Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Decorating With Antique Wooden Boxes


As well as elegant additions to your home, antique wooden boxes can be the beautiful solution to your storage problems. We all need a place to store  the smaller items we have accumulated. In fact I now have an antique box which I use every day to store my many pairs of reading glasses...... many because they never seem to be where I need them. Now I actually enjoy returning them to the gorgeous little inlaid box.

Today, in the era of the new maximalism, these sturdy and handsome antique wooden boxes have become sought after collectibles. In this post we will take a look at the variety of antique boxes a collector can choose from as well as how to display your treasures when you find them.  They are fun to collect and enjoyable to look at. I have several now and trust me, they grow on you!

via Pinterest.....@rue27maison

I love these beautiful antique wooden boxes and have only recently started collecting them myself. They can be expensive but if you are patient and enjoy treasure hunting as I do, you can still stumble upon one at an estate sale or auction or even find one for a reasonable price at a vintage or antique collectibles mall.

An antique box is a great collectible that adds beauty and interest to any home's you get the benefit of useful storage. My favorite way to display antique wooden boxes is to stack them in your living room, kitchen, actually any room in your house.

They may be small but an antique wooden box will instantly add a bit of history and beauty to your mantles, chests, and side tables.

Let's start with the wooden tea caddy box. At one time tea was one of the world's most expensive commodities. Tea caddies protected this valuable delicacy of the wealthy. 

While woods like mahogany, walnut, rosewood, ebony, and kingwood were usually favored, some boxes would be painted and inlaid like this Edwardian satinwood tea caddy.

Because tea was  precious,  wooden caddies were usually fitted with locks, in order to deter the hired help from pilfering  the valuable leaf. Lined with lead, yes that's right LEAD, these wooden boxes kept the contents fresh.

Three lovely 18th century English inlaid tea caddies. 

In the early 1800's small single tea caddies began appearing and could be founds in many interesting shapes and styles. It was not uncommon to see pieces made of mother of pearl or tortoiseshell, but the majority were made of mahogany, walnut, oak, and rosewood.

One of the most popular styles of wooden tea caddy boxes was called a sarcophagus caddy.

Circa 1810  birds eye maple sarcophagus tea caddy.

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via Pinterest

Although tea caddies are not used for their original purpose today, they are still highly collectible. Because these antique boxes make such charming accessories people have a fondness for them. 

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

This beautiful antique box is part of a vignette in my back hallway. A handmade antique wooden box is a one-of-a-kind item that you can keep and treasure. Plus they are valuable, especially if inlaid, veneered, or painted.

Another fun antique wooden box to collect is the Necessaire box. The French travelling box was an essential item during the 17th through the 19th centuries and contained basic personal grooming equipment. 

The wooden Nécessaire box held a tray specifically designed for holding razors, scissors, manicure tools, brushes and combs, bottles and jars for colognes, aftershaves and creams. Under the tray was a well for storing more ordinary items such as tweezers, toothbrushes, writing utensils and other essentials for everyday living.

By the early Victorian era, ladies also began to travel. Their travel boxes were designed with pure luxury in mind.  Lined in velvet, these wooden boxes held decorative bottles and jars as well as a vast array of  tools with which to adorn ones self .

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These stunning "necessities" boxes, (yes even for eating and drinking), normally were owned by the aristocracy  for traveling purposes. However, they eventually evolved into elegant and expensive status symbols 

There was a definite need for these sturdy hardwood boxes. If you traveled you would need a lock box for storing your valuables.

via Pinterest

I find antique wooden boxes to be beautiful and romantic. They look especially good in the boudoir or an adjoining bath room.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

This antique wooden sewing box is a recent find that I am thrilled with. It is veneered and handsomely inlaid with contrasting wood and mother-of-pearl. Before the sewing machine was invented in 1842 sewing boxes to hold needles, thread, scissors and other small items used for sewing were a household item of the wealthy. Today these sewing boxes make lovely accessories.

Antique Mahogany paint box c.1875. Another collectible box for consideration.

via Pinterest

In order to reflect the status of it's owner, the exterior of these wooden boxes became as important as the interior. The boxes started being veneered with beautiful exotic woods from all over the world. 
These beautiful veneered wooden boxes are considered true works of art.

Now let's move on to antique liquor serving boxes. Usually large and made of wood with added brass or other metal decorations they contained beautiful decanters full of liquor.  These wooden boxes were very much in style from 1850 to 1900. Locks were of utmost importance as to  keep the household help from taking drinks.

My favorite antique liquor serving box is the tantalus. Originally patented in 1881 by George Betjemann, a tantalus is a wooden container for usually four glass decanters and the addition of cordial glasses which were usually etched and even embellished with gold. The box was meant to be opened to display the beautiful glassware inside. Most popular were the ebony boxes but as you see in the image the natural wood tantalus box was also beautiful.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

This is from my dining room and shows my tantalus box. It took two years to find one.....this is where the patience pays off. The ebony boxes were usually inlaid with brass strips and strings. As you can see they usually contained a tray for the bottles and glasses to sit on.

When closed the antique liquor tantalus makes a beautiful box for display individually or in a group. Whether ebony.......

or other natural woods you simply can't go wrong with these wonderful wooden boxes.

Antique wooden boxes for holding perfume, or scent bottles are also charming collectibles. 
Here is an elegant Napoleon III wooden box with silk lining holding a set of four French perfume flasks featuring hand-painted gold  bottle stoppers.

Enhanced with alternating veneers set in a chevron pattern, this beautiful wooden perfume box contains bottles hand-painted with gold stars. 

Tunbridge ware is an exclusively English form of decoratively inlaid woodwork, typically in the form of boxes. The famous makers were in the Tunbridge Wells area of Kent and their most celebrated work was from about 1830 to 1900.

The decoration on these antique wooden Tunbridge boxes consisted of thin strips of different colors and grain of wood that were glued together and pressed down tightly in blocks. When the glue was dry, the blocks were cut across the strips  to produce thin sheets of patterned wood, which were then applied as veneer.

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Tunbridge boxes are known for their elaborately striped and feathered bandings. These wooden boxes could be used for documents, jewelry, or a wide variety of other storage.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

I was able to find this Tunbridge box at an estate sale for a very good price.

Antique wooden boxes display beautifully on center foyer tables like this one. Desks, mantles, side tables, coffee tables, and shelves are also wonderful places to create vignettes including a box or two.

These boxes have been increasing in price lately and are becoming harder to find.

North Bayshore Antiques

Antique wooden boxes offer interesting and useful accents to any room in the house. Tea caddies look wonderful in the kitchen or dining room. Use boxes like the above in your office for important documents.

An antique wood box is a perfect gift idea for your favorite collector!

Towards the end of the 18th century travel desks became popular. Called writing slopes they provided  access to a stable surface to write upon with handy storage for pens, paper and ink.

When the writing slopes are closed they make beautiful wooden boxes that today are sought after by collectors everywhere.

Dutch writing slope box with Parquetry of geometric designs.

Many of these stunning wooden boxes tended to have thick veneers of mahogany, rosewood, yew or fruitwoods. Writing slope boxes display wonderfully in vignettes!

As do these charming 17th century carved oak boxes.

These beautiful antique wooden boxes look wonderful in a variety of decorating styles from Old World to Contemporary.
Antique wooden boxes are one-of-a-kind items that you can keep, treasure yourself, and pass down from generation to generation.

With antique wooden boxes it doesn't matter if you have a small display........

or a large accumulation. This is one collectible that looks good in any number!

Society has changed quite a bit since the popularity of these beautiful antiques. Plastic is king. But if you love the look of luxury, nothing can beat a fine antique wooden box. 

via Pinterest

Best of luck with your treasure hunting!! You never know what delightful box might turn up at a yard or estate sale!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

In the event that I have not credited the correct source of an image, please contact me at and I will be glad to correct it.

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