When it comes to home interiors, I love mixing modern pieces with vintage or shabby chic design. There’s something about the understated elegance of shabby chic style, reminiscent of a French chateau or country cottage, that makes home feel like a cosy and calm place to be while celebrating the beauty of imperfection.
Shabby Chic design has long been en vogue but was catapulted into fame in the late 80’s / early 90’s mainly thanks to designer and entrepreneur Rachel Ashwell – the queen of Shabby Chic and author of many books on the subject including The Shabby Chic Home.
So what exactly is shabby chic you may ask?
Shabby chic (pronounced: “sheek”) is a form of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique. The style is an eclectic look of antique florals and stripes, tangled with white and a hue of pastels. It tends to invoke thoughts of comfort and relaxation with a romantic and feminine undertone.
Much of the attraction of shabby chic is that you can generally achieve it with relatively little cost to your pocket. Unless you’re a fan of all things modern with clean lines, most of us probably have an old piece of solid wooden furniture in our home, whether it be a bookcase, table or sideboard, that can be transformed into something stunning. All you really need is a paint brush, some chalk paint, wax and sandpaper to complete the transformation…
Shabby Chic History
Although the shabby chic style has become very popular over the last 35 years, its roots actually began in the early 1900’s when in Great Britain, many large, stately country homes and their contents were left to fade and age due to financial difficulties of the home owners. It wasn’t until the 1980’s, however, that this popular style got its name. During this time, many people had a desire to express how much class and taste they had. By incorporating the shabby chic interior style into their homes, they were able to boast classically vintage furniture that had a history.
Some of my Shabby Chic Buys
Living in an Edwardian home such as the one we currently own, naturally lends itself to shabby chic design as the style reflects the history of the property and compliments its period features. That doesn’t mean, however, that shabby chic won’t look good in a more modern home. On the contrary, mixing the shabby chic look with sleek contemporary rooms can create a harmonious balance between cosy and modern design.
How to Achieve the Shabby Chic Look
Creating a shabby chic look in your home can be as subtle or as bold as you like. If you’re not feeling brave enough to tackle a piece of furniture or aren’t ready to swap out what you have, you can mix up your current look with a few shabby chic pieces that will bring instant warmth and cosiness to your home, whether it be a mirror, picture frame or memo board (such as my own buys above).
If you need some inspiration on what to buy, LIVE LAUGH LOVE, is the perfect place to start. I came across this amazing online retailer when looking for a few accessories for my new home and was immediately smitten by their impressive range of gorgeous country and shabby chic products, including this simple yet beautiful mirror (shown below) which now perfectly compliments the style of my home. Below are just a few of their products but to view their whole range click here: LIVE LAUGH LOVE
How to Transform your Furniture
Shabby chic builds off of a white background, but there are many shades of white you can work with. Mixing brighter whites with aged whites is considered fine. The usual accent colors are light blues, roses and sage greens, but you can certainly throw your own colors into the mix as long as they are muted, light or washed out. Remember that you are going for a gracefully aged look!
Here’s some useful tips and techniques that will really help you to transform your furniture into outstanding pieces:
- Using what you have – Find dark and outdated décor items from around the house, such as coffee tables, old end tables, dressers, even mirrors. It may be wise to start small for your first project! If you can’t find anything suitable you can always pick something up from your local charity shop or car boot sale.
- Once you have chosen the piece of furniture you are going to work with, prepare first, if necessary, by removing any varnish or shine with sand paper and then apply two coats of Chalk Paint.
- Paint with a big brush in all directions, then wax with clear wax using a big brush or a cloth. Work one side at a time and then use some fine or medium sandpaper to take off a little of the paint to reveal what’s underneath. Re-wax and then give it a bit of a polish the next day. Refresh every now and again with some more wax when needed. To clean use a proprietary spray cleaner.
- Are you working with a small brush? Switch to a bigger one to get the job done quickly.
- If it is hard work rubbing back with the sandpaper then use a coarser sand paper but next time paint a thinner top coat.
What paint to use? Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
You may or may not have heard of her but Annie Sloan is a key figure in the painted furniture revolution. Annie has been painting for over 40 years as well as writing numerous books on the subject. She has made her own very special decorative paint called Chalk Paint, which is specifically designed for furniture, that can also be used on walls, floors and in paintings. This paint has been developed through Annie’s knowledge of paint, pigments and art history.
Chalk Paint is very easy to work with. It very rarely requires any preparation, such as sanding or priming, and can be used indoors or outside, on just about any surface – from wood to metal, and matt plastic to terracotta. It can revitalise old furniture, walls, ceilings and floors with ease. It’s easy, fun and makes amazing results accessible to everyone.
With a colour palette inspired by 18th and 20th Century decor and design, you can easily mix the colours together to extend the range. Chalk Paint is eco-friendly too. It contains extremely low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and has no odor.
Add a little water to it to make it smooth, thicken it up by leaving the lid off, make it into a wash by adding even more water. Use flat brushes for a smooth look or bristle brushes for a more textured aged look. Gorgeous results have never been so simple and straightforward.
You’ll discover some of Annie Sloan’s core techniques on the Annie Sloan YouTube channel. To learn more about these and other techniques, contact your local stockist about booking a workshop. Alternatively, you’ll find detailed step-by-step instructions in Annie Sloan’s books ‘Creating the French Look’, ‘Quick and Easy Paint Transformations’ and ‘Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More’ (all published by Cico Books).
Where to Buy?
If, however, painting furniture or accessories just isn’t your thing, you can always buy it already lovingly prepared from a number of stockists! Below are a few to get you started…
LIVE LAUGH LOVE
As well as providing a fantastic range of shabby chic accessories, LIVE LAUGH LOVE also stock a wide range of charming painted furniture to fit in perfectly to a shabby chic styled interior home or to be the focal point of a bland looking room.
eBay offer a huge range of shabby chic furniture to choose from with some potential real bargains to be had if you’re lucky! Click here to view what’s currently on offer: Shabby Chic Furniture
Laura Ashley offer a huge range of mouthwateringly gorgeous home furnishings that will have you spoilt for choice. The good news is that they currently have 25% off everything in their home department so hurry if you want to take advantage of their great offers!