Get creative with vintage luggage

In the first instalment of her monthly upcycling and vintage blog, Sarah-Jane Hosegood discovers the delights of old luggage

The first instalment of our monthly vintage and upcycling blog from Sarah-Jane Hosegood, owner of the online Vintage Home Shop.

Sarah-Jane runs the innovative weekly Twitter vintage networking event #vintagefindhour. In her blog for H&A she’ll be sharing her most recent finds, fair experiences and tales of the interesting folk she meets along the way. This month she discovers the glamourous side of old suitcases and finds one with an exciting provenance...

As more and more people buy into vintage for the home, many are finding new uses for items that would otherwise be long forgotten in an attic somewhere. 

Flicking through the May issue of H&A, I lit upon interiors journalist Ellie Tennant’s stylish London home which features an impressive stack of no less than ten vintage suitcases in pyramidal fashion. An old bag may not sound glamourous but, no matter how shabby, this original pack-it-up storage solution, the antidote to a bland plastic storage box, is an easy way to inject vintage charm with no compromise to practicality. 

Take Victorian travel trunks. Bound in canvas and wood, they ooze character and make beautiful coffee or side tables. Plus, those that still have their original inner storage tray are ideal for storing magazines, newspapers and books. Cut down some clear Perspex and fix it to the top and – ta-da! – a vintage coffee table with a modern twist.

I have also come across some fresh ideas during #vintagefindhour via my lovely friend Brooke who scours Pinterest for inspiration. One image that caught my eye was a small suitcase fixed to the wall and used as a bathroom cabinet. Complete with shelving and even a mirror fitted to the inner lid which served as the cabinet door, I fell instantly in love and added another project to my rather long – and growing – list.

The best hunting grounds for battered and beloved suitcases at a bargain are flea markets. I have been known (while heavily pregnant) to buy so many that the poor stallholder had to wheel my pile of luggage back to my car on a very laden sack truck while I strolled along beside feeling rather like a 1920s first class traveller with my porter by my side.

Misplaced dreams of glamour aside, the odd charity shop or car boot sale are also worth a look though can be rather hit and miss if you are on a mission. Down here in the West Country, my favourite source is the monthly Bath Antiques & Vintage Market at Green Park Station. Real leather suitcases tend to fetch a good price depending upon condition, but you can pick up the faux leather ones from as little as £15 or thereabouts.

The best (and most valuable) are those with their original travel labels. For me they always inspire imaginings of old world travel: the great age of steam, the Orient Express, huge cruise liners and immaculate first class travel...

One brilliant example I found was manufactured in Ohio. Inside was a postcard with a photograph of an Edwardian gent - the American relation of the previous owner of the travel trunk. I am almost certain that he would have owned the trunk that has now ended up here in rural Somerset with me. I will research it more but for now it doesn’t get more perfect than that.

Tweet Sarah-Jane at @vintagehomeshop or join in the #vintagefindhour live chat on Wednesdays at 8pm

The Vintage & Antiques Fayre, Clarence Hall, Crickhowell
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