Box Esthetics


I’m getting a bit more subjective here, but for me and my work, I put esthetics right up there with workmanship.  I have seen many boxes that exhibit outstanding workmanship, in terms of joinery, finish, etc., but just don’t cut it visually.  Wood color(s), texture, and proportion all contribute to making a box also a piece of art.  That said, as in other areas of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I know, because I have finished more than one box, stood back and took a good look, and said, “ugh!”.  Yes, at times if a box is being made for a specific function, then function must lead form, and sometime drive visual dissonance.  But even then, that can be minimized through careful control over the aspects other than size which is driven by the intended use.

Proportion is one area that needs constant attention.  A beautifully crafted box will not pass visual muster if the handle is too big for the rest of the box for example.  Or a small box made of full 3/4? thick stock will look too clunky, particularly around the top edge when the lid is open or removed.

Box dimensions also come into play.  A useful tool to be aware of is the Golden Rectangle.  This is based on the Golden Ratio, which is the ratio of the length to the width of what is said to be one of the visually pleasing rectangular shapes.  This relationship has been know and used for centuries in both art and architecture.  The ratio is 1:1.618, ie, the long side of the rectangle should be 1.618 times the length of the short side.  While I don’t use the ratio slavishly, I have learned that the closer I get to it, the more visually pleasing the box.  You can use your calculator, or, check out one of these two web sites for easy calculators, as well as a visual representation.