If I were to mention the word “suitcase”, an image of monotone navy or black cubes sullenly making laps around airport claim belts waiting to be saved might come to mind. That then might make you think of delayed flights, screaming babies on planes, or perhaps airport restrooms, and then I’d officially have lost your attention.

But we aren’t talking about those kinds of suitcases.

The suitcases I am talking about are the stylish ones in old black and white films–the ones that the damsel in distress holds in a white gloved hand as her long lost love picks her up from the train station–the beautifully aged, vintage ones that have been a hundred places and seen the world.

After seeing old, vintage suitcases piled up by the dozens at yard sales and thrift shops, I racked my brain to think of a functional use for them. Their hard sides and clunky sizes have made them less practical for travel over the years, but their warm colors, fancy hardware, and durability have made them the perfect, practical accent for the home. So after scouring sales and finding some for as low as $2 each, I started picking them up and bringing them home for experimentation. What was I able to come up with, you ask? Let me share!

  • End Tables. Find 3-4 suitcases in a variation of sizes. Start by putting the largest suitcase on the bottom and stack so the smallest is on the top. You can put double sided foam tape strips between layers to hold them in place, if you wish. A small lamp, books, or even drinks can be placed on top. Your friends will wonder how on earth you thought of it.
  • Pet Bed. Using the appropriate sized screwdriver, remove the lid from the suitcase. Line the inside with a piece of foam cut to fit and some comfy pet bedding. Wood spindles from the home improvement store can be screwed on each bottom corner as well to give the bed “legs.” All of the neighborhood pets will surely be jealous.
  • Toy Storage. While I am a mom, I still sometimes like my family room to be toy-free when guests come over. Having some stylish suitcases stacked in the corner of the room are a quick fix when you need a place to stash toys. No one will know what secret your suitcases are holding!
  • Craft Closet. Suitcases have those excellent pockets on the inside. Use them to organize your craft supplies for a stylish, easily portable solution.

Maybe you’re not as lucky as I am to have handfuls of these suitcases adorning thrift stores and sidewalks near you.  Don’t fret–these amazing accessories aren’t too hard to find.  Here are a few places to look:

  • Online sites.  Places like etsy.com,  amazon.com, and even ebay.com are thriving with a huge variety of both retro/vintage and reproduction suitcases for $10 and up.
  • Homegoods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and even Hobby Lobby carry various stacking luggage pieces. Expect to pay $20 on average per piece.
  • Antique shops and Estate Sales. They are often only a few dollars when you find them here.
  • Your Basement. Last but not least, before you go into any store or website, CHECK YOUR BASEMENT :) You would be surprised to see how many people still have this type of luggage collecting dust in their closets and basements.

So what if you find a great old suitcase but don’t like the finish? Maybe the color is all wrong; after all, not everyone is an avocado green kind of gal. No worries. Use spray paint on the exterior of the suitcase to transform it into any color you desire. You can also decoupage photos, scrapbook paper, old sheet music, or any other decorative elements onto it. The options are infinite.

Whenever I come across a vintage suitcase, I always wonder to myself, “Where has this lil’ guy been? Where has it traveled? What adventures has it seen?” I imagine it going to all of the exotic places I have yet to be. And then, with a little elbow grease and careful arranging, I breathe new life into it as an accessory for my home.

Call it nostalgic, call it chic, but for me it is just plain budget savvy. So start scouring flea markets and yard sales for those vintage suitcases, and don’t go anywhere with them but home.

This has been a guest post by Katie from South Bend, IN
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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5 thoughts on “New Use for an Old Item: Vintage Suitcases”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was lucky to have a few given to me. I already use the craft idea, and we set my daughter on top of a stack for her six month pictures. Love!

  2. Anonymous says:

    ohhh i love old vintage suitcases!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Actually, why don’t we use them for storing extra item we are stockpiling. If there is no place else in the cabinets or closets to put extra chips, ceral boxes, etc. smaller items such as toothpaste, disposable shavers. All these items would fit nicely in these vintage suitcases. In fact that was what I though was going to be what the article was about. These stockpile items won’t damage the outside and would be “hidden” quite well in these suitcases if you have run out of space elsewhere.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have seen great photos with old suitcases. Like newborns snuggled in.

  5. Mollie Ayala says:

    I love old suitcases. My daughters toy box is actually this beautiful vintage suitcase I found on the side of the road (I cleaned it of course). I also have a vintage wicker picnic basket as another toy box for the car.