Shabby chic. It just rolls right off the tongue. It immediately feels appealing. But what the heck is it, actually? Besides kind of awesome and decidedly lovely.
Depending on who you ask, shabby chic interior design has its origins a couple of centuries back in both British and French farmhouse styles. But shabby chic as we know it came to prominence and popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, knowing all that doesn’t make it any more or less pretty. But it does tell you there’s some history here.
Today, while offering you some of the reasons we love it (and think you will too), we’ll answer the question of what shabby chic interior design style is. And, of course, ways to incorporate it in your home or office design.
One of the things we here at KOVI love most about shabby chic design is it gives us an excuse to talk about some of our favorite fabrics like cotton, linen (and French linen), chenille, and more. Fabrics whose textures are in and of themselves worth celebrating and that are right at home in this style.
So without further ado, let’s break it down: Shabby. Chic. We’ll talk about what makes it shabby. We’ll talk about what makes it chic. And we’ll talk about the fabrics that help bring it all together, naturally.
An Elegant Upcycling Upside Of Your New Shabby Chic Design Vibe
The “shabby” in shabby chic is a bit tongue and cheek. Because you’re not really aiming to make your space look shabby. Celebrating all things elegant, eclectic, and vintage, however, is 100% what we’re after.
Think of formal sofas or chairs handed down through generations with tufting and exposed ornate wooden frames. The ones that show their age a bit not only by their style but the various dings and blemishes reflective of years and being well-loved.
In shabby chic design, these pieces are upcycled to live a robust new life. (And here we start to hear whispers of the chic to come.) You pick pieces that have an air of antique quality, yes. But you’re not turning your space into an antique shop.
The elegance is reborn for contemporary design through color and textures. Rather than simply restoring and reupholstering a pair of chairs with dark wood frames, the chairs get a shabby chic upgrade. Whitewashing the wood to soften the look and accentuate the grain and the wear while upholstering in a soft pastel tone like mist green chenille.
Other design elements undergo similar transformations and bring in natural textures like reclaimed wood or recycled fixtures and accent pieces. Shabby chic is a bit of a hybrid of boho and farmhouse styles in that way — but with a French (or British) accent.
Think character and texture, and pale and soft. All words you’ll be seeing a lot as we explore shabby chic.
So “shabby” is not about your furniture looking ragtag. It’s about your furniture having character, having a story. And then weaving together an eclectic collection of pieces, each with its own stories, into something new by lightening and softening their look. And voilà, elegance is reborn for the 21st century. Not so shabby, right?
The Put-Together Power That Puts The Chic In Your New Shabby Style
On to the chic. While it’s true that you’ll find similarities between shabby chic, boho chic, and modern farmhouse design styles, there’s no confusing a shabby chic space with either of those. Why?
The whitewashed reimaging of furniture pieces we talked about earlier extends throughout a shabby chic interior. Whether actually white or some other pale, earthy tone like a beige or gray, shabby chic spaces are often positively dressed to the nines in it. Floor to ceiling. The result is almost cinematic. It’s as if some kind of Instagram filter has been applied to the whole scene.
The vibe walks right up to the line of being monochromatic, takes a look at it, and decides instead to lean away from cold and contemporary and into a creative, put-together feminine elegance.
The lightness of the color scheme feels expansive and uplifting. The repurposed use of oddities like antique silverware, jars, chandeliers, and other playful curiosities accentuate the creative air. And the textures of the upholstery ground it all.
You’ll find neatly arranged seating footprints with, perhaps, a sofa once boldly dressed in plaid now slipped neatly into a slipcover in a deliciously white French linen fabric. And slipper chairs in a chenille, adding the palest of pale grays.
It’s the kind of place that makes you smile and settle in, sighing contentedly, while also causing you to sit up just a bit straighter (happily) like it’s time for high tea. Chic, indeed. Heck, even just writing about shabby chic seems to be elevating the elegance of our language today.
Fabrics That Are Naturals At Your Chic And Elegant New Design Style
Against this backdrop, it will likely come as no surprise that shabby chic interiors are the, um, natural habitat for natural textures. This includes things like flowers and other actual bits of nature, alive or dried to antique-y perfection. And—as we’ve already begun to explore—this includes the upholstery fabrics you’ll use.
Linen, chenille, silk, microfiber, and velvet. While not always literally natural fibers, the soft and natural textures they offer and mimic speak fluent shabby chic. Again, we’re creating an airy whitewashed vibe and, in so doing, allowing a menagerie of details and objects to poetically come together that might otherwise compete for attention.
So, yes, with large pieces like a sectional, you’ll stay light and simple. That can be something like light taupe jacquard linen, cream-colored cotton blend, or even an unimposing and refreshing fleur pink French linen.
But that’s not to say you can’t have color. To keep it chic, look for colors that sort of light up a space. Reupholster tufted antique chairs in soft and uplifting Capri teal microfiber. Make a chaise lounge even “loungier” in lovely lilac-colored textured chenille.
Try upholstered dining chairs in ivory and pale green colored fanciful floral fabric. Add a bit of warmth and lightness with tan and light blue sheer curtains. Or add an embroidered floral to add a touch of texture to throw pillows.
It’s about choosing upholstery that offers textures that comfort and allure and colors that cleanse and uplift.
Time To Help Yourself To New Heights Of Eclectic, Creative Design
Put all that together, and you have yourself a new shabby chic style, naturally. The key takeaway is that shabby chic design takes the best of creative, eclectic design, combines it with earthy natural textures, and dips it all in luscious radiant light with whitewashing and the palest of pale tones.
The result is a design style that’s uniquely creative, elegant, and uplifting. And—perhaps most importantly—eminently achievable. So as you start shifting your style shabby, remember we’re here to help with all the upholstery fabrics you could dream of, personalized designer services, and a crack customer service team to help you put the chic in your new shabby.