Summer Mantel with Seashells On the Beach Artwork

Hi friends,

Well, I finally had the time to upload and edit the pics of how this project was done.

While going thru some of the pictures in this post, I couldn't help but laugh at all the things that happened. Of course, not even a smirk came to my face when in the middle of all this, because as I told you during my Summer Home tour, this was a project full of mistakes.

This whole project was inspired by
the shell wall above the fireplace right here. I love it, but I didn't want to cover an entire wall with seashells, a small frame that I could change once summer is gone was what I went for.

Since I've accumulated a good amount of DIY-frames (a piece of plywood mounted on 1 x 2's),  the only thing I had to do was go to the basement to pick one. This one, with the "O come all ye faithful..." was my candidate. That message was obviously done for Christmas, but this board has had many makeovers as you can see HERE.

However, I had to add another "frame" of 1 x 2's all around it. This new frame's the one to hold the "sand and shells", so it needed to protrude like ½" or so.

The next step was to add chicken wire to the plywood surface because whatever I wanted to use as a filler needed something to grab from. And I went to town driving staples to secure the wire onto that surface. :)

Well, everything was coming up so well, I brought the frame inside the house and began planning how I wanted the shells and starfish to look.  Taking pictures of the final draft, so then I could follow that plan.

The "use what you already have" rule every good DIY'er follows, was checked. ---> I had a big box of Plaster of Paris (POP), and that sounded like the best option for this project - white, smooth finish and yeah, the best: I already had it!

The instructions on the box called for 1 cup water by 1-½ cup of POP, with a drying time of 30 min.
Good. I mixed three of these portions, but it looked to me like it was too runny and it might sip through the gaps in between the plywood and the frame. 

So, I added one extra cup of POP and mixed it...  Still too watery. 
Another cup of POP was added...  And this time it look really nice, like in the left picture above.

I quickly brought this mixture to the side of the frame, and began adding it, pushing it onto the chicken wire.

Buuuuut, something didn't feel quite right!

By the time I was half way with the mixture....

WHAT????? I couldn't believe it!

It was turning ROCK SOLID! 

I assured you, I run to the kitchen FASTER than Wonder Woman trying to catch the bad guys...

And grabbed the only tool I could find to help me scrape the hell out of that mess!

Angels were definitely not singing at this time.

While scraping the heck out of it, my thoughts were set on what else to use.

And... yeah, why not...  Grout!

I headed to the closest Home Depot and bought two quarts of pre-mixed, bright white grout.

Back at home, I poured the two quarts onto the board and... Can you believe it?  That's all it covered! I felt so dumb! Why did I buy only two quarts? They didn't even cover half the board. :(

Since, it was already there, I had to continue with the project ...

The grout was spread out, making it flush with the frame.  It looked too rough so, I brought a piece of plastic wrap and with my hand smoothed out the whole thing and began adding the shells by pushing them in. Small shells didn't need much pressure.

The drying time for the grout is 24 hours, that gave me plenty of time to go again to the Home Depot and grab a gallon and one extra quart of grout to complete the job.  - Hey, that stuff isn't cheap .:/

I repeated the same steps done on the lower part, trying to continue seamlessly all the way to the top.

But, it was kind of impossible.

Besides the visible line in between the grout, there's is also a noticeable difference on it's feel. The grout on the lower part looks rougher than the one above.

The above picture was taken some minutes after applying the grout. Cracks appeared some hours later.

The 20th mistake: I didn't clean the frame when the grout was soft. Once dry it's a pain to remove that stuff.

Pillows  |  Side Table  |  Over mantel

I let it dry like for five days, it laid flat on the floor all  that time.

When I finally went to pull it up, oh my, that thing is HEAVY!

Strong hardware was installed before bringing it a top the fireplace.

Even though it has lots of mistakes, I like how it looks.

The white on white gives a fresh look to the room. The shells add texture.

It does look like sand ... After all, it's sanded grout.

Well, there you have it. Tons of mistakes, but hopefully this can give you an idea of what not to do if you ever try something like this in the future. ;)

In my book, this was an expensive project mainly because of the grout. 3 quarts: $30 + 1 gallon $28 - Three starfish around $10 - I had all the other materials, but if you don't, it can go up and above $100. Perhaps it would be more manageable for a smaller frame, mine was 30" x 35".

For more DIY home ideas check these out:

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  1. I am sure that is quite heavy, but it is so fabulous and a one of a kind art piece! You always create the best things!!

  2. It looks so great Cristina!! But I feel you on all the hurdles it took to get to the end result, it was a learning experience for sure! Thanks for sharing the process and what you figured out along the way!

  3. Even though this project threw you a lot of unexpected curves, the end result of your seashell board is fabulous! It looks wonderful over your mantel for the perfect summer display.
    Mary Alice

  4. The grout is perfect! Looks just like sand!

  5. This is just fabulous.
    You have inspired me to try something like this.
    Thank you for being at TOHOT.

  6. It blows my mind that this project was filled with one challenge after another. I like hearing about the way you solved them. I love how this turned out!!

    Happy Thoughts of Home. Pinning. :)

  7. The finished product looks beautiful to me, and it's nice to read about trial-and-error projects to remember that not everything is going to be perfect from the start when someone is truly being creative!

  8. Super cute.
    Those pillows look AMAZING. Is that denim? I can't wait for the tutorial.


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