The shabby chic style creates the perfect balance between eclectic and elegant. It gives that artistic and diverse, yet pulled-together look that appeals to a lot of people. It is warm, comfortable and charming; plus, it’s easily adaptable. It’s a practical choice for redecorating because it gives you opportunities to recycle, upcycle and repurpose old and worn pieces. Also, this style is inexpensive to work with.
In the 1980s, the shabby chic style emerged as a popular style trend. British bohemians and artists started to upcycle old furniture into works of art and repurposed pre-loved pieces for new use. A British designer and entrepreneur named Rachel Ashwell first coined the decorating term “Shabby Chic,” which is her registered trademark. It got its characteristics from the French country, coastal, and cottage chic looks. It is even confused by some with the eclectic style, but the shabby chic is more defined in décor and color palette choices. It is also a bit like the Vintage style, but milder and softer.
The shabby chic style is preferred, especially by women, because it is both casual and sophisticated. It is simple, soft and nostalgic at the same time. To achieve the shabby chic look for your home, here are some tips and tricks to adapt:
1. Start with white
The key to a shabby chic interior is the layers of different shades of white. White is typically used as a background (in walls and ceilings), and also in furnishings and some accessories. The color white creates a light and airy atmosphere, adds an intimate feel to rooms, and the bonus is: it’s easy to clean! The more you use white, the stronger your shabby chic statement will be.
2. Pair white with soft pastels, pale shades, and light neutrals
Too much white can be too bland for some people’s tastes, even if you add texture and architectural details. To liven up shabby chic whiteness, incorporate soft colors like duck-egg blue, pale pink, buttery yellow, watery green, cool gray or muted teal. You may use light wood panels for the walls or floors to add contrast and color. Incorporate neutral colors and natural textures using rattan baskets or sisal rugs. You can also add bright hues like orange, purple, lime green and teal in just small amounts.
3. Use furniture made of wood and natural materials with a distressed or vintage look
The choice of furniture makes a big difference in a shabby chic interior. Choose furniture that is made of natural materials, like wood, wicker and wrought-iron. Wood can be left in its natural state (especially if it’s light-colored or full of texture), but it is often painted in white or other light/pastel colors, then sanded for a distressed look. Virtually, any kind of wooden furniture can suit a shabby chic style when you paint it in white. Opt to revamp your existing cupboards and dressers by painting it in white, rather than picking a new polyurethane cabinet. If you really need a new cabinet and there’s none to repurpose or reuse, choose a wooden one that is simply painted and has exposed hinges. Meanwhile, wrought-iron can be added using in bed frames, chairs, railings, and accessories like lamps, lighting fixtures, and curtain rods.
Remember, you only need your furniture to “look” vintage or distressed. There’s no point in getting an antique cupboard you can’t use because it might disintegrate any minute. Always use sturdy and functional pieces – remember, this style was originated due to practical reasons. To achieve the shabby chic touch in new furniture, either use paintbrushes to it in white (or other pastel colors) then use sandpaper on the corners to make it rough, or simply spray paint it.
4. Choose your couches wisely
To pull off the shabby chic look for the living room, mind your couch choices. Sofas are one of the most common and most identifiable furniture pieces used with this style. The typical rule is the bigger the couch, the better. But not all big couches suit this style. It all boils down to your color and style picks. If you want a modern-looking shabby chic living room, choose a simple, streamlined couch in soft colors and don’t forget to add throw pillows. If your style is more vintage inclined, use a French country-style couch. But the most common and most practical sofa choice for a shabby chic living area is by using fitting washable slipcovers in your existing couches. The right slipcover adds a low-maintenance charm and hides upholstery imperfections of your sofa. Have yours custom-fitted to your couch for a cleaner and crisper look.
5. Keep the floors old-fashioned or white-washed
Laminate and vinyl flooring, as well as wall-to-wall carpeting, have no place in a shabby chic interior. When it comes to floors, the choices are rustic – organic, natural and simple – or white-washed. Use wood flooring that is stained, pickled, painted or simply left natural. You can also use stone or brick as well. Tile is an unpopular choice, but vintage tiles, when used in bathrooms, would work.
6. Don’t be afraid to mix and match
In a shabby chic interior, mixing and matching is the key to balance between casual and elegant. You have diverse choices for accessories: throw rugs, throw pillows, blankets, wall art, antique decorative pieces, vases, and the like. Choose items that have different prints, textures, and patterns. But to keep it less eclectic, limit your color scheme to two to three colors (unless you’re going for a bohemian shabby chic). Match items made of different materials, like a wrought iron table and wicker chairs.
7. Balance the old and the new
The vintage charm of faded prints, distressed wood, peeling paint, creased fabrics, and the gentle patina is an important element in a shabby chic home. But to make it work and look tasteful, balance these elements with newer items. For instance, a set of ornate white floating shelves with chipping paint could be decorated with leaning contemporary wall art. A gracefully aged dining table looks more striking against a clean, matte-painted wall with modern trim. A weathered vanity cabinet and a rattan laundry basket would look just right when placed next to a sleek and simple white pedestal sink, and against a cream white beadboard on a neutral wall.
8. Use antique frames
For your mirrors and wall art, use antique frames that are old-fashioned and ornate. Shop form flea markets and you might find one that suits your taste. If it’s made of wood, it can be left as it is, or be sanded then painted with either white or a pastel color. If it’s made of a metallic element, you can lightly paint it with white or pastel shade – your coat doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s better if it reveals a bit of the original material for added patina.
9. Embrace feminine fabrics
The feminine side of the shabby chic style is most displayed in its choice of fabrics. Choose cushions, curtains, rugs or upholstery covers with floral patterns and/or soft pretty hues. Patterned fabrics like stripes and gingham plaids are preferred as well. Fabric materials like cotton, linen, burlap, and lace are typically used in shabby chic homes. Draperies are usually sheer and breezy to let more light and air in.
10. Bring in natural elements
The shabby chic design is known for its bright and airy feel. Besides the use of white, this vibe can be achieved by adding plants and other elements from the outdoor world. Lush and breezy greenery can be used to decorate your interiors. Fresh flowers in soft and light colors (faux or real) are beautiful additions to make the space more feminine. Besides bringing in plants, you can also create a DIY art from reclaimed branches or twigs. Or use a cut log as a small coffee table. Play around with clay or stone accessories like coasters, vases, and pots.
11. Decorate with vintage chandeliers
Chandeliers are your go-to fixtures in making a shabby chic room elegant. Choose vintage or traditional crystal chandeliers for added sophistication. Hang it over bedrooms, living room or dining area.