I’m talking about Shabby Chic this week, because it follows on so sweetly from Romantic Country Cottage.
The term was coined, and trademarked, by textile artist and interior designer Rachel Ashwell. The style in home decor is characterized by a lot of whitewashing and very pale pastels. The accessories, textiles, and furniture are usually old or look old with intentional distressing. The watchword is Texture.
Hallmarks of shabby chic style include using glamorous and luxurious elements like gorgeous chandeliers in casual settings, and layering folk art elements like quilts and lace tablecloths.
There are two ways to achieve the worn and distressed look on furniture or other items. The most effective, in my opinion, is to sand back the paint at the edges, high spots, and places where “wear” would naturally occur. Using a nice wax based colored polish will add patina.
The other way is to add paint in a rough, even sloppy, way so that the underlayers show through. The best way to achieve that is to use crackle paint finishes, which are designed to shrink as they dry and reveal the underlayers as if they were aged in the sun and rain over decades.
Shabby chic designs include laces, textures, and frayed edges. Printed and stenciled texts remind us of old flour sacks or tea chests. Chalkboard – black with white lettering – is another recently popular element. Empty picture frames, sometimes stacked, suggest the idea of incompleteness.
A shabby garden would have more white flowers, and wild flowers, rusty metal elements, old bathtubs filled with shrubs, lavender (again) and peonies. Clothing would include antique and Victorian lace blouses, tulle layers, granny boots and textured tights (roll on winter). I think faded velvet shawls too.
To me fairy tales sometimes feel shabby chic – the cottage in the forest that is run down and filled with old books, the strange old castle with wrought iron fencing.
Here’s how I described it in my shabby chic treasury:
Simple, aged, distressed, neutral colors & pale, weathered, folk. Old lace. Connection, history, folk tales, burlap, farm house, sheers. Timeworn. Miss Haversham. “To Kill a Mockingbird”. “Picnic at Hanging Rock”.
To this I would add pale lilac, mint green, robin’s egg blue, blush. Wabi-sabi all over again.
Ways to Bring the Shabby
It’s popular because it’s easy.
One way to add shabby chic elements to your decor is to paint vintage or old things – tins, hooks, wood boxes, candlesticks, ornate picture frames – with white or pastel paint and sand the edges. The paint color adds a unifying aspect.
Another is to bleach floral prints and incorporate plain muslins, lace, crochet in cream string, doilies, and many layers of sheers as the textile elements – drapes, table cloths, pillows and slipcovers.
Include vintage and aged garden accessories – especially urns, wire frames from topiary work, and baskets.
Add nostalgic and memory elements – like hanging a vintage baby’s christening robe on a twisted wire hanger among a bunch of silk hydrangeas. Use old pewter and tarnished silver cups and jugs. Mercury glass.
Bring architectural elements, carvings and castings, that might normally be on the exteriors inside.
Shabby looks great in company with industrial, mid-century modern, or minimalism, and loves Beach Cottage style too. However, in my opinion, it doesn’t work as well with Traditional – since it either looks like you aren’t done refinishing the rest of the furniture, or that you have a bunch of old stuff that needs refurbishing. In a house full of very Traditional furniture, I would stick to a few pillows, and small items.
There are a lot of scrapbookers using shabby chic style in their layouts. It works especially well with a touch of glam – silver beads, tiny rhinestones, pearls and old buttons.
Because it is all about the white, it is also a very popular wedding theme.
Plus it’s a great way to affectionately showcase beloved heirlooms.
#TryItTuesday: Paint a bunch of mismatched picture frames in pale milk paint, sand edges for a gallery of b&w images
#WritingWed: Write about your great grandparents – make a shabby style mini-journal to hold their story.
#FridayFun: Gather three decorative items you don’t like. Spray them white. Sand some edges. Better?