Shells In Design

Shells In
via honey collins interiors

Good day, design friends! Peggi here. Happiest of June Mondays to you. Even though the solstice is still two days away, we’re in full summer mode. Sporting shorts, swatting mosquitoes, and longing for a swim! My Maine trip isn’t until August, but I’m already dreaming of misty mornings on the lake and the salty smooch of ocean breezes. I thought we could indulge these watery visions today with a chat about shells. Much like Sarah’s thoughts on woven decor, I don’t believe shells must be restricted to coastal interiors, and I’m especially drawn to them in summer. Their myriad forms have appeared in design for centuries. Unsure about incorporating them into your landlocked location? Click through for abundant inspiration and a covetable collection.

Shells In
via 1st dibs

Historically, shells have been traded as currency, displayed to flaunt wealth, and considered sacred in numerous spiritual traditions. So, what drives our centuries’ old fascination with these souvenirs from the sea? Their incredible natural beauty and seemingly limitless varieties, for starters. (100,000 different species!) Glimmering iridescence, mesmerizing whorls, fantastical shapes. Of course, we’re captivated. I’d wager we’re also drawn to their otherworldly origins. Sure, the adventurous among us can visit, but only magical creatures dwell in the briny deep. Less intrepid explorers gaze wistfully from shore, content to collect bits bequeathed to the beach. These beauties are often associated with femininity, renewal, and abundance. Who can argue with bringing that energy into your home?

Shells In
via vogue australia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Now that we’ve discussed the whys, let’s delve into how shells might grace diverse spaces. For classic and subtle applications, consider stylised motifs rather than actual specimens. Timeless vintage brass sconces (#13) flanking a mirror above a fireplace or glowing on a cozy den wall? Perfectly sophisticated. Try a Chippendale style console or chest featuring elegant carved shell embellishments if you crave a tad of trad. Perhaps a chic gilt mirror (#4) in an entry or powder bath would admirably reflect both your refined taste and affinity for the sea. Each of these examples provides just a nautical nod…a wavy whisper.

Shells In
via house and garden uk

Click right on the images to be redirected to the source, or use the numbered links below to shop my finds.

01: shell appetizer plates // 02: horse bust // 03: vintage brass hooks // 04: carved gilt mirror // 05: natural nautilus shell // 06: tiger cowrie napkin rings // 07: vintage print matches // 08: marchmont sideboard // 09: embroidered linen guest towel // 10: vintage gold lowball glasses // 11: vintage brass bottle opener // 12: starfish sheets // 13: vintage brass candle sconces //

Although I attempted to assemble shell decor from understated to extravagant, I confess to being most obsessed with the dramatic offerings. First, behold the spectacular equine madness of #2! Holy, Poseidon’s pony. Imagine him where you’d typically perch a conventional bust. (For local Boise peeps, I spied one on FB!) If you seek an even bolder statement, may I present #8. Casegoods and mirrors completely enrobed in shells offer a lot of look, but I adore the complex constellations. If you find these intriguing, have you heard of shell grottos? Entire structures intricately sheathed in shells! Marine mosaic magnificence. These glorious ostentations were created on country estates across the UK in the 17th and 18th century. Although some have surely succumbed to time and the elements, many survive and some even welcome visitors. Field trip, anyone?

Shells In
via henry and co design

For those who esteem an aesthetic somewhere between muted and OMG, you’re in luck! So many pretties. An assortment of real shells on a coffee table invites examination and evokes vacation memories. How about a gleaming brass clamshell for the built-ins or a Murano glass conch on your desk? Of course, shells-real or replica- are right at home in the bath because…water. Think towel hooks or a soap dish.  I also love the notion of outfitting a bar with lots of summery ocean goodness. Glasses, cocktail napkins, appetizer plates! Speaking of plates, I could really satisfy my tablescape fantasies with an amazing undersea theme. Lots of opportunity to channel your aquatic aspirations even if you don’t have a seaside address.

Shells In
via kemble interiors

Thus concludes my shell treatise. Can you envision these natural wonders in homes without a beachy vibe? Did I sell the seasonal aspect enough? Ha. No pressure. I’m just here to share intriguing discoveries and *maybe* encourage a little design experimentation. Pop into the comments with your thoughts. Also, who’s got fabulous summer plans? Let’s hear them. Have a stupendous week, friends. Until next time.

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  1. Happy Monday Peggi and how are you?
    I must say you’ve reeled me in on this post 🥰 When we purchased our home in Florida I definitely embraced the coastal vibe, so I’m totally sold. I do love shell motifs and objects for decorating and I probably went overboard 😉 a smidge I must confess. I couldn’t help myself as I was in the land where this motif dominates and so many pretty things. And your roundup doesn’t disappoint. Shells are reminiscent of summertime, family time, vacations and beautiful memories, who couldn’t be drawn to them on some level.
    You can definitely and easily incorporate them in any style in my opinion. The shell plates are a winner, the horse bust with a seaside mane 😍 (though it might be out of my price range a girl can dream) Vintage brass shell hooks so subtly sweet you could incorporate those anywhere and I must say the sideboard would definitely delight the shell enthusiast or be the main event in any entryway or hall. Honestly, give me the whole darn roundup and I’m a happy girl 😜 I admit I have a seaside obsession for sure 😬
    Oh I love summer so much, and being outdoors all day and evening. My sweet pup Lorrie would agree as we currently lounge on our patio on a sunny morning coffee in hand. Your post and roundup has me seaside dreaming and craving the beach for sure. There’s nothing like a beautiful lunch, picnic or dinner at or on the beach. Who doesn’t love sand in the toes ☺️ Have a super sunny day friend and inspiring me as always ❤️

    1. Good morning, Colleen! I had a notion that you’d be on board with shells! I bet you could find fantastic vintage items in Florida. In fact, it’s one of my dream thrifting/antiquing destinations. Some day. Isn’t that horse bust bananas?! It’s a replica of “Sea Horse King” by Canadian artist Charles LeNorreys. Perhaps you could find one locally? I’m glad you enjoyed ogling all my finds. Ha. Honestly, once I got started, I had a tough time stopping. Shells definitely evoke summertime and vacation for me too. I dream of a lakeside cabin, but a coastal one would also do nicely. 😉 Toes in the sand, sun on my face. Yes, please. Gimme all the fresh air! I’m envious of your poolside coffee routine! My pups are so rambunctious if we go outside in the morning that “relaxing” with my coffee is impossible. Ha. They do love supervising my garden work though. Thanks for always contributing your kind and thoughtful sentiments! Cheers to a beautiful summer week, friend. 💜🐚

  2. Good morning Peggi! I just love your posts and intrigue of incorporating animal motifs in design. I’ll start by saying I’m fully on board with shells in design. Nothing evokes the sunbathed beauty of summer quite like shells. Each of my children have vintage glass jars stuffed to the brim with dive treasures from their grandfather and uncle respectively. Their collections span from stateside beaches to the Caribbean Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Fun fact, the shells in Aaron’s room were once in my own childhood digs, when the collection was less than half the size it is now. My personal favorites are sand dollars, and I’ve always wanted to adorn them gallery style on a wall- to me they’re an oceanic version of intaglios. Your posts usually contain some nugget of laughter inducing phrase, but this morning you sent me to a new level. #2 stopped me mid scroll, and as I was audibly working through my amazement, astonishment and the sheer talent of creating such a glorious piece, I read your remarks. You probably heard my laughter from Idaho! Holy Poseidon’s pony indeed! Safe to say I’m in love with #2. Others that caught my eye were #1, #4 (can you even?😍), and #13, which would look spectacular just about anywhere. This post is a delight, and I’m anxiously awaiting our first beach trip of summer. We’re still mired in fog and cooler temperatures, but next week will initiate us into the typical high heat we’re used to. I’m ready! I hope you have a lovely day friend!

    1. Hey, hey friend! I realized as I wrote this post that I really do gravitate to all things animal. I’m just a nature girl at heart. Ha. I love that you’ve got such special shell collections! I bet the diversity is stunning. They honestly do seem magical to me. And, yes to sand dollars! They’re tough to collect because of their fragility, but 100% ocean intaglios! A gallery collection would be fantastic! My sea allusion language was over the top, I know. Ha. I was having so much fun, I just decided to go with it. When I originally found that horse bust on FBMP, I could not wait to show Sarah! I knew the RFT crew would love it. I’m not even a horse girl, and I’m gaga. Although we’ve vowed to do more swimming this summer, we’ll probably be hitting the lakes and reservoirs since the ocean is 7 hours away. I can’t wait to visit the coast on our Maine trip though. (Eek!) Today is rainy, but temps will be back to the 80s by Thursday. I know scorching days aren’t far off. Have a stupendous week, Lauren! Thanks for always adding your lovely voice to the convo!💜☀️