Shabby chic caught America by storm during the last part of the 20th century, and today the look is still popular all over the world, but it has been updated. Versatile, beautiful, and eclectic, this style works well for historic houses that have great bones, and those homes that are, well, more shabby. Another plus is that shabby chic style embraces recycling, upgrading, and DIY.

Today, shabby chic decor shows the influences of many different national styles, such as Scandinavian modern, the vintage soft look of 18th century Swedish neoclassical decor (Gustavian style), and contemporary American rustic looks.

Shabby Chic, Gustavian style

Winning elements of shabby chic style include soft, nearly neutral pinks (like this beautiful Ralph Lauren paint color below), bright pastel spring greens, and vintage accents.

Pale palettes, crisp ironed white linens, floral prints–these motifs all still reign, but crossover with Parisienne villas, muted Gustavian grays, and vintage pieces, as well as the occasional jewel tones or cheery farmhouse reds, are also becoming part of this design style.

Other elements key to shabby chic style are: weathered, wood furniture; cast iron beds; upcycled chairs; farm-house tables; country-style calicoes; poplin; softened grain cloth with botanical patterns and printed florals; antique ceramics; whitewashed floors; gauze curtains; and embellishments like lace, ruffles, and ribbon.

House details include exposed beams, beadboard, whitewash and pickling floors, vintage appliances, farmhouse sinks, wood countertops, paned windows, and more.

Go for cool colors when it comes to paint, like blueish pale grays, whitewashed pinks, off whites, pale minty greens, and very pale, whisper-like blues. Pink can be used for accents as well, but in small doses!

Mint is a timeless color and a favorite choice for the new shabby chic look. BEHR makes the luscious shade Whipped Mint, which can be used for walls, shelves or even furniture. Other great ideas include painting wood paneling or adding beadboard. Furniture can be painted with crafting paints like whitewash, acrylics, chalked paint, milk paint, and mud paint.

Take a look at examples of the pretty pales described above:

Element 1. Eclectic Plates and Vintage Collectibles

Although very practical and suited for everyday use, shabby chic decorating has a touch of indulgence. So go ahead and bring in those flowered plates. Be eclectic and mix and match found objects. New shabby chic designer Tracey Rapisardi sums it up in a description of her vision:

“Clean lines and beachy pastels, mixing old and new.”

Kitchen styles are diverse, but for the most part share a primary white palette. Individual touches make a shabby chic home, but be sure not to overcrowd. Leave some space between your featured collectibles, walls, and curtains.

Some kitchens feature vintage appliances and have open shelves or glass-faced cabinets to share dinnerware like green milk glass or tin pieces.

Shabby Chic

Oh be still my heart! I love this new shabby chic kitchen. Madeleine has such pretty photos, inspiring combinations of vintage, modern, and Swedish design combined with English country style!

Below in this pretty kitchen, the homeowner has left a wide, white-painted expanse above the tile line and added a streamlined Roman shade, as opposed to curtains. This allows some “white space.”

Or for a more subtle look use whitewash pickling for an added touch of white to unfinished wood floors, like we see in Hally’s kitchen.

Shabby chic

 Bare, unfinished rustic touches are a favorite, and often we see a preference for muted pastels, like varieties of pink, lavender, blue, light green, and yellow (not to mention a lot of white!). Wide blank floors, pickling, mix and match chairs and linens, and white cabinets are just a few of the elements of the newly simplified shabby chic look.

Element 2. Minimalist Farm-Style and Pastels

This simple eating area is a lovely vision of whitewash. The designer has used bare or unfinished white space with a select collection of farm-style items. This sparseness shows the influence of minimalist Scandinavian style, and the pretty farm table shows the influence of American rustic design. Easy to maintain and replicate, with just the right touch if decor, this is a great example of the new shabby chic.

If your floor is finished, but not in the best of condition, go for whitewash. Achieve this look with simple white interior gloss paint.

Shabby chic

Dining rooms can feature finished with unfinished surfaces and mix and match eclectic pairings of found furniture. Chalk paint is great way to get that sun-kissed, recycled look. Milk paint is another way to get that lovely cottage color.

This clean-lined, minimalist living rooms uses the signature new shabby chic gray with pink. The understated patterns make this pretty pink work! A classic shabby chic motif is the antique white mirror–I love the beautiful and affordable Southern Enterprises Garrison Mirror.

Shabby Chic

Element 3. Cottage-Style Romance and Fine Lace

Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic Couture is one of the top trendsetters of shabby chic design, inspiring all of us with beautiful fabrics and furnishings (though these items are often out of the price range of the average homeowner, they are nevertheless very popular). Taking cues from farm living, traditional English country, French country, folk art, and cottage style, Rachel manages to remain very contemporary. We love her book, Shabby Chic: Sumptuous Settings and Other Lovely Things.

Shabby Chic

Ashwell’s bedroom (or living room!) pictured above features a “Russian Folk Art Bed.” The term “Russian Folk Art Bed” is inspired by the Russian artistic tradition of layering bedding, particularly skirting with embroidered textiles trimmed in lace.

In these homes, you would notice a forest of Vologda lace pillows and lace hangings on the walls. The more bedskirts and pillows, the more impressive the home. Here Ashwell has considerably reduced the ornate look, and updated it to reflect a cleaner, more modern style.

Another feature of the shabby chic clearly depicted below is the lovely natural flooring, with a delicate balance of gray, pinks, and the crispest of white for the walls. This room is like the queen’s chamber in a nordic palace.

Shabby Chic

The new shabby chic style also means restraint. Below we have neutral-toned, floral bedding, creams, gold-toned whites with beautiful lace, peach-pink rosette bedding, and lots of antique finished decor items  and furnishings.

Element 4. Pickled Floors and White Furnishings

Shabby chic is such a great decor style for children’s rooms. Many of the materials include washable curtains and bedding that’s absolutely kid-friendly. And the pink frilly frosted little girl’s room is an ever popular project.

Oh the detail! This room is designed by Tilda. The quiet colors and ornate details make this a grand space for the tiniest of girls: pickled floors with antique white furnishing, lightest-of-blue paint, and rosettes with gold-detailed molding.

Element 5. Scrap Wallpaper Collage

We love decoupage floors for bathrooms, bedrooms, or enclosed front porches! And how about scrap wallpaper collage for a focal wall? This eclectic new shabby chic look is achieved by combining leftover wallpaper with vintage pieces.

So pretty! For the outdoors, check out this darling DIY Garden Bench Makeover by UK based Tory Jayne.

Images courtesy of Chalk FarmMadeliefRalph LaurenMy Lovely HomeSündenherz, Behr Marquee, Joanna VintageCalypso Home, Rice DK, Alice M. Wingerden, Lottasan’s Blog,DovletMadeleine Patterson, Harligt Hemma Tracey RapisardiHouse BeautifulHally’s, LondonSheer LuxeVanessa, Vintage Whites BlogJeltje JanmaatMathilde & Co.Katy CzweryThe Cottage MarketIhanuuttaarkeenShabby Chic CoutureEllos, FinlandLittle GreeneLoretta, Full Bloom CottageFrench LarkspurTilda, FranceHouse to HomeHome Sweetest Home, and  Torie Jayne.


About The Author

Art+Design Consultant

Art historian by training, curator, writer and design lover. Principal of Art +Design Consulting. Lover of all things well made.