Sea Fan Shadow Box: DIY

This DIY project has been a long time coming – mostly because I was too lazy to hang hooks on the wall (shameful, I know).  After lusting over this sea fan shadow box on Etsy for several months, I finally emailed the seller to find out how much she was selling it for.  I won’t totally throw her under the bus, but it was about 4x what I was willing to spend.  Eeps!

After the initial shock, I decided it didn’t look so hard to me, and that I could fairly easily re-create it on my own!  What do you think – pretty close!

Sea Fan Shadow Box


Bound and determined to recreate this project, I did a Google search for “sea fans” and found a little online shop, Sea Side Inspired, that sold the exactly what I was looking for: sea fans between 12-18 inches.  At $22 each, I was sold!  All the sea fans I’d seen online were dark – almost black – so I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be spray painting these suckers a light grey or buff.  To my delight, when they arrived, they were a perfect sandstone color with tinges of pink and lavender!  So pretty – no spray paint needed!
To be honest, the hardest part of this project was finding shadowboxes that were large enough to accommodate my sea fans!  I hunted around, going to Target, Aaron Brothers, and a few small frame shops in San Francisco.  What did I learn?  Shadow boxes are hard to come by, and custom framing costs an arm, a leg, and your first born child.  (Do people actually pay for that?!)
Anyway, after I was about to give up, my mom gave me the idea of Michaels, and with a coupon in hand, I headed over there.  
I found 20″ x 16″ shadow boxes with my name written all over them.  The problem??  The only colors they came in were black and this awesome terracotta color (why god, why?!).  I ended up picking up the terracotta color because they were the cheapest, and I was going to have to paint them no matter what.

Don’t you just love the little cherub on there?  He says, “this frame is classy… trust me”.  I told him, “agree to disagree.”
A little painters tape around the edges, and I was ready to rock and roll.  The trick to taping it off well is wedging the tape almost underneath the edges between the glass and the frame – this way the paint won’t bleed onto the glass and you won’t need a razor to scrape it off later.

I liked the aged gold look of the frame in my Etsy inspiration, so I thought, “I’ll gold leaf it!”   I wasn’t born with the patience for gold leafing, so I got got gold leaf paint (same thing, right) – Martha Stewart calls it liquid gilding paint… potato potahto.  
I picked up a cheapo foam brush and used a left over birthday cake plate as my palette – hey, it was easy clean up (throw it all in the trash and call it a day).
The first coat went on splotchy, but this stuff dries fast (by the time you finish the final side of the frame, the first side you painted is dry).  Since it was so fast drying, I was able to do all the coats without stopping for a break (the picture below shows after one coat).  I ended up painting three coats in total – the first for a base, the second for coverage, and the third for artful imperfections.  I really should have sanded them for the paint to stick better, but I felt lazy, and it worked just fine without sanding.

For coats one and two, I brushed the paint on, but on coat three, I used the sponge to stipple the paint.  Some may not like the look, but I happen to really love it.  It created texture, and made it a bit more interesting.
I wish I had an up-close “after photo” of the painted frames, but the light was bad, I was tired, and I forgot.  Oopsy.
Final steps: I bought half a yard of dark grey blue linen to back the frames.  I just used fabric clue to adhere the fabric to the backing – very technical.  I think the Etsy version uses plaster – if you look closely you can sort of see the texture, but fabric was easier, and I was ok with that.
After getting the fabric on there, I positioned the fans on the backing, and used small silver sewing pins to secure them in place – you can’t even see the pins, and it works just fine!  I put the backs into the shadow box frame, wired the backs for hanging, and got a few picture hooks in the wall (after about a month and a half of these sitting on the floor in the dining room).
Originally, I toyed with the idea of tacking decorative frames onto the facade – something with a bit more ornate detail (see the terrible quality iPhone picture  here.  I love the look, but these frames are likely not made of wood, and after all the work of taping and painting, the idea of securing a heavy facade to the front seemed like a lot of unnecessary work.
My mom said she likes them better without the facade, so I’m going to go with that.  Simple is also probably better so this wall doesn’t look like there is TOO much going on.  If we move into a larger place, I may append a more ornate frame like this, but for now, I like them as they are.
Anyway, here they are hanging in the living room, and I’m pretty happy with the final result.  
I HATE that you can see my reflection here, but there was no other angle where I could avoid the glare from the windows… dah.
So here it is at dusk – I love how the room looks all lit up at night.  The tones of gold, creme, and amber really comes to life, and the cool greys and blues act as a nice balance (at least I think so).
Finally, just wanted to toss in a close up photo of the new throw pillows I picked up randomly.  I had been agonizing over pillows – what colors to go for, what patterns to get.  I picked up the gold and grey ikat from Cost Plus World Market of all places (do you remember this post on my debate over a grey / brown and yellow Ikat… hey now!), and the grey and white pillow from Target (oh, how I love Target.  I went in for toilet paper and came out with throw pillows).

I think they work well together, but I’m a bit worried that its a lot of pattern next to each other.  I’m actually looking at a taupe linen pillow to pair up with the Ikat pillows (there are two), and the grey pillows may live on the sofa.

Anyway, our little home is coming together, and I’m so excited for my honey to come home and see the new sea fans, framed, and hanging in our living room!

3 thoughts on “Sea Fan Shadow Box: DIY

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