Life may not come with instructions, but it sure does come with a lot of other odds and ends. The best way to keep those less than slightly items out of sight? — A vintage trunk. The majority of used trunks date to the steam travel era, meaning splendidly distressed exteriors, big leather buckles and hammered brass corners. Use these trunks as coffee table, nightstands, or just straight up handsome storage.
HOW TO MAKEOVER A VINTAGE TRUNK
The ultimate master of disguise, a vintage trunk is the perfect for those interiors that find themselves in need of a few extra squirrel holes—you know the kind, those hush-hush hiding spots that are the equivalent of Bond-esque trap doors and revolving bookshelves. Thankfully, from the humble suitcase to the grand steamer trunk, vintage trunks offer up an unexpected (and très chic) way to keep the clutter at bay.
Yet when trying to work a used trunk into an interior, it can sometimes feel unwieldy. Its height is a good notch lower than a typical credenza, or even nightstand. Still, with a little creative thinking, a vintage trunk can be easily refashioned into a myriad of functional furniture pieces. Read on to learn more our favorite ways to revamp the always worldly trunk.
MAKE IT A... COFFEE TABLE
The simplest, and perhaps most obvious, way to refashion a vintage trunk is putting it on coffee duty. Often requiring no alterations, a vintage trunk will sidle right up to a sofa and make fast friends.
When opting for this look, it’s best to source a large-scale vintage trunk while remembering that the average coffee table measures between 18 and 19” high. It also ideally stretches the entire length of a standard sofa, minus 2” on each end. Given these dimensions, industrial steamer trunks, Asian-style chests, and primitive wedding chests will all work beautifully.
Our other recommendations for pulling off the look? In the event your vintage steamer trunk doesn’t have any legs, opt for a sofa with them. This will keep things from looking overly boxy. Also, try to stay away from “treasure chests,” or used trunks with rounded tops. Yes, they’re major room booty, but their lack of usable surface space will likely have you re-thinking your choice fast.
MAKE IT A... NIGHTSTAND
You know that Eureka! moment you have upon discovering a vintage suitcase in a thrift shop? It’s perfectly adorable; so full of history! But how does it actually factor into your real life? Yeah…not so much. But by snatching up every suitcase you see over a few summer weekends (or, years as luck might have it), you’ll amass a sweet collection that can easily be fashioned into a killer nightstand.
To start, grab your largest suitcase and lay it next to your bed. Top it with the next largest case, aiming for an overall pyramid scheme as you go. You can use an epoxy to adhere the suitcases together, if you like, but sans glue, it will likely hold up just fine too.
To create a cohesive look among suitcases that might be expressing mildly different points of view, think about spray-painting them a monochromatic color. Whiteout suitcases next to a messily made bed in all white is shabby chic perfection. Alternatively, if you find yourself one suitcase short of a height that’s actually accessible for water glass-holding duty, try flipping over an old farm crate and using it as the top block.
MAKE IT A... BAR CART
For a look that’s one-part shabby chic; one-part Wild West saloon, you cannot do better than revamping a small vintage steamer trunk as a bar cart. The best part of this look is that it provides a use for those darling, but awkwardly-sized trunks. You know, too small for a coffee table, but too large to use as a keepsake box at the bottom of your closet?
To make things relatively simple, look for a basic TV tray on legs to support your trunk. The only musts are, one, the TV tray top be roughly the size of your trunk base, and, two, the tray’s legs match the style of your trunk (if not, remember that a quick coat of spray paint is always an option). Once you have your parts, set that trunk up atop the tray. Voila. Yes, that’s it. That easy.
To make the piece look a little more polished, though, try placing a tray on top of the trunk to corral bottles, vases, and glassware.
MAKE IT A... PET BED
Because animals deserve posh pads too, we love the idea of turning a small, vintage carry-on trunk into an adorbs pet bed.
To create, locate a suitcase big enough for your four-legged, as well as a pair of old footstool or ottoman legs. We personally love the pairing of a Samsonite suitcase with a set of atomic, Mid-Century legs, but you could easily give the piece a shabby chic look by pairing a distressed leather suitcase with squat spindle legs.
Feel free to remove the lid of the case, if desired, then attach your legs with a drill and screws. Finally, add a blanket and pillow to effectively entice your doggy dearest.