Create a glamorous corner for reading or just watching the world go by with a mixture of statement furniture and intriguing natural history artefacts.

Glamorous reading corner with an Art Deco cloud armchair
Flow Mist wallpaper, £60 per roll, Graham & Brown. Capiz Shell ceiling light, £495, Rockett St George. Large mounted piece of coral, £1,800, Brownrigg. Bronze dolphin coffee table, £980, Lorfords. On table: large 19th-century coral, £50, Rag & Bone Bristol; large hammered brass tray, £80, Raj Tent Club; Gold Rim Shell teacup and saucer, £12, Rockett St George; late 19th-century pink coral, £30 each, Rag & Bone Bristol; books, stylist’s own; Constance Spry-style ceramic vase, £34, Old Albion. Books (on floor), from £2 each, Bookbarn International. Shell (on floor), stylist’s own. Antique leather art deco cloud armchair c1930, £5,800 for a pair, Regent Antiques. Single Rose Pink sheepskin, £65, Graham & Green. Giant clam shell basin, £1,400, Lorfords. Plants, stylist’s own. Speckled Gold Cowhide rug, £425, Graham & Green.

Shell-shape and Bristol fashion: let a chic cabinet like this one sing out with a selection of carefully positioned standout collectables. Here, the gold is picked out in the shell lamp and pouffe.

Chic white and gold sideboard styled with oceanic antiques
Pale Powder Estate Emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. Three Captain Brown shell engravings, £2,808 for set of nine, Lorfords. Nizwa three-door cabinet, £9,420, Bethan Gray. On cabinet: String of Pearls plant in pot, stylist’s own; early French gilt metal shell table lamp, £310, Muir Antiques; large shell, £45, Chloe Antiques; vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Marina Angel Fish desk clock, £2,300, Regent Antiques; three glass decanters, £28 each, Focus on the Past; decanter labels, £9 each, Focus on the Past; large coral on stand, £750, Lorfords. Speckled Gold Cowhide rug, £425, Graham & Green. Metallic Gold Moroccan leather pouffe, £150, Graham & Green.

An old printer’s tray, either left plain or painted, is an inspired way to display a collection of small shells and curios. You can mount it on the wall or prop it up securely on a cabinet and rearrange your treasures to your heart’s content.

A painted printers tray filled with a collection on shells and curios
Curio Seafern wallpaper, £85 per roll, Cole & Son. Printer’s tray, £38, Focus on the Past. Selection of shells, £2.50 a bag, Dunelm.

Plates such as these were made to be seen, not just eaten from or used as serving platters. Put on display on a dresser or arrange on the wall as artwork.

An array of sea-inspired plates
Top row: Blue Shoal of Fish platter, £45, John Lewis & Partners. Oval fish platter, £245 for 12 plates and a platter, Trilogie Antiques. Second row: Octopus for Tea fine china plate, £35, Chase and Wonder. Blue and white carp plate, £85 for six dinner plates and an oval serving platter, Beau Chateau Boutique. White Oyster plate, £95 for 12, Amy Perry Antiques. Third row: seafood plate, £68 for six, Trilogie Antiques. Grey oyster plate, £85 for six plates and a platter, Beau Chateau Boutique. Johnson Bros seaweed and fish plate, £15, Rachel’s & Michael’s Antiques. Plate (just seen), part of same set as oval platter in top row. Bottom row: green and coral plate, £150 for 12 plates and an asparagus server, Trilogie Antiques. Fish-shaped plate, £395 for a 14-piece service, Lorfords. Johnson Bros seaweed and fish plate, £10, Rachel‘s & Michael’s Antiques.

Add texture and soft furnishings to emphasise the sense of luxury. Soft pinks tone well with aqua and blue to mirror the inside of a seashell in the deep blue sea

A luxury dressing room set up with a pink petal chair
Icons Feather Fan wallpaper, £85 per roll, Cole & Son. Mid 19th-century shell still life, £1,260; 19th-century wall shelf, £950 for a pair, both Lorfords. On shelf: shells, stylist’s own; gluggle jug, £52, Gluggle Jugs Ltd; turquoise vase, stylist’s own find similar at Old Albion; pearls, £65, Rachel’s and Michael’s Antiques; small shell, stylist’s own; shell ball, £7.99, Homesense; coral vase, £45, Rockett St George. Petal armchair, £695, Rockett St George. Tottenham cotton cushion, £32.99, Wayfair. Vintage gold beaded bag, £10, Rachel’s and Michael’s Antiques. 1980s aqua silk and sequin dress, £75, Clifton Vintage. Mannequin, stylist’s own find similar at Lorfords. Pearls on mannequin, £30, Rachel’s and Michael’s Antiques. Books, from £2 each, Bookbarn International. Poole Pottery teacup and saucer, £10, Focus on the Past. Zig Zag Tufted rug, £250, Graham & Green.

Pearly white and gilt are a marriage made in heaven. This delicately detailed chest of drawers is elevated by the mirror and sconces and would look delightful in a bedroom or hall.

Pearly white and gilt chest of drawers
Wallpaper, as before. Pair of Italian wall lights, £790, Lorfords. 19th-century Italian girandole mirror, £1,200 for a pair, Brownrigg. Antonia mother of pearl chest of drawers, £1,295, Graham & Green. On chest of drawers: tall glass jar, £38, Amy Perry Antiques; shells inside jar, stylist’s own; small jar with shells, stylist’s own; book, stylist’s own; small glass perfume bottles, £12 each, Focus on the Past; cranberry glass sweet dish, £40, Focus on the Past; silverplate English bonbon dish, £120, Lorfords; pearls, £60, Rachel’s and Michael’s Antiques; jar and shells, £25, Trilogie Antiques; fossilised coral wheel on stand, £390, Lorfords; antique Victorian mother of pearl cased scent bottles, £425, Regent Antiques; small perfume bottle, £15, Focus on the Past. Zig Zag Tufted rug, £250, Graham & Green.

Your own cabinet of curiosities can be made anywhere – from a bathroom to a spot at the top of the stairs

Painted blue cabinet of curiosities
Pale Powder Estate Emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. Bodhi small display cabinet, £195, Graham & Green. Plant pot, stylist’s own find similar at Homesense. Shell, stylist’s own. Coral mounted on marble plinth, £60, Rag & Bone Bristol. Small silver clam dish, £83, Focus on the Past. Natural sponge, £7.99, Homesense. Glass dome, £9.95, Domestic Science. Shells inside dome, stylist’s own. Shell box, £10, Focus on the Past. Starfish, stylist’s own. Sea urchin shells, stylist’s own. Glass perfume bottle, £15, Focus on the Past. Shaving brush, £4.50, Yellow Gorse. Bath essence jar, stylist’s own. Soaps, £3.95 each, Domestic Science.

Play with your scheme, choosing wallcoverings in soothing blue and green tones that give the impression of coastal landscapes. These scallop-shaped tiles give the effect of scales and would look striking in a bathroom, especially teamed with antique pottery and a bleached wood console table.

A striking scallop tile bathroom
Syren tiles, 89p per tile, Topps Tiles. 19th-century Swedish painted pine console table, £3,600, Lorfords. Soaps, £3.95 each, Domestic Science. Coral, stylist’s own. Jug and bowl, £70, Paul Michael Farnham. Shells, stylist’s own. Towels, £4.99 each, Homesense. Round body brush, £9, The Body Shop. Tall glass jar, £38, Amy Perry Antiques.

Buying coral

Shopping for coral is one of the rare situations when we would suggest you might consider seeking out a fake option. Coral is an essential component of our oceans and, while antique artefacts are not generally considered to be doing any harm any more, fresh specimens must not be pulled from their natural environment today. We have ensured that all of the coral in this shoot is genuinely antique by sourcing from reputable dealers that we trust. If you are not confident that the piece of real coral you are considering buying is a genuine antique, consider buying replica instead. Graham & Green, Kelly Hoppen and Cox & Cox, among many others, have some beautiful faux coral in a range of sizes.

Photographs: Philip Sowels

Styling: Jaine Bevan


Brownrigg 01666 500887; brownrigg-interiors.co.uk

Cole & Son 020 8442 8844; cole-and-son.com

Dunelm 0345 165 6565; dunelm.com

Farrow & Ball 01202 876141; farrow-ball.com

Focus on the Past 0117 973 8080; focusonthepast.org

Graham & Brown 0808 168 3795; grahambrown.com

Graham & Green 01225 418200; grahamandgreen.co.uk

Lorfords 01666 505111; lorfordsantiques.com

Old Albion 07879 051362; theoldalbion.com

Rachel's & Michael's Antiques 0117 329 8989; rachelsandmichaelsantiques.com

Rag & Bone Bristol 0117 329 8989; ragandbonebristol.com

Rockett St George 01444 253391; rockettstgeorge.co.uk