Vintage suitcases are having a major moment right now. These relics from the past not only evoke nostalgia for bygone eras of travel, but they also lend a unique, retro touch to modern home decor. While the classic ways of displaying vintage luggage never go out of style, there are also innovative new ways to repurpose these vintage gems. Read on for four fresh takes on styling and using vintage suitcases that will inspire you to dig yours out of storage.
Display Them On Shelves
One of the most popular ways to show off a collection of vintage suitcases is to line them up neatly on open shelves. This allows you to highlight the unique details and patinas developed on each piece over the years. Arrange largest to smallest for the most eye-catching effect. Group together suitcases in matching colors or textures for a coordinated look. Shelving lets you feature the cases while still keeping their contents easily accessible. For bonus style points, place decorative objects like books, vases or framed photos in between each suitcase.
Use Them As Side Tables
Vintage suitcases are the perfect size and shape to convert into one-of-a-kind side tables. Stack two or three together as a nesting table beside a chair or sofa. Look for hard-sided examples with sturdy edges and reinforced corners. Remove any interior lining to give you more space for decorating the inside. Paint the exterior a bold color for a pop of contrast. Consider replacing the original hardware with more ornate handles or clasps to give the cases a more bespoke look. A vintage suitcase side table adds both storage and style anywhere you place it.
Build Storage Furniture
Thinking beyond the standard display, vintage suitcases can also become the building blocks of customized storage furniture. Stack suitcases of uniform size and shape to create unique shelving units. Affix them permanently together and to the wall studs for safety and stability. Add doors to the front made from pieces of reclaimed wood for a shabby chic feel. The distressed leather and metal clasp details give ordinary storage an antique twist. Or, flip suitcases on their sides and attach to a platform base. Insert sturdy shelves inside to form a rolling vintage suitcase dresser perfect for extra storage in the bedroom.
Make Decorative Planters
For an unexpected way to use old suitcases, upcycle them into chic planters for the garden or home. Carefully remove any interior lining while keeping the exterior fully intact. Drill drainage holes in the bottom if using for plants. Waterproof the inside by coating with outdoor sealant or a plastic liner if you’ll place soil directly in the case. Set a single dramatic plant like a small palm or succulent inside. For a decorative touch, line the bottom with colorful glass marbles or rocks before adding potting mix and the plant. Place vintage suitcase planters on the porch or patio to add a pop of greenery with a nostalgic feel.
Style Them As Bar Carts
Put that vintage luggage to work holding your favorite libations. A retro suitcase or two makes an excellent impromptu bar cart. Choose hard-sided examples with durable finishes. Look for interior features like built-in compartments that can hold bottles and glassware in place. Attach a piece of wood cut to size as a top for an instant serving surface. Affix caster wheels if desired to easily roll your new bar cart anywhere the party takes you. Keep the theme going by filling suitcases with vintage glassware finds from thrift stores. Top with a decorative platter and accessories like an ice bucket, coasters and bar tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some creative new ways to use vintage suitcases at home?
Some creative new uses for vintage suitcases at home include side tables, storage furniture, planters, bar carts, shelves to display collections, and one-of-a-kind organizers for closets or craft rooms.
Where is the best place to find vintage suitcases to repurpose?
Great places to find vintage suitcases for DIY projects include thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets, estate sales, online auctions, or even your own attic. Look for vintage gems from the 1950s, 60s and 70s for lots of retro style.
What are some tips for restoring old suitcases?
Tips for restoring vintage suitcases include cleaning the exterior leather with saddle soap and conditioner. Use fine grit sandpaper to buff out scuffs and scratches. Replace any broken hardware. Re-adhere lining or glue down loose seams and edges. Waterproof the inside before using for storage or as a planter.
Should I keep vintage suitcases I want to use as decor intact or alter them?
It depends on your plans. If using as a display shelf, keep intact to preserve value. To upcycle into furniture, carefully remove lining and make structural changes but keep the exterior unaltered. For planters, drill drainage holes but keep the patinaed leather exterior as-is.
What are some ways to style collections of vintage suitcases for display?
Style collections by color, lining pattern, size, era or texture. Prop open to showcase inside details. Stack largest to smallest. Angle them in diagonal rows. Create fun vignettes with books and objects placed inside. Hang on the wall in a geometric arrangement. Lean against the wall like a faux suitcase shop.
Vintage suitcases offer almost endless possibilities for innovative new uses as decor, furniture, storage and more. Breathe new life into old luggage with displays beyond the standard flat shelf. Make the most of their stylish patina and nostalgic vibe by repurposing vintage beauties into side tables, planters, shelves—even bar carts. With a little imagination, that old suitcase gathering dust can become a true vintage showpiece. Let these fresh decorating ideas inspire you dig out those retro relics today!