Sunday, January 19, 2014

Decorating With Tortoise Shell

I have always loved tortoise shell .....from the runway to the living room. I had a pair of tortoise shell patent leather heels that would spice up anything I decided to wear.The versatility of tortoise shell makes it perfect for accessorizing whether it is jewelry and shoes or home decor. Designers have been incorporating tortoise shell elements for a long time and there are few interiors that can't be enhanced by the addition at least one item. Both classic and stylish, this natural element is loved for the beautiful texture, interest, color, and depth that it brings to a space. Whether your home is contemporary or an 18th century period home, you won't be sorry if you give this eye-catching accent a chance to infuse your home with bold style. 

True tortoiseshell, which traditionally comes from hawksbill turtles, has been banned to protect those creatures. If you are determined to have the real thing make sure you know that you are buying items made from naturally shed shells. I am an advocate for using the wonderful imitation versions and faux finishes that approximate the look of the real deal.

Tea caddies and other small chests were very popular items made from tortoise shell.
They remain chic regardless of the way they are used and defy the word "trend".

Tortoise shell gained it's popularity due to the work of Andre CharlesBoulle(1642-1732),cabinetmaker to 
Louis the XIV of France, who introduced and perfected marquetry combining thin inlays of tortoiseshell backed with metal, with woods and metal, a style still called after him. Small luxury objects such as snuff boxes were decorated in pique work, inlays of precious metals and jewels into tortoiseshell.  Here is artist Brigid Berlin's collection.

Tortoiseshell is attractive to manufacturers and consumers because of its beautiful mottled appearance and its durability. Many of the antique pieces have weathered the years beautifully.

Shells were imported via the Far East and as they became hard to find and expensive artist developed a way to paint a faux tortoise shell effect. This technique is used in today's interior design. Here the walls have been painted to represent tortoise shell.

Tory Burch's dining room with faux tortoise shell mill work.

Photo by Marylou Crowley via Arteriors

This is a beautiful faux tortoise shell ceiling.

Another fabulous ceiling.

Today you can find many ways to bring this element into your interior. Here tiles are used to surround the fireplace.

There is something so classic about the look of it. After all, it pretty much goes with everything.

source unknown

via pinterest

Natural accents like this add a worldly touch to any room without stealing all of the attention. In fact, the subtle print of tortoise shell is understated enough to blend into almost any setting.

Miles Redd

via pinterest

Michael Smith via Vanity Fair

Here is another style of faux tortoise shell.

You can have an artist create an entire tortoise shell room. Small rooms like these powder rooms are best for this treatment. 

This powder room is perfection!

Decorative painter Willem Racké

Todays acccessories are handcrafted of composites with hand-painted texture.Tortoise shell adds a well-traveled, British colonial feel to a space.

If you are creative try the paint technique yourself. The inside of  cupboards or shelves is a good place to start.

The Art of Framing blog

There are many styles of  glass items that bring the feel of tortoise shell to a space.

Faux finished tortoise shell moldings, trim, cabinets and doors. Add the zebra motif and trunks and you have an exotic interior.

Chinoiserie panels with faux tortoise shell and silver painted frames Rosenborg Castle,
Copenhagen.The panels were originally lighter floral scenes, but were painted over in the 1660's by the fashion conscious king Frederick III.

More inspiration for faux painting!

Click on the link above for a tutorial on faux tortoise shell painting technique...and try it yourself!!

Click here to see the previous post!

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Lisa Farmer

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