The Meaning of Shabby Chic

A beautiful grouping for a Shabby Chic look

Beautiful and eclectic groupings can make a beautiful shabby chic statement in your home. The meaning of Shabby Chic can mean different things to different interior decorators.
Beautiful and eclectic groupings can make a beautiful shabby chic statement in your home. The meaning of Shabby Chic can mean different things to different interior decorators. | Source

The shabby chic decorating style

Shabby Chic is an interior decorating style term that was coined in the 1980s. The term shabby chic was first introduced in The World of Interiors magazine and became very popular in the 1990s when the style gained popularity with it's eclectic use of decorating styles with paints and effects.

The meaning of shabby chic can cover a broad range of colors and patterns but most notable are the style use of distressed and worn painted furniture, and the use of cozy and usually light colors and pastels. The color white is very popular with the look and some rooms are done entirely in different hues of white. Some shabby chic interiors are achieved by taking new furniture and painting them, then "distressing" them to look "old and worn". Distressing is a method of painting furniture that artists and decorators use.

This is one of my favorite shabby chic comforters. It moves around the house to be a blanket for dogs, kids or whoever needs it.
This is one of my favorite shabby chic comforters. It moves around the house to be a blanket for dogs, kids or whoever needs it. | Source

Decorating a relaxing room

As an artist, the shabby chic style of decorating appeals to me immensely because of it's worn, eclectic, creative and inviting feel. It's a style that's meant to be "lived in" with dogs relaxing, children playing and adults getting cozy in a warm and comfortable chair, without worrying about "wrecking the furniture". Shabby means well...just that! Shabby and elegant enough to be pleasing to the eye but not intimidating. Guests and family members especially love this style. An added bonus is that if there are some bruises and bumps made to the furniture, then it just adds more character to the piece!

I recently rescued a well worn provincial white dresser from the side of the road and plan to give it a nice little shabby chic makeover. Although it would fit in my interior just fine as is, I plan to add some more "age" to it by adding even more layers of paint, then sanding down parts of the wood to give it that beautiful and old well worn look. I may even paint it a shade of turquoise.

That's one of the beauties of this style: it's also eco-friendly because you can save old pieces of furniture that may have otherwise ended up in the dumps. The colors in shabby tend to be light and airy, with an emphasis on pattern, mismatched items, pastels and age. I have adapted my own style which I call "French Country Shabby Chic", which is a combination of old world french influences mixed in with lighter airier pieces.

Shabby chic also tends to mix and match many patterns together, like stripes and even floral patterns, to achieve a harmonious but charming look. Groupings of old photo frames, faded sliver pieces and antiques make this a timeless style. Decorating with shabby is also fun because pieces can be moved around to change things up occasionally, or new pieces can be added without disrupting the look of a whole room. This is a perfect style for collectors and those that love to frequent garage sales and thrive on finding new pieces of "treasure" (like me!)

The origins and history of shabby chic decorating

Although the term shabby chic was introduced in the 1980s, it was in the 1990s that the style really began to gain momentum, especially in the U.S.. The style was modeled after the soft yet opulent and elegant d├ęcor that was found in many of Great Britain's older country homes.

Well worn items are trademarks of shabby chic, along with an emphasis more on style rather than fashion. Quality as opposed to newness is another thing that sets shabby chic apart from other decorating styles. Another close cousin of shabby chic is "country cottage", which also has many similar influences as shabby chic.

Although shabby chic decorating continues to evolve, it's meaning will still be that of a design that means well worn, elegant, comfortable, eclectic and beautiful. And for creative people and those that love comfort and style, the shabby chic style is a perfect one to adopt because the possibilities are endless, Not too shabby, huh?

Shabby chic can be used outdoors too

This is the porch of my last home that was decorated in shabby chic style. The chair was worn wicker with a mismatched pillow and an old vintage angel table. It was so cozy!
This is the porch of my last home that was decorated in shabby chic style. The chair was worn wicker with a mismatched pillow and an old vintage angel table. It was so cozy! | Source
Photo with permission to copy,transfer and modify. Here are some ideas for color combinations when decorating in the shabby chic style.
Photo with permission to copy,transfer and modify. Here are some ideas for color combinations when decorating in the shabby chic style. | Source

Mismatched decor is beautiful

Groupings of antiques, silver, frames and eclectic items are hallmarks of the shabby chic style.
Groupings of antiques, silver, frames and eclectic items are hallmarks of the shabby chic style. | Source

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Comments 11 comments

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Hi Dorsi, I like this page! With the link to your Artistic Things page on pinterest there are so many awesome images and decorating ideas. Thanks for sharing. Regards, snakeslane


M K Paul profile image

M K Paul 4 years ago from India

very nice hub


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Very good, love the last photo!


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 4 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

The closest I got so being shabby chic is in digital scrapbooking. I just love shabby chic! It has its own personality, signature. It is unique and timeless at the same time. If somebody would teach me how to dress shabby chic, I might also give it a try. Voting your hub up, interesting and beautiful!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

Hi Dorsi - what a cool article and lovely photos. I love anything distressed as it never has to look "perfect" and that is the way to go when you have dogs and kids and "life" happening. Well done and perfectly laid out.


Heather63 profile image

Heather63 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

Hey Dorsi - terrific info. I live in an Arts & Crafts era home, and would love to decorate it that way. But like you I want to have that "lived in" feel so I can relax! Great photos.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@snakeslane) Thanks and I'm glad you liked my artistic Pinterest board - it's definitely one of my favorite things to look at!

@MK) Thank-you.

@Jackie) Thanks - it is so pretty - I agree!!

@kerlyn) I used to know someone who dressed shabby chic and also dressed her daughters that way too. They were so beautiful!

@akirchner) I so agree. I'd much rather let "life happen" then worry about tears in the furniture or scrapes on the furniture!

@Heather) Thanks and yes, I just love the lived in feel of shabby.


Helena Ricketts profile image

Helena Ricketts 4 years ago from Indiana

I was wondering what shabby chic really meant. Great hub! There's a lot of useful information here.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

Thanks Helena - yes, it's kinda "shabby" yet "chic" at the same time lol. Thanks for coming by!


Vega Vallari profile image

Vega Vallari 4 years ago from Saint Petersburg, Florida

Very informative hub! I always wondered what it was exactly!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 4 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Vega) I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

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