Upcycled Home Décor: Giving New Life to Vintage Suitcases

With gorgeous spring weather coming early this year, so has the fever for spring cleaning.  While I wouldn’t go as far as Martha Stewart in proclaiming my love for spring cleaning (“there are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean” – yup, taking it a bit too far…), I do love to open up the house to fresh outside air, add touches of spring décor, and do some closet reorganization including packing away those bulky sweaters and bringing out the sundresses!  My mom has recently been doing some closet reorganizing too and she came across a vintage suitcase that has been sitting in her basement closet for years.  The suitcase, which was passed down from my dad’s parents, belonged to a distant relative of his who lived in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s so it truly is a vintage piece.  

The inside of the suitcase is filled with Edison amberol record cylinders, which were made in the early 1900’s to be played on a cylinder phonograph.  Taped to the inside lid of the suitcase is a handwritten label with the name and address of the suitcase’s original owner.

My mom would like to find a decorative use for the suitcase rather than putting it back in the closet to collect more dust and she asked me for some ideas of what she could do with it.  The first idea that came to my mind is to prop the suitcase open and create a vignette similar to this gorgeous one that Shannon shared on her blog “A Southern Belle With Northern Roots”:

A Southern Belle with Northern Roots



Another great example of a suitcase vignette is shown in this photograph, which is for sale on Allison Dandrea’s Etsy shop:

Etsy: Allison Dandrea Photo

Other inspiring vintage suitcase vignettes include this one photographed by Three Nails Photography

Three Nails Photography via Pinterest (Lindsey Reynolds)

and this one on House to Home (I love the decorative tags!).

House to Home



Another great way to use a vintage suitcase is to place a heavy-duty liner inside and add some flowers, turning it into a unique decorative planter:   

A Beach Cottage
Stephanie Howell



via Peaceful Valley Farm Blog

My parents’ suitcase is truly a vintage piece with sentimental value so they understandably want to keep it in its original condition (no painting, etc.).  However, I wanted to share some other inspirational ideas that I came across for those of you who have an old suitcase that you wouldn’t be opposed to modifying a bit – perfect for those old American Tourister suitcase gathering dust in the back of your closet! One of my favorite ideas is to create suitcase shelves – not only can you stack things on top of each suitcase, but you can also use the inside of the suitcase shelves for storage:

Ki Nassauer
Something Created Everyday

A collection of stacked vintage suitcases can be used as a base for a console table, which works particularly well when using suitcases of various sizes, colors, and textures:

Waterfront Hotel via Apartment Therapy

I also came across several creative examples of using vintage suitcases to create side tables, such as this beauty that combines the base of a canvas folding chair with a vintage suitcase tabletop:


via Apartment Therapy



For an even simpler approach, simply stack a few suitcases by size for a unique end or side table:

via Pinterest (Patricia Rodriguez)
If your old suitcases are simply to ugly to display in their current state, consider painting them – these two suitcases were painted white and stacked on top of one another to create a gorgeous side table with a beachy feel: 
A Beach Cottage

Instead of using multiple suitcases to get enough height for a table, another option is to add premade legs to a single suitcase 

Oregon Live
Ashley Poskin – Design Sponge

Another tip for super ugly suitcases is to give them a fresh start with some new fabric, such as these fun suitcases that were created with a little bit of fabric and a whole lot of Modge Podge:

Richmond Thrifter

If you really want to go all the way with upcycling your suitcase, you could follow the lead of Katie Thompson who transformed these old suitcases into chairs: 

Katie Thompson (REcreate)
Katie Thompson (REcreate)



Another creative idea is to use a vintage suitcase as a decorative place for guests to drop off their cards at a special event such as a wedding or graduation party:

Ruffled Blog
Suzanne Duda
Cocktail Mom

One final idea  – this one is for all of you pet lovers out there: think about turning that old suitcase into a cat or dog bed!

Camille Styles





Etsy – Kaleidoscope of Color



After giving my mom some ideas for how we could use my dad’s vintage suitcase and showing her some inspiration pics, she decided that she would like to use a combination of these two ideas:

So the plan is to create a vignette with the suitcase propped open (where you can see the inside fabric of the suitcase and the handwritten label from the suitcase’s original owner) and place it on an antique chair. My parents have a lot of other small vintage items packed away (old books, cameras, etc.) so in addition to using a few of the Edison cylinders in the vignette, we plan to rummage through some boxes to see if we can find a few other items that we can use.  I’ll let you know what we come up with!  I hope you found some inspiration of your own for those suitcases collecting dust in the back of your closet or waiting on the shelves of your nearby thrift store!

Drapery Panels for a Gray Dining Room

Red-Dining-Room-Elle-Decor

When we moved to our house five years ago, I knew that I wanted a red dining room.  I had seen so many photos of gorgeous red dining rooms (like the one below) and wanted the same bold punch of red for my home.  Elle Decor I LOVED my red dining room….for a few years that is…then I started to decorate in a more relaxed style and felt that the red was “too much” for me.  When we decided to move our dining room into what was once our living room, I left the red behind and painted the new dining room a dark taupey gray.  My friend Kristin recently went through the same process with her red dining room – she said bye-bye to the red and painted it a beautiful shade of gray – Benjamin Moore’s Weimaraner.  She picked the color from Pottery Barn’s Fall/Winter 2011 Collection of Benjamin […]

Using Washi Tape For DIY Home Décor (& Getting It Cheap at Target!)

I-Heart-Washi-Tape

If you’re familiar with washi tape, I’ll bet you love it as much as I do (and as much as Kami of NoBiggie who created this fun sign!).  NoBiggie If you haven’t heard about washi tape before, let me fill you in because you are missing out!  Washi tapes are paper tapes originating from Japan that are made in tons of fun colors and patterns.  They feel much more like masking tape than scotch tape but unlike masking tape, they have some degree of transparency.  I first came across washi tapes when I saw them being used in scrapbooking and have since seen so many amazing scrapbook pages and cards that were made with them.  More recently, I’ve seen washi tape being used to make cute, creative home accessories.  I’m going to try to get you on my washi bandwagon with some pics of my favorite projects and then I’ll […]

Target’s BOGO 50% Off Home Décor Event

Target-Radiant-Exports-BlueGreen-Decorative-Pillow

This week (through 03/24/12), Target is having a home décor sale with buy one, get one 50% off on many of their home décor items, including frames, wall clocks, throws, area rugs, lamps & shades, toss pillows, wall décor, candles & candleholders, furniture, slipcovers, vases, and figurals.  The sale is both online and in stores and it allows you to mix and match so you can buy two of the same item or two different home décor items and get the lesser priced item at 50% off.  It doesn’t include all items in the categories listed above – for example, many of their pillows are included in the BOGO event but some of them (including all of their outdoor pillows) are not.  If you’ve been eyeing something at Target, just find it online and if it’s included in the BOGO event, it will say “buy one, get one 50% off” under […]

Shopping for an Outdoor Sectional

Crate-amp-Barrel-Sanibel-Sectional

Late last fall we had our rotting, warped wood deck ripped out and replaced with a tumbled paver patio.  The project experienced delay after delay due to incessant rain and it didn’t wrap up until late December (by which time it was way too cold in Cincinnati to be outside) so we are loving that it has gotten warm enough to finally enjoy it. Now that we have this new outdoor space, we’d love to add a sectional where we can relax and enjoy hanging out with friends and family. When my husband and I started talking about buying an outdoor sectional, what I was envisioning was something like this:   Crate & Barrel Sanibel Lounge Set until I started looking at prices that is….  That was a big wake-up call – each one-seat section of Crate & Barrel’s Sanibel Sectional costs $669 or $759 (depending upon whether or not the […]

Indigo is “In”!

Sweet-Paul-Indigo-Runner-and-Flowers

All of the stores are bringing out their new spring lines of furniture and home accessories and it’s obvious that one of the hottest colors of the season is indigo.  I’ve gathered pics of my favorite new indigo home décor items to share with you, but since we all love photos of gorgeous home interiors, take a peek at these beauties for a bit of inspiration for how you can bring indigo into your home. A simple indigo table runner along with colored glass bottles holding flowers in shades of blue and purple creates such a dramatic impact and would be so simple and inexpensive to do: Sweet Paul Magazine via Do you have a drawer full of scarves that go unused? Pull out your indigo ones, buy a few more scarves or bandanas on the cheap and frame them in a grouping  – love this! (and that dog is too […]

Stairs Worth Staring At

Serena-and-Lily-Patterned-Stairs

There are some things about my house that I love and others that I can’t stand – my staircase falls into the latter category.  It is an ugly sight – the stair treads are red oak and cast an orangey hue, I have heinous “granny style” stair tread rugs so the dog can get up and down the stairs without slipping, and the handrail doesn’t match the color of the stair treads or anything else in the stairwell.  Fixing up my staircase has always been on my to-do list but somehow another project always sneaks above it on the list so my ugly staircase remains ugly (I’d show you a picture but don’t want to be responsible for the nightmares that may ensue…).  I’ve decided to move this project up toward the top of my to-do list for 2012 and had been giving some thought as to what I may […]