With new styles of interior design being coined all the time, it’s easy to forget the true classics that paved the way for subsequent evolutions. Shabby chic is one such style. Originally emerging in Britain in the 1980s as a nod to the faded grandeur of country houses, it went on to become hugely popular in the US in the 1990s, with California resident Rachel Ashwell taking on the term for her own homeware and lifestyle brand.
While décor trends come and go, shabby chic has a certain timeless quality that ensures its enduring appeal. Based around soft linens, vintage finds, faded floral prints and pretty pastel colours, it’s a look that retains comfort as key. Here’s how to give your living space a shabby chic overhaul in just five simple steps.
1. Befriend floral prints
Try vintage-inspired wallpaper… Soft, romantic florals are integral to this look, bringing relaxed prettiness and instant warmth to a bedroom.
Try using paper with a subdued, naturalistic print on a feature wall behind a coordinating upholstered headboard. Include lots of classic white bed linen to stop the look seeming twee.
…or hang dreamy drapes For a quick injection of shabby chic chutzpah, swap plain curtains for a pair featuring a bleached-out floral print. Take the length to the floor to nix any 1980s nuances and use a structured (as opposed to frilly) pelmet, or none at all.
2. Draw on delicate colours
Pick pretty pastels… Combine palest pink, duck-egg blue, lilac and eau de nil with calm neutrals for a fresh and delicate backdrop against which to showcase shabby chic furniture.
…or stick to soft white Feel free to overdose on white, as seen here, as long as your scheme includes an interesting mix of textures to provide depth and softness. Layer white and ecru linens with touches of pattern (florals and gingham) for interest, along with natural and painted wood furniture.
Slip-cover sofas are another staple of this style, and their washable quality makes a pale sofa a more realistic option for most.
3. Find and rework old furniture
Become a dab hand at distressing… Any sound second-hand piece with an attractive shape can be given shabby chic charm with some clever paint techniques. Modern, chalk-based paints mean there’s often no need to sand furniture before painting, and wax can be used to protect the final finish.
…or feed your brood at a farmhouse table If you’re not keen on getting crafty, a simple farmhouse table will give your kitchen the shabby chic aesthetic without the work.
Victorian-era pine or oak tables are easy to come by at second-hand shops or flea markets, and their warm wooden finish works beautifully with pastel colours and floral prints.
4. Make magic with mirrors
Size up a leaner… Opt for vintage-style mirrors with a foxed, imperfect finish. Use a leaner mirror like this one, which is simply propped securely against a wall, to add some shabby chic charm and also increase the sense of light and space in a room.
…or accessorise a sideboard For a more subtle statement, position a vintage-style mirror above a wooden sideboard or console table, as seen here. This collection of antique bottles and translucent accessories in complementary colours highlights the beauty of the worn mirror glass.
5. Extend your inspiration outside
Set the table for romance… The shabby chic aesthetic translates easily into your outside space, thanks to its themes of flowers and natural elements. Transform alfresco dining with a simple linen tablecloth and add interest with a pretty, upcycled centrepiece, like this vintage wooden box with flower-filled bottles.
…or soften existing furniture Faded wooden outdoor furniture works well with this look, adding a hint of coastal charm, while delicate metalwork chairs and tables are ideal for pairing with floral fabrics. Take a couple of printed cushions outside on a sunny day to give your garden an instant shabby chic feel.