Shabby and chic may seem like a contraction in terms, but in the decorating world it's known as a unique style of design that's one part cottage, one part country and many parts individual inspiration.
In one aspect of the cottage look, shabby chic goes a step further. Painted furniture is a part of both styles, but with shabby chic, the furniture looks weathered and lived-in. A room that's outfitted with beautiful wood floors, a soft upholstered reading chair and a side table with a stack of books and an antique lamp captures the style perfectly.
Muted Color Scheme
The chic part comes in the pairing of soft colors that include creamy white, muted gray, dusty peach and light green. These hues are generally complemented by throw rugs, sheer curtains and vintage accessories. Often with a botanical or seaside theme, chic accessories can range from beautifully woven baskets to silver photo frames.
Old wooden furniture from flea markets and garage sales can get the shabby chic treatment by being painted white, with corners and edges sanded to give an aged appearance. An old trunk works well as a coffee table.
Homeowners can create shabby chic design plans in every room, although some rooms are more of a challenge because they have a greater need for functional elements. The bathroom, for instance, must incorporate convenience and safety features regardless of its decorating style.
To get around the problem, Better Homes and Gardens magazine recommended matching vintage-inspired plumbing fixtures to current-day items such as period lamps and sconces. Adding an electric towel warmer in a similar metallic tone gives homeowners the comfort of warm towels as soon as they step out of the tub or shower.
The light hues used in shabby chic decor are easily offset in the bath with white towels to create a spa atmosphere.
Slip-covered sofas and wicker side chairs with large cushion seats fit this type of home design. Rather than bright florals, a faded look prevails in subdued prints and stripes. Curtains can be lacy or simple sheers, both reminiscent of an earlier era.
Window treatments that work well in a shabby chic decorating scheme include valances in wood or upholstery and shutters painted white, off-white, or left natural in a light pine or maple wood to match flooring.
Shutters that cover only the bottom half of the window can be closed to limit bright sunlight coming into the room without shutting it out altogether. They also provide some privacy at street level, while retaining a view at the tree line.
Fabric accessories may also include laces and vintage prints that are tea-stained to give the illusion of age. Before soaking a full piece, however, a test should be done by dipping a swatch of fabric in tea to get the right shade.
Window seats and bench seating are strongly associated with country or cottage decorating and, by association, with shabby chic. While a window seat may not always be possible architecturally, a bench often provides a similar look up against a wall with a window or tucked into the corner of a room for a reading area.
It's also a versatile piece to use in a breakfast nook or in combination with chairs in a dining room. A rustic farm table with painted chairs on one side and bench seating on the other can be tied together by paint colors or fabrics used for seat cushions.
Stacks of books, old photographs and a collection of bone china tea cups and saucers are some items that enhance the old world charm of a shabby chic room.