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How to master shabby chic décor

From the perfectly distressed antique style chest of drawers to a restful white and pastel colour scheme, we explore how to nail the on-trend shabby chic look.
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Dreamy, understated and decidedly feminine, ‘shabby chic’ décor is as popular today as it was when the phrase was coined around twenty years ago. The look is characterised by layers of mismatched but harmonious soft furnishings, dusty pastel tones and whitewashed wooden floors. And of course, there has to be vintage - or at least the illusion of it. Rooms should be adorned with ornate but worn statement pieces - think chandeliers twinkling in incandescent candlelight, oversized mirrors and decorative, tarnished door knobs. The presence of linens is a must, plus stacks of old books and at least one ornate, flower-topped white chest of drawers.

As the name suggests, there’s nothing overly polished about this look but at the same time it involves a certain amount of skill and planning to avoid a result that feels sloppy and undecided. Here’s how to tackle shabby, and make sure you keep the chic part of the deal.


A dream state: Whites, creams and pastels

Shabby chic décor should take on an ethereal quality, where floating linen curtains meet cream walls, and – this is important – pastel shades of pinks, blues and lilacs. There’s no place for the bright and the bold when it comes to getting this look right, which relies on the absence of colour as opposed to the presence of it. Think washed out hues as opposed to garish splashes, opting for a soft white colour scheme that feels light and pretty.

Mix it up: Avoid the perfect match

A tall chest of drawers next to a miraculously tiny cabinet, which happens to reside beside a gigantic set of standalone candlesticks? In any other design scheme, this may feel a little too ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but in the world of shabby chic, mismatched furniture works perfectly. Achieve the laid-back glamour of an old country house by throwing together giant ornate pieces with intricate corner tables and delicate flower arrangements.


In with the old: Upcycling furniture

You’ve probably heard of upcycling – let’s face it, who hasn’t had a trendy cousin or friend telling them about the ragged old wardrobe they rectified, somewhat miraculously, into a divine work of art? It may all sound a bit trite and hipster-ish, possibly even downright irritating, but trust us – upcycling has become a fad for a reason. And it’s an essential element of shabby chic. In fact, there’s nothing quite as effortlessly chic as distressed wood. Taking an indistinguishable piece of furniture from the attic and turning it into a stunning dressing table that could have stepped straight out of the 1920’s is the perfect way to get ‘the look’. There are plenty of tutorials on line on how to paint wood in a ‘shabby chic’ way, and the best bit is that the ‘shabby’ element tends to mean it’s doable even for the most amateur of painters.



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