How to decorate with antique suitcases

Well-made and durable, luggage from the past is enjoying a second life as storage and furniture

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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
‘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
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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, LibertyBottom 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
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
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A brass and mahogany-coloured steamer trunk can be used as a coffee table to create an inviting and luxurious feel

Luggage: Large steamer trunk by Moynat of Paris with brass locks and studs and wood banding, c1900, £875, Tin Tin Collectables at Alfies Antique Market. Round wood and brass hat box, £350, Henry Gregory AntiquesFurniture, from left: Low side table, £450, I & JL Brown. ‘Oscar’ sofa in ‘Prussian Blue’ matt velvet, £1,750, Sofas & Stuff. Lacquer pedestal table, £1,980, Vaughan. Accessories on trunk: Amethyst crystal, find similar at Dale Rogers. John Derian ‘Combs’ tray, £145; Rome Select book, £9.99, both The Conran Shop On side table: Lustre jug, find similar at Tobias and the Angel. Pale blue glass vase used as planter (just seen, at back), £25, Heal’s. Old white ceramic footed bowl, £5, Oxfam. ‘Blue Calico’ sugar bowl, £13.50, Liberty. Plants, from a selection at The Chelsea Gardener Sofa cushions, from left: ‘Boratti Ocean’ cushion, £55, Designers Guild. ‘Providencia’ C104-05 embroidered cushion; ‘Mustique’ C104-08 velvet cushion, both £87 each, by Matthew Williamson at Osborne & Little. Stone velvet cushion, £35, Rockett St George On pedestal table: ‘Emilion’ glass table lamp with off-white shade, £267, Oka. ‘Blue Calico’ teacup and saucer, £21, Liberty. ‘Murano’ glass dish, £45, Andrew Bewick. Large wooden box, find similar at Tobias and the Angel. Other items: ‘Sybil Diamond Blue’ Tibetan wool rug, 2.74 x 1.83m, £1,680, Jonathan Adler at The Rug Company. French seascape painting, £450, Puckhaber Antiques. ‘Archive Anthology’ Chinese toile wallpaper, 100/8038, £80 per roll, Cole & Son
Luggage: Large steamer trunk by Moynat of Paris with brass locks and studs and wood banding, c1900, £875, Tin Tin Collectables at Alfies Antique Market. Round wood and brass hat box, £350, Henry Gregory Antiques
Furniture, from left: Low side table, £450, I & JL Brown. ‘Oscar’ sofa in ‘Prussian Blue’ matt velvet, £1,750, Sofas & Stuff. Lacquer pedestal table, £1,980, Vaughan. Accessories on trunk: Amethyst crystal, find similar at Dale Rogers. John Derian ‘Combs’ tray, £145; Rome Select book, £9.99, both The Conran Shop
On side table: Lustre jug, find similar at Tobias and the Angel. Pale blue glass vase used as planter (just seen, at back), £25, Heal’s. Old white ceramic footed bowl, £5, Oxfam. ‘Blue Calico’ sugar bowl, £13.50, Liberty. Plants, from a selection at The Chelsea Gardener
Sofa cushions, from left: ‘Boratti Ocean’ cushion, £55, Designers Guild. ‘Providencia’ C104-05 embroidered cushion; ‘Mustique’ C104-08 velvet cushion, both £87 each, by Matthew Williamson at Osborne & Little. Stone velvet cushion, £35, Rockett St George
On pedestal table: ‘Emilion’ glass table lamp with off-white shade, £267, Oka. ‘Blue Calico’ teacup and saucer, £21, Liberty. ‘Murano’ glass dish, £45, Andrew Bewick. Large wooden box, find similar at Tobias and the Angel. Other items: ‘Sybil Diamond Blue’ Tibetan wool rug, 2.74 x 1.83m, £1,680, Jonathan Adler at The Rug Company. French seascape painting, £450, Puckhaber Antiques. ‘Archive Anthology’ Chinese toile wallpaper, 100/8038, £80 per roll, Cole & Son
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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 GardenerOn 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
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
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For a minimalist approach, tuck away a small hatbox or shoe case for a pop of subtle interest

Luggage: Round hat box, as before. 1970s Louis Vuitton shoe case, £5,500, Oliver Oulton at The Furniture Cave. Other items: Chinese toile wallpaper, as before. Ginkgo leaf print, £540, Trowbridge Gallery. Reclaimed oak console table, £3,200, Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam. On console, from left: Serex blue glass vase (used as planter), £25, Heal’s. 19th-century French confit jug used as planter, £240, Maison Artefact. 19th-century English porcelain dish, £85, Maison Artefact. Large aqua thistle vase, £165, Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam. Armadale cloche platter, £298, Anthropologie
Luggage: Round hat box, as before. 1970s Louis Vuitton shoe case, £5,500, Oliver Oulton at The Furniture Cave. Other items: Chinese toile wallpaper, as before. Ginkgo leaf print, £540, Trowbridge Gallery. Reclaimed oak console table, £3,200, Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam. On console, from left: Serex blue glass vase (used as planter), £25, Heal’s. 19th-century French confit jug used as planter, £240, Maison Artefact. 19th-century English porcelain dish, £85, Maison Artefact. Large aqua thistle vase, £165, Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam. Armadale cloche platter, £298, Anthropologie
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Introduce cream vellum suitcases as a bedside table. Perfect for housing books or propping up an antique lamp

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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
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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
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