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!


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