The Container Story


We've done our fair share of snooping around other people's spaces and have noticed that we're not alone in our pack-rat tendencies. Yay! And we've seen how different folks have attempted to organize the chaos, often to enviable, beautiful results—Lauren Santo Domingo’s shagreen jewelry box full of lipsticks [2], Vanessa Traina’s mirrored tray for oils and scents [3], Carolyn Murphy's silver platter for brushes and compacts [4], Jen Brill’s hollowed-out Diptyque candles filled with liners and brushes [5], Gucci Westman’s lacquered tray for her toothbrush, face serums, and moisturizers [6]. The common thread? A good number of you guys write in (via email or the comments) to ask where they got their storage and how to DIY. So, we adopted a touch of common sense and tidiness (though not a ton; some, like us, still prefer to have things laying out in eyesight, lest we forget they’re there) and aimed to answer your queries. Here, some solutions and favored options for shelving, storing, and showing off your tools of the trade—as for your tricks, well, show those off any way you like.

For your fluffy things:

For cotton balls, swabs, sponges, other soft and fluffy accoutrements: we like brass- or glass-topped pharmacy jars (either from Restoration Hardware, Target, or your local flea market). It’s a pretty way to hold and sort things you use all the time, and makes something rather boring display-worthy.

For pencil-like things:

For crayons, liners (lip or eye): Oddly shaped jewelry boxes (long and narrow, for example) are perfect for this. Also, those tapped-out but gorgeously designed candles (Diptyque, Cire Trudon, etc.) will come in handy here. Pop them in a freezer to harden the wax residue, then simply knock/pry out the contents with a butter knife. (Run candle under hot water if it's not happening easily.)

For lipsticks:

For all those lipsticks, tints, tubes: simple acrylic Muji (here, too) or Container Store drawers and dividers help provide some method to your madness; or (again!) larger jewelry boxes. Divide by shade or situation (dark to light, nudes to reds, daytime to nighttime, etc.) for easy search and rescue.

For brushes and/or long tubular objects:

For makeup brushes, mascaras, objects of a similar height: those hollowed-out candles (obviously, store brushes fluffy side up); or open-top acrylic organizers stacked on top of drawers, à la Bibi Cornejo Borthwick [7] or Tory Burch [8]. Alternately, we also love the idea of a cool-looking tin. It's less prissy-feeling, and sort of painterly.

For your skincare tubs and tubes:

We're mildly obsessed with antique (or antique-looking) silver trays, or a pretty lacquered version like Gucci's John Derian number. No antiques? No problem! Pottery Barn has decorative trays (these can be monogrammed, if you're into that type of thing) and no matter where you get one, they make displaying pretty bottles and objets a breeze.

The very high option:

If you want everything in one place and rather #swag: a vintage train case, if you can swing it, would be pretty swell (and what a way to travel! Though we’d sort of like an attendant to carry it, too, as long as we're dreaming); or a Valextra option like Lisa Marie Fernandez' [9]. For the makeup professional, or amateur with a helluva-lot to tote, a faux-croc embossed fold-out case (remember Caboodles?) shows you mean business. Here at the Gloffice, we're lusting after a one-of-a-kind station like Leigh Lezark’s globe bar [10], gifted to her by Sophia Lamar. So, ahem, Sophia (or any of our kind, generous, gorgeous friends/family/Santa), the Holidays are coming...! We’ve been very good.

NOTE: All this organizing means nothing if your eyes fall plumb out of your head and roll down the street because you don't take good care of your things: don't forget to clean brushes regularly, dust/clean your trays, and be sure to throw out your mascaras after four months (or sooner)!

Photo 1 by Elizabeth Brockway. Photos 2-10 by Emily Weiss (from the Top Shelves of Lauren Santo Domingo, Vanessa Traina, Carolyn Murphy, Jen Brill, Gucci Westman, Bibi Cornejo Borthwick, Lisa Marie Fernandez, and Leigh Lezark). 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Marla Vender

    Funny, I was going to request a post like this. I struggle with organizing all my nars eye shadows. I can never find the right one on the first try. I store them label side up on a lacquer tray but they always end up a mess.

    • beautyleaks

      How about CD holders !?

  • jasmine.johnson

    I'm always looking for new ways to store my make-up so this post is a god send! I'm buying the Muji containers today and will be prying out a Diptyque candle for my brushes. Thanks for the top by the way! I was planning on burning the candle out :S

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    I always look to TJMaxx for interesting and inexpensive trays and boxes.

    • fairytalesandcoffee

      speak of the devil - I have been eyeing several boxes at TJ Maxx but havent decided yet.

  • fairytalesandcoffee

    muji 2 drawer container and 5 drawer container boxes are the business....

  • Sophie Lewis

    Great organization suggestions! Love the vintage feel of some of these:)

  • Chelsea Borchardt

    I found a tackle box at a garage sale that holds my makeup perfectly. It may not be the most gorgeous looking but it's definitely the most effective.

  • Chelsea Borchardt

    I bought a tackle box at a garage sale to store all my makeup. It was only like $3. It may not be the most gorgeous looking but it's definitely the most effective.

  • Lane

    What do you recommend for regularly cleaning makeup brushes? Thanks!

    • monica noir

      I use the sephora brush cleaner but I've seen some people use baby shampoo.

    • Lady Blue

      I use Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap in the baby scent. It washes away all the makeup with little effort and doesn't dry my brushes out.

  • emily doyle

    I like these beefy acrylic ones from the container store with smaller acrylic dividers inside. For brushes, the empty glass diptyque candle holders are perfect - thanks Emily!

  • carlotta

    In photo 1, whose beautiful lacquered box with all the makeup goodies belong to?

  • alicemarielolita

    Great ideas! I have a couple of cool vintage train cases and I should put them to good use!

  • GlamByKelsey

    What a wonderful idea! My makeup is SOMEWHAT organized, but I can never seem to keep it organized because I like to be able to see everything at once. I'll have to give some of your methods a try. I really like to display my make up because the packaging is too pretty to shove in a drawer.

    Thanks for your ideas!

  • Bonnie Clyde
  • monica noir

    You know, when I'm bored, one if my favorite things to do is come back to the Top Shelf features and look at how other people store their makeup. Jen Brill is one of my favorites.

    I 've brought storage containers and elegant platters to store and display my makeup from the container store, Target, Ulta, Burlington Cost Factory , and thrift stores.

  • Mouthful of Style

    Never thought about using a jewelry box for beauty products but what a great idea. Thanks!

    Style insights and luxury fashion business learnings:

  • Amber

    Great post! I know a lot of thrift stores that have a lot of beautiful things I can use. You've given me so much inspiration!

  • unvanquished

    Maybe I don't have as much makeup as anyone else but I just keep my day to day stuff in a small makeup bag sitting in front of the mirror and I keep another makeup bag with the random extras/impulse buys that I never really use. It is a lot less trouble than having to put stuff into the makeup bag every time I want to leave the house.

  • beautyleaks

    Thank you so much for this posting ! For my brushes i prefer a london-bus :-))) Here is the pic: And i am exciting, when my new Fornasetti candle will burn down will get some new brushes (TM i think) and put it in :-) Those are my best ideas, being beauty junkie for 20 years :-))))

  • Pixel_Queen

    In spite of its Kardashian connection, I have been coveting a Clear Cube for years:

    Instead, I bought an over-the-door beauty armoire (it can also be wall mounted) from HSN.

    It's a wonderful idea, but the design is flawed due to the heavy, double-sided mirror on the front. It broke (the manufacturer sent me a replacement) and my BF is going to remove the mirror and replace it with white laminate, at which point it should be good to go. That's a lot of work for something that's expensive and should work right out of the box, though. If I had it to do again, I'd just buy the Clear Cube and be done with it. (And I may yet end up with it. )

  • Maria Thompson

    Your posts and especially Top Shelf ones are a feast to the eye, so its great to see them all packed together here! ;)

  • SF City Editor

    Love the jpg's. So inspiring! great tip in removing candle wax!