Project reveal, shell display/ coastal gallery wall

Project reveal, shell display/ coastal gallery wall

So today is the day, I mean THE day I have been teasing about. The Project reveal, shell display/ coastal gallery wall is so important to me. It reminds me of my hometown and our family vacations back there each summer. A home should be full of personal touches and memories. It also helps that my home is full of coastal decor and this gallery wall fits right in. So I spoke about this project a few weeks ago here. These Melissa and Doug toy containers is what I started with.
from this….
… to this!
For those that are not familiar with these toys they are wood toys for toy kitchens, dolls, stamps, play food. Anything, and they come in these nifty little wood containers. Now of course the toys do not stay in these, they have been organized and terrorized in my kids toy collection for a while. And these trusty wood containers have been in the basement collecting dust. But I was not going to give them up. I have a huge basement, a little extra is fine. They are too good to not use. Well now I am using them.
I am sure you all have figured out by now I am a southern California girl at heart, who is stuck… I mean living in Wisconsin. I love my home, the town I live in, the family I have here, the life I have built. BUT… I miss California. I lived at the beach when not in school, spending way too much time in the sun, sand, and water. We go back quite frequently to visit family and friends and each time we accumulate shells. Either by picking them up on the beach, my Grandma giving me some she has been holding onto, or buying them from local stores. I have always just kept them nicely in a container with plans to one day do something with them. Well that day came, I somehow put two and two together. I have these great wooden containers, beautiful shells, and wall space. A perfect feature wall in my home of my old stomping ground, or splashing ground in this case.
The first step was to gather all of the shells I had, see which ones I for sure wanted to display, and figure out roughly how many of these nifty wasted until now wood boxes I would need. Once that was determined. I painted! Of course I painted. I just used a semi gloss white spray paint. I know really exciting. I set them on my trusty painting paper in the garage and went to work making these bad boys look more display worthy and less toy holder-ish.
the toy wooden containers
and now the former toy container turned shell display


I ended up doing two coats of the spray paint. I always with spray paint take my time, doing light sprays across the whole surface. Keeping it moving the whole time. If you concentrate on one spot you get dripping no matter what. With those being done I started to think about the whole wall. I knew this would be going on the first wall in my hallway. It is visible from the living room, and only had some pictures of my kids that I put there because I did not want a blank wall. Well the position has been filled with better. My kids pictures will now be housed somewhere else. Sorry, they will now have to deal with only 50 or so pictures in my home of them. I think we can spare to rearrange a few.
I knew I wanted some ocean pictures so I turned to a family friend who is very talented taking pictures of the beach, ocean, and sunsets. You can find her pictures here. I wanted pictures of my local beaches. The ones I grew up on. I picked three pictures. One of the Oceanside Pier, taken in I believe almost the same spot my friends and I always met, by lifeguard tower 2 on the south side if you must know. The other two are from Tamarack beach in Carlsbad, this one was a more chill, relaxing beach, it was slightly hidden and was great for locals. The last is a picture of the waves. I was aware of the colors, with a lot featuring orange, some shells were orange tinted. I knew I needed to balance that with a clear blue picture as well. To make it fit in my home, strangely enough I have been naturally forced to incorporate orange into my home with some pops of it in my study because of a picture my Grandma gave me. And I will tell you if pops of orange is wrong, well I don’t want to be right. But my trusty go to blue needs to be featured as well. Come one, come all colors to my home now, we are turning into a rainbow. Hopefully I am balancing my explosion of color. Anyways…
I ordered two 8×10’s and one 5×7, and found some great wooden frames from Hobby Lobby that make it look like they are being displayed in pieces of wood found at the beach.
The picture in it’s frame

Once all of that was done I needed to decide how to display the shells and make then stay on the wall. I knew using a hot glue gun would do the trick but I felt guilty. These are beautiful pieces that come from the ocean and I am going to soil them by slathering hot glue all on them. I went around and around with a few ideas but nothing else worked. I finally relented and figured shells displayed and enjoyed with some glue is much better then them stuffed in some containers collecting dust.

I set everything that would be on the wall on the floor. Measured the wall, used random markers (two chairs and my kitchen cabinets) as a visual for the size of the wall. And just started laying things down. Arranging and rearranging until things started to work. I knew the anchor was going to be in the middle, and one 8×10 picture on each side for symmetry but I did not want it to look too uniform.

The formation, ready for shells

When I figured out the formation of all of that I placed the shells inside. Being aware of not putting all of the colorful shells in one, or spreading out clam shells, crab shells, mussels, star fish, and sand dollars throughout all of them. I finally figured out the best balance I could manage.

The shells all in their forever homes

Next, the gluing. I used the low setting on the glue gun. I don’t think it could damage the shells on the high setting but I did not want to take the chance. Some of these are very special, either given to me from family or we picked them up ourselves. The hardest part with this was finding spots that the shells touched the surface of the display box. Some of them only had a thin piece of the shell touching it. I also did not want to put too much on. In case I ever do want to replace the shells with newer ones. But of course not too little where the shells fall out. You know that perfect balance in between that you have no way of knowing. Yeah, that is what was going on here.

Some action shots, exciting stuff here

I carefully held down the shell in the position I wanted it to sit in for
maybe 5 seconds before I felt it held good



I also did a test after each display had all of the shells glued. First wiggling them myself, then lightly shaking, then picking up and holding sideways, and then finally hanging upside down. The displays, not me in case you were wondering. I had not a one fall or move. Go me and my super hot glue gun powers. I tell you I am pro!

Now to get them all on the wall. I started with the middle of the wall and worked my way out.

The lone anchor, holding things down… haha get it… anchor,
holding down ok, then…

I also consulted quite often the pictures I took of the display on the floor. Because I liked the look and location of the shells. There was a lot of running back and forth for the needed display, looking at pictures, and then telling my husband where to hang them. We connected the displays by using a standard screw in the top corners of each display. And that ladies and gentlemen is the whole project. It turned out so great, and I adore walking by it all the time.

Here is the link again for the person Staci who I purchased the pictures from. She has beautiful pictures of Southern California, really this does not do them justice!

I hope it was worth the teasing and waiting. I know the angles are a bit odd with the pictures but the hallway is an awkward place to take pictures. And we have had absolutely no sun for a whole week so some of these pictures I hope to update when Mr. Sun decides to shine down on me and my home. I showed my kids the finished wall once we were done with it. The two oldest loved it and eagerly asked which shells were which and the story of how we got them. My youngest, free spirited Gavin stated “Wow, it looks like a castle Mommy.” Yes! Nailed it, my castle, shell, ocean wall, obviously. This is the boy that has sword fights with heels on so I guess I should not take his opinion to heart too much.

In all seriousness I would say the most expensive part of this project was those Melissa and Doug toys that the wooden displays were used for. Those toys are pricey. But hey I got my money’s worth. A two for one, fun toys and a great wall display that makes me smile and reminds me of my youth, family, friends, memories with my husband and kids now on vacation there. So many, and they are all there. And now my semi coastal style home just became a little more coastal, in Wisconsin. Hey it is my home and I love it.





  1. Vince and I love this. It looks amazing I am totally going to steal it and use it some place. Now we don't have kids so who am I going to get to play with the expensive toys?

  2. I am glad you like it. I used toy containers but rally any wooden boxes can work. As long as they are not too big. The deeper the box the more likely it can be hit when people are walking by. So any shallow wood box will do. Thank you for your continued support!

  3. WOW! Such a fantastic project and it came out fantastic. I love the pop of color throughout that you used. You brought the coast inside! Very impressed! Keep it up!

  4. Thank you! I am happy with the finished look

  5. I love this project – such a great nautical finish 🙂

  6. Thank you! I was worried it would end up looking like a shell store display but it turned out the way I was hoping. Thank you for stopping by!

  7. I love, love, love this! I think you can keep the coast with you no matter where you live, and like you said, it's your home. Thanks for sharing at Snickerdoodle Sunday! 🙂

  8. Thank you for stopping by! I am glad you like it, and I agree that you keep the coast with you. I loved the link party and will be back. There was some amazing inspiration.

  9. Hey Emily! Awesome post! Lovin' the gallery 🙂 Actually we all loved it so much you will be our featured blogger next Snickerdoodle Sunday! Congrats!!

  10. Thank you so much! There were so many amazing projects that people shared. I am so excited that you liked it. Thank you again, I will be looking out for it

  11. Love your gallery! Your awesome project is being featured today at Your Designs this Time! Thanks for sharing with us!

  12. Wow thank you so much! I am on my way to check it out. Thank you

    Emily- Our house now a home

  13. Wow this is simply gorgeous! An amazing project. Great job.

  14. amazing idea I should try some out of the ordinary use for some of the crap I have around the house. Thank you for the idea and push.

  15. That is what I hope people get out of my projects. Maybe not make something exactly like mine. But it open your eyes to look around and see what you can create. Good luck with your future project's!

    Emily- Our house now a home

  16. Thanks for coming by the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop. Love your post and appreciate you taking the time to share.

  17. thank you so much, there was so many creative things I saw. I loved linking up!

  18. Paulette Worley says:

    I have a large collection of shells. Some are quiet beautiful. I love your display. Where did you get the anchor?

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