Decorating for a Shabby Chic Look

Shabby chic style room

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Shabby chic is a comfortable, casual decorating style with a look that uses vintage accessories, pastels, and comfortable furniture. While people have been living with old lace tablecloths, dreamy soft floral fabrics, light painted furniture, wrought iron curtain rods with filmy sheer curtains, and colorful fresh flowers for a long time, Rachel Ashwell identified this style of decorating and named it Shabby Chic®.

Think of visiting with your grandmother, snuggled in comfortable soft furniture. Fresh flowers look beautiful and the soft scent of candles fills the room. A home decorated in the shabby chic style can provide the same sensation for your own home.

What Is Shabby Chic Style?

Similar to "eclectic style, shabby chic doesn't exactly adhere to a strict set of design guidelines, trends, or rules. Shabby chic balances elegant contemporary pieces with old and worn ones. It's quite similar to cottage style.

Themes and Colors

  • Soft delicate colors: If you love bold primary colors, shabby chic is not for you. Soft white, muted gray, pale pink, and faded green all have a place in a shabby chic interior.
  • Tea-stained fabrics: Collect fabrics from around the house or buy vintage-looking fabrics even if they're new. To give the illusion of age, a fabric can be made to look old, worn, faded, and soft by staining them with a brew of tea. Be sure to test a piece of fabric first to get just the right shade. You can change something that's stark white to a soft creamy white—just right for the look.
  • Combine patterns and colors: Combine stripes, checks, and floral fabrics to achieve a warm and inviting look. Gather yardage or fabrics from yard sales and flea markets. You don't have to follow traditional rules of combining prints, but for easiest mixing keep the background color the same (white or ivory, etc.). Then choose one color to repeat in almost every fabric, such as a soft green or pale pink.
  • White painted furniture: Almost any piece of wooden furniture will fit into a shabby chic interior if it's painted white. Collect pieces from flea markets, garage sales, and the attic. Spray with white paint, sand off the corners, and rough it up a little. Voila! You have shabby chic furniture. You'd be surprised how a coat of paint transforms a dark dingy chair or table.
  • Think outside the box: Not every chair has to be sat on. How about using a sturdy, painted straight chair as a table at the side of a bed or sofa or in a corner to hold a vase of flowers? An old picnic bench or trunk can serve as a coffee table. Stack wooden boxes at the side of a chair for books and flowers. Be creative and use what you have.

Furniture and Accessories

  • Slipcovers: You can camouflage old, drab furniture and cover up mismatched pieces with soft slipcovers. Whether you have a slipcover custom made, make your own, or buy a throw at a store, you can get just the look you want without investing in a new piece of furniture. Most pieces are covered in white, but soft faded prints will work too. Since you'll probably want to wash the slipcovers occasionally, be sure the fabric is easy to care! How about a cool white look for summer and a warm stripe or floral for cooler seasons?
  • Overstuffed upholstery: For a welcoming and inviting look, upholstered furniture in a shabby chic interior is comfortable, over-sized, wrinkled, with a slipcover. Sofas are long and chairs are almost big enough to seat two. Delicate prints cover soft throw pillows.
  • No iron needed: A rumpled, wrinkled, but a neat look is perfect for the shabby chic style. Upholstered or slipcovered furniture should look well-used and very loved!
  • Architectural details: Anything old and beautiful will have a place in this style of decorating. Glass door knobs, pillars, an old mantle, and rusted old iron shelf brackets or hooks can add texture to any room.
  • The more rust, the better: Decorative accessories and wrought iron furniture are perfect compliments to a shabby chic interior. If the rust is peeling or flaking off, sand it lightly and seal with two coats of flat, clear spray varnish.
  • Flowers and candles: Add a wonderful glow and delicious fragrance with scented candles. Be sure to have bunches of fresh flowers scattered around, whether in a glass jar or beautifully painted vase. Include pretty books on flowers to add color. Floral prints look comfortable and add texture on soft throw pillows.
  • Everything old is new again: Even the most broken-down or dingy of elegant formal furniture pieces can be adapted to a Shabby Chic® decor. If it's broken, fix it, clean it up, and paint it white. If it's rusted, clean it up (but only a little) and find it a new home. If the paint is chipped, you're lucky. If it's broken, find a new use for it. If the mirror is scratched, scratch it some more.

Because shabby chic style is so adaptable, it's a perfect way to decorate a guest room or family room. With the focus on warmth and comfort, everyone will be comfortable. Have fun putting together your shabby chic room!