Mailbox Saga


By: Jim Ipekjian

Do you love what you do for a living?

I do. 

I’ve been at it for almost 40 years. 

There is something new every day.

And also things that repeat. 

 Occasionally I will be offered the opportunity to quote a project that I think will be fun to do, but I also realize that if I quote what I think it will truly cost, I won’t get the job.

 This happened about a year ago when the relatively new owners of a very nice home in Pasadena designed by Henry Greene asked for a price to build a mailbox that would be a replica of their house. The completely shingled house is set back from the street and with fencing and tall hedges blocking the view, it is nearly impossible to see the house from the sidewalk. And there are many G&G fans that try to see the house. The owners want to maintain their privacy but are civic-minded enough to want those who pass by to know what lies behind the hedge. Hence the mailbox house.


After agreeing on a price, I made a quick foam-core scale model that would help them visualize it sitting on the original brick column by the driveway. It also provided

assurance for me that the proposed size would look good.

Once confirmed, I set to work. 

I have some beautiful ½” thick by 12” wide old-growth redwood I salvaged and I felt this would be an appropriate use for it. I decided that the body of the house would simply be made from slabs of the redwood with doors, windows, trim, rafters, and beams made out of teak. For windows I used mica. All materials were selected for their weather resistant qualities.


 It wasn’t until I had the basic form constructed that I finally settled on copper sheet for the shingles. I just couldn’t imagine cladding this box with veneer-thin wood shingles. I knew they wouldn’t last.


 It became evident that I hadn’t really thought about how many shingles it would take to cover all of the exterior walls and roof.

 As I settled into the tedium of cutting the copper sheet into ¼” by ¾” shingles and applying them, it became apparent that this was going to take


longer than I would have liked. But there was no turning back at this point and fortunately the clients said they were not in any hurry.

I worked on it when I could. 

Life (having to make a living) continued and eventually it was complete. I think it was a shock for the clients when they received the text informing them it was ready to be installed.


In case you are wondering, there are over 6,000 shingles!

I am pleased with the way it turned out. The copper and brass are weathering nicely. I think it produces a smile for the letter carriers, neighbors, and G&G fans that happen by.


I didn’t really keep track, but it’s safe to say I made less than minimum wage.

Even so, it also makes me smile when I see it.

That's enough.