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With a peak in 1730, the rocaille style of the Ancien Régime, which was inspired by caves, reconstructed rocks and shells, is in full revival. These days, designers are reinterpreting the trend by drawing their inspiration from the ocean. Contemporary designers and artists (Paul Bonlarron, Marthe Simon & Paul Peller, Hugo Drubay, Etienne Marc, Sophie Brillouet) collect shells and other marine treasures to compose iodized creations and display singular cabinets of curiosities.


The meanings are multiple: the scallop shell for the Compostela pilgrimage at the Carmona restaurant; the pebbled calade for the decorations of the Kérylos villa at the Oursinade; or the pearly shell candlesticks for the wedding night celebration at Acne Studios… Dive into the depths of the ocean.

  • Mood


  • Treasure


  • Discipline


  • Cradle


“THINGS : A History of Still Life” exhibition at the Louvre Museum

Six shells on a stone tablet, Adriaen Coorte (1696) © Michel Urtado

The obsession with shells is not new. In the still lifes of 17th century reality painters, shells are an invitation to observe nature, in contrast to the grandiloquent representations of kings and powerful people. At the time, artists were particularly preoccupied with rare objects for their collections of curiosities, and shells, exotic and very expensive, were silent proof of their wealth. A praise of material goods to be discovered in the exhibition “THINGS : A History of Still Life” until January 23, 2023 at the Louvre. 

Back to the Design Parade Toulon 2022

Installation Toilette aux coquillages by Paul Bonlarron © Luc Bertrand

 © Luc Bertrand

This year, the festival Design Parade Toulon paid a sensitive and singular tribute to the rocky treasures of the Mediterranean. The designer Paul Bonlarron presented his “Toilette aux coquillages”, a pearly case translating his taste for ornamentation through a scenography of precious rocky objects (tinder box, fan made of clam knives, bath textiles made of marine fibers, glass made of abalone powder…).

 © Luc Bertrand

L’Oursinade Installation by Marthe Simon & Paul Peller © Grégoire Couvert

 © Grégoire Couvert

 © Grégoire Couvert

In the same vein, the “Oursinade” by Marthe Simon & Paul Peller (Public Prize of the city of Toulon 2022) immersed visitors in the salty water of the Mediterranean through a stony installation inspired by the calade of Provence. At the entrance, guests were invited to leave towels, masks and snorkels used for fishing, and to settle around a large tray of sea urchins.

Compluvium Installation  by Sophie Devaux and plaster sconces by Axel Chay © Studio Godillot

Another iodized installation: “Compluvium” by Sophie Devaux, a project inspired by the Mediterranean Antiquity, its architecture and its water conveyance systems, with Axel Chay‘s Coquillage plaster wall lights.

Hugo Drubay’s Mystical Creations

© Fiora Lumbroso

© Fiora Lumbroso

At the bottom of this new wave of designers who have a special relationship with nature, there is Hugo Drubay. In 2021, the Frenchman presented his SPIRE desk at the Villa Noailles, created during his creative residency at the Mobilier National. A sculptural representation of the Mediterranean environment, theatrically staged in a mystical setting where nature is in symbiosis with innovation.

Rocaille Collection of The Invisible collection

A nature/technology relationship that he also maintains in his Rocaille mirror collection imagined for The Invisible collection. Designed using 3D printed molding, the ceramic borders are a reinterpretation of the vermiculated glyphs of coral and the ripples on water.

© Eve Campestrini

“Sortie des eaux” by Etienne Marc


Another contemporary reinterpretation of the treasures of the sea: the “Coquillage” chair by Etienne Marc exhibited at the Southway Pavilion in Marseille for his installation “Sortie des eaux”. A tribute to the Venetian cave furniture of the late 19th century, itself a reinterpretation of the Rocaille style of the Ancien Régime.

© Aurélien Mathis

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Carmona Restaurant By Alexis Mabile

Carmona restaurant by Alexis Mabille © Francis Amiand

Restaurant Carmona par Alexis Mabille à Paris
Restaurant Carmona by Alexis Mabille in Paris

© Francis Amiand

Seville invites itself in front of the Eiffel Tower at the restaurant Carmona. Fashion designer Alexis Mabille has put aside his haute couture dresses to open a Parisian gastronomic address with the air of an Andalusian hacienda, paved with shells and scallops in reference to the road to Compostela which passes through the Spanish city.

© Francis Amiand

The second life of shellfish


Trained in plastic arts and dramatic art, the artist Sophie Brillouet assembles and stages natural shells gleaned or raised on the French coast or abroad to compose frescoes. Result: marine waste has a second life.

 À la recherche exhibition by Sophie Brillouet

 À la recherche exhibition by Sophie Brillouet

© Hors studio

A creative and eco-responsible dynamic that pushes creative people to dive into the ocean to find the biomaterials of the future. Among them: Hors Studio transforms “shell waste” (oyster, abalone, periwinkle and mussel shells) into entirely biodegradable “sea plaster” for construction.

Thalassa tiles by Cristina Celestino for Giovanni De Maio

© Giovanni De Maio

Caroline Perrin’s trompe-l’oeil faces


If Giuseppe Arcimboldo composed faces with fruits and vegetables in his paintings, the artist Caroline Perrin has set her heart on shells.

The shellfish at the service of the art of craftsmanship

Placuna Anima Maris by Rowan Mersh © Frankie Pike

In the creations of London artist Rowan Mersh, shells are transformed into three-dimensional materials of extreme finesse and flexibility. A craft at the crossroads of design, art and textiles.

Placuna Pro Dilectione Mea by Rowan Mersh

The shells diverted by fashion designers

© Acne Studios

© Acne Studios

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Acne Studios at Paris Fashion Week, the Swedish label unveiled a hyper-sensitive rocky honeymoon setting. Amidst pink satin beds and candelabras adorned with pearly shells, the models dressed in lace, tulle, frills and precious drapes seemed as if they had fallen off their wedding bed.

Jean Paul Gaultier x La Manso Collection

Pearls, shells and other treasures of the sea are also found in the latest collection of jewelry by Jean Paul Gaultier with the Spanish designer La Manso. A whimsical ode to “all those moments when we wanted to turn into a mermaid, like Ariel”.

Jean Paul Gaultier x La Manso Collection

Pearls to be shopped!


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