Kitschy Aquarium

This is a totally fun, kitschy aquarium DIY project that you have to have just the right spot for.

I just happened to have that exact spot in the lower level hallway wall by the kid’s playroom/family room.

Here’s a little background to this project… if you want to just skip ahead to the actual project, roll on past this paragraph. 🙂

We used to have a cottage in Maine. (click here to see more decorating on that fun place) We sold that cottage and our last home, a 100 year old house, the same year, (click to see the full renovation on that 3 story house) and bought a new renovation project to combine and downsize. (click here to see this current whole house renovation project) Having the Maine cottage, I’ve collected some really fun coastal things and wanted to incorporate those fun memory filled items in the lower level of our new house… in the family room which is a total play room for our 6 grandkids. All that being said, the emphasis is on fun, somewhat kitschy, vintage coastal decor. Oh and did I mention that the existing spare bathroom just off the play room has a vintage pink tub I wanted to tie into the space too? So, a little pink and a lot of coastal… moving on with the DIY project:

As I was planning and designing the lower level space, way before we even started renovating it, I happened upon this totally fun, charming, and very expensive, wallpaper:

Kitschy Aquarium

I loved the look, but the price was too much for a play room. (Plus, then I wouldn’t have had the fun of searching for and collecting all the vintage chalkware fish I did!)

Then on our last trip out to the east coast, I noticed this wall treatment in a restaurant in the Boston airport:

Kitschy Aquarium

Restaurant in Boston airport.

I’m not sure if it was wallpaper or hand done, but that was the final push for my inspiration.

Here is the large blank wall in the hallway:

Kitschy Aquarium

Lower level family room hallway wall.

The long hallway is extra wide too, probably around 4 1/2 feet, so to have a 3-D treatment on it won’t feel like it’s making it too narrow to pass through.

First I measured and taped off the basic size. I had a thought about painting waves on the border, but wasn’t sure if I’d pull it off too well, so started with straight lines:

Kitschy Aquarium

Area for kitschy aquarium taped off.

Here’s a painting taping tip…

Kitschy Aquarium

Seal edge of tape.

Be sure to firmly press the edge of the tape to prevent the paint from seeping under it. Also, be sure to get really good tape! It’s expensive, but for a reason! It works!! Here is one of my favorites, (click to go to shopping link)

For the background, I rolled on the first coat of black paint.

Kitschy Aquarium

First coat of black paint.

Here is the shopping link for the exact paint, ink black in eggshell finish I used. Did you know you can order it online and have it delivered to your door for free?!! (BTW for this whole house inside and out, I’ve used this paint, in white, and have been thrilled with the quality and smooth finishes!)

After one coat, this close up shows why I always recommend 2 coats. It’s easy to see with black on white, but with all paint colors, you just really don’t get good enough coverage with only 1 coat.

Kitschy Aquarium

Paint needs 2 coats.

The large rectangle all painted:

Kitschy Aquarium

Remove tape when paint is still wet.

I let the first coat of paint dry then painted the second coat and removed the tape when that coat was still wet. The reason is, that sometimes if you let both coats dry on the tape before removing it, it can just be a bit thick and actually pull some of the fresh paint off the wall along with it. Take care though, when removing the tape when the paint is still wet. I have found I have to be careful to not let tape fly around as I’m removing it, or the wet paint on it can brush against the white wall.

Once I saw it as just a plain rectangle, I realized right away it needed more ‘fun’, so I grabbed a pencil and sketched out the wave border: (click here to see the ‘wave’ table I did a few years ago in the Maine cottage)

Kitschy Aquarium

Hand sketched wave detailed edges.

To paint the waves, I used two sized artist round paint brushes. (here is a shopping link for an example of round brushes)

For the pointy tips of the waves, I used the smaller round brush, pulling it backwards from the point into the wave:

Kitschy Aquarium

Start point of wave first.

Then for the rest of the wave, I used a large round brush to follow the pencil sketch border. It is a larger round brush that I can load up the paint on.

Kitschy Aquarium

Large brush does rest of wave.

It was a bit time consuming to paint those waves, 2 coats, but it did add some fun character to it!

Kitschy Aquarium

Waves done.

Next it was time to add the really fun character… the actual characters!

I have been collecting vintage wall mounted, totally kitschy, aquarium fish for a while. (here is the shopping link where I bought these from and, like an addict, keep checking frequently for more) Since I had several varieties of seahorses, I started by placing them scattered about on the kitschy aquarium:

Kitschy Aquarium

Started with the seahorses.

Some of the pieces are ceramic and the command strips worked great to hold them on the wall. (I didn’t want to use nails, because I have little grandchildren that would want to touch these colorful little fish and one little knock could easily bring it off that nail… I needed something that would help ‘hold’ it on the wall!)

Kitschy Aquarium

Command Strips worked on some.

The chalkware fish needed something else to hold them on the wall. When tried the command strips, it just fell right off the chalky backs.

Sooo… I went for it… totally embracing the kitschy aquarium and it’s inhabitants. I got out my glue gun and glued the chalkware fish right to the wall.

Here is the completed kitschy aquarium:

Kitschy Aquarium

Kitschy aquarium wall.

The kids LOVE it!! It really is so fun!

Here are some of the oh-so-sweet vintage fishes, I love the cute expressions on their faces:

Kitschy Aquarium

Blue fish family.

Kitschy Aquarium

Colorful seahorse family.

Kitschy Aquarium

Pink seahorses.

Kitschy Aquarium

White seahorse/dolphins.

Kitschy Aquarium

One little fish trailing behind.

I still have a few spots that I could add one or two… I’d love an octopus or squid. Don’t see those too frequently though.

Kitschy Aquarium

Still room for a few more…

I did it. I combined a little pink with a lot of nautical and fun. It’s so entertaining, in a kitschy sort of way. 😉

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to follow and share this blog with your friends, as well as on Facebook, Pinterest, Flipboard, Bloglovin, YouTube and Instagram! I appreciate you reading along.

Click here to read more of my painting tips.

This post can also be found at these other sites: Between Naps on the Porch, Refresh Restyle, My Thriftstore Addiction, A Stroll Thru Life, My Repurposed Life, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Reader Interactions


  1. Sandi magle says

    I totally laughed at this—-really a gutsy and fun way to attack a project. Hot glue—reminds me of a friend who had to clear his father’s room at a nursing home. All the photos were super-glued to the walls, as his father was a bit of a perfectionist and hated crooked frames. Grins…enjoy it’s all adorable.

    • Liz says

      Oh, that would be a cute idea… but no, they have a chalkboard wall in their bedroom. This is just regular paint, not chalkboard paint. 🙂

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