Shabby and Oh-So Chic

Shabby and Oh-So Chic

If pedestal sinks and peeling armoires make you weak in the knees and overstuffed, floral-printed couches give you heart palpitations, you know the sweet-smelling power of shabby chic.

For those of you who aren’t as familiar (or who have never thought it was possible to feel anything for floral prints, much less heart palpitations), it’s time for a little lesson in this classic, increasingly popular design style.

Essentially, shabby chic is worn but still good-looking furniture that’s been cleaned up enough to bring home.

The shabby chic color palate is usually white or off-white with subtle accent colors like pink or yellow, and it tends to be a feminine look that’s all about re-use.

You’d think that this kind of secondhand style was born out of necessity – the bedding, furniture and accessories are hand-me-downs, after all. But in fact, shabby chic is a direct result of excess.

It began many years ago when wealthy homeowners in Great Britain would find themselves with a surplus of fabulous furnishings. Oftentimes, when upon discovering their mansions contained an extra four-poster bed or a superfluous gilded mirror, they didn’t throw the piece out: They just used it in their summer home.

The summer cottage became the destination spot for gently used, luxe furnishings, and many pieces were given a coat of white paint to create that summer home feeling. The floral prints and the quilts that complete the shabby chic look are part of the homey, cottage style, too. But shabby chic isn’t just weathered steamer trunks and vases of roses.

Grace Bonney is editor and founder of popular design blog Design*Sponge. She says that if you like some of the elements in the shabby chic style, that doesn’t mean you have to drape your windows in chintz.

“I wouldn't suggest that anyone go entirely any one look,” she says. “It can really date a room and lead to the owner needing to redo things fairly regularly. I would suggest mixing ‘shabby’ or vintage pieces into your existing collection, whether that’s in small or large ways.

“You can always try adding a vintage sofa reupholstered in a modern pattern, or an antique chair overstuffed in a soft, comfortable fabric.”

It’s true: vintage and shabby chic have a lot in common and if you like one, you’re sure to be able to find love for the other. Blending these two design mentalities is a great way to bring the flavor of well-loved furnishings into your home. “I think adding a bit of vintage wallpaper, or reclaimed wood for floors is another fun way to get the shabby chic look without going overboard,” Bonney says.


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