Summer Camp Week!

Trunks: The Roomiest, Sturdiest Way to Keep Things Out of Sight

July 26, 2016

Any vintagey-bohemian store worth its bejeweled drawer pulls is selling vintage-inspired trunks. This could be evidence that trunks are back in style, but, of course, they never went out: Trunks are the ultimate storage tool. Your grandparents knew it and you should, too.

Trunks took their owners across the sea, across the country, from one family home to a new one, to camp. My mother has the trunk her great-great-grandparents packed all their worldly belongings into and loaded onto a ship heading from Italy to America; it's long and wooden and serves as a sort of bench at the dining room table in the house I grew up in. In my Brooklyn apartment, the trunk my dad lugged to Boy Scout camp as a kid—its leather handles now a bit scrappy, but the label-maker tag with his name still intact—is my coffee table.

My trunk cameos as linen storage, coffee table, "surface" for photo shoots (i.e. Instagram shots).

thank you coffee, thank you toast, thank you plants

A photo posted by caro (@carolange13) on

The best part about trunks is that they serve two purposes: one exterior (perfectly lovely bench, coffee table, side table) and one interior (major storage). The trunk in my parents' dining room holds family memorabilia; the one in my living room holds more bedding than you would have thought possible just by looking at it (not one but two down comforters, plus a few sets of sheets)—even though I have to sit on the trunk to close it, which, sturdy thing that it is, it placidly accepts.

Vintage trunks are easy to find used, either on eBay or in thrift or antique shops or even on the side of the road. (You can also certainly buy one new, though they'll be more expensive—sometimes much more expensive—than the former option.)

If you are going to hunt down a used trunk, your primary concern will be the smell: They are prone to mustiness. However! There are lots of ways to deal with this (essential oils, baking soda, coffee grounds, or even kitty litter, as Apartment Therapy suggests).

But on the whole, trunks work for you. You could put wheels on it, so that you could move it easily about, making it even more productive. You can outfit it with shelves. You can stand it on its side and use it as a tiny cupboard. You can put it at the foot of your bed and heap extra blankets into and onto it, or use it for sweater storage. You can paint it, or line it with pretty papers! Or send your kid to camp with it.

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Did you go to camp with a trunk? Or do you have a memorable trunk in your life? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Gaurav S. March 27, 2018
I really like your uncle's old steamer trunk, actually steamer trunks are very useful as you written in your article. We can use it like a table and also can use for storage. Here is a brand from India Trunks Company who provides handcrafted lifestyle trunks please go through the website you will love the collection.
Hannah W. July 27, 2016
No joke I used my old camp trunk from early 2000's as a coffee table until about a year ago. It still had articles and photos from camp taped to the inside lid from when i was 10 or 11!
Alexandra S. July 26, 2016
Until reading this I had totally forgotten that my sister and I both used old family trunks (very musty smelling indeed!) when we packed for sleepaway camp at Camp Claire in Lyme, CT every summer for years. Love the creative uses for old trunks you've featured here — inspiring!