One of the current trends that is often heard of but may not be fully understood is the concept of “Shabby Chic” or a stylish way of using and displaying older or worn and used items that creates an ambiance all of its own.
The word “Shabby” refers to items that show signs of wear are threadbare or damaged in some way or just substandard or of mediocre quality while the word “chic” refers to items that are within current fashion trends and represent a sophisticated stylish manner.
At first glance these words appear to be in direct contradiction, which is actually the heart of the style – to use low cost or used items in combination with each other in such a way to create an up-to-date and fashionable room without it appearing to be ‘made up’ or too fancy to enjoy.
Style and Color
The current standard of shabby chic actually started from existing eclectic homes in Great Britain which held several generations of older antiques and draperies / furniture that seemed to mesh into a cohesive whole due to the similar nature of their use and occupants personal preferences in style and color.
After seeing examples of these homes some decorators began to deliberately cultivate certain items such as worn antiques or flaking door panels into their designs until an entire decorating strategy based on these types of pieces and juxtaposition of inexpensive new and worn old goods exploded on the scene as the latest thing in interior decorating.
Shabby Chic doesn’t necessarily require you to use pre-owned or worn out items however – a shabby chic style can be created using all new and beautiful items by following a few rules about how to mix different styles and patterns to create the appearance of an eclectic mix of items that may have been found or relocated from different areas of the home.
The Step by Step Guide to Shabby Chic
Tips on various techniques and styles that you can use are found on many websites now, but some general rules of thumb that you should adhere to when trying to utilize this technique include:
- Use a mix of different materials and furniture styles that compliment each other but are obvious different.
- Make creative use of texture and patterns that are not typical but fit with the ‘tone’ of the room or compliment some other element in use in the room.
- Try to use neutral tones with darker accents for main items, and keep your accent pieces from distracting too much – the idea is to create an eclectic mix of elements not sharp contrasts!
- Use fringes and skirts as well as varying fabrics whenever possible.
- Use lots of whites and pale tones for larger pieces and draperies when possible.
Faded chintz material, old paintwork and ordinary but stylish pieces are the heart of what makes for ‘good’ shabby chic.When it comes to paintings and artwork the older and more unassuming the better, provided it is not velvet Elvises!
Shabby Chic as an Elegant Victorian Home
The key is to be low key and have good taste but to use that taste with everyday items rather then expensive one of a kind elements. The end result of a correctly executed shabby chic decoration is to create an elegant but lived-in room rather then a cute modern Victorian or country farmhouse.
If done properly it will not look like you went to the junk yard or a yard sale, but rather have carefully collected cherished pieces for many years that all reflect a similar taste and theme but may or may not be the most expensive or newest expressions of that theme available.
In its infancy shabby chic was actually rather extravagant and artful but has began to fall more into a comfort zone, taking inspiration more from the American shaker movement and the French Chateaus where plain and simple quality was the key elements.
Many items used in this style of decorating feature heavy layers of pain or obviously worn or damaged areas and often are imitated by damaging existing coats with chains, sandpaper or by painting and then hand-rubbing them to remove bits of paint.
The fabrics used in the movement are normally cotton and linen and lean towards older French patterns, worn or bleached pastels and stained cloth.In fact staining fabric with tea is one trick many interior decorators use to give a shabby chic element to items that are ‘too new’ to fit into their design concepts.
A carefully torn map stained lightly with tea can make an excellent table showpiece for instance, where a new fresh map of the continent would simply appear out of place.
Whether you are an old hand to these techniques or just graduating from modern bachelor shabby chic is a design concept whose time has come around again – for the first time.