Shadow Box Frame on the Wall
Kim and Scott Vargo

Yellow Brick Home logo

Have some small keepsakes you'd love to display? Why not turn them into art? We've partnered with Kim and Scott Vargo of Yellow Brick Home to show you how to create a DIY shadow box display.

When Scott and I first began demolition on our house, we were in for a lot of surprises! Curveballs were thrown, timelines were continually delayed, and there were many, many months of 100-year-old dust covering our floors despite our best attempts to stay tidy. With every wall that came down, we painstakingly removed old studs with care, knowing we’d like to reuse them in some way down the road. We’ve since made furniture, shelving and décor, which has been a fun way to have our home’s history on display.

These studs (which are just beautiful; they don’t make them like they used to!) were full of thick, long nails, and with every piece of lumber we saved, we’d spend a good 30 minutes pulling them out. While we could have tossed them, we did what any sane person would do in the middle of a renovation—we saved them! "These would make an interesting keepsake," we said.

Old nails

I had been keeping the rusty nails in a sandwich bag, trying to figure out a way to display them in our home, when I came across these shadow box frames. Most recently, we finished up the somewhat quick makeover of our home’s workshop, and we agreed they’d look great on the wall. Workshop or not, every room can use a little art, and a DIY shadow box is the perfect solution.

Supplies for a DIY Shadow Box Display

  • 11x14 Benson Picture Frame
  • Keepsake items
  • Stiff board or foam core cut to size
  • Thin steel wire
  • Artist’s tape
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
Shadow Box Frame Supplies

Laying Out Our Keepsakes

The idea was to lay out the nails in a perfect grid – a juxtaposition from the grit and grime that covered them. Using a scrap piece of paper, I laid out a to-scale pattern I liked, although I couldn’t resist throwing in one crooked nail for interest.

Measuring the shadow box frame

Once I had everything lined up, I used a ruler on an 11 by 14 piece of foam board to make a small mark where every nail would go in the shadow box. Then, I poked each mark with a thick needle to create a small hole.

Securing the Nails

Adding holes to shadow box

I cut 4-inch sections of wire, and folding each piece in half, I pushed the wire through the holes in the foam board, leaving the looped end facing the front. With the wire in place, I could take each nail and slip it into place, while tightening the wire from the back. For good measure, I used a small dab of super glue to keep things from shifting.

Assembling shadow box frame
Adding nails to shadow box frame
Gluing nails to shadow box

With the nails secured, the sharp wire was exposed on the back of the foam board. As extra credit, I used strips of heavy duty artist tape to not only protect the board from the frame, but also to keep our new shadow box sentiments from slipping around.

Shadow box without nails
Making shadow box frame

Between the wire, glue and tape, these 100-year-old (plus) nails weren’t going to budge. I was ready to frame the keepsake and hang it in our workshop – the finishing touch!

DIY shadow box frame
Shadow box close-up

The Final Result

Shadow box frame on the wall

I surprised Scott with the DIY shadow box later in the day, and to say he was thrilled would be an understatement. We have so much fun displaying the ways we’ve made this house into a home, while still respecting where it all began. I can see other keepsakes being displayed in a similar way – whether it’s keys from past homes, shells from yearly beach vacations or corks from celebratory bottles of champagne. Have fun with it and show off those sentiments!

Want more ideas for wall art? Check out the Crate and Barrel Pinterest board on creating a gallery wall.


  1. […] Want more ideas for displaying your collectibles? See how Yellow Brick Home created a sentimental shadow box display. […]

    February 18, 2016 | Reply

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