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Shabby Chic

Learn more about the Shabby Chic style of decorating

The very good news about the Shabby Chic style of decorating is that it can be easily achieved without tremendous effort. It is a perfect look for someone on a tight budget. However, do not mistake being on a budget with the concept of ‘cheap.’ The furniture might appear shabby but is it in no way cheap. It was made to last for centuries – and it has. It proudly shows its wear and tear like a badge of honor. Do not confuse the Shabby Chic style being messy or just plain sloppy. It is a style. It is an old look with a modern name.

Interesting enough, if you decide to decorate your home or apartment in Shabby Chic style, you may find a plethora of suitable base pieces at garage sales, flea markets and collectible stores. Shabby chic will not have true antiques. Old does not necessarily mean antique. The basis for the furniture is that is has been repurposed with layers and layers of paint – usually each generation is different from the previous – and one table can possibly show two different colors within the chipped areas. Or is can be distressed having been painted once with bare wood coming through from use.

Begin with your wall colors. If you are in an apartment most likely you will have to stick with the basic white or off-white. That is perfectly acceptable in the Shabby Chic style. If you own your home or condo you can select very muted colors that you might find in the cottage style: ecru, very soft muted rose or beige, sometimes very soft muted matte green or blue. Whatever you select, the color must not take center stage. It must be so soft and unfocused it is like the background of a canvas you are about to paint.

Once you have your walls set you will want to look at your flooring. If you have wood floors the less shiny the better. If you have a neutral carpet you can work with that as well. Bringing in area rugs that may be of a natural weave or natural fiber is best. On the wood floors, especially if they are dark, you want lighter colored rugs. On a neutral carpet you can bring in some color, but you do not want it to be bright or vibrant.

No two Shabby Chic rooms will look the same. Each will have different colors of furniture, curtains or window coverings and most of the time the furniture does not match. However, in the dining room you can have all the chairs painted the same color. The one theme that brings all rooms together in the Shabby Chic style is that they look lived in and comfortable. Think about visiting a friend’s grandmother or great-grandmother out in the country. The furniture will be old and worn but still have plenty of service left. There may be lace curtains on the windows flowing in the breeze and a pretty pitcher with abundant roses on it sitting on the kitchen counter full or home-made lemonade.

While you are in her kitchen or dining room you may see some very old pieces like a painted sideboard, pie safe or wooden cupboard. Some of the pieces may have been painted or have stenciled floral arrangements on them. Also, there will be re-purposed bottles and jars filled will fresh flowers.

Fabrics used for upholstery will be utilitarian and in natural fabrics or ticking. Lots of linen and linen blends are also used. In the bedroom the sheets will be muted tones, if not white. But you will find a hand-made vintage quilt (or vintage-look) on each bed.

If you have ever watched any Antiques Roadshow or American Pickers you will be seen plenty of accoutrements to help your home have that Shabby Chic style. You can use an old trunk with rusted hinges as a coffee table. If you can find an old foot stool to place in front of a big upholstered chair, grab it and paint it your favorite color (not black or brown). If your sofa and chairs look too new and contemporary, purchase a few covers in florals or plaids in neutral soft rose, beige, blues and greens. An old desk can be re-purposed with a new coat of white paint and used in the bedroom as a dressing table. Get some various sizes of Mason jars (with lids) and fill will cotton balls, Q-tips, or other everyday essentials.

Another decorating twist you will see is where a professional has taken some old wooden fencing or a couple of old plank doors and painted them pink, blue or green and set them against the wall to substitute as a headboard for a bed. In garage sales and swap meets you can find various and sundry bottles in clear colored glass. They do not have to match in size or color. As long as they are clean they make a great accoutrement. Some of the larger bottles you can use as bud vases.

Old wooden crates, natural and painted, can be used for storage. They can be stacked as used as a bookcase or curio case. You can have a grouping of old mirrors but they should not match. They can be tastefully arranged and not strewn helter-skelter.

Shabby Chic style is definitely feminine and takes some elements from the Victorian style of decorating. It can be fun because you can always add a new “favorite” piece. When the day is done, your home or apartment will become a warm and inviting retreat from modern day stress.

More information on Styles and Periods of Interior Decorating

Styles and Periods
Furniture History
Decorating Styles
Period Decoration
What is Style?

About the Author – Lee Brown

Lee Brown is the co founder of interiordezine.com, she has worked in the Interior Design Industry for over 23 years, specializing in commercial, hospitality, high end architectural homes and retail design. Over the past 13 years Lee and Chris Brown have been collating their wealth of design knowledge to provide free interior decorating education to the world. Make sure you register for your free ecourse today. Free Interior Decorating eCourse
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