Sea shells are among my favourite home decor accessories, not least because they remind me of sunnier times on the beach – and days like that can be few and far between in the cool north. Here we show how to decorate with handpicked sea shells, as well as bought in shells.
So a bowl or a glass of shells is a fresh and pretty addition to the bathroom decor. But where to find and how to decorate with sea shells?
Seashells are found by the beach, obviously, but they’re also sold in shops and online… I’m biased towards picking shells from the beach for many reason, which I’ll come to later.
What are sea shells made of?
But what are really nice shells to use as part of your home decor? A shells is made up mainly of calcium carbonate forming the hard protective layer or shield of a soft animal such that doesn’t have a backbone.
That soft animal or mollusk live by the salts and other chemicals in the ocean. Once digested, those chemicals are secreted as calcium carbonate which in turn harden around the mollusc.
As it gets harder, the calcium carbonate becomes the hard shell. Eventually, as the mollusk dies and decomposes or is eaten by another animal, the shell will wash up no a coastline somewhere.
How shells produce pearls
And let’s not forget, shells are where our favourite jewel is produced: the pearl. A pearl is formed when a small piece of irritant, such as a parasite, enters a shell usually of an oyster.
And that is possible when the oyster mollusc opens the shell for feeding. The parasite or organic matter becomes trapped and the oyster starts forming a protective membrane around the irritant. Eventually it turns into a beautiful pearl.
Those of us who have combed beaches many times for beautiful shells will know we normally find single shells. The single shell would originally have been attached to a twin shell in order to protect the soft animal inside. And soft species will have decomposed or eaten by another sea animal.
They come in all sizes and shapes. Some are thick, hard and heavy while others will be small, indeed tiny and paper thin. They are usually white or cream coloured while some are blue and black. Those are the colours usually found on the coastline of Scandinavia.
If you live or are visiting a country with more varied marine life you’ll likely see many incredible and different coloured shells. Here they are mainly earthy and neutral colours. And that, of course, matches the Nordic aesthetic.
Where to place and decorate with handpicked seashells
If your interior style is already nautical, blue and white colours, with wicker furniture and paintings of ships on the walls among other things, then shells look “at home” anywhere.
I’ve sometimes placed them on the floor, around big pot plants, or on side tables. I’ve even used them to cover the soil of a pot plant – in place of decorative stones.
Some people fill a wicker bowl with shells of different sizes and shapes for a pretty coastal look or scattered around the fireplace. The coffee table is the perfect display tool. And if you can get your hands on a large shell then place it on a console for added pop.
Another pretty decorative idea is filling a glass with sand and placing shells on top – feels almost like having your own mini beach indoors.
The bathroom is an obvious display background for seashells
The bathroom is the obvious place for shells. I’ve seen friends place them in large glass jars or bunch them up in a flat bowl.
Others line the shells along the edge of the bath tub by the wall or in the window sill. I’ve currently got shells on a ledge by the walk-in shower. If you have a large bathroom with plenty of shelf space then you can really play with the beachy theme.
handpicked sea shells vs. bought in shells
You can buy the most amazing shells online or at seaside stores – but personally I prefer handpicked shells. Why? I prefer them because each piece has a story attached to it.
Every shell is a reminder of events, a piece of some sandy beach – and in the case of my shells, they’re a reminder of the Scandinavian beaches where I picked the shells. The story of my shells is more important than the look.
But look around – I’ve even seen sea shells for sale at a charity shop, at £1 a pop, or ca. $1.20 with money going to a worthy cause, of course. They’ll cost about three to seven times as much in stores or online.
Now is perhaps not the best time of year to be roaming beaches for beautiful shells – at least not here in the northern hemisphere. But put on an extra few layers because you’ll have most of the stretch to yourself.
That’s when you stand a really good chance of finding real gems. Or shop around online if you don’t live near or get to the coast easily. But of course, online the shells won’t be free…