32 Seashell Crafts That Evoke the Beauty of Summer

white shells
Photo: Gentl and Hyers

The shells the ocean washes up during summertime are lovely remembrances of the season, which is especially true when you turn them into beautiful keepsakes. Of course, before you use shells to make things like necklaces and mobiles, you have to find them first. It's important to be very choosy: To preserve the ecosystem, many states strongly encourage collectors to limit the number of shells they pick up, as they foster more resilient coastlines and healthier aquatic life.

To ready your finds for crafting and display, scrape them out if needed, cover with water in a pot, and boil for five minutes. Let cool completely, and make the most of your oceanside treasures. Then, use them to decorate your walls and interior spaces, turn them into wearable accessories, or display them on your table as a centerpiece. Your options are as endless as the waves: Here's an array of projects you can make using the seashells you've collected along the shoreline.

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Domed Vignettes

shell display mantel

To display sand dollars, conchs, and coral like the treasures they are, set them under glass cloches. To prop up a specimen, use a 3-inch acrylic easel. Or you can keep a shell upright by drilling a small hole in the wooden base, adding a dot of hot glue, and pushing the bottom tip in. Hold it steady till it sets.

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Ombré Wreath

blue ombre shell wreath
Ryan Liebe

The clamshells in this minimalist front-door greeting (or wall hanging) get their ombré effect from a simple soak in dye made from purple cabbage for varying lengths of time; the ones on top are untouched.

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Shell Pendants

Linda Pugliese

A seashell pendant makes a lovely natural backing for landscape photos. The images take on a dreamy, painterly quality when printed on decal film and smoothed onto the shells. Thread them with leather cord for necklaces that are far more stylish than your average seaside souvenir.

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Beach Bags

white scallop rattan bags
Ryan Liebe

Eye-catching white scallop and ark shells give rattan purses resort-boutique elegance. Simply hot-glue the shells into place to make them stay.

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Salt Cellars

shell saltcellars
Ryan Liebe

Save your oyster shells from happy hour or dinner, arrange a few on a plate, and pour in varieties like kosher, flaky sea, and pink Himalayan (which, fittingly, looks like sand from a Bahamian cove).

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Shell Sconce

half shell candle wall sconce
Ryan Liebe

For one-of-a-kind illumination, flex your mussels and cockle shells. Arrange them in concentric circles, and hot-glue them onto a basic wrought-iron hanging candle sconce—their pearlescent interiors will cast a special glow.

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Summer Centerpiece

seashell table centerpiece candles
Ryan Liebe

Many a summer meal ends with a pile of empty oyster shells. This table actually starts with one. The layered tones and textures effortlessly create a lasting centerpiece, and it won't blow over in the wind (but certainly add glass hurricanes if needed to protect the candle flames). We filled a galvanized metal candle trough with a raw bar's worth of oysters—this piece has built-in taper holders, but you can set pillar candles down the center of any rustic tray.

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Napkin Rings

shell table setting
Ryan Liebe

To create a simple place setting, string real bivalves (these come with predrilled holes) on twine, and pull cloth napkins through.

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Sand Dollar Mirror

sand dollar mirror hanging on wall in bathroom
Gentl and Hyers

Sand dollars are pretty on their own—but when they're turned into a frame, the results are spectacular. To make this seashell craft, lay the mirror on a flat surface. Starting with the larger size sand dollars, position them on the mirror before layering on the medium-size ones. Continue by adding accents and fill in holes with the smallest ones. Carefully lift the base sand dollars slightly and apply glue underneath to adhere them to the mirror. Continue attaching the rest of the sand dollars. If you make a mistake in positioning, you can pry off the sand dollars and start again. Let it dry to finish.

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Pedestaled Specimens

shell specimen pedestal with home decor
Gentl and Hyers

Create a cabinet of curiosities with a few favorite specimens and simple wooden bases: Sea fans, organisms similar to coral, make for gracefully graphic displays. Glue them and other interesting shells to repurposed pedestals, such as the wooden egg under the sand dollar or the stack of toy wheels holding the corkscrew shell. A basic craft block or ball also does the job nicely. Thanks to watered-down paint, the bases look like weathered driftwood.

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Garden Pots

shell garden pots
Gentl and Hyers

This display is all about contrast. Some pots are entirely ensconced in shells. Others have just an artful cluster of barnacles, as if the vessel survived a shipwreck and lay undiscovered for years on the ocean floor. If you can wield a glue gun, you can make these distinctive pots. Aim for a balance of color and texture as you adorn them.

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Treasure Boxes

homemade shell boxes
Gentl and Hyers

Shell toppers turn simple boxes into treasure chests. Urchins and small conch shells are perfect for knobs. Just glue them to boxes you've given a couple of coats of paint (colored paint covered in white gives a chalky effect). The mosaic-topped boxes, meanwhile, shimmer with shards of abalone. As you make the mosaic, take your time, and work in small sections.

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shell jewelry
Bryan Gardner

With this craft, your DIY seashell charms will stand the test of time. To make a pendant, choose a good-sized shell like a mussel or a string of smaller shells. We like using a pastel bead cord colors for a subtle look, and brighter hues for contrast.

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Trinket Trays

seashell image transfer jewelry dishes
Ryan Liebe

Transform a scallop shell into a keepsake anyone is shore to love. Cut out a circle of scrapbook paper that's 1 inch bigger than your shell all around. Next, brush the back of the paper with découpage glue and press it on, starting at the center, and smoothing out any air bubbles. Trim the excess, leaving just enough to wrap over the edges, and let it dry. It's just the right size to hold a pearl (naturally) or any other little treasures.

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Sea Fan Sconce

Sea Fan Sconce
Gentl and Hyers

A trio of sea fan sconces gives an entryway a modern (and almost otherworldly) look. Plus, they're a simple way to decorate a big blank wall. To make one, whitewash and sand a wrought-iron candleholder. Then glue on a sea fan, and insert a candle.

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Metallic Candleholders


These candleholders serve as an instant conversation starter. In a well-ventilated area, cover your work surface with newspaper to begin. Apply two coats of spray paint to shells, and let dry. Then, form foil into crumpled "cups" for support and nestle a shell into each one. Continue by melting candle wax over low heat in a pot before dipping a wick tab into the wax and sticking the wick in the center of a shell. Repeat this same process with other wicks and shells, before carefully pouring the remaining melted wax into shells for the finished product. Deep shells, such as scallops, clams, and quahogs, work best and burn the longest.

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Ombré Glittered Ornaments


A festive decoration during the holiday season, these sparkling ornaments are perfect for decorating your Christmas tree. Making this DIY is easy: All you need to do is drill a hole at one end of the shell and add a loop of metallic cord. If you're using spiral shells, simply hot glue a loop on instead.

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Driftwood Star Tree Topper

driftwood star tree topper
Peter Ardito

A coastal-inspired tree is made spectacular with this rustic star topper. Befitting for a beach theme, this one is assembled with weathered driftwood sticks and pearly-white shells.

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seashell keychains
Manal Aman

Kids headed back to school can savor a piece of summer all year long by attaching one of these seashell keychains onto their backpacks. Just make sure to have a craft drill and workstation to pierce the shells in order to make the keychain.

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Koalas and Other Figurines

shell koalas
Sang An

Transform your child's beach discoveries into an adorable shell creature that they can hold onto for years to come. We chose small scallop and clam shells to make the koalas and long razor clams decorated with ring-top cowries for the tree. Use small cushions of polymer clay, which is pliable and slightly sticky, to test out various arrangements. To assemble, use a quick-drying glue and build heads and bodies separately. Before joining larger parts, use a brush to glue on smaller ones, like beads for eyes, and clay to support creatures while the glue dries.

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Spray-Painted Stationery

seashell stationery
Ditte Isager

Decorate stationery, postcards, or a travel journal using shells, stones, and other tokens collected on a recent beach trip. Begin by covering your work surface. Then, add 1 teaspoon of acrylic paint to a small spray bottle, filling the bottle halfway with water and shaking to mix. For a clearer solution, add more water. Next, arrange some shells or pebbles on note cards or another paper item before spraying the paint mixture over the shells or pebbles. Let the shells dry for about 30 minutes before lifting them up.

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Ocean Diorama

Gentl & Hyers

After a day at the beach, re-create an oceanic habitat with the treasures you've collected. You can make this possible by using a nautical map as the backdrop to your marine-like décor. The special part of this deep-sea decoration is that you can add as much detail as you'd like. For an intricate design, try featuring blue waves made out of blue paper. If you're feeling even more adventurous, try your hand at adding free-floating fish to the aquatic display.

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Dyed Shells


In a rainbow of colors, dyed seashells make a great way to add some creativity to your summer. Whether you're looking for a summer craft for the kids or simply want to make your own colorful ocean keepsake to pass the time, you can create these bright-hued shells at home.

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Mussel Shell Wreath

mussel shell wreath
Laurie Frankel

Made from a clambake's worth of mussels, this wreath is the perfect summer decoration for a front door. Master this craft by gluing shells between the wires—tucking the heel of each under the one set before it. Then attach two more courses of shells, one on each side of the first, arranging them in the opposite direction. Use monofilament to hang the wreath securely, and cover the cord with a ribbon tied in a decorative knot.

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Soap Dish

seashell soap dish in bathroom
James Baigrie

Even when vacation's over, these pretty soap dishes will give your bathroom a seaside feel. Wash one big shell and one small shell. Then make a ring of crumpled newspaper to cushion them as you work. Attach the big shell to the small shell back to back with a dab of two-part epoxy glue. Place the shells in the ring of newspaper with the small shell facing down, so the paper supports the top shell and keeps it from slipping out of place. But be sure the epoxy doesn't touch the paper. Let the craft dry thoroughly.

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Seashell Bookends


Add a summery touch to your reading room with bookends made of seashells. Start by filling a tub halfway with sand. Nestle a shell in the sand with the opening face up. In a disposable cup, mix casting plaster. Spoon the plaster into the opening of the shell until it is completely filled; let the shell dry in this position. With a pencil, trace the opening of the shell onto the back of a piece of velvet (use a color that complements the shell). Cut out the shape, and use spray mount to attach the velvet to the plaster-filled opening.

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Mood Lighting

mood lighting shell candles
Ellie Miller

These inexpensive "lion's paw" shells create a peaceful ocean ambience. To create this craft, fill a shallow tray with sand, arrange pairs of your prettiest specimens, and place a votive candle at the center of each pair (leaving room for the flames to flicker safely). Set the tray on a low table, and enjoy a quiet drink on the patio.

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Nautilus Shell Vase

shell vase bedside
Laurie Frankel

A wide-mouthed, spiral nautilus shell can double as a pearlescent vase for bedroom bouquets. To create your own, place a piece of floral adhesive on a plate (use just enough to hold the shell upright). Stick the shell to the adhesive, and then place a weight—a fishing sinker, for example—inside to help hold it in place. Next, fill the shell halfway with water and add flowers, like purple scabiosa and white phlox. For the last step, arrange pebbles around the shell; they'll add a finishing touch and help stabilize the display.

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String Lights

hanging seashell lights
John Gruen

A string of beach treasures casts a dreamy glow on a patio or porch. Decorate a string of small white lights with clean, dry shells. Tape a 2-foot section of lights to your work surface with bulbs lying flat. Apply a thin layer of epoxy along the hinge edge of a shell, and press into place at the base of a light. Repeat for each bulb. Let dry about five minutes before continuing with the next section.

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Seashell Night-Light

seashell night light
Wendell T. Webber

Trade an ordinary nightlight for a delicate beach keepsake. To begin this craft, rinse the seashell clean or soak it in a bucket of water containing a capful of bleach until the shell just turns white. After letting the shell dry completely, add epoxy glue to the night-light clip, and then press it onto the flat part of the shell. When the shell is dry, attach it to the socket.

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Shell Wind Chimes

child with shell wind chimes
Laurie Frankel

Any beachcomber will enjoy this project—you can even add the finished product to your porch for a reminder of your vacation long after it's long over. Start by finding two sticks that are about 3 inches in length. Then use cotton string of varying lengths to tie one end around a shell or piece of sea glass and the other end to one of the sticks. Use two same-size pieces of string to connect the sticks and tie a 24-inch string to the top one to hang it up.

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Shell Skewers

seashell toothpics
Dana Gallagher

Here's an enticing way to present poached shrimp at a summer meal—spear them with seaside-themed utensils. Purchase assorted shells from a crafts store and wash then glue them onto wooden skewers. Set them out with shrimp and dipping sauces for a festive touch.

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