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Design Threads: How To Make A Shell Mirror


Handcrafted items bring a room to life. If like us, you cannot resist taking home handfuls of shells from a beach walk, and then wonder what to do with them, here is a fun and creative way to put them to good use and decorate your home.

Shellwork was a staple of eighteenth-century English country estates. Some of the creations were truly incredible with entire rooms and grottos adorned with shells.

We love to bring a touch of this intricate decoration to our own interiors. This week for Design Threads, we will show you how to create your own shellwork at home.

How to make a shell mirror:

1. Find a mirror with a flat frame or a frameless mirror, these can be found on eBay or even Amazon. You might even have one at home that needs at little TLC. Any shape will do.

2. Get yourself some shells! In addition to the ones you might have lying around at home, you can always buy some more HERE. It is important to have a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, not forgetting the smaller shells or even pebbles for the gaps.

3. You’ll also need a small paint brush and some good all purpose glue (we’ve been using Weldbond Universal Adhesive Glue).

4. Ensure you have protected the area of the mirror that will not be decorated with some masking tape and newspaper.

Time to start the design…

5. Lay out your design before starting. Symmetry is important because it gives your mirror a sense of order and a more designed look.

6. Place the larger shells first and work out from there, filling in the gaps with smaller shells and pebbles. Try to cover the whole frame and to mix and match the shells in order to get the desired look.

7. And finally, don’t forget to vary the colour to create something that will pop out from the wall.

Shellwork does not have to stop at mirrors. Why not try decorating the outside of a little box. Much like the mirror, try to keep your designs symmetrical.  You can try using other materials, small stones, pearls or maybe even adding a bit of sparkle. You can be really creative and turn something ordinary into something that you would be proud to display.

One of our own designs is this shell floor lamp. It reminds me of the Italian shellwork seen in the eighteenth-century; the way the shells have been turned inside out and the intricate pattern winds up the stand.

For this shell candle holder we decorated an elegant large shell with smaller ones. Simply add a little flickering flame and it would make the perfect centrepiece for a candlelit dinner.

This beach bar in Barbados was the perfect setting to display an impressive collection of shellwork.  We wanted the feel of this scheme to be a ‘barefoot, seashell and beach-combing’ vibe, with echoes of Sailor’s Valentines, basket lamps that sway in the breeze and subdued lighting at night.

I commissioned a large collection of old mirrors to be covered in shells in the most delicate tones and shapes. The different textures create a look that is fun and light-hearted.

In this room at home in the New Forest, an old chandelier has been glued with shells to compliment the old shell-covered table. Shellwork is a wonderful way to bring the outside in, even in more formal spaces.

At Ham Yard Hotel, we added shell mirrors to the Soholistic Spa. The colours and the organic shapes of the shells compliment the scheme perfectly.

At this time when the world really is not your oyster, maybe an oyster shell could be your world! We’d love to see your creations, so don’t forget to tag us using #DesignThreads.

Weekly Book Recommendation from Much Ado Books

Jini Reddy’s Wanderland – A Search for Magic in the Landscape is a tour of Britain seen through the eyes of an outsider.

Jini, a London journalist, undertakes a search for magic in the landscape of the countryside. From a ‘cult’ map offering a route to a hidden well (that stays hidden) to a search for a mystical land temple, she embraces byways and nooks and oddball ideas – without losing her sense of humour, scepticism or appreciation for the natural world.

Celebrating the joys of roaming, this is a wonderful book that offers a fresh look at mystics, goddess worshippers, and nature trails – a book about Britain, and about finding your place in the world.

We are fortunate to have a few signed copies, while supplies last . . .

CLICK HERE to purchase your own copy.

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