Creating holiday décor that accentuates the brand of an organization is something that RumbleDrum loves doing. For us, it’s part of telling the client’s story. Making unique and fun and memorable designs that guests talk about and remember is all part of making the holidays festive and bright.


One of our clients, The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Tulsa has given us full reign on creating memorable décor and also the freedom to tell the story of the design development.


In 2019, the RumbleDrum owners and designers, Todd Wade and Joe Mathis began to imagine and explore ideas for making the Hyatt “merry and bright” in 2020. They sought inspiration from other designers and looked at hundreds of ideas. Nothing seemed appropriate.


Todd and Joe began to talk about the Hyatt brand and key words such as adventure, destinations, road trips and vacation. Joe’s love for vintage luggage (and small collection) entered the design process. From that was born the idea of a luggage tree.


It was determined that the ideal tree would be around 15 feet reaching the rotunda of the hotel. Todd began to calculate what a luggage tree would look like.


They explored the web for inspiration and ideas. The closest example was a Louis Vuitton store window display in New York City, but the scale of the luggage tree was nowhere near what they had in mind.


Todd decided the goal needed to be 100 pieces of vintage luggage, or an average of 2 pieces every week, and charged Joe with scheduling buying trips to make that happen. In one of their first stops at an antique flea market in Oklahoma City in January, they purchased almost 25 pieces of luggage. They were on their way to a design.


While on their annual holiday buying trip at Dallas Market Center in January, Todd and Joe continued to imagine what a Vintage Luggage Tree for the Hyatt would look like. Working with their ribbon partners, D. Stevens, they found a ribbon that seemed to blend and match the Hyatt brand. They knew that the circular modern pattern and blue shades would match the new carpet and décor at the Hyatt Regency in Tulsa.  


A floral supplier, AllState, had the perfect globe ornaments for sale to retailers and they continued to seek additional globe shapes and designs. 


During an event installation in February at the hotel, Joe began thinking about using the luggage and travel theme on the other trees at the Hyatt, and the garland around the rotunda.


In March, COVID-19 halted buying trips, plans, and any dreaming about Christmas.  For the hotel and event industry it became a day-to-day planning for the next thing.  


Throughout the summer, Joe would pick up a piece of luggage on Facebook Marketplace or other online sales options, such as eBay. By the end of summer, there were only 50+ pieces of luggage and the question became: “Would Christmas décor even happen at the Hyatt?” The year so far had meant loss in revenue, canceled events and Christmas parties and of course, layoffs. Todd was determined that they would move forward.


In September, Joe made another trip to Dallas and stayed for the first time in a hotel during the pandemic. He contacted Facebook Marketplace sellers in the Dallas area and began driving around town spending $50 here and there on random pieces of vintage luggage. (He even bought some from a guy that was not vintage and probably wouldn’t work, but he couldn’t say “no” after driving so far and going to the trouble to meet the guy — but that’s Joe)! Masked up, he ventured into antique malls and flea markets and was able to haul home another 30 pieces. He even stopped through Norman, Oklahoma to buy more from an empty-nester who was down-sizing. When she heard of the vision, she was very excited that her luggage would be used in a fun way.


Late one night, Todd went to the warehouse and assembled a 15-foot Christmas tree frame and began stacking luggage around it. It had promise — but at that point the fear entered Joe’s head of a hotel guest saying: “Why is there a pile of luggage in the lobby?” Todd assured him that with the greenery picks/branches they had purchased, along with the ornaments and ribbon, the design still had lots of merit.


The pile of luggage stacked around the tree frame stayed in the middle of the warehouse. Joe focused on a 4×4 section of adding greenery, ornaments and ribbon. It may turn out OK.


They talked of drilling holes in the luggage to attach it to the frame. However, Joe is typically against damaging anything with historical or resale value. If the whole thing failed, he at least wanted to sell the luggage. Even though, the warehouse crew was anxious to use drills, they were kept away. In the end, in order to make it as sturdy as possible, they ended up threading hundreds of zip ties through the back side hinges of the luggage and strapping each case to the frame that they had covered with wire mesh.


Conversation continued as Saturdays were spent masked up and scouring flea markets all over Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas looking for vintage luggage. McAlester, Oklahoma was the jackpot with close to 25 pieces found in one antique mall.  


RumbleDrum was in the middle of gearing up for Christmas, finishing up a couple of major video projects and working with several clients on changed plans and ideas for 2021. The luggage tree project kept getting pushed to the backburner.


As November approached, Todd would bring up the tree daily and of course, Joe would either ignore or delay it another day. Todd would mark off time on the calendar to work with the tree, but it seemed Joe always had something more important or more urgent. Eventually, Todd got Joe’s attention and together they worked on the luggage tree. It was determined they needed more smaller train cases — Todd gave the number of 20. All of the RumbleDrum team was tasked with searching for luggage. Many of the favorite stores and flea markets in the Tulsa area had not been searched yet. Text messages would come in that someone had found a few pieces, or a friend had some. The luggage was cleaned and price tags were removed. The stack in the warehouse was growing.


Monday, November 30, the targeted day for installation had arrived. Joe’s concerns of a “pile of luggage” were still there. Vans were loaded with luggage and the team began to move in. Joe posted some photos on social media, and people were curious and wanting to know more.


In the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 1, Todd and Joe declared their masterpiece “finished” — the luggage theme was incorporated into other trees throughout the hotel, and the garland and a few matching displays were set up to complement the vintage structure.


As the airline crew members settled in for the evening and saw the tree go up, it was fun to hear them pointing out the America Airlines, TWA and PanAm bags. 


Our hope is that this unusual holiday season, our décor brings hope and inspiration for travel and adventure. The Hyatt continues to be a great place to enhance any trip or destination.


What do you think? Does our Vintage Luggage Tree bring hope and inspiration for travel and adventure in the new year? Does it cause one to reminisce of family members and fun days in the past?