I decided to do a loose beach theme for the boy’s bathroom because it’s a classic decorating choice. Also, both of my boys love the beach and have fond memories of family trips to my uncle’s Myrtle Beach condo. My oldest son would live in the surf while we were there. I also have a ton of shells that have been collected by me, the boys, my mom, and my Oma. I have always loved beach-combing and I just keep bringing them home! So, I have two large bins of shells and I had always planned to do something with them.
I’ve thought about making some custom art with some of them and this room makeover was a good excuse to finally do it. I considered getting some shadow boxes to frame larger shells, but I decided to purchase THESE FRAMES that had a double mat and a little bit of space between the mounting surface and the glass. This would allow me to mount some small shells, but still have it be the same depth as the rest of the art I was hanging in the space.
I used mini sand dollars for one and olive shells for the other. The olive shells are particularly meaningful because they were my Oma’s favorite shell. She was always pleased as punch when she found one. It’s pretty much impossible for me to see an olive shell and not think of her.
So, to start, I combed through the shells to pick ones that were the right size to fit under the glass. If you don’t have a shell collection, you can buy a bag of small shells. This would be a cool project with any small item you have a lot of, though…buttons, coins, etc.
Here’s a closer look at the frames I used. It’s the space created between the two mats that makes it work as a very shallow shadow box.
I used Strathmore watercolor paper as the backing because I already had it on hand and I liked the color and texture of it. I selected the shells I wanted to use, arranged them in rows, and tested the glass to make sure they weren’t too big.
Once I was happy with the shells and the arrangement, I used a hot glue gun to glue each one in place.
As a last-minute decision, I decided to write the name of the shells in pencil at the bottom right corner. If I knew where I had collected all of them (or if they had all been from one beach), I would’ve written the beach location. It’s just a little touch that makes it clear this is a custom piece of art.
I made sure the rows of shells were lined up in the mat window and then taped the watercolor paper in place.
I put the frame back together and then hung them in the bathroom. It was a simple project that turned out great!
As I was laying out the shells, I thought about a line from one of Mary Oliver’s poems… “One tulip is like the next, but not altogether.” At first glance, these shells look the same, but they are each unique. They are stunningly different when you really look. To drive that point home, I intentionally selected one olive shell that was gray instead of a pale beige like the rest.
For someone just looking at the art, they might think I ran out of beige shells or they might not even notice. But for me, it’s a little wink to Mary Oliver’s poem.
In case you missed it, you can see the full boys’ bathroom makeover HERE.