David Adams June 16, 2012
Custom mailboxes can send a stylish message if you let your imagination take flight.
It's a critical part of the infrastructure of our home but something to which many of us barely give a second thought. Yet a home's mailbox is a design feature in its own right.
Pierre Le Roux, a Clayton South-based designer who creates custom mailboxes, says people tend to seek out their designs when they're looking for something a little out of the ordinary. ''Mailboxes are, on average, quite boring,'' he says. ''I guess some people just want to make theirs stand out.''
This can mean having it designed to match their house, illuminating the mailbox as part of a garden-lighting scheme or even incorporating it into a sculptural form.
''Some people go quite outrageous and we've designed part of the mailbox into a sculpture,'' says another custom mailbox designer, Chris Vassallo, principal sculptor of Fairfield-based Lump Sculpture Studio.
''A lot of customers just want a bit more wow, especially when they're coming home at night.''
While you can buy an off-the-shelf mailbox for as little as $15, prices for custom mailboxes can start about $800 and range up from there (the most expensive Le Roux has designed came in at $6000).
But whether buying something off the shelf or having it made, there are several factors home owners need to take into account.
Australia Post recommends that mailboxes - whether freestanding or built into a wall - be clearly marked with the house number and placed between 0.9 and 1.2 metres in height on the front of the property ''in a position which is easy for the postie to access''.
That means keeping it clear of overhanging branches and shrubs and ensuring it doesn't have any sharp or jagged edges.
A spokesperson for the organisation adds that while keeping the vegetation around the box trimmed will help protect postmen and postwomen from injuries, about half of all injuries they suffer are caused by cars backing out of driveways.
''Exit your driveway slowly and look carefully for your postie or anyone else on the footpath.''
As for the mailbox itself, Australia Post says it should be big enough to allow for an A4 envelope to lie flat inside it with a slot wide enough to take all your mail but not so wide that a hand can get in (you might also want to consider a space for a newspaper, although Vassallo says it encourages people to shove more junk mail in your letterbox).
Australia Post also suggests mailboxes be secured with a ''sturdy lock''.
There is an Australian standard for mailboxes, which covers things such as the size of the opening and providing protection against inclement weather (waterproofing is an important consideration - as Le Roux and Vassallo point out, ''you don't want wet mail'').
Le Roux, meanwhile, says key to any mailbox is that it's designed with the postie in mind.
''If you've got your postie flying around on a motorbike, he's not going to want to have to bend down … you want to try to keep your mailman happy,'' he says.