Decorating with seashells | June 10, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 10, 2011

Decorating with seashells

Whatever can you do with that bushel of collected shells?

by Kit Davey

Part of the fun of visiting the beach is combing the sands for seashells. If you're like me, you've picked up a bushel basket of shells over the years.

Why not put them out on display? Seashells are the ideal accessory for the frugal decorator: They are a beautiful reminder of our connection to nature, and they're free.

Try some of these techniques to integrate your shell collection into your decor:

* Use a large conch or nautilus shell as a bookend.

* Add texture and natural color to the large glass hurricane lamps that protect the flame of a fat candle. Carefully arrange your shells around the base of the candle, mixing in a variety of sizes and making sure the colorful sides face out.

* Make a shapely or unusual shell a work of art. Paint a small block of white and set a large shell on it. Place on an end table or coffee table.

* Place three unusual shells on top of a stack of towels in your guest bath.

* Use a pair of clam or scallop shells to wrap a gift. Wrap a small gift in tissue paper, place it between the matching halves of the shell and tie with raffia.

* Fill a tall or skinny cylindrical vase with shells and place on a bookshelf or your dresser top.

* Use an abalone shell or other large shell to serve nuts or olives at your next party.

* Fill a clay pot with shells and place next to a grouping of potted plants out in your garden.

* Convert a tin can into a nautical vase. Cover a tin can with a layer of tile adhesive and randomly apply shells. You can apply grout after it dries, but the tile adhesive looks fine without it.

* Rest a shell on top of a stack of antique books and place on an end table or bookcase.

* Tired of seeing a heap of coins and pocket lint on the dresser? Use a shell as a coin catcher or ring station.

* Try a large shell as a doorstop.

* Remember when people used to smoke? We used to put scallop shells out on the picnic table for guests at our barbecues to use as ashtrays.

* Abalone shells are easy to hang just about anywhere. Place one over the toilet in your bathroom and add a grouping of smaller shells on top of the tank. You can use a hanging shell as a candle sconce by building up a glob of melted wax at the bottom of the shell and attaching a small candle to it.

Decorate several fence posts out in your garden. Larger shells can hold a handful of dirt in which you can plant succulents for a mini hanging garden.

* Arrange a small pile of smooth river pebbles on the sink or vanity top and place a low open shell on top to use as a soapdish or to hold potpourri.

* A shapely, deep pink conch shell placed on a plate stand can look stunning on a mantel.

* Make a marine shadow box. Take the glass off a garage-sale frame, cut a mat to fit, arrange several shells, a starfish or piece of coral and glue down in a pleasing pattern.

* Cluster a variety of shells in a basket or bowl on your dresser or an end table.

* Create a portable beach in a bowl or wooden box. Fill the container two-thirds full with sand, add a few choice shells, a miniature starfish and a glass float or clear marble. Rearrange at will.

* Make your own "shake-a-beach." Pier One sells triangular-shaped bottles with corks that are ideal for making an ever-changing beach scene. Fill the bottle approximately one-quarter full of white sand from your favorite beach. Add several colorful small shells you have collected and firmly recork the bottle. Shake the bottle and place lengthwise on your coffee table. I guarantee your guests will want to shake it to create their own scene.

* Place a pair of starfish at the upper corners of a small window.

* Glue a few small shells to one corner of a picture frame with a snapshot of your family at the beach.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at


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