What is a Trunk Coffee Table?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A trunk coffee table is a low table made to look like an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Alternatively, a trunk coffee table may be an actual trunk with a flat top to use as a coffee table surface. A trunk coffee table may fit in with many different design styles and can add a unique vibe to any living room or gathering space.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Before the days of wheeled duffel bags, laptop cases, and overhead compartments, long trips often called for enormous luggage that could contain all the necessities of life. In order to survive grueling trips by land or sea, luggage needed to be sturdy and heavy as well as large. Steamer trunks became synonymous with exotic travel, leading to their current fashion as trunk coffee tables.

A trunk coffee table may be made of leather or wood, and may be embellished with metal or leather straps and drawer openers. If the table is a coffee table made to look like a trunk, it may have drawers that conveniently open from the side for easy storage. If, instead, the table is an actual trunk, it will generally open on a hinge from the top.

One of the benefits of a trunk coffee table is the extra storage room. Without using any more space than a regular coffee table, a trunk coffee table adds capacious drawers and compartments for the accessories of coffee table life. Magazines, books, remotes, game controllers, coasters, and warm blankets can all be packed into the deep compartments of trunk coffee tables. Be aware that a trunk that opens from the top will have to be cleared off each time that the compartment is opened.

Trunk coffee tables can be found at home furnishing stores, but are a great project for those with an eye for home design as well. Scour yard sales, secondhand furnishing stores, and online auctions for a battered trunk that meets size and style requirements. Have fun restoring the trunk by varnishing wood surfaces, reupholstering, or adding fancy new hardware like brass hinges and beautiful straps. To add to the exotic travel theme, slap a few baggage label stickers or colorful stamps on the trunk from travels around the world.

There are many design schemes that trunk coffee tables can perfectly match. Use a streamlined, blond-wood chest with dark hinges to match mission-style furnishings, or hunt down an artisan to create a finely-carved trunk table to go with a California Arts and Crafts home. Look for trunks that evoke buried treasure to tie into a tropical design, or find a no-nonsense, dark leather version to complement British Colonial design.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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