Trunks and chests

Trunks and Chests. Often the two get mixed up as to which is which, but the distinction is a pretty simple one.

The differenece between Trunks and Chests - NK BantawaiLarge heavy wood and metal trunk
The differenece between Trunks and Chests - NK Bantawai

Trunks are usually much more sturdily made; their primary role is for travel. Long excursions and trips,  many specific styles evolved for the different kinds of travel and needs.

People generally used chests for storage. At times becoming an actual piece of usable furniture as well as the storage function. ie; as a bench or writing platform.


Trunks have been around for thousands of years in countries like China and elsewhere. But the traditional looking trunks that most of us would recognize date from the late 18th century through to the early 20th century.

Beautiful wood and metal low trunk

The popularity of trunks during this period spurred a host of distinct styles with very set functions. Cabin, Steamer, Saratoga, Wall and dresser trunks evolved for very set uses.

Large heavy wood and metal trunk, NK Bantawai

The ruggedness for travel as a function didn’t mean that aesthetics suffered. Some of the specific styles featured extensive detailing and opulence in their looks. This is especially true of the dresser trunks that were used during the ocean liner days.

As travel means changed so did the demands regarding luggage. Towards the mid 20th century people often replaced trunks with the more convenient and smaller suitcase. Early suitcases did at times resemble the trunks in style if not in size and over time even this distinction diminished as plastics etc. gain control of the market.

Trunks didn’t disappear, but their roles changed. Many large trunks were just too big for house use. Often people halved or even quartered their trunks to make them more adaptable, moveable and useful within a home. (the image above to the left is an example of a quartered trunk). Almost morphing into their cousins, the Chest’s as their roles changed to storage.

Chests & Trunks Today

There is a resurgence in trunks today, certainly not for travel but for home décor. We still store and transpoort items in trunks. However, resurgence and demand for trunks is due to the look and style. The beauty of age and style adding a rich elegant feel in home décor. A useful and beautiful piece of furnishing from history.

Part 2 covers chest’s, delves into a bit of their history, use and how they too are gaining in popularity. You may view our selection of Chests & Trunks here.

Wood and metal chest set
collection of trunks and chests