Whether you have a fledgling collection or hundreds of bottles, polish storage is an important topic for most people. Some have a caddy or a tote to keep it in, others may use a bathroom drawer, and those of us with bigger collections tend to have a whole drawer unit just for polish. I’ll try to cover everything I’ve seen or done myself without going into too much detail or stating anything too obvious.
Smaller Storage Solutions
Caddies and Small Totes
Caddies and small totes are great for both small collections and travel. Small plastic totes can be found at many kinds of stores and often fit quite a few polishes. My one criticism of the bottoms are often rounded around the edges, which can be irritating if you’re tring to keep everything lined up nicely. Otherwise, it’s never a bad thing to have on hand, and it’s a pretty inexpesive solution.
Caddies are a great option as well. While I know many different brands make cosmetic caddies, I really do like the Julep one. The dividers are specifically designed for Julep polishes, so they fit perfectly and travel well. You can fit 48 polishes in the dividers, with extra room on the sides for bigger items or another 18 polishes, for 66 total. I know a lot of people use these for their collections. One of my friend houses her collection of hundreds of polishes all in caddies.
The dividers are removeable as well. The top compartment holds extra tools. Both compartments are zippered, and it has a nice sturdy handle. Julep did redesign the tote with a slightly different top handle and a zipper on the bottom to make it collapsible. Some people argue that the redesign made it less sturdy, but I find both work equally well. I’ve even taken to using mine as my bathroom bag when I travel.
If you’re keeping your polish in a drawer, or multiple drawers, organizers are a definite benefit. While I don’t use them for my Juleps, they’re very useful for tools and other nail supplies as well. I use them to keep pretty much all beauty and nail products organized, which makes life a lot easier. Baskets can be found just about anywhere, including the dollar store. The container store also carries a good variety, although be prepared to pay a bit more there. My vanity would be a nightmare without them. I also find it really useful to cut the tops off of Julep boxes, reinforce the corners with packing tape, and use them as additional organizers.
Acrylic organizers are also really popular, and it just so happens that Julep bottles fit quite well in lipstick slots. This is a great way to feature favorites or store a small collection, especially if you get a bigger one with more slots. These can be easily purchased online and at places like the Container store. I also see them often at places like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, which is great when you’re looking for a good deal.
For collections too big to fit in one drawer or a caddy of some kind, a drawer unit is the perfect solution, as long as you have room for it. Everyone has a different preferred solution for different reasons. My favorite is the Ikea Helmer, which I’ll explain below. I’m also going to discuss Melmer, a drawer unit that can be purchased at craft stores, and Ikea Alex. I have both a Helmer and an Alex, so I’ll note the pros and cons of both. While I don’t have a Melmer myself, I know several people who do, so I’ll do my best to cover those details as well.
Melmer is a 3 drawer unit made by Recollections, that can be purchased at Michael’s stores. It does require you to build it yourself. Melmer is normally $40, but goes on sale frequently. You could also use a 40-50% off an item coupon when it is not on sale, so it can easily be purchased for less than the retail price.
I don’t have a Melmer, but B has generously donated some pictures and thoughts about the Melmer for my post. B says the drawers of the Melmer seem pretty sturdy, and she has not had issues the the bottom bowing out. The drawers can be pulled all the way out of the unit. Each drawer can hold quite a few polishes, as you can see in the pictures. I was impressed with how much the Melmer holds. You can see how much B has fit in hers. My understanding is that they can also be stacked, if you need more than one.
Alex is the biggest of the drawer units, and costs $80 for a 5 drawer unit (what I have), $130 for a 9 drawer unit, or $120 for a wide 6 drawer unit. It comes in white, grey, black-brown, and black. Like all Ikea furniture, you build it yourself. The 5 and 9 drawer units have the same width and depth, so this review essentially applies to both. I purchased 2 Alex units and a Linnmon table top to replace my old vanity (which was purchased at a yardsale for $10), which was small and barely had room to sit. I really like the Alex unit for a vanity- it’s sturdy, clean, and easy to keep tidy. I filled the drawers with makeup, skincare, polish, and polish tools.
The Alex unit is large and sturdy. It’s made of pretty thick MDF (medium density fiberboard), and has sturdy hardware for mounting the drawers. They feel very secure. It also has drawer stops to keep you from pulling out the drawers all the way. This can be a positive or a negative. It’s nice not to accidentally pull the drawer out and end up dumping the contents on the floor, but can be frustrating as it makes it hard to access things in the back of the drawer. It’s really a matter of personal preference here, and I find that the drawers are deep enough that I still have tons of space without using the very back.
This leads me to the downside of Alex. The bottoms of the drawers are a pretty thin material, and too much weight will cause them to bow out (and I assume eventually fall out). You can reinforce them by gluing them into the grooves, but eventually, I think too much weight would still ruin them. Because Julep bottles are so small, you can fit quite a few in a drawer, and I decided the weight was just too much. I still use Alex as my vanity and store all my nail art and non-julep polishes in it. I recommend it for general beauty storage. However, because of the thinner bottoms, I don’t recommend it for housing a substantial polish collection without reinforcing or perhaps replacing the bottoms.
Helmer is definitely my favorite solution for polish storage. A Helmer can be purchased at Ikea for $40, and comes in red, white, green, and grey. It’s a metal drawer unit with 6 drawers, all the same size. You have to build it yourself, but the drawers are actually just one piece of metal that you bend into a drawer shape. Because of the one piece drawer design, I find they are not prone to bowing on the bottom. The drawers can be pulled completely out of the unit, although arguable this makes it a bit less sturdy. In terms of drawer mounts, Alex does seem like the more solid solution, but Helmer is still very sturdy, and wins in the drawer bottom department as well. It is slightly smaller than Ikea Alex, but still holds quite a few polishes per drawer.
I house my entire Julep collection in a Helmer, and it’s probably about halfway full. I have them organized by color (and have attempted to distribute about the same amount per drawer, while keeping colors grouped together). The top drawer is red/orange/yellow, the second is green/blue, the third is purple, the fourth is pink, the fifth is gold/copper/brown, and the sixth is black/silver/white/glitter and special toppers, as you can see below.
I will probably redistribute them to make the number of polishes per drawer a little more even as the collection grows. You can see the 5th drawer has quite a few less. I’m not sure I would recommend filling the drawers all the way, as I feel like they might become too heavy, especially since the drawers are not attached (and can be pulled out all the way). Eventually I will probably expand into a second Helmer, but hopefully I can hold off on that for a while longer. Although, given how much I like this unit, I wouldn’t mind another.
Hopefully this provides some useful insight into polish storage options. If you have another polish storage solution, please comment below and share it, and feel free to ask questions. I’d love to see how other people store their collections.