What makes something Shabby Chic?

As a style and as a way of life, Shabby Chic has grounded itself into history once more. But what exactly makes something, or someone, ‘Shabby Chic’?

Starting in the 1980’s with the upper middle classes and their Bohemian ways, recycled furniture and furnishings soon became a statement of pure art. Originating in the UK, this style mimics the type of décor once found in country houses, with a cute, pop-Victorian take on the original designs.

The ‘World of Interiors’ Magazine was extremely popular in the 1980’s and as such, coined the term ‘Shabby Chic’. This in turn was picked up the United States, which saw an enormous trend during the 1990’s, especially in the Metropolitan culture areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco.


To all those wishing to recreate Shabby Chic in their homes, there are a few things to look out for. This is a form of interior design; however in recent years it has extended into the garden, so ensure that your hedges are full of roses and feminine gardening tools. Most furniture and furnishings are chosen solely because they show signs of age, whether genuine or created by ‘distressing’ the layers on the paint or glaze to create a used look.

French linens are definitely the way to go when considering fabrics; however cottons are also acceptable as long as they are kept white or a bleached-out pastel colour. They may even be stained with tea to recreate the antique effect. There is a strong use of appliques such as flowers, garlands and cherubs. Motifs that suggest an elegant, feminine air without being too cute or over the top are generally suitable to this style.

If you are not lucky enough to have a piece of furniture that has survived many years and many styles to work with, you can find Shabby Chic products ready made. The style is imitated by faux painting, followed by distressing of the top coat, which simply means sanding or rubbing away to create that delightful, worn effect.

Shabby Chic can take over your entire house, as a well decorated kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom can give off an air of Shabby Chic with a few simple patterns, fabrics and items of furniture. Today it is very easy to take on this style as your own with minimal effort. With Shabby Chic, you are looking into the details, a hand-made tea cosy, a white-washed photo-frame or a knitted quilt. As for wardrobes and make-up tables, remember to find bleached-out colour schemes and distressed paintwork, mix and match with handles and you will be well on your way to gaining the home of your dreams.