I won a suitcase on ebay a couple of weeks ago for £10. I must've bid on hundreds, and I kept losing out as my budget was small. I wanted a cardboard one that was in a bit of a state so I could make it beautiful and then use it for storage. This is what I bought:
It measures 54cm/21" wide by 33cm/13" deep by 18cm/7" high. As you can see, it is really quite worn out, so I didn't feel remotely guilty about covering it in paint.
It was such a treat when I opened it to find this label inside. Look at the date - 3rd September 1939, just as the Second World War was starting, and half an address from Hartlepool, written long before a time when the Post Office used postcodes. Just think of all the places this suitcase might have been, all the clothes and possessions (and memories) it has carried over the last seventy years.
The metal clasp says "British Made" in very tiny letters. I think there is something very romantic and old fashioned about a cardboard suitcase; it makes me think of a steam trains and Brief Encounter and running away to join the circus.
I should probably start by saying that I have no idea if I did this renovation correctly - I could not find any good tutorials online for this type of project - so I made it up as I went along. I began by peeling away any of the loose or torn paper lining, so that I had a smooth surface to paint inside. Then I vacuumed the interior and wiped the exterior with warm soapy water.
I gave the whole suitcase, inside and out, two coats of water-based undercoat and primer (trying not to paint the metal corners and clasps too much). I lined the interior, but wanted a clean white surface behind the fabric, in case any changes in colour or tone showed through.
Then I gave the exterior two coats of top coat. I used some leftover cream emulsion I found in our garage.
Then I lined the interior with fabric. I measured and cut it as closely as possible then fixed it with PVA glue. I used pink ric rac trim to perk it up.
I used sand paper to try and remove the worst of the paint from the metal corners and locks. Then I gave the exterior two coats of clear varnish to protect the paint from wear and tear. Last of all, some decoration. I looked at lots of decals online but could fine none that I liked within my budget so when I saw this tin of travel stickers I thought, well now these will do nicely.
I like the way their vintage style echoes the history of this old suitcase. I can just peel them off when I get bored with them.
I think I will keep my wool and knitting things in it for the time being. It will probably end up holding toys at some point. I did think that these would make lovely baby memory boxes. If I could find two smaller suitcases (more like the size of that pink one in the photo below), then just think of the fun that could be had choosing fabric for the lining, and stencilling names or initials on top... But I am getting carried away. My children will probably have left home before I get round to doing that.