Thursday, February 6, 2014

Vintage Luggage DIY Storage Boxes

I've wanted to make trompe l'oeil vintage luggage boxes to store my art supplies for a really long time. No kidding, I bought these luggage labels in 1998, I think, so I'm only a decade or two behind schedule. ;)

What you'll need:
- storage boxes of some sort (plain shoe boxes would work too). The boxes I used are KASSETT from IKEA. They come 2 in a pack for $6.99 and are large enough to hold a lot. (They are made of paper/cardboard so probably won't work if you need to store something heavy though.)
- markers or paint pens. I used Sharpie water-based paint pens, extra fine tip, because my boxes are made of paper. But if you are using plastic, metal, or wooden boxes, you should probably use all-surface paint pens, like Sharpie oil-based paint pens or DecoColor pens. The white marker I used is Recollections brand that's sold at Michaels, but really any white opaque marker will do.
- vintage luggage labels. As I mentioned, I bought mine a really long time ago, but if you search "vintage travel sticker" or "vintage luggage label" on Amazon, there are similar ones out there. You could probably find them on Ebay too.
- ruler and pencil (optional)

I used a ruler to start out, making a few tick marks with a pencil so that my "leather straps" would be spaced evenly apart, and I made them about one inch thick. Then I picked out two stickers with coordinating colors and affixed them to the box lid.

This is the front of the box, where I abandoned the ruler and just drew everything freehand. I prefer the wibbles and wobbles of hand-drawn lines, but you can, of course, use a ruler to make everything neat and tidy. I suggest looking at photos of real vintage luggage online to get inspiration for how you'd like your boxes to look.

On each box, I used a different color pen (that coordinated with my stickers) to do the "stitching" on my straps, in this case, sort of a minty green. (Also, it's odd, but I think because I do so much hand sewing in my shop, when I was making all of these stitch marks, it felt a little bit like sewing to me. Isn't that funny?)

Here's the green box finished.

Another one with blue stitches.

And the last one with orange stitches. You can certainly embellish the boxes to your heart's content. I decided to let my stickers be the star of the show and keep the rest of the details fairly simple. I have a lot more stickers left, so I might still stick a few more on the sides or perhaps keep them to use in another project...maybe in another decade? Ha.

I'm still rearranging things in the studio and getting organized, but my stuff is already looking a lot better with the help of these pretty storage boxes. :)

If you're curious about the history of luggage labels, apparently they were used primarily between 1890 and 1939. Hotels provided labels to travelers after reservations had been confirmed so that when their luggage arrived, it could be easily identified and dispatched to the hotel. Eventually, railroads and shipping lines started to produce their own labels, primarily as a source of advertising. Soon cities, states, and national parks started printing labels also to encourage tourism. Luggage was an investment that one kept for a lifetime in those days, and the labels became a visual history of one's travels. Today, these labels seem quite romantic and conjure up images of the Orient Express and Grande Hotels. I love them for that aspect, the whole nostalgia for a time I never knew, but I also just think they are examples of great design and like little pieces of art.

If you decide to make your own trompe l'oeil vintage luggage storage boxes, please let me know. I'd love to see! xo, Mary


  1. I absolutely love this idea! These came out great! I want to make some but knowing me, it'll also take a decade before I get around to it. :)

  2. Those are really cute! I liked reading about the history of luggage labels, too. Our suitcases are some kind of cloth, so stickers don't get a good grip anyway. I did hang onto the tags on our handles for a long time, but eventually there were too many.

  3. That is super cool! I have plenty of those Ikea boxes, but they are all white, so I don't they would look as good :)

  4. These are awesome Mary! I have some boxes like this and might have to do this this weekend.

  5. This is genius! What a unique and adorable idea. I'm seriously impressed:) So nice to see a totally new project !! Great job. Xo

  6. I am super, super jealous of those labels!!!!!

  7. Those are awesome! I never would have thought of it.

  8. Great idea for my Ikea boxes, Thanks.