Shabby Chic Style Guide

Tara Dickinson
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Shabby Chic Design Defined

Similar to cottage style, Shabby Chic balances elegant contemporary pieces with old and worn ones to express a comfortable, casual decorating style. Picture an idyllic English county-side cottage, with soft inviting furniture, fresh flowers, sheer fluttering curtains, with lots of whites and pastels around the rooms. Add some distressed wood, wrought iron, and vintage accessories - you now have a Shabby Chic home.



Shabby Chic was coined by Rachel Ashwell, a British designer-turned-Californian who had a series of "Shabby Chic" books, stores, and television shows in the 1990s. A busy mother at the time, Ashwell invented this design style to be practical and beautiful. She focused strongly on feminine looking slipcovers and repainting second hand furniture in soft pastel colors.

Ashwell defined the look as:

"Comfort, the beauty of perfection, the allure of time-worn objects and the appeal of simple, practical living. These are the cornerstones of what has come to be known as the shabby chic style."

Rachel Ashwell 

Decorating on a Dime

Besides the appeal of the ultra femmine look, many gravitate to the Shabby Chic decor because it is affordable and allows creative types an outlet for expression. There is no need to spend big bucks when creating the Shabby Chic style for your home. No matching furniture needed. Have an old set of chairs on hand? Slipcovers are the new way to go when following the SC style. Secondhand shops, thrift stores, and flea markets make for better hunting grounds than big name furniture outlets when decorating in this style. And what an economical way to create a new, updated look!



Creative directors around the country agree that the Shabby Chic style has had a lasting impact on how Americans decorate. While the trend is not as big as it once was, it still has legs due largely to an economy that remains unstable plus growing concerns on how everything we consume impacts the environment. Being able to reuse and upcycle furniture pieces and materials plays a large role when choosing a design style to employ. This is a generation that has learned the value of recycling. Especially now while times have shifted with families staying in their homes more than ever, cocooning and comfort bring an extra sense of security and peace of mind,which goes hand-in-hand with the SC style. Decorating on a budget has never been more prevalent.



Relaxed beauty.

Rustic comfort.

Welcoming warmth.

Shabby Chic appears effortlessly stylish, featuring light and airy spaces. The color palette follows the ‘less is more’ philosophy, trending towards lighter, softer shades.­­­­ Wooden staples plus shiny details of steel curtain rods, silver buckets, bins, and wicker pots are another element of the shabby design style. Next, layering accessories is key, from throw rugs, to blankets, pillows, wall art, and décor items, all in an effort to create a casual room. Don’t be shy with the frills! Weathered edges, lacey hints, and scalloped trims are all essentials aspects of a SC space.

Decorating Style


Shabby Chic Name Brands

  • Rachel Ashwell
  • The Farm House by Rachel Ashwell
  • Lily Ashwell
  • The Pearl Barn



Love strong primary shades? Shabby Chic may not be your ideal style option. Soft delicate colors are the foundation for this style.

  • Faded green
  • Muted gray
  • Pale pink
  • Soft white



Start with a basic background color in a shade of white, then add-on to your heart's desire. No need to follow the usual formal rules when combining prints. Feel free to mix stripes and checks with floral fabrics; the goal is to create a warm and inviting look.


White Furniture

Any wooden furniture painted white will work. Find inexpensive pieces that have structure and design qualities you enjoy then spray with white paint, sand off the corners to rough it up a bit to create your shabby chic furniture installment. Ideas:

  • Painted chairs as side tables or placed in a corner to hold flowers
  • Old trunk as a coffee table
  • Stack wooden boxes to display books and other collections

White Furniture


Slipcovers- one of the EASIEST ways to instantly upgrade and update old furniture or combine mismatched pieces. For the SC style, white or soft faded prints work best. And don’t forget, wrinkled, rumpled, and over-sized works as part of the Shabby Chic style. Think well-used and loved.

  • Details: Glass door knobs, an old mantle, and rusted iron shelf brackets, weathered hooks - any antique looking elements can add texture to the space.
  • Wrought iron: This type of furniture perfectly compliments a Shabby Chic interior.
  • Flowers and candles: Dried real flowers, and of course fresh if possible; gatherings of different shaped candles in similar hues, all displayed in simple glass jars or slick vases works perfectly.
  • Upcycle: If it's broken, mend and clean it, paint it white- your done. Rusted? Perfect. Paint chipped, you’re already there. Everything old is new again.

Natural Elements

Plants, clay pots, stone accessories, bamboo elements- think about natural materials and bringing in the air and light of nature.


Soft Colors

Set your foundation with subdued neutrals to provide a clean canvas. Then if you want to liven up a space, do it with wall art that spotlights strong patterns in light shades. Throw pillows in a mixture of patterns works as well. The essence of Shabby Chic is a washed-out pastel on a cozy fabric. To make sure it doesn't come off as run-down, use quality fabrics with thick textures.

Soft Colors


Going wild with tassels, ruffles, scallops in unexpected places all over the house plays to that SC feel of old-fashioned comfort. Pillow shams, table covers, area rugs, curtain tasseled tie-backs are all places to add a touch of femine frilly softness.

Distressed Wood

Antique distressed woods are an essential part of the rustic SC decorating style.Think wooden detailing with a worn-out finish. Another easy way to maintain the rustic-meets-elegant vibe of Shabby Chic is by opting for pieces that balance texture and material. A chipped paint nightstand pairs perfectly with a slick glass vase and a coarse braided tabletop detail.

Distressed Wood

A Little Sparkle

To keep the shabby part of Shabby Chic from taking over, adding a touch of bling keeps the decor on that side of elegant. To balance the rough woods and tarnished metals, some stainless steel silver or gold accents are the perfect complement. Offset a glossy furniture piece with an antique table runner to maintain the feel of cherished and worn with modern style. Already have some large shiny pieces on hand? You can now easily ‘distress’ that mirror, large picture frame, shelving unit, etc. with a little patina work.

A Little Sparkle


Because the Shabby Chic style is so adaptable, it's a perfect way to decorate, with the focus on warmth and comfort; everyone will feel welcome. Economical and socially responsible for the environment as well, opting for a Shabby Chic home decor style is always a wise option. Have fun looking for the perfect used furniture pieces and creating your Shabby Chic home!



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