Hands On: Beach Kitsch Nirvana // Driftwood DIY Projects

It happens each year, as the heavy days of summer wane to fall, and the masses who visit Montauk migrate westward, a different crowd is escorted to our shores by way of the Connecticut River, the Thames and the crisp northerly winds that carry them across the rolling chop of the Block Island Sound.


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Oh, driftwood! The very word piques the creative juices for anyone who also has a soft spot for irresistible “beachy” home decor items. Come on… you know you like it.

The reward of such treasures is not merely in the completed piece, but also in the hunt, the harvest and the subsequent construction. That is correct… if you want driftwood beach kitsch, you will most certainly need to do it yourself.

So now that you have a job to do, where do you source the material? As mentioned earlier, the felled trees from the forests of Connecticut make their way here via rivers and currents. Along the journey, the former oaks and pines are sculpted by the immaculate artistry of the salty brine, and when they come to rest on the northern banks of the East End’s shorelines, their metamorphosis complete, we are left with the gift of gunmetal gray wooden artifacts.

Unless part of your affinity for all things oceanic includes sea lice, then don’t skip this next step. Once you bring the driftwood home, lay it out in your driveway and clean all of it with a 50/50 mix of warm water and household bleach. A bucket with a deck brush will work fine, but if you can get your rubber-gloved hands on a pump sprayer, that will coat the driftwood more evenly.

The concept here is pretty simple: kill the bugs that are living in this wood before bringing it inside. Some little bonuses in this step include the eradication of that low tide smell, and turning any brown spots to a more attractive silver-gray hue. Let the freshly cleaned driftwood dry out in the sun for about an hour.

From here… the creations and possibilities will be limited only by your imagination, and your willingness to abandon all coolness. Let your inner cheese shine and watch the magic happen. Nonetheless… here are a few suggestions (along with some assembly tips) to get you started on your inevitable path to Beach Kitsch Nirvana.

Need-to-know key for projects-

Skill levels from 1 to 5:

• 1. “Screw it I’m going to Ikea” – aka Doesn’t have much experience in woodwork
• 2. “Bottle of wine and a glue gun” – Dabbled with arts & craft projects before but doesn’t know much
• 3. “Crafty Soccer-mom” – Has built some things on their own, and is ready to try something new
• 4. “I have a little nail gun, and I’ll use it if I have to” – Knows what they are doing but could still take some tips
• 5. “Get outta my way, I’m a pro” – They can handle it all


• 1. “In your sleep”- Easy
• 2. “look at the photo and go from there”- quick, little bit of patience
• 3. “skim over the directions”- dive in but still not to stressful
• 4. “study the directions”- Take some time, this one is a project
• 5. “call in reinforcements”- Plan it out, make some time, this one is gonna be tough

Materials/Costs- What you need and how much it will cost

Time- How long will it take


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Photo by James Katsipis


Regardless if you want to frame a photo or a mirror, keep in mind that you won’t be fabricating the actual frame from driftwood as much as you’ll be adorning an existing frame with it. This is because you’re working with organic shapes as opposed to milled lumber. Paint the existing frame flat black, and fasten the driftwood pieces with a brad or pin nail pneumatic gun. A hot glue gun could work if all of the pieces were small… but the brads/pins are less messy and far more permanent. Don’t be afraid to layer the wood on like intertwined puzzle pieces… at the end, you shouldn’t be able to see any of the original frame.

  • Skill- 3 – “Crafty Soccer Mom”
  • Patience- 3 – “Skim Over Directions”


  • Driftwood- $0
  • Salvaged Frame- $0-5
  • Cordless Brad Nailer- $99
  • Time- 1-3 hours depending on dedication


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Photo by James Katsipis


This is a free-standing structure designed for shade or purely aesthetics. Two (or four) driftwood posts connected on top with perpendicular driftwood joists. The posts should be buried at least 24” below grade. All the driftwood should be fastened with epoxy deck screws (2 to 3”) long. A nice touch at the end is to wrap all connections with rope or twine. It hides the screw holes and gives the piece an overall nautical feel.

  • Skill- 5 – “Get out of my way I got this”
  • Patience- 5 – “Call in Reinforcements”


  • Driftwood- $0
  • Shovel- $6
  • Box of screws- $3-5
  • Cordless Screw Gun- $20
  • Time- 5-7 Hours


Photo from Pinterest.com

Photo from Pinterest.com

Wall Sculptures:

Pick a shape (tuna, shark, seahorse, sailboat, etc…) and sketch the outline of it on ½” plywood. Carefully cut out the image with a jigsaw, and paint it flat black. From here, follow the same process as you would for making a driftwood frame. Even more with this project… don’t be afraid to build the wood out. Once you get good at this, you can mimic the convex shape of a fish, or the hull of a ship.

  • Skill- 4 – “I have a little nail gun, and I’ll use it if I have to”
  • Patience- 4 – “Study Directions”


  • Driftwood- $0
  • Sheet of Plywood- $20
  • Your Brad Nailer- $99
  • Jig saw- $40
  • Time- 2-4 hours


photo from Etsy.com

Photo from Etsy.com

Bed Headboards:

This should be constructed in the same fashion as the trellis. Pre-drill holes at the base of the driftwood posts so that the headboard can attach to the bedframe with carriage bolts, washers and nuts.

  • Skill- 3 – “Crafty soccer mom”
  • Patience- 4 – “Study Directions”


  • Driftwood- $0
  • Screw Gun- $20
  • Box of screws-$3-5
  • Two carriage bolts- $3
  • Time-3-4 hours


photo from cleverlyinspired.com

Photo from cleverlyinspired.com

Curtain Rods:

Buy some cool metal rod holders that will mount to the wall above your window. Simply cradle an appropriately sized (and somewhat straight) piece of driftwood as the rod, and hang curtain from it accordingly.

  • Skill- 1 – “Screw it I’m going to Ikea”
  • Patience- 1 – “In your sleep”


  • Driftwood- $0
  • Salvaged medal rod holders or crafty hooks- $0-5
  • Screws- $3-5
  • Screw gun for hanging- $20
  • Time- 1/2 hour


Words by Jason Biondo/ Antique Lumber Company

Trellis and Frame Photos by James Katsipis