In 1762, cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale himself offered up six polished "tea chests" and, a couple of decades later, George Hepplewhite gave shape to boxes with cleaner, more classical lines. Today, Chippendale mahogany chests can fetch several thousand dollars at auction. "It depends on workmanship and condition, both inside and out," says Leslie, who, for his own use, doesn’t mind when the innards (cut-glass canisters, compartments, or sugar nips) are missing.
This satinwood caddy with a domed lid has two inlays in the shape of seashells.
Tea caddy courtesy of Sallea Antiques; photograph by Doug Todd