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BOX PARTY: MAKE A ROOM WITH CHIC & CLEVER VINTAGE BOXES

At the intersection of high design and everyday function, there's a need for storage that doesn’t lead with its organizational nature. Enter: decorative boxes. Designed to stow away the collective clutter that populates any home (yes, even the meticulously kept), decorative boxes assume an identity closer to a decorative object than an organizational item. Their ability to pass for decor is a result of their luxe construction materials. Semi-precious stone, colored glass, porcelain, and burl wood are all commonly used materials for small vintage boxes.

That said, some prefer the ingenuity of repurposed boxes. Vintage cigar boxes, hat boxes, and other antique paper and wooden vintage boxes can also be used as clever storage options. For instance, an old vintage cigar box used atop a bar cart to corral martini picks, swizzle stivks, and spoons can be an adroit way to camouflage clutter.

If you’re inclined to pack the boxes into your space, chances are you want to know more about what kind of decorative vintage boxes are available and which ones best suit your style. To help, we’re spotlighting some of the most commonly searched for decorative boxes. From thimble-sized boxes (think: Limoges small vintage boxes) to marvelously sized boxes (by which we mean the one and only Maitland-Smith boxes), these are the search terms to know when hunting down vintage boxes for sale.

Maitland-Smith Boxes

Maitland-Smith was founded in 1979 in Hong Kong by a London antique dealer who wanted to reproduce 17th and 18th Century English furniture designs. While the initial designs were strictly reproductions ( a set of mahogany Chippendale dining room chairs, in fact), Maitland-Smith soon expanded into the business of sourcing exotic, luxury materials to breathe new life into reproduction designs. Bronze, travertine, shagreen, ostrich shell, and parchment were soon being integrated into both reproduction designs and more contemporary ones. Among the items that best showcased these premier materials were Maitland-Smith boxes. As a result, Maitland-Smith boxes soon emerged as one of the brand’s signature items.

These large-scale boxes initially adopted the bold, vaguely Art Deco-style that was popular throughout the 1980s. Even today, this style is still emulated by the brand. Among the most pursued Maitland-Smith boxes are those featuring unique shapes, such as dome-covered boxes or pyramid designs, as well as those covered in unique, geometric designs composed of materials like tessellated travertine, crystal stone, or colored waxstone. Thanks to their generous proportions, Maitland-Smith boxes are ideal for gracing coffee tables where they come in handy for stashing everything from remotes to phones (you know, when game night dictates putting the electronics on time out for an hour or two—no exceptions!!)

Limoges Boxes

No, they might not be the most practical of decorative boxes (although we will say that they fit a pair of AirPods nicely), but it’s hard to deny the allure of Limoges porcelain boxes. A catchall name used to describe pill-sized boxes made of kaolin clay that originates in Limoges, France, Limoges boxes were originally designed to hold thimbles and other similar sewing accouterments in 18th century France. As time went on they increasingly became used as snuff boxes among France’s aristocratic class.

Part of what makes Limoges boxes so popular is their collectability. Limoges boxes are generally modeled after everyday items, such as violins, dogs, bicycles—and even more irreverent items like cheese plates or NYC taxis. Though they’re extremely small decorative boxes, Limoges boxes are perfect for adding function to a vanity (use them to corral everyday rings or earrings), or a sink top to store salves or other skin tonics (according to many historians, it was once common to pour perfumes or creams right into Limoges boxes’ basins). Phone SIM cards, keys, and USBs are also small enough to make use of Limoges boxes.

Mandruzzato Boxes

Benjamin Mandruzzato was a Murano glass maestro who began crafting in 1934. He passed the craft onto his son and grandchildren who have helped define the signature Mandruzzato style as minimalist and overarchingly geometric. Mandruzzato boxes have gained special appeal thanks to their glamorous, postmodern aesthetic. Featuring a technique that could be likened to sommerso (which involves submerging one color of glass into another to create an encapsulated form), Mandruzzato boxes typically feature a clear or smoked glass outer layer that surrounds a colored glass interior box. Rather than sharp, defined edges, the interior boxes possess rounded, almost globular-like forms.

Mandruzzato boxes are perfect complements to 1970s glam style (think Milo Baughman Parsons tables, Lucite chandeliers, Pierre Paulin ribbon chairs), as well as colorful maximalist interiors. Since these decorative glass boxes could easily be mistaken for sculpture, use them on bookshelves, etageres, and desktops. Some sizes are also large enough to be used as proper jewelry boxes. For those on a mission to curb not only household clutter, but decorative clutter as well, Mandruzzato boxes are perfection when stationed solo on a statement dresser or console.

Cloisonné Boxes

Cloisonné boxes are usually synonymous with chinoiserie. These small decorative boxes are usually round, or square with rounded edges and feature elaborate scrollwork. While cloisonné can come in any color, shades of blue, green, and black are particularly prevalent. The word cloisonné derives from an ancient technique that consists of decorating an object with colored enamel held in place with stripes of flattened gold or black wire. The result is similar to stained glass, although overall, less puzzled-together-looking.

Interestingly, cloisonné boxes are frequently sold in pairs. The pairs can either be identical or complementary. Nesting cloisonné boxes are also common. Cloisonné boxes’ intricate scrollwork makes them especially striking when displayed in multiples. Try clustering a few on a side table or nightstand to procure a stunning effect.