How To Make A Coastal Tray With Your Leftover Seashells

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Trying to figure out what to do with all those pretty seashells you found at the beach? Why not make this cute, and useful, coastal tray?

Trying to figure out what to do with all those pretty seashells you found at the beach? Why not make this cute, and useful, coastal tray!

As seen on Sarasota’s Suncoast View

We love the beach and now that we live in Florida, we head out whenever we can. Of course, you can’t go to the beach without collecting seashells and we’ve definitely collected our fair share. Like most people, once we got them home, we didn’t really know what to do with them. Ours just sat in a closet, waiting for me to figure it out.

Eventually I decided to start using them as part of my decor. I’ve used them for decorative bottles, a mason jar utensil holder and even used one as a drawer pull for an old side table that I refurbished!

I even used a shell for a drawer pull on a side table

I’d been planning to make more coastal decor but hadn’t found the time. However, I was recently asked to be on the Sarasota morning show, Suncoast View, to share some summer related crafts. Yay…now I had a good excuse to sit around crafting with seashells.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to make so I wandered around the craft store for inspiration and came across this wooden tray.

To make a coastal tray, you'll need just a plain wooden tray to start

I put it in my basket but still didn’t know what I was going to do with it. Then I saw this sign…see what I mean about searching the store for inspiration? It works every time!

This sign gave me the inspiration for my coastal tray

The craft store is the best place to find inspiration because once you know what you’re doing, everything you need is right there! I grabbed my supplies and headed home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Wooden tray

Chalk paint in coastal colors

Letter stencils



You don't need many supplies for a coastal tray

I couldn’t wait to get started! Originally I planned to use brown as well but when I tested it out on an old piece of wood, I didn’t particularly like it. I suggest you do this if you’re not completely sold on the colors you choose. While I didn’t like the brown, I loved the blue and white chalky acrylic paints. The blue shade is French Teal and the white is well, just White. Boring but it works! I painted the tray and let it dry overnight.

I chose to paint my coastal tray blue and white

Once it was dry, I used sandpaper to give it a weathered look.

I painted the coastal tray to give it a weathered look

Next it was time to add the letters. I didn’t want it to look too “neat” so I made the letters kind of crooked.

Your coastal tray can say whatever you'd like

When I use stencils, I’ve found that a sponge brush seems to work best. I dabbed on the paint and tried not to make it too thick because I still wanted a weathered look. When you paint with stencils, be sure you remove them while the paint is still wet. Otherwise when you pull them off, you may pull some of the paint off along with them.

I painted Florida with white paint on my coastal tray

Finally, use a hot glue gun to add the seashells. There’s really no right or wrong way to do this part. Just pick your prettiest shells and arrange them how you like.

Putting the shells on the coastal tray is the fun part

I’m really happy with the way this project turned out. I would have paid big money for this at the store but everything together cost less than $10. At $5, the tray was the most expensive item but you could probably find one even cheaper at Goodwill.

This finished coastal tray cost less than $10

I added a few shells to the back, too.

Shells were added to the back, just for fun

If you’re planning to use this as a decorative piece, you can probably just leave it as is. If you’re going to make it functional, like I plan to do, you may want to add a coat of polyurethane or other protective spray. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the other 1,273, 398 shells in my closet!

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