What Is Shabby Chic?

10 Minute Read

As an interior design style, shabby chic became popular during the 1980s, as a reaction to, and alternative to the over-the-top, decadent décor that was absolutely everywhere during that period. Since then, the style has continued to remain popular, and designers and homeowners have returned to shabby chic look in droves during the past few years. This is likely to be due to the pandemic forcing us to spend much more time at home, and to satisfy the craving for comfortable and cosy, while still remaining stylish.

Shabby chic has always been around in the form of older, weathered yet well cared for furniture that suits cottages and rustic homes, and although there are similarities, shabby chic isn’t quite the same as cottage, country, or vintage styles. But it does have an enduring appeal, and so if you’re redecorating your home and want a style that will last, shabby chic is definitely worth considering.

How Can I Create a Rustic Country Bedroom?

Why Is It Called Shabby Chic?

The shabby chic look is called shabby because it is all about the way the style looks worn in and comfortable – the way that an older, well-loved piece of furniture just gets better with age. However, it isn’t about just buying vintage, second hand and thrifted. The chic element comes from incorporating polished pieces into the look – so, a chesterfield sofa that gets better with age alongside an ornate antique chair, and over the top light fixtures such as chandeliers.

The thing with shabby chic is that although much of it is inspired by antique French design, because it is an eclectic look, you can choose furniture items from different eras, and mix with polished accessories that you love.

When finished, a shabby chic style room should look comfortable and relaxed, yet still look relatively coordinated and put together. However, there isn’t a single correct way to get the look, so feel free to play with items you already have, and mix high-end pieces with charity shop finds.

What Is The Difference Between Vintage, Rustic, And Shabby Chic?

As with so many different interior décor styles, there are some overlaps between styles. Shabby chic is typically a soft, style, with furniture typically having a distressed, aged look. That means that some vintage items will be considered shabby chic as well, but not all – and not all shabby chic items are vintage. Similarly, some rustic designs might also be considered shabby chic, but some rustic items might not be considered shabby chic. If you enjoy rustic country décor, you’ll probably see a lot of similarities between that style and shabby chic too.

While there are differences between the styles, we don’t tend get too hung up about which category a piece of furniture fits into – if it looks great in the space, and you love it, then go with it!

Rustic Country Bedroom Decor
Rustic Country Bedroom Decor

How Do I Get The Shabby Chic Look?

Getting the shabby chic look is actually relatively straightforward – you’ll be mixing new with old, as well as worn-in pieces with polished elements. Here’s how to get the mix right.

Start with a neutral background

When you’re decorating a room with a shabby chic look, generally you’re going to want the furniture take centre stage, so start with a light colour on the walls. White and watered-down pastel shades are perfect alongside wooden floors. If you’ve got architectural elements like fireplaces and rustic mantels, shabby chic furniture looks great alongside them, so highlight them and make them the focus.

Find distressed furniture

Many pieces of distressed furniture that work for shabby chic are a beautiful, worn shade of vintage white, with knocks and scuffs that add to the beauty of the piece. However, it is possible to bring in other furniture colours too, so don’t discount a piece just because it isn’t white – and remember that you can always refinish it. If you’re planning to refinish a piece to match other items, make sure you choose solid wood that will stand up to being sanded (MDF and engineered woods are unlikely to give you the look you want) and that you choose the best finish for the wood.

Rustic Country Bedroom Tips
Rustic Country Bedroom Design

Where can I find shabby chic furniture?

There are several ways to find shabby chic that you’ll love:

  • Brand new from furniture manufacturers – from premium brands to discount retailers, many are capitalising on the shabby chic trend
  • Find used items from second hand stores, thrift shops, flea markets, and charity shops – they might already have the shabby chic look, or maybe you’ll refinish it
  • Refinishing furniture that you already own to suit the shabby chic look
  • From us – our range of items can be finished in the shabby chic wax finish – head to our store to find out more! 

Add accessories

The great thing with shabby chic is that there are no hard-and-fast rules, and so it really is up to you to create the look you want. When you’ve identified the furniture that you want in the room, then it is time to get creative with your accessories. For your soft furnishings – curtains, cushions, rugs, and so on – play with layering different textures for a comfortable look.

Pastel colour palettes are often used in shabby chic, but you can use more vibrant hues such as turquoise, or deep shades of navy, charcoal, and emerald. Whichever palette you favour, if you want the look to still feel cohesive, stick to two or three different colours, using different patterns and prints for visual interest, as well as natural elements and house plants.

Finally, add shabby chic shelves where you need additional storage, or where it makes sense to have space to display ornaments, books, and photographs. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to completely redecorate a room, the shabby chic style offers a cosy, comfortable look. At the moment, shabby chic is completely on-trend, but because of the eclectic mix, it is also timeless – so is a great option. However, if you’re looking to add subtle shabby chic elements, then both our metal bracket shelves, and our floating shelves are a great way to start bringing the look in.Feeling inspired to give your home a shabby chic makeover? Don’t forget to tag us in your photos on Instagram – we’re @bensimpsonfurniture. 

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