Turning luggage into art

Turning luggage into art

Design editor-at-large of ELLE DÉCOR Mieke ten Have discusses how she brings traditional travel pieces into the home

When considering accessories for travel, luggage matters. Logic follows that clothing, toiletries, shoes and all incidentals need to fit within a case of particular dimensions but the iconic object that has condensed the closet into portable form has moved into a multi-dimensional realm.

Mieke ten Have — an interiors and design consultant who is design editor-at-large of ELLE DÉCOR magazine, New York design editor of Cultured Magazine and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal — has never pigeonholed luggage. Since inheriting her great grandmother’s monogrammed Louis Vuitton trunk, ten Have has incorporated that symbol of the grand voyage into her home, finally coming to rest as a side table in her living room.

Mieke ten Have and her great grandmother’s Louis Vuitton trunk in her living room

With inspiration from the curated Trunks & Travel sale from Christie’s Handbag Shop, Mieke ten Have outlines how she re-imagines luggage and associated travel pieces, pushing the conversation past the orthodox definition of a travel accessory.

When did you buy your first piece of luggage? What did you do with it?

Mieke ten Have: I did not actually purchase my first piece of luggage. Instead, my great grandmother passed down her monogrammed Louis Vuitton trunk from the early 1920s. Initially, I placed the vintage, hard-shelled object at the foot of my bed. However, the trunk has since migrated and is now a focal point of my living room, serving as a side table next to the sofa.

In the same room, I have a family photograph of my great grandparents in Cairo — three months following the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. I like to think that she took that trunk with her on that specific historic voyage.

Of course, I love the piece as a family heirloom, but even more for the exoticism that it connotes. As a side note, and unseen by the naked eye, the trunk is not empty. It has a very practical purpose: I store my Christmas ornaments, stockings and tree skirt in it!

In our upcoming Trunks & Travel sale, Louis Vuitton trunks and travel items take centre stage. Which pieces from the sale resonate with you? What would you do with them?

MtenH: The recent trend has been to reinvent luggage and evolve the travel piece into an art object with interpretative potential. I love the concept of a travel accessory — an object meant for escape, but that takes a stationary place within a domestic setting. This sale is making my mind percolate — so many beautiful items that bridge the practical and decorative divide.


Louis Vuitton, A monogram canvas cabin trunk, 1926. 30 x 21½ x 19. This lot was offered in our Trunks & Travel online auction and sold for $7,800

The Louis Vuitton monogram canvas cabin trunk from 1926 (Lot 401) is a wonderful, uncommon square shape. This could be refashioned as a great little table to put a reading lamp on!


Hermès, A dark green Morocco flask with gold brass hardware. 4 x 7¾ x 1½. This lot was offered in our Trunks & Travel online auction and sold for $375

I adore vintage barware decanters, pitchers, corkscrews — you name it! The Hermès dark green Morocco flask with gold hardware (Lot 405) is an automatic standout — and it includes a golden brass cup! It displays such an elegant attention to detail.


Louis Vuitton, A monogram canvas Keepall 60 duffle bag. 24 x 13 x 11. This lot was offered in our Trunks & Travel online auction and sold for $650

Ironically, I was just having this thought while on my most recent trip. Soft-sided luggage is invaluable when you are returning home with more than you came with, and the Louis Vuitton monogram canvas Keepall 60 duffle (Lot 396) is a very chic way to fill the bill. I would actually use (and need) this piece!


How else would you convert trunks within a domestic setting?

MtenH: Louis Vuitton trunks and luggage are incredibly versatile and durable. I love trunks because you do not have to be too precious with them. After all, they were made to last, to see the world, and most importantly to be used. Their wear tells as much of a story as the photographs that you take on the journey.

With regard to the home, however, trunks make excellent bedside tables in between twin beds in a guest room, and of course they can be eye catching, unexpected side tables in a more general living room.

I also love the look of stacked suitcases, or a suitcase on a bamboo or elegant wood stand that can double as a nightstand. Trunks are highly practical — after all, who doesn’t need more storage, especially in NYC?

What advice can you offer about collecting trunks and luggage?

MtenH: Always respect the patina. Unless it has been very poorly treated, a Louis Vuitton trunk ages beautifully, so be careful about over-restoring. As the phrase goes: ‘They don’t make it like they used to’, so we should take particular care to preserve the past. The appeal and originality of these pieces come from their individual histories.


For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily