the open covers and spine on the table and measure their width. It’s OK if they overlap the sides of the canvas board a little, but if you want them to fit precisely, you may need to cut the ends of the books or not use the spine(s).

Once you’ve got the desired width and orientation of the books, glue them onto the canvas boards, and allow the glue to dry overnight.

Fit the new board onto the horizontal metal supports on the legs, and now have a new shelf!

NOTE: if you want additional support, cut two yardsticks into 24″ lengths.

Just tuck them lengthwise between the metal brackets and the bottom of the shelf or board.

Handles – OPTIONAL

inside of the upcycled rattan suitcase journaling station shows lots of paint and art supplies used for making journals
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Even though this last step is optional, it does add a nice finishing touch. I put two black handles on either side of the suitcase bottom. Each handle is 5″ wide and uses 2″ screws in the handles secured from the inside.

Lastly, it’s time to fill the suitcase’s bottom part with your art or writing supplies. I filled mine with paints, brushes, palette knives, paper, and some small jars of gesso and gel mediums.

With my art supplies and journal in one place, now I’m ready to journal whenever the urge hits!

THE FINAL PROJECT:

a journaling station coffee table made from recycling an old rattan suitcase and black metal bench legs. it is blue and white and black.

I also use my journaling station for making beach rock word stones and for writing blog posts.

word stones made from beach rocks with designs drawn on them.

Alternative uses

If you’re in first grade or even a medical student, this journaling table is perfect for your personal use!

Try using it for a teaching station or a portable kindergarten classroom to help teach your child to read. Glue a small chalkboard to the inside lid or on the outer sides for word walls to develop writing and fine motor skills. The inside is perfect for storing flash cards and other educational materials, and when the lid is closed, it doubles as a desk.

This project can also become a writing station where you can keep your laptop and writing papers out of sight when you’re not writing on it.

A journaling station encourages creativity and is a great storage place. And it is undoubtedly a piece of furniture that will inspire many conversations.

Make this journaling station project to add a creative touch to your home and inspire many future artsy endeavors. If you make this DIY journaling station, please let me a comment and send a photo below – I’d love to see it!

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18 Comments

  1. So perfect, JJ. I love multi-purpose upcycles like your journaling station.

    1. I think like you do, Michelle – multi-purpose upcycles are the best 🙂

  2. This came out fantastic JJ! I really love how you not only turned a old suit case into a Journaling table but that you made shelfs out of old books. Looks great.

    1. Many thanks, Meagan! I couldn’t believe the upcycled book covers fit like they did….they actually inspired the blue stripes.

  3. This is a great addition to any home. Love the vintage feel and that you made it a place for art journaling. Sharing on my fB page and pinning. Thx for sharing at Funtastic Friday.

    1. You’re a sweetheart, Michele – thanks for sharing and thank you for your kind comments!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mireille! It was a fun project to make 🙂

  4. This is BRILLIANT and could be used for so many things. Featuring when my link party opens tonight!

    1. Thanks for your comment and a huge hug for featuring on your site!!

  5. This is so creative and it turned out cute and useful too. I love your choice of color as well. This is excellent. Thank you for sharing at #omhgww. See you next week. Pinned and tweeted if buttons are available.

    1. Thanks Clearissa!! I’m glad you like the color – it was really hard deciding what colors to use but I’m happy with the final choices. I almost got carried away and made it very colorful, but am thrilled I resisted!

    1. Thank you so much, Donna! It’s nice to have a table I can sit down at and start creating whenever the urge hits.

  6. Super creative1 It was definitely the right decision to paint it. It fits right in with your decor.

    1. I appreciate your words about the painting, Sara!! I was still on the fence until the blue stripes and book cover shelf went down. That pulled it together for me!

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