How To Decorate With Trunks & Chests

AAA Print

Classic trunks and chests make functional and appealing decorating accessories, giving your home a touch of worldly, earthy or historic charm.

Use Trunks & Chests As Furniture

Because of their size, durability and shape, trunks and chests easily do double duty as household furniture. These functional approaches might fit in well with your home design:

  • Seating: Most trunks and chests are strong enough to sit on. Add some decorative cushions to create a bench as a window seat or along a wall. For a more ambitious project, open a trunk and fill the hollows with upholstered cushioning for seat and back padding. Add legs underneath for a unique love seat.
  • Coffee tables: Steamer trunks and wooden or woven chests look great all by themselves as coffee tables. If you’re planning to use your coffee table for food and drink, consider protecting the surface with a glass or Plexiglas panel, a colorful throw or a fringed scarf.
  • Accent tables: Smaller chests make great end tables in your living room, family room or dining room. In the bedroom, try a small chest as a bedside night table.
  • Side Table: Stand two trunks on end against a wall a few feet apart and lay a wooden board across the space between them.
  • Pet beds: A shallow traveling chest is just right for creating a cozy retreat for your dog or cat. Simply keep it open and fill the hollows with pet cushions, pillows and blankets.

Wall Decorating

Framed artwork isn’t your only option for breaking up large boring expanses of wall. If you’ve got a few old trunks and/or chests, stack them against a wall or in a corner to add color, shape and texture to this area.

Ways To Use Trunks

Take advantage of the appearance as well as the storage function of your trunk or chest with these easy decorating ideas:

  • Armoire: Stand a trunk on its end and install some shelves in the hollow area to store sweaters, tee shirts or lingerie.
  • Freestanding closet: Stand the trunk on its end and install closet bars for hanging dresses, shirts, blouses or slacks.
  • Bookcase: Stand trunk or chest on end and open against a wall. Install shelves and display your favorite books in style.
  • Blanket box: Keep chest or trunk open at the foot of your bed and fill it with beautiful quilts and comforters.

Even if you hadn’t planned on a specific storage function, no matter where you showcase your trunk or chest if will offer plenty of room to store things out of sight. Here are some things you might want to keep in yours:

  • CDs
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Out of season clothing

Trunks In The Playroom

Don’t forget your kids’ play areas and bedrooms when decorating with trunks and chests. A sturdy steamer trunk becomes a nice looking toy chest if you take some safety precautions by getting rid of any locks and perhaps padding around the top lid so it can’t slam hard on little fingers.

Trunks and chests also make great dress up closets. Install closet bars as you would for a grown-up closet, stand on end and let kids hang dress-up clothes, superhero costumes or other play outfits. You might also want to add a drawer or tray at the bottom for play makeup and accessories.

Other Creative Ideas

You might be surprised at how many unusual, creative options you have for decorating with your trunks and chests. Here are just a few:

  • Memorabilia display: Stand trunk on end and open. Back the inside walls with cork board and use push pins to display travel photos, ticket stubs, letters or other mementos.
  • Liquor cabinet: Install shelves and store liquor bottles, mixers, stemware and other glassware.
  • Planter: For a truly unique display of nature, fill trunk with potting mix and design your own arrangement of plants and flowers.
  • Collection Display: Install shelving and possibly a glass cover so you can display a collection of figurines, pressed flowers, trophies or original artwork.

Enhancing The Look Of Your Trunk Or Chest

Decorating with an attractive new or weathered trunk or storage chest is almost always a good plan. But what if your chest or trunk looks so awful or dull it isn’t something you’d ever want to display? Before you hide it in the basement or put it out with the trash, consider these ideas for giving it a new look you’ll want everyone to see:

  • Decoupage: Cover your trunk in a paper design with just the right colors and patterns to fit with your decorating style.
  • Fabric: Cover your trunk in fabric that matches or compliments your drapery, upholstery or bedding.
  • Stain: Refinish a worn wood chest by sanding, staining and protecting with a polyurethane coating.
  • Paint: Spray or brush on paint to change the color of wooden, woven or steamer chests and trunks.
  • Bling: Help an old chest fit in with your teen girl’s bedroom by decorating with stickers, glitter, ribbons, buttons and faux jewels.
  • Steampunk accessories: Glue some gears, cogs and chains to an old trunk to give it a steampunk facelift.

With a little imagination, almost any trunk or chest can become an important feature of your home décor. So let that imagination run wild and create a space that blends form and function in unique and beautiful ways.

Last Updated: September 2, 2012
AAA Print

About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

Note: The information provided on this site may be provided by third parties. The owners and operators of this site do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, and compliance of the content on this site. Such content is not and shall not be deemed tax, legal, financial, or other advice, and we encourage you to confirm the accuracy of the content. Use is at your own risk, and use of this site shall be deemed acceptance of the above.