What Is Shabby Chic?

A bicycle planter with roses in front os a shabby-chic painted wall.
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

Shabby-chic is difficult to describe in just a few words, but it's a forgiving style that leaves lots of room for your own unique tastes and decorating touches. It's eclectic items that look used, but not dirty, worn, but not broken. It's a warm and inviting space, full of things that are memorable, treasured, up cycled, and comfortable.

In the late eighties the term shabby-chic was first introduced by fashion designer Rachel Ashwell. The style, simply put, is a marriage between “grandmother ” and rustic elegance. Items used in decorating shabby-chic style may be visibly or intentionally distressed and/or vintage in appearance. The feel is warm and welcoming and quite easily achieved on a slender budget or through some creative upcycling.

Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you can shabby-chic just about any style including French, cottage or country.,

On the Floor

What is Shabby Chic and How to Do It, floor, whitewash

To create a shabby-chic feel start on the floor. Distressed hardwood covered in old lace or floral throw rugs is a great place to begin your decorating. The floors beckon to guests walk-on-me. Go to flea markets, garage sales or search online postings for the perfect, vintage rugs. If your floors are modern, you can add a distressed finish to achieve that old look.

On the Walls

What is Shabby Chic and How to Do It, wall, picture frames

The sky is really the limit when it comes to shabby-chic artwork. Pastel colors are popular as are wrought-iron and metal works. Create a family photo gallery by displaying pictures in a variety of mismatched vintage frames, or buy new frames and distress them yourself. Flower prints, cherub artwork and 3-D frames containing a myriad of vintage items such as old keys, stamps, etc. make great conversation pieces. Prints of old telephones, old record album covers, and vintage movie posters from days gone by are also popular choices.


What is Shabby Chic and How to Do It, antique lamps

Remember those gaudy crystal chandeliers that your grandmother had? Well, they are truly shabby-chic. Small, decoupaged table lamps, Victorian and fringed shades, and of course lamps made from mason jars are also great lighting options.


What is Shabby Chic and How to Do It, furniture, bench

Don’t bypass that old night stand or 1940s armoire at your local flea market. Both of these pieces can be an excellent addition to any vintage room. It is very easy to apply a distressed finish to any wood surface and you can even decoupage pieces of floral wallpaper for a decorative touch. Add glass knobs where needed and voila — shabby-chic on a dime! Consider worn worn-looking vintage chairs that you can make practical with a new velour cushion, or make your own chair coverings with eyelet fabric and some pastel ribbon.

Dining tables made from old barn wood and distressed legs make a great addition to your shabby-chic kitchen as do white distressed china cabinets where you can display glass and serving ware. Throw an old chenille bedspread over your favorite couch and add a couple of rustically monogrammed pillows for a truly cozy place to curl up with your book.

Accent Pieces

What is Shabby Chic and How to Do It, antique books

You can really have some great fun adding shabby-chic accent pieces to your decor. Some eclectic options include a stack of old suitcases in different sizes. Not only do these vintage suitcases make a bold and interesting statement but they also offer a handy place to keep things such as magazines or throw blankets. Old hat boxes, antique books with vintage bookends or distressed table clocks are also a lighthearted addition to your creative living space.

Line your side tables with old linens, doilies, and lace and shake the dirt from your grandmother’s favorite table cloth for those special occasions.

Display your nightly dinner menu on an old chalk easel or fashion a practical and decorative mirror using an old window frame. Old pieces of picket fencing can be easily fashioned into a room divider and don’t forget about having an abundance of floral, throw pillows, and even some old quilts hanging around. Even if you don’t have a bird, try hanging a vintage metal birdcage from your ceiling and putting some pretty dried flowers inside.

If done right, your new shabby-chic home will be a place where people feel comfortable sipping a cup of tea or spreading out the morning news out on a fluffy rug in front of a crackling fire. Your home will be the envy of all your friends!