Chest – Trunk, the difference :

If we think, generally speaking, that the frontier between trunk and chest is very vague, we can nevertheless find some elements to help us to define what a trunk is.

Wooden pieces of furniture

First of all, a trunk is a piece of furniture which almost systematically has, in its original condition, an exterior coating (canvas, leather, imitation leather, pegamoid, or mere fabric), and an interior coating (paper, fabric, relon, leather…), unlike any kind of chest, with some exceptions of course. (to make things simpler!) Trunks are mainly made of common wood (poplar, fir, fruit tree…), preferably light, whereas chests are often made of fine wood such as walnut or oak and, depending on the regions, of fir (heavy wood).

Primary function of a trunk : travelling

The primary function of a trunk is to travel and, for that purpose, it must be light and strong. That is why trunk makers reinforce the box with hardware and slats. Thus a trunk that would fall from a loading dock is flexible and strong enough not to break, unlike a wooden chest whose framework, though very solid, will not resist a violent impact on an edge, for instance.

➡️ Click to learn more about the history of trunks and luggage.


Dome top trunks

They find their origin in chests of yesteryear. They are domed in one way or in both ways, like a barrel.
A trunk needs to be protected by slats and equipped with angles and corners (metal, brass, leather, raw skin, even sometimes cardboard). Trunks can be found starting around 1800, but often they date back to the development of travels around 1850 and after.

Most of them are around 80 cm wide, 50 cm high and 50 cm deep. Dome top drunks are seldom more than a meter high.

➡️ You can find some dome top trunks on our website.


Curved trunk, brand : L'Hopital


Curved trunk, stripped canvas

Curved trunk, leather wood and brass

Curved trunk, canvas


Curved trunk, with stripped canvas, around 1880

This trunk has been restored and is now in the bathroom
Napoleon III in the museum of the castle of Fontainebleau.

Alsacian trunk, brand Sturm in Strasbourg


Flat top trunks

Easier to pile up, flat top trunks are most often coated with oilcloth in their original condition.

➡️ Discover our article about Louis Vuitton Steamer trunks

➡️ Find some flat trunks on our website.

1912 Moynat trunk

This trunk (see the picture below) is typical of the flat top production from the 1900s on.


Steamer trunks

➡️Read our article on Vuitton Steamer trunks, and discover their distinctive features. Steamer trunks for men or ladies, canvases and finishing touches, arrangement advices...







1890 Moynat trunk

Goyard steamer trunk







malle_courrier__louis_vuitton__1889.jpg1889 Vuitton steamer trunk





High trunks

176.6__malle_haute__moritz_maedler.jpgMoritz Maedler large steamer trunk







Cabin trunk

204.2__malle_cabine__moynat.jpgMoynat cabin trunk

Other examples

Goyard shoe trunk


Swiss officer small trunk










Bentwood banded trunks

Bentwood banded trunks find their origin in Eastern Europe. They are common in eastern France, Germany, Austria… As for Thonet and his café chairs, the wooden slats have been bent with a steam bending process. The bentwood banded trunk represents the ideal trunk. It is light due to its laminated poplar structure and at the same time flexible and very strong. There are bentwood banded trunks of all shapes. They are safe for children because of their very very light lid.

➡️Find some curved trunks on our website.








Steamer bentwood banded trunk


Large bentwood banded trunk
Bentwood banded suitcase trunk
166.2_malle_cintr__lavolaille.jpgLavolaille branded bentwood banded trunk


Leather bentwood banded trunk


20.1_malle_courbe_capitone_1.jpgLeather-coated bentwood banded trunk












Doll trunks

There are different types of doll trunks : the small doll trunks, made to play with a trunk scaled to the doll's size, and larger doll trunks, meant for the doll to be inside the trunk. Some of them look like works of art due to their high quality.

➡️ Find beautiful decorative doll trunks on our website La malle en coin.

Discover the story of doll trunks on video

In five minutes, discover all the diversity and charm of doll trunks. Their story and their style, logically, has always followed the evolutions of full sized trunks. You can find tiny flat trunks, small curved trunks, doll wardrobes...

19th century doll trunk


01.01__malle_de_poupe_us.jpg 5.1__malle_de_poupe_avec_sa_toile_dorigine.jpg
Doll trunk from the USA Doll trunk with its original canvas
04.06__malle_de_poupe__commode_en_cuir.jpg 9.2__malle_de_poupe__en_metal.jpg
Leather and brass doll trunk,
With flat top and commode (19th century)
Flat-top doll trunk coated with painted sheet metal

Hat trunks

As a 19th century essential accessory, doll trunks exist in various forms.

- You can find trunks meant for a single hat, for top hats, perfectly protected by a reversed shape that matches the shape of the hat.

- Hat trunks dedicated to women's wardrobes also exist, either with trays made of crisscross securing straps, or equipped with sorts of half-spheres enabling to hang hats on each side of the trunk.

➡️Discover our article about hat trunks, our find out about them in the video below. Jean-Philippe tells you all about these very special items, based on the history of Vuitton's hat trunks.


Leather and wood men’s hat trunk


Leather men’s hat trunk


Goyard men’s hat trunk


Goyard women’s hat trunk


malle_a_chapeaux_femme__marque_aux_etats_unis_55lx52hx50p_env.jpgGoyard women’s hat trunk
Brand: "Aux Etats-Unis"




























Wardrobe trunks

The wardrobe trunk (often mistakenly called "cabin trunk") was invented in the 1875's, but it is in 1890 that it is really marketed. It can be found with very different layouts. The most conventional one is a configuration with a bentwood banded part and another part with drawers, but some of them have a drop-leaf desk, some of them are laid out as wardrobe only, some others as drawers only.

The most diverse accessories can be added to the trunks. Some of them contain for instance an iron, an ironing board, a shoe box... Trunk makers have a limitless imagination. Thus you can find bookcase wardrobe trunks, desk wardrobe trunks, wardrobe trunks with space for storing kitchen accessories (Goyard)…

➡️Find the wardrobe trunks on La malle en coin.

➡️You can also discover our article on Louis Vuitton's wardrobes, presenting all the different models, from the most common to the most original ones, starting with the first pattent (dating from arond 1852) of the brand.

Wardrobe trunks on video


Trunk "Au Départ" 100 % original


Swiss wardrobe, entirely restored : outside and inside


goyard__fermer.jpgGoyard wardrobe trunk








Commod trunks

➡️You can find a selection of commod trunks on La malle en coin, and also see a few pictures below.









Car external trunks

Car external trunks are inextricably linked to the automobile sector development. The vehicles were taken on one hand to a coach-builder, and on the other hand to a trunk-maker who custom-built the requested trunk (ersatz of our current car trunk). Therefore, when the automobile industry was beginning to thrive, you could find just as much models of external trunks as car body types. Later on, trunks change place on cars, they are placed inside the car built-in trunk, or on the roof, on the wings, or on the rear hood. They could have very original shapes, according to the needs.

car external trunk


Moynat car external trunk


Moynat automobile trunk with its metal gallery to fix it on the back of the car











Wicker trunks

Wicker trunks alone could be the subject of a study… However, wicker is a peculiar living material that requires some knowledge in wickerwork to be restored. Light, inexpensive, it nevertheless has the disadvantage of not being waterproof…





Leather trunks

➡️ You can find leather trunks on our website.


Louis Vuitton leather trunk with natural leather


100% leather trunk (no wood)
Brand  "Alexis Godillot"



Metal trunks

See the pictures below.

171.3.jpgCurved trunk from 1875
with zinc (USA)


Military metal trunk
(country cooler)




American trunks

The trunks of American origin meet the same travel needs as the other ones, thus they obviously do not have a peculiar shape but their jewelry, however, is characteristic. The jewelry is somehow over-ornate, often "carved", and the thicker section wood is not made of poplar.
The locks also are different, more seldom brass ones. The corners, particularly reinforced, are often dated and sometimes even wear initials.

Cabin american trunk
Cabin american trunk


Steamer american trunk
The interior drawer is typical of US trunks from the 1870s - 1900s


Detail on a lock typical of American productions


american leather trunk
with decorated leather












Special trunks

The creativity of trunkmakers is limitless, therefore we often encounter very surprising trunks, such as the bed trunk, the desk trunk, or even trunks made to measure for famous people, such as the Stokowski trunk or the Lily Pons trunk...

➡️ Read our article about the Lily Pons trunk, made to measure for the great lyrical singer.

➡️Find a selection of surprising trunks, with diverse shapes and features.

➡️...and also unusual trunks available for restoration.

The Stokowski trunk, by Louis Vuitton


The library trunk, Louis Vuitton


The writing desk trunk, Louis Vuitton

Mobile wardrobe trunk
Bed trunk by trunk maker Louis Vuitton


Closed Swiss trunk: once opened the system tips over and presents a wardrobe, drawer for boots and interior tray.


Trunk called “theatrical” trunk (USA)


Neverbreak branded desk trunk (USA


Harp trunk