Shabby chic

Shabby chic is a form of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their age and signs of wear and tear or new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique.


Shabby chic items are often heavily painted with many layers showing through obviously worn areas. The style is imitated in Faux Painting using glaze or by painting then rubbing and sanding away the top coat to show the wood or base coats. Fabrics tend to be cottons and linens, with linen being particularly popular, inspired by old French linens. Whites and worn or bleached out pastels are favorite colours. Fabric is often stained with tea to give it the look of old fabric. Bleached and faded are terms often applied to the style.

The essence of shabby chic style is vintage and antique furniture painted white (or another soft pastel color) and distressed at the corners by sanding. Pink, mint green, and soft aqua are also popular colors seen in accessories and fabrics.

Popular decor items are pillows made of vintage barkcloth fabric, vintage linens, chenille bedspreads, vintage chandeliers, and anything with roses on it. It is a soft, relaxed feminine romantic way of decorating that looks comfortable and inviting. Also called Cottage style.


The style started in Great Britain and evokes the type of decoration found in large country houses where there are worn and faded old chintz sofas and curtains, old paintwork and unassuming 'good' taste. The end result of shabby chic is to achieve an elegant overall effect, as opposed to the sentimentally cute Pop-Victorian. Neither is it an expression of caring for the environment through recycling, even though recycling old furniture and fabrics is an important aspect of it.

The early forms of shabby chic were rather grand but the style has evolved taking inspiration from many forms of decoration. These range from 18th century Swedish painted decoration, the French Chateau as well as the American Shakers where simplicity and plainness was essential.

Origin of Word

The term was coined by The World of Interiors magazine in the 1980s and has since been used as a name for a US company founded by Rachel Ashwell. The extent to which shabby chic styles have become mainstream can be seen in Target's line of "Simply Shabby Chic" merchandise, in partnership with Ashwell.

Shabby chic is also a general term which can be used to refer to a person who is stylish rather than fashionable, where their style reflects quality as opposed to newness. This style is now commonly associated with French country or Louis style furniture and Gustavian furniture. A style which has been popularised in the U.K. by a well regarded home and interiors website.

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