Published on February 7, 2019

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Photography by Meghan McNeer

It began purely as an aesthetic choice. I had chosen a color palette of pale blue and red for my bedroom many years ago and set out to forage through my parents’ house to steal any and all accessories that fit the scheme. A picture frame here, a throw pillow there… when I found a pair of red-and-blue vintage suitcases hiding in the closet, I thought I hit the decor lottery.  

They rapidly proved to be among the more useful items in my possession. I propped them one atop the other next to my desk with the printer on top—a sort of makeshift side table. Not wanting to display the printer accessories that were grievously outside my designated color scheme, I filled each suitcase with cartridges, assorted cables, and various other office essentials. As a result, my workspace was kept clutter-free and my color palette, you will be relieved to discover, was left unharmed.

The whole experience sparked something of a revelation: Your storage vessels do not have to be bulky, unsightly items that are strictly utilitarian. Pick pieces that match your style and can serve as accent pieces in their own right. For example, opt for an antique trunk in lieu of a coffee table or use a salvaged watchmaker’s cabinet to store jewelry and hair accessories instead of cluttering your vanity.

It’s a particularly smart tactic to deploy if you live in a small space.

“The functional things in a home can be beautiful, so shop smart,” says designer Kim Lewis. Her 560-square-foot Austin home is filled to the brim with examples of chic storage: vintage suitcases that double as her linen closet, stacks of Hermès boxes full of photographs that bring a welcome pop of color while organizing. “With a bit of savvy, you can find storage solutions you won’t mind looking at. A stack of graduated vintage hat boxes or fabric-covered boxes can also work well.”

Personally, I opt for suitcases because beyond storage and style, they have a third function: They’re actually useful for travel. Also, they’re really easy to find. I’ve grown my collection exponentially over the years, making a game of hunting for a new one every time I’m in a vintage shop or at an antique market. Some have sentimental value (I have the hat box my mom took on her honeymoon) and some just look beautiful (I found a cream-and-leather piece that looks like something an early-20th-century aristocrat would carry on weekend trips to the country). Sites like 1st Dibs, Jayson Home, or even Etsy also have an impressive array of vintage suitcases, if you’re looking for the convenience of online shopping.

And as for what to do with your new (old) suitcases, the options are endless. Take a page from Lewis and keep extra towels or pillowcases neatly tucked away for guests. If you’re low on bathroom storage, a tall suitcase will hold a pack of toilet paper rolls perfectly. The collection of totes and larger bags you only whip out for things like grocery runs or laundry day can easily be hidden in a suitcase. Are you a serial candle hoarder? Free up space on your bookshelf and keep them in a piece of luggage until you’re ready to burn a new candle.

At present moment, I have a stack of five taking up residence in a corner of my living room—the original blue-and-red ones, plus a few extra I’ve accumulated over the years. The collection is a welcome pop of color and serves as a unique alternative to the cabinet I would have otherwise opted for. Plus, I’ve found that choosing vintage is a great way to infuse my space with a bit of old-school charm.

Convinced? Shop our edit of the coolest vintage-inspired luggage below or head to your local flea market to pick up an original.

For some tonal contrast, this navy-and-cream piece can’t be beaten. And while it’s the outside you may be focused on, the inside is just as beautiful; it features a hand-painted palm print design by designer Meryl Pardoen.

This sleek option is minimalist perfection. At 6.5″ tall, there’s plenty of space to store bulkier items. Plus, if you decide you ever don’t need it, it folds flat so you can easily hide it away until you’re ready to pull it back into rotation.

Maybe you want the real thing; in which case, allow us to introduce you to this gorgeous leather valise—yes, “valise,” so you know it’s the real deal. Originating from France with satin lining and soft leather, it’s a real taste of old-school luxury.

If you don’t travel looking like you’re about to board the Titanic, a suitcase with more contemporary features may be right for you. This SteamLine piece still retains a vintage charm, but with wheels and a handle, it’s significantly more airport-friendly than an older option. The carry-on size ensures it’ll fit into an overhead bin when it’s not being used to house your collection of scarves at home.

Choose this hard-case hat box in the matte black croc-embossed option for a sleek storage vessel. It’s on the smaller end of the spectrum, but it will still hold quite a bit, plus there’s an interior wall pocket you’ll use as well.

See more smart storage ideas:
The Small-Space Storage Solutions We Swear By
Your Most Organized Bedroom Is One Quick Purchase Away
10 Easy Storage Solutions If You Don’t Have a Closet

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