In JD Salinger’s classic 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield observes the envy that superior luggage can arouse: ‘It’s really hard to be room mates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs.’ True or not, good-quality luggage has always been a sign of affluence. Though these days when we jet off overseas, we may not take a suitcase specially designed to transport a top hat, the market for vintage luggage is keen and, many believe, set to grow.
Made using richly-patented lustrous leather and closed with a snappy brass lock, old luggage conjures up images of the golden age of travel. But collectors aren’t just drawn by the longing for a bygone age, cases have practical storage and display uses too making them an ideal addition to any home.
Become the ultimate jetsetter with our eight easy steps to combining vintage luggage with your existing home décor. Just perhaps don’t try and take these heavy cases on a charter flight…
Antique leather suitcases make a lovely stand alone item, particularly when displayed alongside old maps
‘Sigaro’ stool covered in ‘Bamboo Cane’ brown on white, £1,144, Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam. Fine tan leather vintage suitcase, £1,100, Bentleys. ‘12 Miles Around London’ map, £39.95; other vintage-look maps from £19.95, all Liberty
Use a collection of cases, hatboxes and holdalls to add interest to a simple sideboard. Set against aged prints, like this arresting pelican, for a classical accent
On console: from left: ‘Astrid’ table lamp with shade in antique gold silk, £774.20, Heathfield & Co. John Derian ‘L’Ara Parrot’ tray, £110, The Conran Shop. Leather double top hat bucket, c1905, £1,950, Bentleys. Old books, from £20, Pimpernel & Partners. Paris 1818 reproduction map, £19.95, Liberty. Large leather collar box by Perry & Perry, c1920, £195; small leather collar box, £145; leather drinks case, £1,100, all Bentleys. Large globe, £199.95, Liberty Bottom shelf, from left: Triple hat bucket, c1900, £1,950, Bentleys. ‘Tulpe’ medium aubergine bowl, £275, The Conran Shop. Burgundy Gladstone bag with filing compartments, £790; hide Gladstone bag, £320, both Henry Gregory. Other items: ‘Upton’ console in black with weathered oak top, £965, Oka On wall: American White Pelican birch ply print from Natural History Museum collection, 80 x 120cm, £305; View of Amsterdam birch ply print from National Maritime Museum collection, 80 x65cm, £225, both SurfaceView. ‘Albatre’ wallpaper in ‘Gris Camel’, 72910494, £56.80 per roll, Casamance. ‘Herringbone Sisal’ in mocha, E404, £56 per sq m, Crucial Trading
A brass and mahogany-coloured steamer trunk can be used as a coffee table to create an inviting and luxurious feel
A stack of dark green motoring trunks with brass fittings make for a striking display against contrasting wallpaper
From bottom: Motoring trunk in green gopherd leather with original brass fittings, c1900, £675, Tin Tin Collectables at Alfies Antique Market. Black canvas and brass studded trunk, £860, Henry Gregory Antiques. Black crocodile suitcase with brass lock and trim, c1920, £675; black leather attaché case by Papworth, c1960, £115; black Morocco leather attaché case by Dupont of Paris, c1950, £375; bottle green gopher leather-covered small attaché case by William & Co, c1920, £245, all Tin Tin Collectables. On hearth: ‘Old Europe’ turquoise planter, £75, I & JL Brown. Ferns, from a selection at The Chelsea Gardener On mantel: Opaque glass, £5, junk-shop find. Planter, £5, Oxfam. Emerald green Victorian glass, £95 per pair, Andrew Bewick. Blue butterfly postcard by John Derian, £1.50, Ben Pentreath
For a minimalist approach, tuck away a small hatbox or shoe case for a pop of subtle interest
Introduce cream vellum suitcases as a bedside table. Perfect for housing books or propping up an antique lamp
Bedside table made with vellum suitcases, c1920, £295 each; suitcase at top with brass trim, £325, all Nick Jones Antiques On suitcases: ‘Plie’ table lamp, £99, Oka. ‘Betide’ purple tumbler, £12, Anthropologie. What is Art book by Leo Tolstoy, £9.99, The Conran Shop. ‘Antoinette’ kingsize bed (frame only), £1,695, Graham & Green. Bed linen: ‘Triomphe’ silver housewife pillowcases, £59 each; ‘Triomphe’ silver flat sheet, £149; ‘Triomphe Platine’ bedcover, £349, all Yves Delorme UK. Velvet bed throw made in sage ‘Lomond Velvet’, FD265 S108, £139 per m, Mulberry Home. Jade ‘Tambora’ peacock cushion, £80; teal ‘Paon’ cushion, £76, both Boeme. Quilted plain velvet cushion in teal ‘Hudson’, 2020-44, £76.60 per m, Sahco On wall: Late 18th-century Swedish framed print, £320, Maison Artefact.‘Pontiff’ matt emulsion paint on walls, 23-17m, £38 per 2.5l, Sanderson. Floor covered in mocha herringbone sisal, E404, £56 per sq m, Crucial Trading
Store your bedroom cushions or throws inside a trunk or travelling case as a quirky alternatve to a wicker blanket box
Vellum trunk, 1890s, £850, Nick Jones. On trunk: faux mohair throw in navy, £44, Oka. Green ‘Biella’ throw, £695, The Monogrammed Linen Shop. ‘Paon’ cushion, as before