Decorative Mailboxes

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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If you ever watch the home and garden cable television program Curb Appeal, you know and appreciate what a difference certain details--such as porch railings, shutters, or decorative mailboxes, for example--can make. The exterior of your house, after all, is as important as the interior in reflecting your style and character. But setting a different tone doesn't necessarily mean a full-scale paint job, a renovation, or calling in a landscape designer.

Decorative mailboxes are an especially easy and low-cost way to strike a personal note. Getting one might be either a first step or a finishing touch. You may live in a suburban or rural environment or neighborhood where curbside mailboxes mounted on a post are the rule. Then again, you might be in a city or town where mail slots and wall-mount mailboxes on a front porch are most common. No matter what type you have, however, decorative mailboxes are a great opportunity to create your own curb appeal.

Decorative Mailboxes: Specification FAQ

No matter what type or style mailbox or mail slot you have, it must meet USPS specifications on size, shape, opening, and material. The idea is that it will comfortably hold or receive a stack of standard four-inch by 10-inch envelopes and a folded 8.5-inch by 11-inch magazine or two. Think about the conventional mailbox of the imagination.

Odds are that you're thinking of a long rectangular metal box with a rounded top and a door at one end. You see them most often mounted on a post at the end of a neighborhood driveway or along a rural highway. Curbside mailboxes must be accessible by a carrier from a vehicle.

As far as material is concerned, the core mailbox is most often made of aluminum, steel, brass, or copper. Both aluminum and steel mailboxes are often powder coated, that is, painted while being electrically charged. This finish lasts 20 years or more, no matter how severe the weather, one reason many airplane parts are powder coated. Copper and brass finishes are usually lacquered to preserve their finish, though of course no lacquer lasts indefinitely.

Decorative Mailboxes: Design Ideas

If your house is a 1910-style bungalow, for example, it will be one-and-a-half stories high with a low-pitched roof, and thick, square, front porch columns that extend to ground level. You've got a bit of play with styles of decorative mailboxes to round out the unpretentious, comfortable style of the Arts and Crafts movement, depending on your own. Maybe you have a front yard of low shrubs and ground cover with a low stucco retaining wall. If stairs and a front walk cut through the wall, you could raise the wall on either side in a repeating echo of the porch columns, and build a mailbox into one or the other.

Perhaps, though, your house is a more traditional brick colonial with front-gabled windows and a pedimented front door, fronted by box bushes and crepe myrtle. Post-mount decorative mailboxes have as much variation in the post as they do in the shape of the outer mailbox. A heavy black wrought-iron post with a T-support crossbar supporting a stylized mailbox might evoke just that finishing touch you're looking for.

Maybe you own a Depression-era town house with a full-width front porch, or a 1780s row house, or a 1950s ranch house in the suburbs. No matter the style of architecture, the variety of wall-mount decorative mailboxes is wide enough to accommodate almost any exterior decor scheme. The choice is yours--from verdigris finish copper, to wrought-iron Victorian, to polished brass, to whatever your imagination conceives.

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