As collectors and interior decorators know, a Louis Vuitton travel trunk is much more than just a large piece of luggage. It is foremost a thing of lasting beauty. In an era of wheeled valises and long security lines, Louis Vuitton trunks hearken to an older, more glamorous time of travel, and today are more likely to be found gracing a richly appointed living room than a steamer cabin or private rail car.
New York-based interior designer Sasha Bikoff has made her mark by seamlessly fusing her love for international vintage styles with the boldness of contemporary art and fashion, bringing a background in fine arts to her unique aesthetic sensibility. Ahead of our Trunks & Travel Sale in Christie’s Handbag Shop, Handbags Specialist Caitlin Donovan spoke with Bikoff about her love of Vuitton trunks, the most stylish ways to furnish with them, and a few of her favorites from the sale.
Sasha Bikoff, founder of interior design firm Sasha Bikoff New York.
CAITLIN DONOVAN: Were you always interested in design? What are your inspirations?
SASHA BIKOFF: I’ve always been interested in design. But I started with more of a fine arts background when I was a gallerist in Chelsea before shifting gears toward design. I’m inspired by Italian and French mid-century furniture, and by space age modern — mostly pieces from the past, usually from different European countries. And I put them into my spaces and make them more relevant and contemporary.
That’s why I’m interested in Louis Vuitton trunks. They represent the past and that nostalgic idea that a person would get on a train with an old French steamer trunk to travel — particularly in the ‘20s. Putting one into a room adds uniqueness to any space.
How have textiles and fashion influenced your design sensibilities? Do you see a parallel between how you curate a home and how someone curates a wardrobe?
I think dressing yourself and being a fashionable person is very different from styling a home. A person has a personality, they have a heartbeat. So when you work with an interior space, you have to give it that heartbeat.
I use fashion in this fun way because I love clothing and I love fabrics. And I love the whimsicality of fashion design — so why not add that to an interior? If you’re passionate about designers and couture, then why not live with it in every sense, not just wear it? Often times, I’ll upholster chairs with Hermès scarves or make Hermès scarves into pillows. Or I’ll buy remnant fabrics from different fashion designers and use them for chairs or couches. It adds individuality [to a space] and it really speaks about who the person is.
A Louis Vuitton case can be the perfect accent for a side table. Photo credit: Sasha Bikoff.
How have you seen trunks used in design throughout your career?
I’ve seen trunks my whole life being used as coffee tables, or stacked up and used as side tables. Sometimes you can stack two of the smaller ones on either side of a bed and use them as nightstands. You can also scatter the little makeup cases around your house and use them almost like sculptures. I’ve seen people cover an entire trunk with a Lucite case. There are so many different things you can do with them.
A Louis Vuitton case provides additional storage in a well-appointed dressing room. Photo credit: Sasha Bikoff.
So what is the best way to use a Louis Vuitton trunk in design?
They’re best used for tables or tabletops, because they have that rectangular shape. But it depends on what size it is. If you have a size that’s larger, it’s really great for a coffee table. And if you have a bunch of smaller ones, they’re nice to stack up as more of a decorative thing next to a credenza.
I’m in Paris right now and I’ve been to all the antique trunk dealers over here. And these trunks — whether they’re vintage or only slightly used — do really well with age. It’s one of those things that you’ll have forever and that you can find a place for in any home because it’s a piece that has a really strong history. You see really old trunks from ages ago that have gorgeous wear that people are still dying to get.
We’ve seen that trunks with stickers showing that they crossed the Atlantic on a steamer in the ‘60s, for example, are sometimes more valuable than new trunks.
And sometimes trunks have the original monograms on them, or stickers on them — all these little details that add to the character. It makes you wonder who used to own this thing, where he or she traveled. It’s just a cool, eclectic statement piece to own in your home.
Louis Vuitton, A Set of Three Natural Vachetta Leather Hardsided Suitcases. Find this piece and other trunks and travel bags in Christie’s Handbag Shop.
What’s one of your favorite pieces in our Trunks & Travel Sale? How would you use it in a design?
I love this grouping of beautiful Louis Vuitton suitcases (image above). I would stack these, as shown in the image, and place them under a console at the entrance of a house. These trunks would look best in the home of a client who enjoys travel, a clever nod to a time when travel was as chic as the suitcases themselves.
A Damier canvas military trunk, Louis Vuitton, 1910. Find this piece and other trunks and travel bags in Christie’s Handbag Shop.
Any other favorites?
This Louis Vuitton trunk (image above) would make an incredible coffee table, surrounded by a beautiful set of low seating. To make the trunk blend in a living room, I would add a beautiful tray topped with a candle, small flower arrangement, Hermès ashtray, and a fabulous stack of books.
Find a fine assortment of Louis Vuitton trunks and other hard and soft-sided travel bags in Christie’s Handbag Shop Trunks & Travel Sale, available for a limited time only.