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Shabby chic ideas: how to achieve this charming decor style

After a cosy, rustic look in your house? Check out our style guide to the classic shabby chic aesthetic which has been going strong since the 1990s

Home makeover: 'The country look made my house a home'

For a classic, cosy and oh-so-charming interior, you can’t go wrong with the shabby chic trend. This look is made up of traditional and opulent homewares which have a used, worn appearance, giving things a rustic finish rather than polished. Similar to the cottagecore aesthetic, shabby chic is all about mixing the old with the new and celebrating the comforts of home.

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Explore the history of shabby chic style below and check out our gallery of real shabby chic homes from the YourHomeStyle archive.

We’ve included everything you need to know about recreating the shabby chic look at home, from the ideal colour scheme to achieving that sought-after weathered furniture look. First, let’s explore the history of this iconic style.

What is shabby chic?

The World of Interiors magazine is credited with developing the shabby chic look in the 1980s. However, it was in the 1990s that it really came to the fore after Rachel Ashwell opened her furniture store Shabby Chic, and later published a book of the same name. Ashwell’s brand and book brought shabby chic decor to the masses, and it became one of the defining styles of the decade. As Ashwell describes it, shabby chic is ‘cosy, comfortable, vintage, and pretty.’

Over twenty years later, shabby chic is still a hugely popular choice for interior enthusiasts. If you love florals, vintage homewares, pinks and crisp white interiors, shabby chic style could well be for you. It takes beautiful items from the past and reimagines them for the present, making your home an idyllic getaway from the stresses and flashiness of modern-day life.

Shabby chic decor

Being a huge fan of pastel green and white, Louise selected this gentle colour scheme for her kitchen-diner
Being a huge fan of pastel green and white, Louise selected this gentle colour scheme for her shabby chic kitchen-diner. See the full makeover here.

Vintage accessories are intrinsic to the shabby chic aesthetic. Whether it’s a second-hand find or a vintage-style piece bought new, shabby chic is all about celebrating nature and romanticism.

Dainty plates, pretty coloured glasses, antique vases and gilded mirrors are all perfect choices. Think of a charming French cottage or a pared-back Georgian house, with some quirky homewares and floral patterns thrown in.

Shabby chic colour scheme

Home makeover: 'The country look made my house a home'
Pauline turned the landing into a dressing and make-up area, accessorising it with bunting and a fabric-trimmed tealight jar from Betsy Blair Home. ‘I wanted to have a feature with things to see rather than a dead space.’ See the full makeover here.

When it comes to colour, beige and white are number one in a shabby chic home. This provides a calm, neutral background for accessories to shine, such as prettily patterned cushions and bedding and vases filled with colourful flowers.

Soft pastel shades are also popular in shabby chic interiors, such as pale greens, blues, pinks and violets. Bold block colours are a no-no – floral patterned wallpaper, raw plaster walls and colour washing work well in this scheme, as they all create an aged, worn-in and cosy atmosphere.

Shabby chic furniture paint

Home makeover: 'The country look made my house a home'
The classic, off-white sofa, an investment buy from Laura Ashley, sits comfortably alongside painted and revamped second-hand furniture. Pretty handmade touches, such as the framed fabric heart, soften the shabby chic sitting room’s neutral scheme. See the full makeover here.

Wondering how to distress furniture, shabby chic style? You can achieve this classic look with chalk paints, such as those from Frenchic or Annie Sloan.

There is a range of techniques for distressing furniture including a layering technique, where you apply two coats of paint to your furniture item, in one colour, then layering another, slightly different colour on top.

This rustic wooden cabinet has been given a colourwash which lets the natural colour and texture of the wood shine through.
This rustic wooden cabinet has been given a colourwash which lets the natural colour and texture of the wood shine through.

If you love the look of natural woodgrain but still want to give your furniture a new finish, you can combine the two with a sheer colour wash. In this technique, water-based paint is diluted and applied to the natural surface of the wood with a brush, which gives the furniture a hint of colour whilst still allowing the pattern of the grain to shine through.

Shabby chic furniture

coastal bedroom makeover
This old dressing table was a bargain buy from an online selling site for just £50. Ruth removed the excess paint and then sealed it with varnish. Placed in the well-lit bay window, it’s great for doing her make-up each morning and doubles up as a desk when studying at home. See the full makeover here.

As we’ve discovered, worn furniture is key to achieving a shabby chic interior. If you aren’t keen on distressing furniture yourself, there are plenty of places to get second-hand furniture with an existing rustic appearance.

Facebook Marketplace, car boot sales and charity shops are great, but if you want to buy something completely new with a worn, industrial finish, Nkuku and Maison du Monde are two lovely brands to try.

Shabby chic kitchen

Sandra had her heart set on a white Rangemaster, but she struggled to find the perfect design. ‘I didn’t want a stainless-steel cooker. It took ages to find this one and it cost a fortune, but it’s made such a difference to the overall look of our kitchen. Also, it’s the best cooker I’ve ever had, so it was worth it,’ she says
With her classic cottage kitchen, complete with white Rangemaster, Sandra has got the shabby chic style nailed. We love the foliage above the table with a copper kettle and pan used as decor! See the full makeover here.

Fancy tapping into the shabby chic style at home? The kitchen is a great place to start. You don’t have to have rustic cabinets or wooden floors to achieve the look – try starting with your basics like crockery and appliances. Emma Bridgewater has a huge range of styles from mugs to kettles and her floral designs perfectly hit the shabby chic brief.

Decoration like bunting and wall art are other ways of bringing in the shabby chic aesthetic without spending a fortune. Open shelving is handy in a shabby chic kitchen too as it will let you show off your vintage homewares!

Shabby chic bedding

Bedroom makeover: ‘My bedroom is filled with vintage bargains'
Maxine has dressed her bed in sumptuous style, with a mix of decorative cushions and a soft throw in baby pink. See the full makeover here.

Dainty and cosy, shabby chic decor is perfect for the bedroom. Layer textures on your bed, such as cotton, wool and linen, for a pretty as well as comforting night’s sleep. Antique furniture, such as wardrobes and drawers will create a peaceful atmosphere, while vintage artworks in rustic frames and ornate rugs will add charm.

Combine the old with the new by adding contemporary homewares such as a statement lampshade or clock next to the bed, as Maxine Brady has done in her bedroom makeover above.

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Where to buy shabby chic homewares

Charity shops, car boot sales and Facebook Marketplace are great places to hunt for shabby chic homewares, or you can try distressing new furnishings or accessories. If you fancy getting the shabby chic look without the need for DIY, check out Laura Ashley, Emma Bridgewater and Cath Kidston, all classic brands which will help to apply a dash of shabby chic style to your home.

Bathroom with Venetian Plaster