How To Choose A Decorative Trunk

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Decorative trunks are used as a focal point in a room and to store goods inside. If you're looking for a trunk for your home, here are some things you should consider.

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What is the Difference Between a Trunk and a Chest?

By strict definition, trunks are used to store items while traveling, whereas chests are used to store things in your house.

Steamer trunks were used mainly on steamships, also called steamers. Jenny Lind trunks have a distinctive shape when viewed from the side - they look like an hourglass or keyhole. They were used by the Swedish performer of the same name when she traveled the U.S. with P.T.Barnum.

A chest also called a kist or coffer, is used mainly for storage and has four sides and a lid. The interior can be divided into different compartments or left open. A specific type of decorative chest is called a cassone, also known as a hope chest or marriage chest, because that is where a new bride stored her wedding linens in days of old.

How Big are Decorative Trunks?

Trunks came in all sizes when they were used primarily as luggage. Some were just big enough to accommodate hats, while others were built to hold entire wardrobes, including shoes.

A normal steamer trunk, which is the most common of all the vintage trunks, is generally 39½ x 21 x 21. When you're looking for placement for your trunk, make sure the interior is easily accessible if you plan on using it for items that you regularly use.

Are There Different Styles of Trunks?

Decorative trunks are a versatile and nostalgic piece of furniture that double as storage to help declutter your home.

Trunks that are used for storage and adornment come in almost every shape, size, and hue. The main requirements are that it has to be able to hold things, have a rectangular shape, and a lid. Beyond that, it's up to your imagination.

  • Wood & Leather

Most decorative trunks that were actually used as luggage years ago are constructed from leather and wood. For some décors, the natural wood or weathered leather of a trunk might suit your space perfectly.

Especially in a more masculine space with deeper-hued furnishings, an antique steamer or Jenny Lind trunk to hold a collection of magazines, records, or books would work well with the traditional character of the room.

Brown Vintage Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Stylish Solid Wood Storage Trunk
Black Classic Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Vintage Solid Wood Treasure Trunk
Dark Brown Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Light Brown Classic Manufactured Wood Trunk
  • Rattan

For more breezy styles, a woven rattan trunk to hide extra blankets or throw pillows is a superb addition to a guest or kid's room. The woven grass look rattan looks great with cottage décor or any style that uses light colors and airy fabrics.

Brown Classic Rattan Decorative Trunk
Brown Elegant Wicker Decorative Trunk
Light Brown Vintage Rattan Decorative Trunk
Brown Classic Rattan Decorative Trunk
Brown Traditional Rattan Decorative Trunk
Brown Classic Rattan Decorative Trunk
  • Cedar

If you need your trunk to be more pragmatic than decorative, explore the options of cedar chests, which multitask - they store woolens and also protect them from moths and other critters that like to eat wool and cashmere. A large cedar trunk is an exceptional addition to a bedroom and can help you store your off-season clothes or extra bed linens.

Where Should I Put My Trunk?

Included in the classification of chest or trunk comes a myriad of modern furniture that moonlight as storage containers. Ottomans and coffee tables, as well as trunks and chests, are now made with removable (or semi-removable) lids.

One of the best things about decorative trunks is their adaptability and storage capacity. In a bedroom, a trunk is handy at the end of the bed to store extra blankets or a spare set of sheets where it's out of the way and convenient.

  • Living Rooms

Decorative trunks can be used as coffee tables in living rooms, especially in boho-elegant style homes. The trunk's details - oak slats or leather handles - can augment the room's natural charm, and it can also be used to store seasonal decorations.

Make sure that you only store items you don't regularly need as you will have to move all the objects off the lid before opening the trunk each time.

Gray Vintage Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Black Stylish Wooden Decorative Trunk
Brown Classic Wooden Decorative Trunk
White Modern Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Traditional Wooden Decorative Storage Trunk
Brown Stylish Metal Decorative Trunk
  • Bedrooms

Jaunty decorative trunks with vintage logos make great additions to kids' rooms or recreation rooms, and they can be used to store board games or unused toys and art supplies.

They can be left open, especially if they're wall trunks, which are created to lie flat against the wall when opened. When open, they can attractively display whatever is stored inside.

If the interior of the trunk is well-loved and shoddy, you can reupholster it or, if it's wood, glue some jazzy wallpaper to it.

Black Classic Fabric Decorative Trunk
White Modern Wooden Decorative Trunk
Brown Traditional Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Red Vintage Leather Decorative Trunk
Light Brown Classic Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Green Elegant Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
  • Mudroom

In the mudroom, if you don't get a very expensive trunk, it can be used as storage for off-season items like mittens or mud boots or gardening hats.

Brown Vintage Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Dark Brown Classic Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Light Brown Simple Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Stylish Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
White Simple Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Light Brown Classic Pine Decorative Trunk
  • Bar Cart

Some of the most innovative ideas on using decorative trunks in home décor involve placing the trunk, which should be on the smaller side like a hat trunk, on metal legs, which makes the trunk easily accessible. A vintage trunk used in this manner would make a stand-out bar, and you could close the lid until cocktail time to hide the interior for a less-cluttered daytime look.

The only places that trunks look somewhat out of place are bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas. Everywhere else is fair game.

Brown Classic Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Simple Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Brown Vintage Manufactured Wood Decorative Trunk
Dark Brown Classic Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
White Modern Solid Wood Decorative Trunk
Gray Traditional Solid Wood Decorative Trunk

Quick Tips

  • Trunks are resilient, especially if they are vintage luggage. You don't need to condition or care for them as you might other furniture, like a mahogany dining room table. You may apply treatments to your trunk to preserve it. However, your trunk's shoddy exterior may end up being an attractive detail in your boho-chíc art studio.

  • If the decorative trunk is the central design point in your room, make an eclectic wall installation by stacking different-sized trunks on top of one another. Make sure that your stacked trunks are stable so that they won't topple over on anyone.

  • Trunks are exceptional space savers, and not solely because they store items inside. They fit those dead areas in rooms that are either oddly shaped or bereft of furniture. Trunks are interesting enough to look at that, and they positively negate the dead space.