Cropped section of shell mirror hanging on a white wall with bright daylight streaming in on the left

DIY Shell Mirror

DIY a new statement shell mirror to brighten your walls. This how-to combines a thrifted mirror, collected shells and joint compound!

 

True Story: The summer we moved in, the water moved out!

The centerpiece of our city was drying up before our eyes.

Although no one actually said it, internally we heard: “Those are the new people, the villains,  who made our lake dry up”.

We joked about it. But that was to cover for what felt so dreadfully real at the time.

So what did I do? The required beach activity, whether it’s sand beach or mud beach that was once 6 feet under. I walked and gathered shells — lots of big shells!

Totally mystified me. I thought shells were only at the ocean style beach.

SIDENOTE: Can you tell I was raised all city girl? Once I begged for our family vacation to be a camping trip. My mother laughed sooo hard and then signed me up for Girl Scouts (which I loved, btw).

So now what to do with all these gorgeous shells? All those shiny iridescent insides? That beautiful blending of white silver, blues and greys?

Closeup of shell mirror on white wall reflecting a partial black window and green plant and artwork

Frame a mirror, of course!

Brown Oval mirror with a pile of washed shells

Yep, in my stash was a truly awful thrifted mirror waiting to be reborn.

Closeup of the edge of the original thrifted mirror showing the map decal

It’s a perfectly sized beveled oval mirror. Score! And the frame? The frame is wide and flat with a raised lip along the inside and outside edges. She’s been absolutely crying out for some kind of mosaic treatment.

Her wishes came true!

Materials:

  • Thrifted frame
  • Gathered shells
  • Joint Compound
  • Construction Adhesive
  • Paint

Supplies:

  • Paint brushes
  • Cheap small craft paint brush
  • Paint stir stick
  • Zipper style freezer bag

Step 1) Prep Your Frame & Shells

 

A pile of shells in the sink with the old toothbrush used to scrub them

Wash those shells really well and let dry.

The oval frame with the map decal pulling off
The thrifted frame now painted dark blue

Prep and paint your frame. For me, that included pulling off that map, removing the mirror and then two light coats of a deep grey blue.

Closeup of the edge of the frame showing a lighter blue accent

Because I knew I would not be able to get the frame color completely duplicated with the mounding joint compound, I dry brushed a tiny bit of a lighter steel blue on top.

 

 

Step 2) Lay Out Your Shells

I started by separating them in two piles: hinges on the left, hinges on the right. This way they would catch the light the same and assured that the narrower end of the shells all pointed in the same direction.

Then I lined up each pile by size. I decided the largest ones would be at the bottom with the shortest ones at the top. This gives more visual weight to the bottom, just as traditionally done with mats in frames.

Prepared frame with all the shells laid out

Transferred these onto my frame to make sure they fit.

 

 

 

Step 3) Attach Your Shells

The base layer is joint compound. I tinted mine with some latex paint, rather than thinning with a touch of water to make it more spreadable.

Shows a thick spread of tinted joint compound on the flat section of the frame and some of the shells waiting to be placed.

Working in short sections, spread a generous layer, then set each shell back in place smooshing it down into the joint compound.

I was hopeful this would be enough to hold the shells in place. I would be WRONG!

tube of "Liquid Nails" construction adhesive in a caulking gun

So adjust and adapt: Once the joint compound was thoroughly dry, I gently lifted each shell off and applied a generous lathering of construction adhesive. Those shells are there for good!

 

 

 

Step 4) Fill The Base

It’s the final step and the gooey step!

Joint compound is a great filler for this. It’s cheap, it’s easy to work with and it dries hard — oh, and did you know it’s tintable!

I used a disposable tub to mix a batch of joint compound with dark latex paint. trying to match my frame color as close as possible and get the joint compound to a squeezable consistency. But not too runny as you want it to hold its shape.

Transfer this to a freezer zipper style bag. Seal it up well and clip just a very small tip off one of the bottom corners.

Squeeze a mound of the prepared joint compound in between the shells. and them spread it with the small craft paint brush. I suggest starting with the outside edge. This edge is easier to work so use it for “practice” to get your technique down. Also the very bottom and the very top will probably not be seen much so start at one of those.

A freezer bag being squeezed to apply the tinted joint compound under and between the edges of the shells

The idea is to pipe a generous mound of the tinted joint compound under and in between the edges of the shells.

shows the mounds of tinted joint compound between the shells

The mound on the right is the size you want.

Shows a thiin craft paint brish being used to spread the mound around to cover the base layer and fill the space

Now use your thin craft paint brush to spread that mound around and cover the base layer and fill the frame in more.

And then the same mounding and spreading treatment is applied to the inside edge of the frame.

 

Step 5) Dry, Fill, Hang

Give the joint compound at least 48 hours to dry since we added moisture to it.

Keep in mind, the shell edges are delicate! You will need a helper to hold the frame (not the shell edges) while you reinsert the mirror.

Now hang. Admire! Enjoy!

shell mirror hanging on wall with the corner of adjacent room showing on the right
Shell mirror hanging on white wall reflecting a black iron light fixture
Shell Mirror hanging on white wall with title:"DIY SHELL MIRROR"

 

I hope you enjoyed this project and gleamed a bit of inspiration and perhaps learned a bit. I hope you give it a try and you proudly hang it on your walls, lightening and brightening your home.

 

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