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For years, mantels and china cabinets have proudly displayed our finest homewares: oversize antique vases, untouched serving platters from generations past and handmade curios collected on memorable world travels. But recently, we’ve seen a surprising evolution that blurs the lines between our bathroom vanities and our living room hutches: Beauty products are now doubling as decor, earning a highly coveted spot among our most cherished possessions.
Companies are ditching in-your-face branding for aesthetically pleasing designs, making for makeup and skincare items that are reminiscent of artsy furnishings. Esker bath salts, for instance, take up residence in a seagrass-wrapped glass carafe. Billie Eilish’s No. 2 fragrance is housed in a breathtaking bust statue. And Pleasing nail polishes function as mini art deco figures. The list goes on and on, and it’s laden with dollar signs given that 72% of Americans say packaging influences their purchase decisions, according to global research firm Ipsos.
The trend is chic yet crucial, since 70% of plastic waste generated by the cosmetics industry can’t be recycled, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That means refillable, recyclable and keepsake creations have become the gold standard. “It’s not only about doubling as decor but also taking a unique approach to sustainability,” explains Michael De Santis of Doris Dev, a New York– and Hong Kong–based product development firm known for crafting visually compelling wares (see: Blueland, By Humankind and Great Jones).
The ideal design-inspired item should “sit as an object on your nightstand without signaling ‘beauty product’ at first glance,” says De Santis. He would know — his company is behind the hottest side table accessory of 2022: the Soft Services Theraplush hand cream, a refillable ribbed vessel inspired by carved jade ritual objects.
Then there’s one of the most celebrated fragrance launches of the moment: Eilish No. 2, which comes in a bona fide decolletage sculpture. The Grammy-winning performer tasked Jon Dinapoli, founder/chief creative of Jon Michael Design, with crafting the bottle. “We asked ourselves: How do we make this an art piece that can remain out in your home, your bathroom or anywhere really?” he recalls.
There was only one way to do it: hire a sculptor to make the statue from clay. Multiple iterations later, the creative team seamlessly integrated the cap and glass into one piece, combining sensual curved lines with architectural detail. The goal-turned-reality? To ensure the vessel didn’t look like an eau de parfum bottle but could function as one (albeit secretly). Dinapoli — who’s been in the biz for 20 years — deems it the most interesting container he has ever created.
So what does the future of beauty packaging look like? This much we know: Standing out is vital to catching our eye. That’s especially true for companies trying to find their footing in such an oversaturated space. “Newer brands are leaning toward minimalist, nondescript packaging, but your legacy brands — Chanel, Dior, Gucci — will always lead with their namesake logo,” says Marie Claire Beauty Editor Samantha Holender.
Across the board, we’re seeing a significant shift from expendable cosmetics to treasured possessions. “Brands are designing products that customers will show off, not just shove in a drawer,” Holender continues. “In today’s age, people are more open about their beauty routines than ever and proud of the products they’ve carefully curated as part of their regimen — even their pimple cream.” After all, who says blemish treatments can’t be chic?