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Shabby Chic Decorating Ideas

Written by: Lindsay Shugerman

July 31, 2014
Filed Under Decor 

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shabby chic decorContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

It’s well-worn surfaces and sweetly faded fabrics. A bit of the old and a bit of sparkle. It’s a style — and a life style. It’s unabashedly feminine and then some. It’s a look… and it’s unique in each person’s choices. It’s shabby chic.

Now how do you get that wonderful look into your home? Well, you could hire a decorator, and let them stage a shabby chic look. Or you could do it the authentic way, one happily collected (or created) treasure at a time. That sounds better, right?

So forget that expensive decorator. Here are ten shabby chic decorating ideas to get you started.


10. Lighting

shabby chic chandelier

Shabby chic lighting is one of my favorite parts. After all, what other decorating style lets me use pretty chandeliers wherever I want? Go with something in soft white or a pastel. Opt for sparkling crystals hanging down if you like a bit of bling. If you can’t find a chandelier you love, head to your local ReStore or thrift shop and find something you can refinish and decorate to make it your own.

9. Fabric



Fabrics are a huge part of the shabby chic look, so pay attention to the material you select for your chairs, curtains, tablecloths, bedding and pillows. The good news is that the right fabrics aren’t hard to find. Check out the quilting material section of fabric stores for smaller florals and wonderful coordinating strips. Head over to the upholstery fabric section for material featuring big, lovely florals in soft colors. You can even re-purpose vintage curtains and tablecloths as fabric… or even better, use them as-is for an instant aged look for your rooms.

8. Repurposed storage

wash tub storage for yarn

Who needs new plastic containers when there’s a world of prettier options? Creativity rules when it comes to storing your things in a shabby chic room. That old battered metal colander? Now it’s a basket for your baubles, complete with holes for pinning those earrings. Old wooden shipping box? What could be better for stashing away anything from craft supplies to bathroom towels. It’s all about keeping the patina of old things, softening stronger colors with some paint (white is always a good choice), and maybe adding a feminine element or two with ribbon or old jewelry.

7. Colors

soft pink rose

Soft, soft, oh so soft. That’s the color palate for your shabby chic decor. Soft pinks and blues. Yards and yards of white, from pure snow white to soft creamy vanilla. Aged turquoise and butter yellow.

And what about intense reds or vibrant oranges? They answer is… sometimes. But only in tiny doses, amid a length of faded fabric or in the patches on an antique quilt.

6. Paint

shabby chic room

Choose paints in flat or eggshell finishes… high gloss and this look just don’t play well together. Traditional chalk paints are another wonderful option. Pick pale creams or soft whites for the background on walls and ceilings, then layer color on painted furnishings. The oops paint shelves at Home Depot are a great place to start your search for paints to use for accent colors and furniture. I’ve found tons of pastels in the right finishes there. And you can coordinate the rest of your paint needs right there on the spot — a bonus!

5. Mismatch to harmony

Shabby chic white room

So what if you have a red chair, a brown table, an orange footstool, and a blue cabinet, and you love them all. You could just put them in a room and deal with the clashing colors. Or you could take the shabby decor approach and bring your much loved furniture into harmony with a coat or two of a coordinating pastel paint or a creamy white paint. And suddenly, instead of warring colors, you have harmony. Ahhhhhh… no wonder I like this decorating style!

4. Upcycle, not destroy

Empire antique dresser

I have to add a word of caution here, and it’s important enough to get it’s own number. Shabby chic decorating and painting is about adding value and life to otherwise discarded or worn out objects. But when it comes to that gorgeous Second Empire inlaid buffet, leave it alone! Please! A coat of white paint might make it blend in for now, but the beauty, value and irreplaceable workmanship will be forever lost beneath a coat of Sugar Spun Vanilla Number 2 paint. Be careful in your selection of furniture and accessories to paint. If it’s an antique in good shape, live with with as it is or sell it; don’t paint it.

3. Mixing styles

Shabby chic and industrial

Just because you’re going shabby chic doesn’t mean you’re limited to only the “official” pieces. For instance, I love mixing pastels and florals with industrial salvage. A friend of mine blends in Asian furnishings and accents, and another works in Craftsman era pieces (unpainted, of course!) I’m a firm believer in the idea that too much of anything is, well, too much. So play with what you have and see what works. You might be surprised with the combination that harmonize for you.

2. The beauty of age

painted shabby chic dresser

I had to put this at number one, because it’s right at the core of the shabby chic movement. All too often in our society, we value the new and the young over the well loved and aged. This is a decorating style that reverses that value system. A faded, slightly sagging arm chair? Perfect. It was probably the site where many books were read, many conversations enjoyed. A chipped cabinet showing layers of paint? A treasured item that was personalized again and again over the year.

1. Comfort rules

shabby chic armchair

Shabby chic furnishings are decidedly not modern. No square-armed, under-stuffed couches. No painful-after-ten-minutes chairs. In the shabby chic world, it’s all about soft and rounded and well padded arm chairs and loveseats. Oh, and over-stuffed couches, too. With loads of pillows.

When you’re shopping for shabby chic seating, imagine curling up with good book and a cup of tea. If it works, you have found the right piece!

When a style focuses on comfort, saving the past and up-cycling the otherwise discarded, it has to be good. Enjoy your journey into this timeless look in home decorating.



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