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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Drapery Panels for a Gray Dining Room

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 Moore paints:
Pottery Barn
It's amazing how the change in paint color has completely changed the feel of both of our dining rooms to more warm and relaxed.  Of course, we all know the "dark side" to repainting a room - it is the start of the decorating domino effect.  Now that Kristin's dining room is a gorgeous new color, the drapery panels that once hung in the room looked terrible so she has taken them down and started the hunt for some reasonably priced drapes to help complete the look of her space. The great thing about gray walls is that it leaves you with plenty of options for other colors to use in the room. One option is for Kristin to bring some red back into her dining room - gray walls with solid red drapery panels creates a dramatic look:
Eclectic Revisited

For solid red drapes, a good buy is World Market's Red Harper Curtain, which is $26.99 to $36.99 depending upon the length of drapery panel you need (and right now, World Market has free shipping on all window panels!).
World Market Red Harper Curtain
If Kristin likes the idea of adding red drapes to her dining room but wants a more subtle feel, I love these Alessandra linen/cotton blend drapery panels from Pottery Barn.  They are stonewashed, resulting in a faded, subtle red and come in four length options at a very reasonable price ($79-$109):

Pottery Barn's Alessandra Floral Drape
The Alessandra drapes also come in a gold colorway, which also looks great with gray: 
Pottery Barn Alessandra Floral Drape
For a fresher, more casual feel, drapes with a less traditional pattern such as these ikat drapes from West Elm would also work well with gray walls.  They are available in four lengths and are very inexpensive ($49 - $79) but the downside of these drapes is that they are more sheer than I would like - it would be worth spending a few extra dollars to have them lined.
West Elm Tali Printed Window Panel
I also love the trellis pattern of Ballard Designs' Firenze Embroidered Panels, which come in three color options, including gray and ivory.  These are the most expensive drapery panels on this post ($199 to $209) but since we have a Ballard Designs Outlet up the road, Kristin might be able to snag these beauties at a fraction of the catalog price.
Ballard Designs Firenze Embroidered Panel
World Market also has some pretty patterned drapery panels that would look great on a gray background such as their Mosaic Jute Curtain, which is $34.99 for each 84" panel that includes attached wood rings:
World Market Mosaic Jute Curtain

Another option with gray walls is to go with black and white drapery panels - that's the route I took for my dining room and I've been really happy with my choice (please ignore my super pathetic table centerpiece...a table runner and new centerpiece are on my to-do list!):

A stunning example of a dining room with gray walls and black and white drapes is this gorgeous room designed by Caldwell Flake:
Caldwell Flake
If Kristin decides that she wants to go the black and white route, one option for her is Ballard Designs' Concorde Medallion Panels with pretty floral medallions.  They come in three lengths with prices ranging from $69-$89.
Ballard Designs Concorde Medallion Panel
Target's Farrah Fretwork panels are a super inexpensive option - these panels come in several colorways, including black and white.  They are available in two lengths and can be found in store or online:
Target Home Farrah Fretwork Window Panel

Another option for Kristin's gray dining room is to use neutral drapes as was done in this gorgeous dining room designed by Dodson and Daughter Interior Design:

Dodson and Daughter Interior Design
Natural colored drapes were also used in this pretty dining room but instead of leaving the room entirely neutral, they brought in some color with the chandelier and flowers:
Martha Stewart
For inexpensive neutral drapes with a pattern, I like Ballard Designs' ivory and grey Bingham Printed Damask panels, which are $99 - $119 depending upon the length you choose.
Ballard Designs Bingham Printed Damask Panels
For a solid neutral drapery panel, I love Ballard Designs' Fringed Burlap Panels, which are available in natural burlap or ivory.  They are cotton lined, have a decorative 5" jute fringe, and are only $50-$70.  
Ballard Designs Fringed Burlap Panel
For neutral linen curtains, you can't beat the look and price of IKEA's AINA linen curtains in either white (it's a softer white than it appears in the picture) or natural.  
IKEA AINA Curtains
While the IKEA AINA drapes are super cheap at $49.99 per pair (yep, only about $25 each) this picture from one of my favorite blogs, For the Love of a House, shows that they look anything but cheap:
For The Love of a House
Which drapes are your favorites?
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