IMBUE YOUR ROOMS WORLDY APPEAL WITH VINTAGE LUGGAGE
It’s not often we’ll say “yes, please” to more baggage, but when it comes to vintage luggage sets, we’re all aboard. Like globes and maps, vintage trunks, suitcases, steamers, and duffles possess a worldly mystique, though, unlike other global ephemera, luggage serves a purpose beyond being just decorative—they can also be used as storage.
Anyone with an eye for Louis Vuitton vintage luggage knows that suitcases and trunks covered in the brand’s iconic logo-flecked leather are often used by designers in unexpected ways. Whether it’s a Louis Vuitton trunk used to sub for a traditional coffee table or bench, or stacking two Louis Vuitton suitcases atop a vintage luggage rack to create a console table, these luggage vignettes are the epitome of luxury.
Of course, there’s no need to hold out for designer luggage wear brands. Equally enchanting moments can be created with Samsonite vintage luggage, London Fog vintage luggage, or even brand-less luggage riddled with travel scars. Even better is that less precious luggage wear brands encourage you to experiment a bit more. For instance, why not co-opt a vintage suitcase for a dog bed? Pop the lid and reinforce it with permanent brackets, drill on legs, and lay down a plush pillow and, voilà, you’ve got a perch any pooch would flip for.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of using vintage luggage as decor, but want a few more ideas about how to use it, read on. We’ve collected some of the most ingenious ways to refashion vintage luggage. Try any of these ideas to take vintage luggage from vacay workhorse to totally wow-worthy!
Yes, it’s something you likely already do, but using vintage luggage sets as extra closet storage is a seriously good idea worthy of a call-out, even if it is a no-brainer. Think your closet is too cramped to show off vintage luggage? Think again. Most closets have upper shelving perfect for stowing box-shaped objects. Ditch the plastic bins you’ve been schlepping around since college and try replacing them with a set of vintage Hartmann luggage or American Tourister luggage. Not only will suitcases look miles better than bins when your guests catch a glimpse of your coat closet's interior, but the built-in handles included on virtually all luggage will make occasional retrievals so much easier.
If you’re among those who’s been blessed with a closet of the walk-in variety, you might consider keeping your vintage luggage on the floor for even easier retrieval. Try stacking three different-sized suitcases in a graduating stack. Curious about what we love to store in vintage luggage? Closet essentials like extra hangers, out-of-season sweaters, and summer sandals tuck into vintage suitcases perfectly. In a closet without built-in storage, they can also be used to stow jewelry, belts, or bulky salon tools (think: hairdryers and curling wands you might not use on the regular). On the less-expected side of the spectrum, consider stashing Christmas decorations, surplus light bulbs, or even extra cleaning supplies inside vintage luggage sets—even duffles!
While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method of display for your prized set of vintage Gucci luggage, it works well for retro suitcases from makers like Samsonite, Unitravel, or Skyway—in case you couldn’t tell, we think suitcase shelves are perfection when paired with a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic. To create floating shelves out of vintage suitcases, we first recommend collecting five to six bags—trust us, the more suitcases you incorporate the more attention-grabbing the look. If you have the patience, hold out for colorful Mid-Century suitcases (two-tone models work beautifully here) as well as ones with interesting hardware. Next, determine the length you want your shelves and saw your suitcases in two (pro tip: shallow shelves tend to look best). Attach your shelves using L-brackets, or even two screws if your shelves are lightweight enough.
Luggage shelving isn’t the most functional, of course, but these unique shelves are the perfect depth for displaying a simple framed photo, leaning painting, vase, or clock. Try a series of shelves hung over a credenza or dresser, or create a bookshelf-like configuration in a kid’s room or playroom. Suitcase shelves are perfect for propping board books or seating stuffed animals.
Desk or Console
Much like a closed laptop can be flipped open to turn any place into a workspace, so can a vintage suitcase. Not convinced? Consider opening a vintage suitcase, permanently propping the lid open with brackets, attaching desk-height legs, and outfitting in the lid with a flat writing surface. Equip the other side of the lid with shelves and you have a one-of-a-kind writing desk perfect for stowing just about anywhere.
If you like the idea of transforming a vintage suitcase into a table of sorts, but you aren’t sure you want to commit to anything so unabashedly DIY, consider turning a set of vintage luggage into a console. To turn two vintage suitcases into a console, simply stack two slightly graduated cases on top of one another and attach an x-style campaign table base to the bottom. Imperative to note is that the more decorative the base you choose, the more it will make your piece look like a legitimate piece of furniture. Which is to say: skip the flimsy vintage luggage rack base, here, and spring for a substantial barley leg base or Lucite x-base base. If you favor a more Mid-Century look, you might consider attaching metal hairpin legs to a vintage Starline suitcase or vintage Samsonite suitcase.
Bench or Coffee Table
Another idea for those who are hesitant to mar designer luggage from makers like Louis Vuitton or Gucci is to fashion a steamer trunk as an end-of-the-bed bench or coffee table. The secret to making this look go off without a hitch? Choose a trunk that’s the right scale to complement your sofa or bed. For reference, a trunk placed at the foot of a bed should be between 2" to 6" lower than the bed’s footboard. While a luggage trunk used for a coffee table should be more than 1" to 2" nches from the seat of your sofa.
If you’re inclined to add accouterments to a steamer trunk used as a coffee table or bench, consider subtle additions that could easily be reversed, if desired, such as bun feet or a mitered glass top.