Style Guide

The Ultimate Guide To Shabby Chic Interiors

Influenced by Old English, European country cottages, and a glimmer of eclectic, Shabby Chic was a style born out of the 90s and took the world by storm.
The Ultimate Guide To Shabby Chic Interiors

While bold colours and experimental design was seen to be going mainstream in the 80s, a new style emerged named Shabby Chic. The interior style put vintage, pre-loved pieces back in our homes in a way that looked charming and stylish, yet felt wonderfully nostalgic.

What is Shabby Chic interior?

Inspired and influenced by old English interiors, European country cottages (think the charm of 18th century Swedish Gustavian and ambience of French), and a glimmer of eclectic Shabby Chic combines refined antique elegance with quirky modern accents that delightfully elicit images of grassy hillsides, acres of florescent fields, and mile-long river banks. By combining pastel colours, weathered wood, subtle patterns, and delicate antiques, Shabby Chic embraces the old and the new, creating a luxurious look that can work inside any home with a wild imagination.

The roots of Shabby Chic interiors

In the 90s, it was a much-loved design trend and its rule-bending philosophy inspired homeowners around the world to bring it into their own homes. Generally, the UK was known for putting Shabby Chic style on the map but who originally started it? And where did the binding of shabby and chic come from? Rachel Ashwell, of course. The style was born out of her Californian concept store, Shabby Chic Couture, where her signature slipcovers and handpicked flea market furniture caught the public’s eye designed on the philosophy of practical, simple, affordable, and most importantly, comfortable.

Soon enough, Ashwell set the standard for Shabby Chic and interior designers immediately took her lead. That comes as no surprise I suppose, she was the first to reimagine interiors and brought together everything we love about the humble cottage life with the glam of french interiors. The style has been with us for almost 40 years and has certainly evolved over the decades. And yet the cosiness, comfort, feminine touch, and antique furnishing continues to mark the true essence of Shabby Chic that so many love.

The characteristics of Shabby Chic interiors

  • Antique & upcycled furniture
    The rustic ambience and weathered accents are a staple for Shabby Chic and have become a trademark of the style. Timeworn features such as doors, armoires, tables, and nightstands are nothing short of charming, and can easily be achieved with a few upcycled pieces. Seek out natural or rough stained wooden furniture, and beautiful vintage pieces to add extra depth to your home.
  • Floral accents & prints
    There’s an element of softness to Shabby Chic, contrary to the rustic accents of select pieces of furniture. Work in light fabrics from linen to lace, crochet to wool for upholstery, pillows, table skirts, curtains, throws, and blankets to keep the space looking relaxed and homely. Adding a layer of subtle whimsical floral prints, polka dots, plaids and stripes in your favourite pastel colours will brighten up a room without overwhelming it.
  • Natural elements
    Taking influence from the countryside, it is no surprise floral appliqués has made their way onto Shabby Chic bedding and curtains, as well as depictions of shells and twisting vines detailing on wooden pieces. The natural elements can be found throughout every room, with indoor plants and bouquets of fresh-cut flowers that add a rural ambience inside the home.
  • Elegant decorative details
    Often confused with vintage style decor, where pieces come from a particular period of time, Shabby Chic is much more to do with imperfect accessories, such as antique chandeliers, elegant mirrors, ornate frames, mismatched china, worn-looking armoires, that are full of character and stand out by contrasting with exposed wood and other denser materials. To find the balance between ordinary and extravagant with is prolific in Shabby Chic, focus on a few details that make a big statement.
  • Light pastel tones
    Attention to detail and a delicate touch are the two main design principles for Shabby Chic. The style makes use of soft hues, whites, and light pastels shades such as pale pink, powder blue, lavender, mint green, and beige to create the romantic ambience that is so often found in a Shabby Chic inspired home. The use of whites and pastel shades contrast beautifully with the decorative details, textures, and antique accessories placed throughout the home.

What is Shabby Chic decor?

Those who love antiques and repurposing worn furniture will find themselves falling in love with Shabby Chic decor. The style essentially calls for working heirloom and antique furniture with modern and charming decor, a classic pairing. At this point, you may well be thinking Shabby Chic decor sounds similar to what you would find in farmhouse, modern rustic, or victorian interiors, and you’d be right. However, there are unique differences that set Shabby Chic apart from other interior styles and have passed through the decades brightening up so many of our homes.

The combination of rich, feminine and, often, frilly decor found on bed covers, pillows, and blankets, with luxurious chandeliers and rustic accents, creates a charming aesthetic that can work in virtually any home; from an elegant home to a humble cottage. Through recycled and impaired pieces of decor, Shabby Chic celebrates bringing together vintage and modern, in a way that inspires conversation and evokes memories.

Decorating in shabby chic style

Slipcovered furnishings

If there is one famous look that Shabby Chic is famous for its white slipcovered furnishing. Whether custom made, hand made, or bought from a store, slipcovers are the antidote to making life that little bit easier when it comes to cleaning and is aesthetically pleasing. Not only are they easy to wash, but they’re also relatively cheap and can save you from having to buy brand new furniture for your living room.

Have comfort in mind

The countryside is one of the main influences of shabby chic, hence the layers upon layers of mixed and distressed fabrics placed around a shabby chic inspired home. The style essentially looks to celebrate comfort and cosiness by combining feminine features and soft tones with worn and loved textiles. Start by adding natural fabrics such as cotton and linen for pillows and throws in your living room, and consider flowery motifs and patterns if you fancy working in some colour.

Keep hold of wooden accents

Like with fabrics, shabby chic looks to natural elements to incorporate a rural look and feel inside a home. Keep hold of, or add, wooden accents to bring out the country warmth and comfort of shabby chic that many of us love. You can also use wooden accents as decorative accents such as wooden boxes, which can simply be placed at the side of a kitchen counter to hold fresh groceries. Very country, very lovely.

Pristine white china tableware

What you’ll notice of shabby chic is its harmonious ensemble of old and new: rustic with silver, wood with lace. The style encourages you to bring together elements that you’d typically question. The details go right down to the choice of cutlery, dinner set, and cups. If you’re the type who prefers simplicity in design, white porcelain china tableware with embossed rims can be a beautiful addition to your kitchen.

Otherwise, shabby chic has influenced the use of mismatched plates with florals patterns, you know the type you’d expect to see walking into a small high street cafe in the 1960s. Delightfully pretty and bring a sense of character.

Stylish upholstered dining chairs

It’s the careful balance between styles that makes shabby chic, what it is. It’s the type of look that you can make small adjustments to if you’re wanting to go slightly more rustic, or go big on the french charm. No matter what style you sway towards, upholstered dining chairs are the one for you. Their timeworn look and natural imperfections bring a sense of character that otherwise is lost in modern-day furniture.

Bring in fresh flowers

It’s impossible to go wrong with bringing flowers into a room. Not only do they look stunning and add a bundle of fluorescent colour, but they also make a standout centrepiece on your dining table or cabinet. Place them inside a glass vase for an airy and softer look, or inside of a chinoiserie vase if you’re wanting to make a statement.

Make a statement with vintage decor

It’s the weathered pieces and antiques that defines the shabby in shabby chic. Depending on what you prefer, and what you can find, the vintage aesthetic in shabby chic can be both old and new. When looking for old, vintage pieces with a bit of history, head to an antique shop or flea market, or discover bespoke markers and crafts pieces on the likes of Etsy or if you’re lucky, eBay.

It’s no news that finding vintage goods can take time, so if you’re wanting to bring shabby chic into your home but time isn’t on your side, there are many designers and brands creating ready-made pieces such as drawers, cabinets, stools, side tables, and lamps, that look vintage and are guaranteed to last you a long time.

Choose a soft colour palette

By choosing shabby chic, you have plenty of options when it comes to a colour palette and how you want to use them. What you’ll often find is white being used throughout the home as the base colour, and bold statement furniture, as well as light pastel, coloured cushions, curtains, throws, and bedding. The tones of shabby chic are relatively light and faded from the pale greens, pinks, blues to soft greys, and cream.

Let the chandelier take centre stage

A simple yet effective way to bring shabby chic into your home can be by making the best use of the lighting in your home. There is nothing quite like a captivating jewelled chandelier in a bedroom to take centre stage. French-influenced chandeliers are the perfect accessory for a home that’s filled with vintage gems, as much as they are for a stripped back and minimal space that works in small features that encompass elegance and class.

Incorporate romantic and botanical patterns

Perhaps you’ve always had white walls and now, you’re wanting to try something new. Looking to use them to a statement and considering the beloved feature wall. Shabby chic welcomes patterns and detailing, meaning a feature wall with the lightly illustrated flowery wallpaper you’ve had your eye on can now be put to good use and work into the interiors wonderfully.

Get swept away by a clawfoot bathtub

You see a clawfoot bathtub and you think luxury. Because how couldn’t you? They’re deep by design and call to be surrounded by lit candles. Ultimately, they look classic and are timeless. That’s why it comes as no surprise how they made their way into shabby chic interiors. Of course, they come with their caveats, say if you have a petite bathroom or you prefer a quick steamy shower than a long hot bath. Nonetheless, a freestanding bath looks the part and can transform the look and feel of your bathroom.

Creating a calming space

As working-from-home is on the rise, investing and designing a home office that works for you can be transformative. A clean, fresh, and energising space does as much avoiding distractions as it does to help you tick off your to-do list. Shabby chic can often be mistaken for a clutter-loving style and granted it loves its antiques and aesthetically pleasing decor, but it’s also a style that’s designed for you to feel relaxed and calm in. By simply sticking to having essentials on the desk, and letting the walls fill the space with a vibrant sense of character and style, you’re set up to conquer your day.

A timeless appeal

Taking shabby chic outside can encapsulate everything the style masters. By keeping the main focus on bringing the garden to life with a bunch of different botanicals, with a practical dining table (not needing to be anything too extravagant) to fill the centre. Your garden is designed with a sense of french country charm that we all dream of. Imagine all the gatherings, late-night dinners, and summer BBQs to be had with.

Best Places To Buy Shabby Chic Decor & Furniture

French Bedroom Company

When it comes to adding the french influence into your shabby chic inspired home, French Bedroom Company are living up to their name. Their collections cover everything from luxury, like their dreamy upholstered beds, to rustic as seen in their handmade rustic French chest of drawers.


Get the shabby chic look with AMARA‘s unique selection of interiors and decor. Their textured knitted cushions are a perfect addition for your living room to bring a cosy atmosphere. While for your kitchen, check out their Aeron stoneware dinner collection, a stunning modern take on the beloved floral printed plates and cups.

Mary Mary Florals

Bringing home flowers is what we call a special gift to ourselves. Whether you’ve been blessed with green fingers or your talents are better spent elsewhere, we love Mary Mary‘s floral collection. The fresh bouquets are designed and put together by the florists, making every bouquet unique and different. While the dried flower bunches are the perfect option if you’re looking for something that can be kept for a long time and need very little maintenance.

Anton & K

We mentioned earlier the times it can take to find vintage antiques that convey the look and feel that you’re going for. While it may take some searching around, Anton & K offer a gorgeous one-of-a-kind collection that brings the weathered, timeless look of shabby chic. The beautiful french 19th-century bluestone table, originally used in a Provencal pastry shop to roll dough and create patisseries, could be in your homemaking quite the statement in your entryway.

Cotswold Co.

We couldn’t possibly talk about country and cottage-inspired interiors without the mention of Cotswold. Rural charm? Check. Simple yet elegant design? Check. Timeless? Check. The household name is home to every item of furniture, accessory, or decor to suit the shabby chic look. You can now bring the vintage look of Louis XV without having to break the bank with their Camille Limewash collection, we particularly love the rattan back chair and dining table.

Nicky Cornell

And finally, whatever vision you have in your head for bringing shabby chic into your home, Nicky Cornell can seamlessly make it come true. The boutique store makes bringing a sense of individuality and character into your home easy. It almost feels like suggesting Nicky Cornell should come with a warning, because honestly? We’ve spent a lot of time on here and once you know about it, you won’t want to leave. If you’re searching for the ultimate french-inspired grandiose chandelier or Provence-inspired coffee table, they’ve got you.

Photo credits: 1. Emma Lewis 2-3. Bria Hammel Interiors 4-5. Style Me Pretty 6-7. Kinsey Walsh 8. Blesser House 9-10. Rachel Parcell 11-12. Studio McGee 13. Heidi Lau 14. Veranda 15. Shabbyfufu 16. Town n Country 17. Tuft & Trim 18. French Country Cottage

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