when inspiration strikes.

Sometimes I find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  This time it struck while watching a movie.  Cuba starring Sean Connery came out in 1979, but it’s set in the late 50’s.


There is a scene in the movie where one of the characters fills a suitcase with money in anticipation of fleeing the country after the fall of the Batista regime.  Ding, ding, ding!  Fabulous black and white vintage suitcase!  My eye went straight for it.

I just love the graphic punch of black and white, as evidenced by my front porch floor.

summer porch

Or this mid-mod bureau that I painted last summer …

black and white title

Seeing that black and white suitcase in the movie reminded me that I’ve had a couple of hard sided vintage suitcases lying around for a while.  One of them is Uncle Leon’s suitcase that I picked up at the Nokomis neighborhood garage sales last summer.

suitcase collage

The other is a thrift store find.


There are a lot of vintage suitcases that I wouldn’t dream of painting, but I’m not a big fan of these marble-ish finishes.

So I pulled out some chalk paint in black (Cece Caldwell’s Beckley Coal) and white (Annie Sloan’s Old White), some frog tape and some stencils and got to work.

inspiration title

I have no idea what the material is that this particular style of suitcase is made out of (do any of you know?), they certainly aren’t leather or cardboard.  I’m fairly sure the edges are some sort of rubber or plastic maybe.  Despite not knowing what this material is, I still follow my usual m.o. for painting them.  I sand them down a bit to rough up the surface so paint will adhere better, then I wipe them down with TSP substitute to remove surface grime and oils.  I have painted this type of suitcase with milk paint and with Fusion paint, both of which worked great.  This time I used chalk paint.  If you’re going to use tape to make a clean line (like I did on these) I would say stick with either Fusion or chalk paint.  The milk paint is going to be a bit too thin for a crisp line, and your tape is going to pull paint off.  I used the yellow frog tape for these (the one meant for delicate surfaces).  I removed it carefully shortly after painting the second coat of paint and I had no problems with paint lifting off.

The first case I worked on most closely resembles the suitcase in the movie (it was black with a wide white stripe down the middle).  I painted this one black first, then measured off my white stripe, taped it off and painted three coats of white.

1918 stencil

I added a subtle extra detail with some stencils.

suitcase rue henri

I changed up the stencil on the reverse side of the suitcase.

paris stencil close up

I used the wet paper towel method of distressing on the edges, handles and hardware.  Have you tried that with chalk paint?  Rather then using sandpaper and getting a rough effect on those rubber/plastic/whatever they are edges, I used a damp paper towel and just rubbed paint off.  It worked great on these!suitcase with Paris

The fact that you can wipe the paint right off with a damp paper towel suggests that you really do need a top coat over the chalk paint.  I used clear wax on these, and I have to admit it got a little tricky.  The wax picks up some of the paint, so I had to be very careful not to get black paint onto my white areas.  I used separate rags for waxing the black and white areas.

Just to be clear, I never intend for these suitcase to be functional as suitcases.  They are really just for decor purposes only.  Despite a wax top coat, if you tried to send one of these through the baggage system at your local airport it would come out much worse for the wear. They will get dinged up.

The second case got a little different black and white treatment, and I used my new Jardin de Fleurs stencil on it (by the way, are you keeping track?  This is the 3rd use of the stencil so far).

jardin de fleurs suitcase

I really can’t decide which suitcase I like best, can you?

suitcase tops

I love that Jardin de Fleurs stencil, but I also think the striped suitcase looks more authentically vintage.

They kind of make a great pair.  Don’t they?

suitcase pair

These guys need to find a new home, so if you are local (sorry, no shipping available) and interested in purchasing them just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you with the details.

20 thoughts on “when inspiration strikes.

  1. They are both beautiful!! I think the one with the stenciling “Jardin….” is the one I like best!! But they are both very nice!! Where did you get that stencil, if I may ask??
    Great job….I am sure they will go fast!!


    1. I got the stencil on Etsy from Drexart. Last time I looked that Etsy shop was on a break until next week, so you may have to wait until then to be able to find it.


  2. These are fabulous, Linda! I love the “Jardin de Fleurs”! Does that happen to be the marbled one? My parents used to have a set of those. I was sad when they decided to give them away…maybe that is one! I may need to add that to my living room decor. It would certainly work with all my black & white! Let me know…


  3. Love! They’re both fab, but I am partial to the rue Henri stencil because of my Henry! I like the 1918 too. So great. I think vintage suitcases are the perfect decor item since they’re also so functional to store things.


  4. Isn’t inspiration amazing? To see inspiration and translate it into something pleasing is a gift. These 2 suitcases complement each other so nicely that choosing a favorite is difficult, but perhaps 1918 is more androgynous would work in a larger range of settings.


  5. These are stunning!! I recently found two on the curb and redid one with a Frenchy theme, but still have one more to go. I’m feeling inspired! XO


    1. Thanks so much Sabrina! I don’t think I can take credit for that though really since I used stencils. I guess I can take credit for selecting the stencil though, so I’ll go with that 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.