Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.

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37 thoughts on “Thinking outside the Box

  1. I have never kept a bottle out in the open. Not even as a teenager. Always in the box, in the dark and cool. . I don’t want dust on them either. :) All my samples and decants are in dark boxes too. I display my shampoos in the bathroom. xxx

  2. Hello dear!
    I never kept any of my bottles at display. When my collection was 2-3 bottles of perfumes, those were kept in their boxes on a bookshelf in my room. When the collection expanded I bought those decorative boxes you can find at Ikea or house deco shops and I keep my bottles inside of these boxes (inside of it perfumes are without their originial carton packaging)

  3. Undina, it also causes me to wince when I see pics of unprotected bottles. It’s like a reflex reaction. I also loved how B kept the 3 bottles in her current rotation on a mirrored tray.
    I think your decorative plate looks fab. A nice size and quite reflective really. Was it hard to buy perfumes you didn’t like the contents of though? I guess not.

    To answer your question, no bottles on display but I do have decorative bottles bought as gifts. I don’t buy unboxed generally. I bought Osmanthe Yunnan unboxed but it did have that drawstring sack.

    Seeing the use of “civilians” makes me grin every time!

    • Thank you, Tara. I have to admit: it was kind of hard to spend money on the perfume I didn’t plan to wear. But I really liked that bottle for a long time and got it relatively cheap (~$27 including delivery) so I decided it wasn’t the worst expense one might have for her hobby :)

      I deliberated over putting (c) next to “civilians” again but figured that most of my readers would recognize it as is.

  4. I’ve bought plenty of unboxed bottles, and I’ve never had a problem. The reason is that I prefer bottles to decants which I a) forget to wear, and b) evaporate far too quickly, and so buying a bottle which has that amount left that I would otherwise have had in a decant makes sense to me. Obviously the more I care about the specific fragrance the more concerned I’ll be that there’s a box and how much has been used. I store all my perfumes in a cupboard away from light and heat, but (except for a few) not in their boxes as it would take up too much space.
    I have nearly empties on display, and a few decants. I also have my Carven bottle on display, as I bought I mostly for its beauty :-)

    • I’m glad to know that somebody else also buys bottles (vs. perfumes) :)

      Most of my decants are wrapped with parafilm to prevent evaporation. But, in general, I prefer bottles as well. That’s why I keep advocating small bottles produced by brands!

      I had a couple of bad buys (eBay) and they all happened to be with bottles without a box. So I decided not to experiment any more.

  5. Hello Undina!
    I used to keep bottles out and about, before I knew better. Wait, I still do it sometimes – I have about six right in front of me – bottles/samples that I have been meaning to write about for weeks now. (I had to laugh at ‘civilians” ! :)

    • Hi Carol! Every time I manage to lure you out to comment I feel that I did something especially successful :)
      Just in case you missed it, “civilians” is (c)Tara.

  6. I tried keeping them in boxes and such but I the end I tossed most of the boxes and have them on a small bookcase. They’re not in totally direct light but not in the dark either. If they’re tucked away they get forgotten about and I’m not enjoying them. I want to see them and be able to just pick up a bottle and have a sniff quickly and easily. Locking them away is to me like saving the good dishes for the company that never comes. Use it and enjoy it. I know a lot of folks who save the good stuff for those special occasions that never happen. My aunt used to tuck things away. When she died she had lots of pristine items which I’m sure she treasured but never enjoyed. Sure, I’d hate to see my perfumes turn on me but I’ve seen that happen to some stored in drawers as well.

    • Poodle, I know exactly what you mean with the saving for special occasion! I come from the country where it was a regular behavior for generations. While I completely understand why it was like that, I didn’t inherit that mindset. So I’m not “saving” anything but I do have some “special occasions” things – be those household items, clothes or perfumes. But I make sure that 1) I use them for those occasions and 2) those occasions do not always mean “guests” or “visitors”, but just two of us (well, three if you count Rusty).
      I’m trying to rotate usage of my perfumes – even though they are in boxes.

  7. Ooh, fabulous post! I love your display-it’s very chic.

    I used to be far more careful with my bottles-in boxes, out of light, ect. During my mom’s last illness I scattered some around-she loved glass, and so I set her bathroom up with beautiful L’artisans. She loved this-it brought her such joy. So now I keep a few bottles out and about-it gives me joy, too. Like Poodles’ aunt-I don’t want to go through life and not enjoy the special things we tend to tuck away.

    That being said-I still have some fumes I bought last year, which I have not even opened yet. I want to save those for a day when I need something new and special. Those purchases are safely tucked away. Kind of like fire extinguishers behind glass-to be opened in an emergency.

    So right now, the upstairs bathroom has Bond Little Italy (love that big orange star bottle), and the women’s bottles of Nuit Etoilee (dark blue) and Ninefio Mio (light sea glass green). Downstairs bath has a bottle of Sharif, and April Aromatics Bohemian Spice ( a gift from a really lovely perfume friend). In a closet, in their boxes, in wicker baskets (like Little Red Riding Hood and her rolls) exist the rest of my collection. I live in a cold climate so nothing is ever really exposed to heat or light.

    And you should know-Rusty has a doppleganger whose name is Marmalade. He lives with me. He has a very loose, elegant sort of walk, and if you reach down to pat him he jumps up on his hind legs and balances like that, just so you can rub his lovely old head. Have a good Sunday!

    • Thank you, Carole.

      In principle, I like an idea of having a couple of bottles “out” but my problem is that I rarely use the same perfume even twice during one month so I wouldn’t know which ones to keep out of their boxes. But whenever I use perfumes, I get my bottle out of the box and admire it :)

      You just have to share a picture of Marmalade! Carol’s cat (she commented above) also looks almost exactly like Rusty! We could form a gang! :)

  8. hello Unadina – I’m the author of “olfactarama,” the blog you quoted. It’s inactive now, but I’m concerned about possible malware too. When I access it everything seems fine. Could you pm me and tell me what you saw? Thanks!

    Btw I only store opaque bottles on the surface of my perfume cabinet (on an old silver tray). The clear ones are inside the cabinet, safely out of the light.

    • Hi Pat! I miss your blog. I’ll send you an e-mail later today to explain what’s happening.

      From your post I got it that you were mindful of your bottles, it was just a starting point of my thoughts (mostly because of the mirrored tray).

  9. Your perfume bottle tray is so attractive! I love the beachy vibe of the color scheme.

    I generally don’t buy perfumes without boxes but make an exception if it’s a tester at a more significant discount than the exact same sized perfume that is boxed (I am looking at you, Fragrancenet) and those from an online auction site. I have no bottles on display but I, ::: :::cough::::cough::::: have some in my medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I am looking for a storage solution as I have my boxed perfumes in: a cabinet, several boxes and bags in the basement, a shelf and cloth storage bins in my walk-in closet and plastic tubs in my bedroom. The extraits share space with jewelry inside one drawer in a 3-drawer rolling bin. Clearly, I also need to downsize.

    • Thank you, hajusuuri. Now every time I look at it I think about its “beachy vibe” :)

      Downsizing might be not a bad idea but I have a simple solution: for starters, slow down new acquisitions ;)

      I probably would go for a tester in a plain box or even without a box if I know that it’s a very recent perfume. But, in general, if the difference is about 10%, I’d rather go for a real packaging since I see boxes more often than I see bottles themselves.

  10. It’s a shame that light/heat can affect perfume. So much time and energy (I assume) goes into the design of beautiful bottles which can barely be appreciated when protected from the elements.

    • I agree! But, on the other hand, those real users who buy 2-3 perfumes in total, can use them as intended. It’s we, who have perfume “Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy”, should think about protecting our collections – or they will get to that decorative tray much sooner since it will be the only possible use for them ;)

  11. Undina, I’ll echo Carole’s comment above me: your display is tres chic! I love the colors and particularly love the Yves Rocher Nature bottle.

    I keep my bottles on display on the dresser of my bedroom, which is a room in our house that doesn’t get much light and which is naturally cold and drafty in winter, and air-conditioned in the warm days of spring and summer. I feel like the bottles are safe there because my dresser is in a dark corner of the room and I haven’t noticed that any have turned on me (plus, as Carole and Poodle noted, seeing them on display makes me feel happy, makes me feel like I’m enjoying them in the fullest sense). I do keep the original boxes, though, in case I ever want to sell those bottles or give them a new home (and because the boxes are rather nice also). So, to answer your other question, no, I don’t buy unboxed perfumes, as I prefer to have the box for the aforementioned reasons.

    • Thank you, Suzanne.

      To tell you the truth, I could probably keep more bottles out since I almost always have shades down during the day in my bedroom anyway (fearing that some stray light beam would get into the walk-in closet, which has no door (as if my black-out curtain wasn’t put there specifically for that occasion ;) ). But since I won’t use those perfumes that are out more often than once or twice per month, it’ll be too my work to rotate what I might want to wear during that month.

  12. Hi Undina,
    I have a dresser top covered with beautiful bottles, not so much as a display but simply because I’m too lazy to put them back where they belong, in their boxes in cool, dark places. Most of my collection is stored properly and, consequently, unappreciated and often totally forgotten.
    Azar xx

    • “Display” is a big word for something that only I and my vSO see (and even then I’m not sure he noticed it until I pointed it out to him ;) ).

      I’m trying to rotate my perfume usage not based on what I see but either from memory or looking through my database and deciding what I didn’t wear for a while.

  13. U – 90% of my bottles are on a gold tray hidden in an area inside my closet away from direct light. I save the boxes, but rarely put them into the boxes. Why? Out of sight means out of mind for me and if they were boxed I would never wear them. Is that the best way to take care of them? Maybe not, but they do get used that way and isn’t that what the perfumed experience is all about? BTW…love the cat towel!

    • Steave, you (and Vanessa) made my day! :) I started being worried that nobody else saw the beauty of that towel.

      I understand your approach but, as I commented above, I usually do not make my decisions based on the “visual” selection. I start thinking about what I’ll wear either the night before or in the morning while taking a shower or dressing up. But now, since I’m worried about my perfumes not being “rotated” enough, I’m thinking of the better system. I’ll probably blog about it soon…

  14. I have been looking forward to this post, as you mentioned it was coming along, and I enjoyed seeing and hearing about your own collection, and how it’s stored. That tea towel is ace!

    My collection is in boxes under beds and the hall stairs with no bottles on display. I *love* your pretty arrangement, by the way. I don’t think I am organised enough to buy bottles specifically for display purposes, nor do I really buy perfumes because I am drawn to the bottle, but seeing your grouping is making me reconsider my stance on bottles as ornaments. When my Ajne one is finished it would look nice out – except the blinking thing doesn’t stand up, haha.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to my post!

    • I knew you would appreciate the towel!!! :)

      As for buying perfumes for bottles, these would have been perfect candidates for getting partial (or even completely empty) bottles. But, unfortunately, when a new bottle with perfume costs $25-$35, there is just no secondary market for them – I tried looking on eBay!

  15. I love your display, looks fabulous!
    I have a few almost empty bottles and some empty bottles on display in my office. They are on the glass cake stand. :) Nothing in my bedroom, only empty decorative bottles, since it can be very hot there. My office and library are better suited for my perfume bottles; away from sunlight and cool. I sometimes buy bottles only for display purpose as well, if it’s cheap and if I like the design, of course. ;)

    • Thank you, Magpie!
      I’m glad that I’m not alone in that strange attraction to beautiful bottles :)
      Cake stand is an interesting idea… I’ve been thinking for a while of getting one. though I was thinking more in terms of using it for serving desserts. But it’s an interesting idea!

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  17. The plate looks fabulous and so is the way you display all those bottles. I always keep the bottles in a glass-case so that I can look at them every now and then. Thanks for the post!

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