a real cold item?

Unlike the painted toolboxes, which are a real hot item, my painted suitcases can be very hit or miss.  I’ve painted quite a few suitcases in my day, you can check out most of them in this post from April 2021.

One of my favorite suitcases was this one …

Although I guess technically that one is not painted.  I just added some I.O.D. transfers to it.  It did sell really quickly though.

But lately my suitcases are mostly a miss, rather than a hit.

Last Christmas season I painted this one …

I loved how it turned out.  But you know what?  It didn’t sell.

I think it would be adorable just sitting under the tree, or maybe placed in your foyer to greet Christmas guests.  As an added bonus, you could store Christmas ornaments in it when you pack it away with your decorations at the end of the season.

I still have it available if any of you locals are interested.  It’s priced at $45.

More recently I painted this one …

This time I also spruced up the inside thinking maybe that would help sell it.

But last I checked, this one is still unsold (it’s at the shop where I sell on consignment).

It’s priced at only $35 if any of you locals are interested.

Due to lack of sales, I’ve placed a moratorium on bringing home any more vintage suitcases.  Well … maybe I should clarify.  The moratorium is on paintable suitcases.  I’ll still grab fabulous vintage suitcases for my own non-collection.

However, I still have a couple of suitcases remaining in my ‘to be painted’ inventory including this one …

So decided to go ahead and get this one painted up.

This time I used Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth paint, and then I added I.O.D.’s June, Ode to Henry Fletcher transfer.

This was a super simple project.  I just painted the suitcase, gave it a light sanding with 220 grit paper, added the transfer and then finished with a topcoat of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat.

Oh, and I did also sand over the transfer very lightly with 220 grit to give it a more worn appearance before applying the topcoat.

That is such a pretty transfer!  The last time I used it was on this toolbox …

It sold really quickly and one of my regulars missed out on it.  So when I finished up this suitcase, I shared it with her and she called dibs on it.  So today’s suitcase is spoken for.

But I wonder if part of the reason the suitcases don’t normally sell as well as the toolboxes is because they are often musty inside.  This one actually isn’t too smelly, but it is quite orange.

Here are some q tips for mitigating that ‘I’ve been closed up for 50 years’ smell.

no 1 – fill the suitcase with crumpled newspaper and close it back up for a week or so.  The newspaper will absorb some of the odor.  Repeat several times with fresh newspaper if necessary.

no 2 – throw a scented dryer sheet inside.  Maybe pick a nice lavender scented variety.

no 3 – spray with Fabreeze.

no 4 – give the suitcase its day in the sun.  Open it up and set it outside in a sunny spot to air out.

no 5 – if you’re really fancy, create your own lavender sachet to place inside the suitcase.

I’ve tried all of these options … well, except I’ve never made my own sachets.  Usually I employ several of these options at once.  But, I haven’t found a 100% fool-proof way of totally removing that musty-ness.  Once the suitcase goes back to sitting around closed up all the time, it will likely return.  For that reason, I use my own vintage suitcases to store things that won’t pick up odors like my glass tree toppers.

If nothing else, a suitcase like this one is just pretty to look at.  You can put it at the foot of your bed, or next to your dresser, or anywhere really.

Do you have any tips on freshening up the inside of a suitcase?  If so, please be sure to share them in a comment!

29 thoughts on “a real cold item?

  1. Re: odor. I use HEX Performance “Un-Stink Your Stuff” on boots that I thrift for upcycling and resale. Works really well.


  2. If you are reselling anything I wouldn’t recommend using anything with chemically created scents. There are a lot of us who have extreme sensitivity to those scented products. I have used sunshine – but that does take a while. Sitting a bowl of baking soda inside might work. If the inside isn’t fabric lined you could use Big Mamas Buttah on it. I know there’s other solutions out in the world but that’s all I can think of at this moment!


  3. We had a refrigerator/freezer in a house we purchased that was not very old but had been left with meat in it and then no power. The stink was unbearable so we were going to through it in the trash but then someone told me to find plain charcoal briquettes without the starter fluid added to them and put a tray full of them in the fridge and change every few days. It absolutely worked and the smell never came back so maybe would work on the suitcases.


  4. I’ve used the hot sun and then a bowl of baking soda when I bring it back inside. Or try freshly ground coffee in a bowl and close it up for a few days.


  5. Hello from Canada

    I just wanted to reach out to tell you how much I love your work. I really like your tool boxes. I have one of those old beat up red ones at home and am going to give it a try. So thanks for sharing your process!

    I sell some of my work at a small eclectic gallery in a neighbouring community. I think these toolboxes might be a good fit, especially as they are small and very unique. It seems that overall your prices are relatively comparable to what I sell my pieces for in my area. I wonder if you might share how much you sell these tool boxes for?

    Thanks very much. I will most definitely continue to enjoy following your beautiful work.


    Darlene Bowman Audrey Ellen Designs



    1. Thanks so much Darlene! I sell the smaller toolboxes for $45 – $55, and I did sell one much larger one for $65. IMO, you have to be in it for the enjoyment of the process because if you figure out your hourly rate on this stuff it’s probably less than minimum wage 😉 I also can only make it work at these prices because I find the toolboxes at garage sales for less than $10 (I often see them priced higher, but I pass those by). But it’s so satisfying to take those rusty, crusty toolboxes and make them shine again!


  6. I think these suitcases are like works of art and useful too! The latest one is a beautiful example. You have an eye for what transfer looks great on what!


  7. I love the idea of vintage painted suitcases. I think that they are perfect for storage and are beautiful. I love the NorthPole one. I wish you were closer!


    1. I love the North Pole one too! And it would great to store holiday decor in until the season rolls around again
      .That said this latest is lovely as well, It would be perfect for the storage of linens in a guest room as long as there is no musty smell.


      1. Most of mine are too musty for bed linens, unless you’re going to wash them after taking them out every time, and I’d likely wash the linens in my guest room before a guest arrives anyway.


  8. I’ve had good luck getting rid of the musty smell using a mix of coffee and white rice. Sit a cereal size bowl of the rice/coffee mix in the suitcase and close it up for a few days. Another option is a small dish of pure vanilla extract. Although, that one is kind of pricey at the cost of vanilla nowadays!


  9. Another pretty one Miss Quandie! I can’t say that I’ve ever had to deoderize something really stinky but I do try to put a dryer sheet in our suitcases before I put them away……..I think the charcoal idea is legit though. Pretty sure they sell packets that you can hang in your closets etc…….:-D


    1. I have seen those, now that you mention it. I tried that approach in my basement for a while and they weren’t very effective in a large space … but maybe closed up in a suitcase. Great tip!


  10. Years ago my mom and I opened her sterling silver flatware box and it smelled musty and moldy. We put kitty litter in it and left it for a week or so. To our surprise it worked really well. You could try it. Love your posts!


  11. I accidentally discovered that scented candles stored in the suitcase helped. I put away Christmas items in them and one year it included candles. The next year it smelled so much better and it lasted. I actually started to save the left over candles with no more wick to tuck in additional ones. Obviously I love the scent and have no allergies.


  12. I have used kitty litter on old suitcases and trunks. It works pretty well. But the best tip I got was from a vendor at the 127 yard sale a few years ago. She had a bounty of them and they were all so clean and didn’t smell terrible. I asked her what she did and it’s Vodka! Put some in a spray bottle and spray away. I always leave it open and put it in the sun too. Crazy, but it worked.


    1. Well … I tried the vodka thing on some smelly drawers once and only ended up wasting the vodka 😉 I think the real trick is to drink the vodka, and then you don’t care whether or not the suitcase smells!


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