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How to Design Your Home in the Shabby Chic Style

This ever popular interior design style evokes a wonderful feeling of modern meets old world charm and offers a casual, comfortable aesthetic.

What is shabby chic?

Shabby Chic is a design style that combines elements of vintage and modern styles to create an elegant, yet worn look. This decor theme is characterised by its use of soft colours, gentle textures, natural materials and romantic appeal with a country-cottage feel.

Shabby Chic Style

It's a design style that has been around for centuries and was popularised by interior designers in England during the 1970's. The name was coined and the style began to emerge in earnest during the 1980's, when designer Rachel Ashwell founded a furniture chain named Shabby Chic.

What is the difference between vintage and shabby chic?

Vintage refers to pieces that are from a time in history, are genuinely aged and tend to hold value. These pieces generally have good 'bones' and have been made well. They'll usually look more like antique items and can probably 'tell a good story' from a life well-lived, but are ready to give a lot more.

Shabby Chic Style

Shabby chic describes more modern furniture pieces that have been worked on to purposefully create a distressed and worn-in visual. Wooden furniture will look well used and as if it has a scuffed up paint job.

What is modern shabby chic?

Modern shabby chic is an updated version of the classic style that incorporates more modern decorating ideas and design trends. One example would be using darker paint colours in place of lighter ones to make a room feel less dated and featuring modern accents such as metal pieces, in addition to wood.

Shabby Chic Style

A modern shabby chic design is more on trend these days, since it's a less cluttered and cleaner look than the earlier shabby chic style of the 1980's and 90's. It's all about finding the perfect balance between contemporary and older, or worn pieces.

What is farmhouse shabby chic?

Yet another take on this beautiful interior design style is farmhouse shabby chic. This is a style that typically includes using softer, lighter paint colours with distressed furniture.

Shabby Chic Style

It's a simple, casual and clean design that evokes a homely, inviting, yet modern look and feel. Natural elements like sheepskin, rustic wood, linen and greenery are seamlessly incorporated into the decor.

What are shabby chic colours?

Shabby chic decorating uses delicate pastel hues and lighter shades for wall colours and furnishings including blues, greens, pinks or yellows. Darker tones including navy blue can be used in small doses to contrast against these colour palettes.

Shabby Chic Style

Earth tones such as rusts and browns also work well with this type of design scheme. You can't go wrong with white for furniture - scuff the corners a little with sandpaper and it'll perfectly reflect the shabby chic style.

How do I make my bedroom shabby chic?

A shabby chic bedroom will usually feature soft colours like pastel blue, pink and pale green. Bring in scuffed white furniture pieces and upholstered headboards. Choose neutral curtains in linen, floral or a pattern - don't be afraid to mix these together. Although, today's shabby chic look is not so much about pretty, feminine fabric selections with ruffles, but more about creating a relaxed, casual and welcoming vibe.

Add comfort through sheepskin floor rugs and throw pillows to tie all of these elements together. Bring in unique items such as a vintage chair for a bedside table and drape a linen, or sheepskin throw on the end of the bed. Speaking of your bed, try a whitewash wood style, or the classic painted distress look and dress it with luxurious bedding. Pop one of those aforementioned sheepskin floor rugs beside the bed and there you have it!

What does shabby chic furniture look like?

Shabby chic furniture is typically characterised by having a distressed look. The edges will be scuffed, the finish won't appear shiny and new, and there might be visible knots in the wood for that aged appearance.

White shades, duck egg blue and pale greens are all colours that lend themselves to the shabby chic visual. It's a different look to your typical vintage, or antique style with a more weathered and roughed up look. A simple and minimalist shabby chic decor can be achieved just as easily by paring back on your accessory pieces.

How do you paint furniture to look shabby chic?

Because it's such an imperfect look, you don't need to be a professional to achieve a shabby chic painted piece. The easiest technique is a simple coat of paint in your chosen colour and then a light sand. Use a fine grain sandpaper along the edges and lightly scuff the high-touch surface areas. The idea is to see several layers of paint for a perception of wear and years of use.

If you're after something fairly straight forward, white is your best bet. Apply a light sand as per above, so natural wood, or older layers of paint show through. This will still create the distress visual that this style is most recognised for.

How do you give furniture a distressed look?

To give furniture this worn and weathered effect, use sandpaper to roughen up the edges of the wood. Simply paint your colour(s) of choice, then lightly sand and scuff up the edges. The goal is for older layers of paint, or the natural wood to show through when you're finished.

What is the best paint to use for distressing furniture?

Several different paints will work to achieve your desired effect.

  • Chalk paint is a top favourite for this decor style since it's easy to apply and offers a nice rustic look and feel when sanded.
  • Spray paint can also work, although take care when applying since you can get drip marks if you're little heavy-handed. It's very easy to sand.
  • A semi-gloss latex paint, or even a standard water-based ceiling paint can be effective for this adaptable and popular decor style.

Most paints will cover up scratches and imperfections just enough, but still allow the paint layers and wood grain underneath the surface to peek through. Experiment a little and we recommend you talk to your local paint shop about the best options for your project.

Where can I buy shabby chic furniture?

Visit your local flea market and thrift store. You'll find some absolute gems in these places. Shabby chic furniture can exist in your home already and may just need a little DYI renovation. It's a fun project to embark upon.

Many furniture stores today have new pieces that are designed especially for the shabby chic style. They're brand new but feature the distress effects and overall look of shabby chic. Search online and visit several shops to find the item that best speaks to you.

How do you decorate shabby chic on a budget?

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the best finds are usually at thrift, second hand stores and flea markets. They might look a little worse for wear and this is perfect for shabby chic. You can also spruce up existing furniture items in your household.

Dig out old paint cans for a home project and bring in one or two higher end finds at the top end of your budget to balance it out. Sheepskin throws and a quality floor rug can make all the difference to make your shabby chic decor really shine.


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