Curb Appeal

Mailboxes are as individual as the garden in which they exist


Custom mailboxes

can come in a variety of forms. Some people like whimsical wooden creations, mailboxes shaped and painted like animals such as cows, cats or dogs, while others desire stately creations in wrought-iron or solid brass.




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Lotus Home

most homeowners, the first thing passers-by, whether walking or driving, notice in regard to houses are mailboxes.
And that stands to reason.

   Mailboxes most often sit at the end of driveways of most suburban homes, or sometimes even down the street from houses in rural area. For a long time, mailboxes were thought of merely for their function — they are boxes set on posts for the purpose of holding mail in a safe place, waiting for either the mail carrier or the resident to come and retrieve the envelopes and packages contained therein.

This classic Victorian mailbox with brass accents rests on a formal pedestal.

   But then things began to change, and people began to realize that mailboxes were part of their homes, part of their property, and that maybe that plain old black plastic or metal box wasn’t the type of thing they wanted introducing them to the neighborhood. Maybe they wanted something a bit more suitable to their personality, or to their family, or something that spoke of their hard-earned affluence. Lucky for them, there was an industry waiting in the wings. Welcome to the world of custom mailboxes.

   Custom mailboxes can come in a variety of forms. Some people like whimsical wooden creations, mailboxes shaped and painted like animals such as cows, cats or dogs, while others desire stately creations in wrought-iron or solid brass.

   Some people want mailboxes based on their own whims and hobbies, perhaps a plain metal box painted with scenes of golf outings or flowers, and some people want a mailbox that matches the décor of their home, like a barn-shaped mailbox for a family farmhouse, or a more elaborate metal or scrolled wood design to stand outside of an elegant Victorian. Thanks to an abundance of suppliers and craftsmen, and local hardware stores who carry the catalogues and tools for installation, chances are that you can get whatever it is you want.

   Cranbury Paint and Hardware, located on North Main Street in Cranbury, is one such area store that is happy to provide both a library of catalogues containing the custom mailboxes and the means to order and install them. The store has been in the business of custom mailboxes for going on 10 years now, according to owner and manager Rocco Darmiento, though business didn’t really take off until the building of the Cranbury Greenes housing community about seven years ago. The attractive and new homes brought in homeowners who were interested in beautifying exteriors as much as interiors, and they began shopping for things to assist in that even before the houses were finished being built.

Novelty flamingo mailbox

   "The new residents were stopping in before their houses were finished, shopping for mailboxes," says Mr. Darmiento, "but they wanted more than your plain old mailbox." To accommodate, the store began contacting all of the mailbox suppliers they could think of, in search of the best selection of designs, patterns and craftsmen with which to supply the customer demand. They received catalogue after catalogue, and set up accounts with everyone possible, and things expanded from there.

   The mailboxes Cranbury Paint and Hardware tend to see most often are generally ones that are understated and elegant, but still an investment at several hundred dollars apiece (as opposed to a "normal" mailbox, which generally retails for under $50, including a post). For example, their most popular style, the Keystone Classic is a pedestal mailbox, made of die-cast rust-proof aluminum, with accents available in brass, chrome brass, black metal, or verdigris green metal. It’s available in six different colors of high-quality paint, and costs almost $440. Mr. Darmiento explains that this is not only the most popular model, but it is also the most expensive that they sell regularly; boxes of more specialized design can go even higher. "The most unusual mailbox we ever sold was a solid brass mailbox that was about 18 inches by 18 inches," he recalls, "and sold for $600 — it was going to be mounted on a custom brick pillar that was being built at a customer’s new house."

   In this area, Mr. Darmiento admits there hasn’t been much call for silly or whimsical mailboxes; the area seems to prefer higher-end merchandise — fancy metals, brass, and intricate antique-styles are the norm. Though he is ready for those whose tastes might run more toward the quirky and fanciful. "I do have [a mailbox] in stock that is really nice and shaped like an old fashioned barn," he says, "[the box] is made straight from Amish suppliers, and I’ll be getting a couple of more designs [from them], which are all handmade, like lighthouses and barns."

Novelty sailboat mailbox

   Springtime is a popular time for people to look into custom mailboxes. The ground has thawed, making installation easier, and people are spending more time outside, so they are more aware of what kind of exterior renovations and alterations their homes need, or just how they could improve what they already have. Additionally, wintertime can be fatal to mailboxes, due to clumsy plowwork or high drifts of snow, or rotting posts from years of weathering.

   New construction also attracts people to the idea. "We are very busy with all the new homes in the area," Mr. Darmiento admits, "People are replacing their old mailboxes that are falling apart. Some of them were never cemented [into the ground], so they are leaning over and ready to fall down. And the winter is busy with snow plows hitting mailboxes."

   Making the exterior of house and property speak more about the owner’s tastes and interests is becoming more common; people want their homes to show their neighborhoods who they are, what they like, and often what they can afford. It’s a matter of pride and a matter of place. Mr. Darmiento describes his customers in such ways. "Today’s customers take pride in their homes more than ever," he explains, "and the first thing people see visiting or driving by is the mailbox. So they like their home to have nice curb appeal."

   Cranbury Paint & Hardware is located at 33 North Main Street, Cranbury. For information, call (609) 395-0632.