Save face with these quirky designs
I’ve dealt with allergies since preschool, so tissues have been a constant presence throughout the seasons of my silly little life. I have a vivid memory from a sixth-grade overnight trip to Mount Misery in Woodland, New Jersey, where another girl in my class suddenly burst into tears—unlike her friends, who were clearly unprepared for an emotional breakdown in the middle of searching for the Jersey Devil, I had a pack of tissues stashed in my fanny pack and passed over a few sheets so she could dab her puffy eyes. Look closely in the background of photographs from my childhood and you just might spot a decorative tissue box that my mom strategically placed in our house. (These days, she gravitates toward the MacKenzie-Childs Courtly Check cover.)
It was nearly a century ago that Kleenex invented facial tissues, but the category is still overlooked within the home decor space. Back in 2010, the New York Times reported on how brands like Kleenex were paying closer attention to design aesthetics for their products: “While the purpose for most packaging is to grab attention from the shelf and to protect products on their journey from manufacturer to retailer to consumer, the package for facial tissues serves as a dispenser for the life of the product and is prominently displayed in the home.”
Abigail Campbell currently resells a collection of vintage tissue boxes ranging from $25 to $45. She started adding the covers to her inventory after frequently coming across them while sourcing decor items, but “wasn’t sure if people were ready for that level of bathroom nostalgia” from the ’60s through ’90s. The daughter of avid auctiongoers, Abigail grew up in what she describes as a “very eclectic home full of antiques from all over the world,” but fun tissue boxes weren’t an essential part of her upbringing. “I caved and started collecting for the shop because I couldn't resist the colors and shapes,” she says. “If you’re a person who always has tissue boxes around, throwing a cute vintage cover over can’t hurt!”
Since 2018, Dusen Dusen has been quite literally saving face with their Everybody tissue box cover. (The design originally debuted at a Fredericks and Mae show for $275, then went on to be licensed by Areaware, who has been producing it ever since for $35.) For those seeking a more luxurious experience, Edie Parker once offered an acrylic tissue box cover priced at $495. And for all the minimalists who prefer something a little less loud, there’s the simplicity of Herman Miller’s Formwork tissue box.
It’s only recently that artists like Susan Alexandra, Jasmine Archie of Pretty Shitty Cakes, and Joanna Fields emerged with quirkier versions that are bursting with personality. This past March, Joanna was commissioned by Isa Beniston of Gentle Thrills to turn a basic plastic tissue box case into a marvelous work of art. “I’m happy that it’s an object that exists in the world,” she says. “I love the idea of just being able to really accentuate this object that otherwise gets overlooked.”
As someone who makes art but also collects absurd objects for her house, Joanna is hyperaware of the influx of interest in home goods since the pandemic began. She adds, “Especially when you live in a city and you’re in an apartment, every little thing carries some sort of weight because it’s taking up space and we don’t have a lot of space. So being able to give more thought to that and having options even for something like a tissue box holder is great.” This particular product category reminds her of something that would be found at a thrift store—her ultimate fantasy is for someone in the future to stumble upon one of her creations collecting dust at a flea market.
Susan felt compelled to give tissue boxes the beaded treatment because she loves to “tend to any small places in the market that are ignored.” She also has an array of new designs that she’ll be introducing over the next months; beaded toilet paper holders are also in the works. Even though Susan wasn’t blowing her nose with tissues as a kid (she opted for toilet paper), she is thrilled about the revival of tissue boxes that scream “allergy season chic.”
“Tissues are a luxury item, if you think about it,” Susan says. “These precut perfect soft squares that don’t destroy your nose! They deserve the throne that we built for them.” She believes that packaging has been underdeveloped because “tissues have traditionally not been thought of as glam.” Susan adds, “I’m here to declare that it’s time for change and awareness in the personal paper world, starting one beaded tissue box at a time!” Joanna thinks the lack of decorated tissue box holders comes from the fact that they’re such a niche desire. “I don’t know what the actual demand for something like that would be, which is why I hesitate to make more…I do make them myself and they’re so labor-intensive,” she explains. “It will take a very specific kind of person to want an object like that.”
But Abigail thinks that the global shift in sustainability is a good push for tissue companies to start developing refillable or reusable tissue products to reduce waste from disposable decorative tissue boxes. Considering that tissues were once referred to as the “handkerchief for health,” it makes sense that we’d be itching for more appealing options in this post-pandemic era. As Susan says, “Everything in your life and home should feel special and make you feel good, whether it’s the purse you carry with you or the vessel you plop over your Kleenex box.”
Original article appeared on Architectural Digest | Author Sydney Gore