Editor’s Miscellany: See-Through Beauties

March 28, 2013

By Kyle Hoepner

Traditionally they were used for windows in the Philippines and some other parts of Southeast Asia (and, here and there, still are)—but you’ve undoubtedly seen them pressed into service for quite different applications in today’s design world. They glisten, they gleam, they make it very tough not to reach out and caress those lustrous, ridged surfaces. What am I talking about? Capiz shells, of course.

Capiz window in the Malacañang Palace Museum in the Philippines. Photo from Miyo Kuhakoto’s photostream on flickr.com

The delicately translucent covering of a bivalve mollusk (also known as the windowpane oyster) plucked from the shallows of the Sibuyan Sea, capiz is somehow a perfect match for the present resurgence of glitz and glam in interiors.

Capiz shells after cleaning. Photo from lacasadeco.com

Although they may remind you uncomfortably of 1970s wind chimes and commonly appear on some of the world’s more hideous tourist-oriented craft products, capiz shells in the right hands can inject a note of lightly textured elegance into even the most impeccably stylish room. And capiz seems to be holding its own as a design trend even after quite a few years of popularity at both ends of the price spectrum.

Decorative capiz shell clock. Source withheld to protect the guilty.

West Elm rectangular capiz pendant light, $299. Photo from westelm.com

Corbett Lighting twelve-light “Regatta” pendant in stained silver leaf, smoked capiz shell mosaic and iron, $4,154. Photo from corbettlighting.com


Dive in and gather a few choice specimens for yourself!

Kim Seybert lace capiz placemats. Photo from kimseybert.com

Fuse Lighting Avalon wall sconce. Photo from fuselighting.com

How about this bath with a capiz-shell ceiling? Photo from completelytotallymadly.blogspot.co.uk; the original source may be Jean-Marc Wullschleger via livingagency.com, but I’m not certain.

Maya Romanoff’s Mother of Pearl Aphrodite wall covering. Photo from archiexpo.com

Vintage 1960s capiz and faux bamboo tripod table from Irwin Feld Design. Photo from irwinfelddesign.com

Gorgeous globes in a North Shore Long Island house by Steven Gambrel, from the September 2012 issue of Architectural Digest. Photo by Oberto Gili from architecturaldigest.com

An occasional table in capiz shell and black lacquer, created by designer Frances Elkins for a residence in San Francisco. Available from Galerie XX; photo from 1stdibs.com

Gail DeLoach capiz Soleil bowl. Photo from gaildeloach.com

Blooming lotus hanging lamps from Room in New York City. Photo from roomonline.com

The dining area from Matthew Patrick Smyth’s 2012 Designer Visions apartment for Elle Decor. Photo by Björn Wallander from elledecor.com

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