There is something wrong with this picture: You roll up the driveway of your $5,000,000 home in your Rolls-Royce and reach your Rolex-wearing arm into ... a $29.99 mailbox, quips Marty Heller of
Out Front Design. His clients know the sine qua non of the finest landscape is the presence of a designer mailbox. Each box is as unique as the homeowner who procures it, and prices range from $1,000 for an Adriean Koleric piece to about $8,000 for a hand-sculpted Manatee Crete-tation.
Skillfully designed and then constructed with various combinations of wood, stone and metal, an artful mailbox may be that extra panache your lawn is missing. But before you run out and order one of these masterpieces, make sure your home is not located in a D-restricted zoning district. Mailbox creativity in such zones is discouraged, as residents there must all have the same type of mailbox. "However, you can work with your community to get it approved," says Susan Baker of Manatee.
The U.S. Postal Service also has restrictions that vary from zone to zone. Call your local office to determine how many inches off the ground, as well as the height, width and depth of the box opening, are required before placing your order. Or better yet, consult your designer, who may already know the postal and zoning restrictions in your area.
Chicago's Marty Heller plowed into the designer mailbox business 12 years ago. Marty uses quality stainless steel to handcraft his boxes. He is the designer, fabricator (he fabricates mailboxes out of steel as well as acrylic), salesman and (for the locals) installer and paramedic. If a box is damaged or dysfunctional, he will come over and personally fix it. For those too far to travel to, he will ship a loaner as he doctors the one-of-a-kind.
When Adele Diamond, 72, of Highland Park, Chicago, remodeled her home, she turned to Out Front Design to add the finishing touches. So far, Marty has made her a beautiful mailbox, post lights, railing and tables and benches for both outside and inside her refurbished home.
"Marty is truly an artist. I am totally impressed with his work. I love everything he has made for me," she says. "His work is precise, and he has a great personality. Marty is always telling jokes. He is a rare delight to work with."
Out Front Design
Source: Marty Heller
In addition to being available on the Internet directly from Marty at
www.outfrontdesign.com, these luxury boxes can also be bought from
"There is nothing comparable in the marketplace," says Chicago Brass owner CJ Schnakenberg. "The quality is extraordinary; they are very well-built. Each one is custom-built, and the design is stunning, very sculptural. It is almost as much of a piece of art as it is a mailbox."
One of the nuances of working with Out Front is getting Marty. He is passionate to an extreme about what he does, says CJ. He may be driving by and see a problem with the mailbox that the owner did not notice, and he will stop and fix it because he views each box as an extension of himself. "This is not just a designer mailbox, this is a piece of him," says CJ.
In addition to sprucing up a lawn, a well-crafted, high-end mailbox will announce to your guests your commitment to detail and good taste. Canada's Adriean Koleric created the award-winning mailbox for an art competition in 2004 and began selling his boxes last year. Designed for Frost, a winter exhibit in Edmonton, Canada, the box was originally named "Ms. Edith Pink, Your Mail Has Arrived." The name was later shortened to Edith, and it now comes in 50 colors, retailing for about $1,000 each.
Source: Adriean Koleric
Mailbox art is the final frontier in landscaping. "Mailboxes are the forgotten child in design. The designer mailboxes out there are so awful. I call them Soprano design," says Koleric, who sketched the design for Edith and took it to a local metal fabricator for production.
Mailboxes are not his only specialty. He also designs office and home items that are sure to be conversation pieces. Several of these items are featured on Koleric's award-winning Web site,
ThinkItem.com, including Sugar (a lounger) and Framecicles (five-foot-tall, popsicle-shaped picture frames).
Lorraine Petersen, owner of Chachkas, a small home-decorating shop in Canada, purchased one of the mailboxes for her home; she also sells them at her shop. "They are a quality product. A sturdy metal, and powder-coated in a large variety of colors. They are a good product all around." At Chachkas, the Edith is made to order. Shipping takes about six weeks from order to delivery; it can be purchased by
emailing the store directly.
Men aren't the only ones enjoying the mailbox business. In Melborne, Fla., sister artists Donna Baker and Susan Baker are the sculptors, while mother Dorothy Baker heads the design process. They run
Manatee Crete-tations and claim to have created the first made-to-order manatee mailbox.
Football Player Mailbox
Source: Manatee Crete-tations
"The manatees are popular in Florida. They are all over the place. On the beaches, the dolphins are also really popular. We have even shipped the manatee to Japan," Donna says. In addition to offering manatees, these ladies design and sculpt almost anything. Musicals notes, sports figures -- you name it, they make it.
They have been in business over 10 years. One of their first designs was a musical-note mailbox, which accompanied a fence with matching notes. The homeowner was a musician.
Susan says their next design will be a replica of a black bear. They say their designs are unique and cost up to $8,000 because they do not use molds. They handcraft each item, so no two are alike.
"They are solid, through and through," says Dorothy. "They are similar but different. That is another thing customers seem to like. Each is a one of a kind. It's art."