The “Shabby Chic” Look

I’ve been reading about “Shabby Chic” furniture because I see so many second-items labelled this way.

Wikipedia describes it like this…

“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. At the same time, a soft, opulent, yet cottage-style decor, often with an affected feel is emphasised to differentiate it from genuine period decor.”

“Shabby chic items are often heavily painted through the years, with many layers showing through obviously time-worn areas. The style is imitated in faux painting using glaze or by painting then rubbing and sanding away the top coat to show the wood or base coats, known as “distressing” the finish of the furniture. Furniture pieces that are not genuine antiques are usually selected for their resemblance to older furniture styles, and may be reproduction furniture with a distressed finish.”

“Besides white, the Shabby Chic style also includes soft neutral colors such as sky blue, rose pink and beige tones.”

The big name in Shabby Chic on this continent is Rachel Ashwell, who opened stores in the United States in the 1980s full of vintage, worn, pastel furniture and their associated wares, maintaining the traditional style of the name and a very distinctive look. Her Couture web site has some remarkably expensive items – thousands of dollars for small bureaus, etc.

I envision furniture that’s white or cream or pastel in colour and accessorized with lots of embellishments and soft fabrics in the same tones.

However, when I look locally at items declared to be “shabby chic”, they are mostly painted in pretty colours, neutral or bold, and then distressed, though often not particularly well. My impression is that the term represents a catch-all phrase for looking worn but cutesy. It’s not my style and certainly not what I’ll be producing, though I might give it a whirl now and then.


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