Shadowboxes and Home Decor

Last week, Steffani Cameron talked about how the use of shadowboxes can turn your clutter and keepsakes into art.  But what are some of the other aspects of this simple, and now trendy, way of approaching home decor? What is a shadowbox, really? And what is the history of shadowboxes?

Guest writer Sarah Bolt is here to explore these aspects today. Take a look.


Source: Julie_ann_shahin from flickr

Typically a framed square or rectangular box with a glass front, shadowboxes also come in a wide array of styles that boast unique shapes and open designs.  The shadow box first came into use during the 19th century to mimic the boxed view of stereo-optician cards. Shadowboxes had a decided advantage since they didn’t require the viewer to peek through a small scope to admire the created scene.

The shadow box also became associated with various military branches, the Navy in particular, where shadow boxes were presented to retiring officers to display ribbons, medals, and other commemorative items associated with their service.  Today, shadowboxes are created for a myriad of purposes—as decorative elements of interior design, to showcase special collections, or to commemorate an event.  The following ideas explore the versatility of this classic design form and contain a wide array of shadowbox ideas.

Kitchen shadowboxes

An open shadow box does double duty as a decorative feature as well as a storage space.  Showcase your beautiful china teacups and saucers while saving cabinet space for other items.  From matching sets to a mismatched grouping of antique cups, a shadow box is the perfect medium to display these items.  When hanging a shadowbox in the kitchen, you might also consider showcasing old tins or colored cocktail glasses.  For glass-covered boxes, you might mount beautifully etched silverware or even an heirloom cookbook.

Shadowboxes and the world in miniature

Not only are miniatures hot collectibles, they are also ideal decorative elements for shadowboxes.  You can create an entire dollhouse scene in a shadowbox.  From library rooms with teeny-tiny books to old fashioned parlors with velvet sofas, your miniature display will remain protected within its box, but easy to view.  You might even wallpaper the background of your box or run a tiny cord into it for electric lighting features.

Baby, baby

A shadow box is the perfect art medium to capture the sweetness of infancy and to protect the treasured items of your baby.  Some shadow boxes come with shelves which makes setting baby shoes, rattles, and photos easy.  You can easily mount items like bonnets, silver spoons, and first bibs in a shadow box while a glass cover protects and preserves these items while you show them off.  A shadow box is also a wonderful decorative element for nurseries; you can create a thematic display to match your baby’s décor like glass animals for Noah’s Ark, antique Matchbox cars for a car theme, or mini picture blocks that spell out names and words for a construction theme.

Island vacation

Any vacation can be commemorated within the protective confines of a shadowbox, but if you visit the islands, be sure to bring home some decorative treasures like seashells, coral, or small pieces of driftwood.  Perfect for an office or den, a seaside theme also works great for a family bathroom or powder room.  Add other elements such as a favorite vacation photograph, a vial of beach sand, a tiny note in a small glass bottle, or a few mini-ceramic flip-flops.

Holiday fun

Once you get bitten by the shadowbox bug, you’ll be wondering about all sorts of themes for creating new displays.  Holiday shadow boxes add festive décor to any home and they are also exciting to create.  For Halloween, consider making a creepy insect display.  For Easter, you might showcase some bejeweled or painted wooden eggs.  Christmas is filled with decorative imagery from angels to ornaments.  You can always personalize these displays by including family snapshots in your boxes.

Show off a hobby or special interest

A shadowbox makes a lovely gift and you can easily create a display composed of someone’s special hobby or particular interest.  Know somebody who loves to sew?  A shadowbox displaying painted thimbles, fabric swatches, antique buttons, and colorful spools of thread is perfect for a friend or family member’s sewing room.  Does your daughter love fairies?  Create an enchanted shadow box theme with porcelain fairies and miniature fairy garden furniture.  You can showcase your son’s love of baseball with a shadow box containing a baseball, baseball cards, and even a ball cap of his favorite team.

Shadowboxes can be found in sizes large and small.  For special and heirloom collections, be sure to use a box with covered glass.  Open shadowboxes can even be enhanced with decorative trims and small hooks for hanging objects.  They are perfect for any room of the house and will almost certainly become a central conversation piece for your home.


Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah Bolt wrote this post on behalf of Steel Line. Sarah is a freelance writer with an extensive background in interior design. She writes for various online periodicals where she likes to share her insights.



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