Seashells have joyfully kitsch appeal, best employed by home-stylers of the goddess variety
EDITORIAL & CONTENT
The following is for every five year old girl who cited “Be Ariel” as her primary career goal, and then grew into a woman who has never once gotten to cover her breasts with clam shells. Though, really, with this one, you do want to steer away from the Disney Hotel reference points, and position yourself firmly on Lana Turner’s iconic clam bed, so decadently reminiscent of bedazzled lady bits. As was the confusing trope of many a 1950s production, this wonderfully burlesque-style image took centre stage in The Prodigal’s marketing campaign, but didn’t actually make the movie’s final cut (or at least any version I can dig up). And still, Turner’s alluringly pagan high priestess character is as synonymous with this clam, as Real Life Lana is with murdering one’s gangster fella and blaming it on one’s daughter.
So, you see, seashells have been washing up on the shores of our style lexicon, in seasonal waves, since glam (or should I say clam) Hollywood’s heyday; most notably during the 1980s when avocado-toned, shell-shaped toilet seats were all the rage. But I feel it in my salty waters, folks: they’re firmly in season, once again. Fashion-wise, Leandra Medine has sprinkled her shoe collection for the season, with gloriously naff mini shells. The Repeller is never wrong. We also saw them on SS19 fashion runways, courtesy of accessories at Anna Sui, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Michael Kors, and Etro; appearing as part of otherwise land-loving looks, for a tres fash take on what was heretofore a trend only enjoyed by Monica Geller types visiting the Caribbean.
Last year’s relaunch of London’s super-exclusive member’s club Annabel’s, saw old Hollywood glamour out-max itself, with fantastical extravagance and gilded everything. As is often the case, my favourite space is the pink-on-pink-on-gold ladies powder room, which Vogue calls “Marie Antoinette meets Liz Taylor” and I have to agree. Apparently, there have been quite a few outlandish requests to host events here, in this fabulous jacks (so gross; I swear that wasn’t my first thought). But back to the wash basins, which are pink onyx carved into the shape of oyster shells, completed by the addition of gold swan taps; I mean, obviously. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, one of the most talked about Asian resorts to have opened, in recent years, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, has been doing its elaborately colourful thing, complete with mermaid bra-shaped swimming pool (one boob’s worth, at least), much to the delight of, well, every female/gay who encounters it. And while, if I routinely Scrooge McDucked in my own cash-filled pool, I would naturally favour one which was shell-shaped; alas, I must attempt to build a home fit for a mermaid in a testosterone-filled terraced shack. But how? The same way as you will, reader; via the introduction of a few — let’s all say it together — statement pieces.
The greatest thing about the seashell aesthetic is that it’s adaptable to almost any (good) interior style. For minimalist homes — all white walls, bleached wood and crumpled handmade linen — little could be more apt than a natural shell chandelier or silver plated oyster condiment bowls, to add texture and talking points. If you’re mad into midcentury, obviously, you’re going to need a plush, shell-like armchair, perhaps a brass desk lamp or some textiles in the deco take on a shell print. For girlishly contemporary types, well, your bed is already littered with shell-shaped velour cushions, in various shades of pink, but I bet you haven’t got one that’s an adorably glittery pearl in a clam? Maximalists, of course, will want a little of everything. Go mixi-matchy, with shell wallpaper and fabrics, layering up the luxury with shell-shaped metal accessories, and what the hell, take up smoking, so you can use a golden shell ashtray (that’s 100% a joke - smokers are jokers).
What’s most important when maxing up on shells, and actually for any take on this trend, is that you don’t treat it, in any way, as a nautical theme. That means no rope, anchors, starfish, or any sort of white/red/navy palette combo. Instead, approach it with an almost ironic, retro-inspired joie. Carefully-curated touches, either of outlandish decadence or natural chill, will do the job nicely, bringing cheerful seaside charm into your otherwise, far too serious living quarters. And however you shell it, shell it like this is where you bring sailors after luring them beneath the waves.
From my interiors & lifestyle column in Irish Tatler, June 2019 edition