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Vintage Steamer Trunks

Updated on January 24, 2018

Perfect for Home Decor!

The antique steamer trunk comes in all shapes and sizes, but most are extremely cool, vintage looking and useful!
The antique steamer trunk comes in all shapes and sizes, but most are extremely cool, vintage looking and useful!

Vintage Steamer Trunks - Home Design

To this day, I can still remember an old vintage steamer trunk that we had in our home. Passed on through the generations, this piece slowly evolved into a very nostalgic element of home furnishing in our living room. Instead of a coffee table, this steamer trunk served as a bit of an alternative holding table placed elegantly in front of our couch. Holding everything from our kicked up feet to our latest beverage and, this trunk became a welcome accompaniment to the vintage and antique décor and influence that permeated our old home.

With an unfortunate house fire serving as a prelude to the rebuilding of a new life, the memories of this piece, among others, persist to this day.

The vintage steamer trunk is a fantastic, practical solution for any home seeking a bit of vintage style along with a clever storage solution. The vintage steamer trunk is a real classic that's easy to track down and find, cleans up well, and adds a bit of rugged, shabby chic, antique charm to any space. Not to mention they will seamlessly hide away any odds and ends, junk, games, whatever you choose!

Vintage steamer trunks are an old travel solution that has been outdated, so you can find them almost anywhere and for very reasonable prices. The antique steamer trunk will fit into almost any space (since they made them in a variety of shapes and sizes) and can be used for virtually any purpose: just put your creativity to work and see what you can come up with!

This article is all about the antique steamer trunk and its usefulness today as a practical and decorative item. Hopefully, it will give you some thoughts, inspiration and creative push to put your home together! Let's get started.

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Vintage Steamer Trunk: What Is A Steamer Trunk?

Are you reading this and wondering, 'what is a steamer trunk?' Forgive me for neglecting this detail! A steamer trunk is a large piece of solid wood or metal luggage, used on long trips or moves. The vintage steamer trunk derived its name from the steam ship, as these were the most common and practical pieces of luggage at that time. To this day they're probably among the best travel solutions: strong and durable, able to hold a lot of stuff, and stack-able (for the most part). The antique steamer trunk was a classic for many years. Only recently have we started moving towards smaller, more portable alternatives.

There are many variations on this style, but typically vintage steamer trunks will consist of a wood box made out of planks (fir,cedar and pine are popular choices for the wood). They are often reinforced by wood strips, and strengthened by metal joins and corners. Often small nails will hold it all in place. The vintage steamer trunks will open up by hinges in one side, and the whole top lifts back. Often inside an antique steamer trunk, you will find smaller compartments for storing your goodies. Sometimes you'll even find shelves or clothing racks.

So what is a steamer trunk? Storage, luggage, and very solid!

First in a Series of Videos About Building a Steamer Trunk!

Vintage Steamer Trunk: Shabby Chic Decorating

The vintage steamer trunk, being solidly built and capable of storing lots of stuff, makes a perfect storage solution for the home, indoors or out! The solid, flat top is good for showing off your decorative items, and the inside can hide away all your loose odds and ends. Antique steamer trunks are almost always extremely vintage looking, and they'll match perfectly any antique orshabbychic decorating style you might have going on.

Some tips for finding a great antique steamer trunk:

1.) Since they are made of wood, vintage steamer trunks are sometimes susceptible to rot and mildew damage. Carefully inspect for these things before purchasing.

2.) Likewise, vintage steamer trunks with metal bits can corrode or leave rust stains.

3.) Since they're becoming more fashionable, a lot of second-hand stores will try to charge outrageous prices for an antique steamer. Expect a range of $25 - $75 for a good, mid-century piece.

4.) There are some reproduction steamer trunks out there now. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you're looking for the real deal, be careful.

Vintage Steamer Trunks: Storage and Style

Vintage steamer trunks are a nice decorating choice and they come in almost every color, so you can easily match one to your interior decorating. Most are adorned with brass or faux gold hardware, but this isn't too hard to match to things. I should mention too that since many an antique steamer trunk is made of cedar, they are pest and moth resistant.

From my personal experience, look around for that really special piece. There are a lot of great deals out there, so choose carefully. Measure your space and make a plan, don't compromise! A beautiful antique steamer trunk that fits your style and your space will be a real head turner.

Good Luck!

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    • profile image

      Susan Morton 

      4 years ago

      After seeing this article, I wish I had kept mine. I have a few decorating ideas running through my head. But I shall pass them onto the lucky stepdaughter that is caring for it.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      DIY, this is a wonderful trip back in time. I have an antique trunk at the foot of my bed that I love. The look of it reminds me of my grandparents, and that era. But more than that, this trunk represents mystery. Who owned it; what was stored in it; were there handmade quilts or linens or lovingly-made baby clothes? Mine holds my extra quilts by the way.

      Excellent article and very informative. Voted Up, Useful & Interesting


    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      5 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      I love the way those look. This is a good article, and the photos really pull it all together.

    • DIYmommy profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks you for your comment, Sheri! I absolutely love vintage steamer trunks.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      5 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      My Mom used to have one of those. Great hub!


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