Published on November 18, 2019

00-FEATURE-shadow-box-diy-domino Pin It
Photography by Meghan McNeer

It started with a piece of mail: A purple tinsel–clad card from a friend named Scott with the phrase You are magnificent scribbled on it. As soon as our brand partnerships visuals director, Meghan McNeer, saw it, she knew it deserved a more permanent spot on display in her living room. 

“I make biannual trips to The Container Store to find ways to Tetris my tiny apartment a little more tightly, and I had seen these acrylic boxes. It occurred to me that you can put pretty much anything into one and it becomes art,” says McNeer. The shadowbox turned out to be the perfect home for her glittery pick-me-up, which has now joined the ranks of photographs and framed embroidery on one of her gallery walls. Once she discovered the beauty of the box, it was only a matter of time until she hung her next treasure: a cork from a particularly special bottle of champagne. 

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Photography by Meghan McNeer

“One night, one of my best friends, Melinda, was in town with her husband and son, and they surprised me with a little bib asking me to be one of his godmothers,” says McNeer. “They had a bottle of champagne to celebrate my of-course ‘yes,’ so I had a box for the cork made to remind myself daily of that lovely celebration of chosen family.” 

According to McNeer, visual diversity is one of the most important aspects of a successful art installation, so the dimension and texture these boxes add is a nice little pop. “My advice for making any gallery wall is pretty shocking, considering I’m a Virgo: Just go for it,” says McNeer. “I have two huge displays, and I’ve made them by hanging larger pieces to anchor sections, then clustering smaller items around them. The beauty of having these small ‘holes’ is that you then have to hunt for that perfect thing to complete the wall.”

purple-tinsel-boxPin It
Photography by Belle Morizio

If you happen to be in possession of a few of those perfect things in need of a home, here’s how to make your shadowbox DIY go off without a hitch. The best art is personal, after all, so who said your collected mementos can’t be art? 

shadowbox-stencilPin It
Photography by Belle Morizio

Find the Right Shape

McNeer recommends a box that leaves roughly one inch of air around the object. “It shouldn’t feel squished!” she says. Go the prefab Container Store route or try a custom fixture if you have über-specific dimensions in mind.  

hammering-nail-in-wallPin It
Photography by Belle Morizio

Weigh Your Options

You can put heavier things in the containers if you use screws. “Mine are on nails,” says McNeer. “The tinsel is washi-taped to the plastic backing, and the champagne cork is just sitting in there and pops around when it gets cleaned, which is part of the party.” 

purple-shadowbox-artPin It
Photography by Belle Morizio
purple-shadowbox-artPin It
Photography by Belle Morizio

Measure It Out

To install your 3-D art, remove the slide from the box and pencil in the width of the screws or nails on the wall. Pro tip: Remember that nails or screwheads will likely poke through the holes, so plan where your items will live accordingly. Then decide if you want to suspend your goodies in the box or just let them rest. If you go the first route, McNeer recommends using glue dots or removable sticky tape

See more easy DIYs:
This One-of-a-Kind Striped Credenza Began as a $10 Goodwill Find
A Real Malachite Table Costs Thousands, But You Can DIY It for $50
Emily Henderson’s Stylist DIY-ed the Most Luxurious Headboard

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