Decorate Your Home with Chic Seashells

A local designer creates a seashell-themed sanctuary
Brangien Davis  |   July 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Alicia Nammacher, surrounded by shells in her living room. For the wall she framed shell pictures—a mix of photos she took and pages from old books

Way down a winding road that hugs the southern shore of Magnolia sits an unassuming beach house that opens to reveal an artfully displayed shell collection—not to mention a spectacular Puget Sound view. Owned by graphic designer Alicia Nammacher (former longtime Seattle Bride art director) and her husband, Jeff, the small home is washed in cool taupe tones and punctuated with shells collected during the couple’s travels and from the beach right out front.

Pointing at shells on sills, tables and counters, Nammacher recalls where she found each one—Charleston, the Bahamas, Padre Island in Texas and Anna Maria Island in Florida. “Every shell has a story,” she says, including the sand dollars she found near the Bainbridge Island ferry dock, which required a dodgy scramble down a barnacle-laden ladder. Speaking of barnacles, she collects those, too, as part of her passion for collecting unusual and imperfect shells. When they start to decompose, oyster shells, for example, become pocked with holes. “I love the texture,” she says.

The shell-filled (nonworking) fireplace was inspired by local photographer E. Jane Armstrong (, with a driftwood sculpture by Jeff Nammacher above; an ever-changing mix of barnacles, sand dollars and coral tops a dresser; shell-covered mirror; decomposing oyster shells in a vase add a briny note to the kitchen

Choosing nontraditional shells helps keep Nammacher’s collection from becoming kitschy, as does the way she arranges the objects: at surprising angles (upside-down or turned away), which increases the visual interest. With bags of shells in storage, she can change things up regularly, which also adds to the novelty. She approaches her pretty arrangements of neutral-hued shells almost as one would a Zen garden, gently shifting them around, appreciating the bumpy surfaces. “I find it very relaxing,” she says.