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Creating Shabby Chic Furniture on the Cheap

Updated on February 4, 2013

Spend little to create expensive looking shabby chic furniture

My wife is a genius creating stunning furniture from pieces that she obtains for virtually nothing by people trying to rid themselves of something they consider junk.

She peruses the various local newspapers and Craigslist for old or unused furniture that she can buy cheap and create a wonderful so-called shabby chic piece. She has even redecorated our cabinets in the house by repainting them and giving them a much desired distressed look.

Each piece shown in this lens is furniture that my wife has obtained, sanded and repainted. It is astonishing how many people are getting rid of pieces of furniture for cheap and all that is needed is to update the color to give them a more appealing look.

If she finds a cheap shabby chic furniture that she feels that she can make some money re-selling, then she will try that as well. There is only so much room in our house for furniture but she really enjoys working with the pieces. It has become her hobby and one that I can help her with particularly if we have to go pick up large pieces like our current dining room table.

Photo credit: Me. These are my photos of our shabby chic furniture.

Shabby Chic Dining Room Table

Shabby Chic Dining Room Table
Shabby Chic Dining Room Table

It never ceases to amaze me the treasures you can find on Craigslist, thrift stores or garage sales. One thing to consider when buying pieces this way is to be flexible and imagine what it "could' be, not necessarily what it is when you first find it. Look for deals, obviously. Look at how the piece is put together. Is it real wood or particle board?We've found that you can get some really great, well-made, older pieces of solid wood furniture that will last a long time and have character, but just need a little tlc.

The dining table we ended up with is ridiculously heavy. When we bought it off of CL, it was white with streaks of green. Not my style, finish-wise, but a good, solid table with interesting features. There were no chairs with the table, so we started my search online with Craigslist. We saw a table and 4 chairs for $50. The table wasn't very big and there wasn't anything special about it, but we were having a garage sale soon and thought we could recoup a few dollars by selling the table and keeping the chairs. The seller of the chairs just really needed the room in her little shop. She was using the table to showcase some plates, and wanted to sell the chairs, so she offered the 4 chairs to me for just $20. What a deal. They had an old cream colored fabric on the seats and a wood stain on the wood.We sanded and primed the wood, then painted it white and dry brushed grey to give it an aged look. Recovering the seats was as easy as unscrewing the seat itself, removing the fabric and stapling new fabric and screwing it back into the seat frame.

These were some of the first pieces of furniture we've refinished.We went through the whole process of cleaning the wood, sanding it down and putting on a coat of primer, then painting.We've since found the most fantastic paint ever invented that requires no sanding or preparation whatsoever. Re-finishing found furniture became a whole lot more quick and enjoyable with the new line of paint from England called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Read all about it below.

Photo credit: Chris Morris

Shabby Chic End Table

Shabby Chic End Table
Shabby Chic End Table

I were very excited about this Craigslist apothecary-type table. Try to look for unusual or unique pieces to refinish. The former owner has several antique/what-not-shops and just needed some space, so decided to sell a few pieces online.

Not knowing exactly what to do with the piece, but knowing the living room would soon be painted some shade of grey, I decided to be creative with the re-styling of this piece.

Annie Sloan Chalkpaint was used on the table. It requires no preparation, other than just making sure it's a clean surface. I had three cans of her paint- grey, old white and granite(black). I used several little plastic containers to make different shades of grey, graduating the color and painting the drawers in a graduated manner. I wanted something a little extra special about the piece and decided to paint the insides of the drawers with a pop of peacock blue. I used a small bottle of Martha Stewart flat craft paint for the insides of the drawers.

The pulls on the drawers are very small. They are white porcelain, nothing too memorable, but it was difficult to find something that small to replace them with. Wandering through the craft store I came across some little metal discs that I thought I'd thread behind the pull to add a bit of interest. I'm not sure exactly what they were meant to be used for, but they fit this piece perfectly. Now we have a very unique, one of a kind, hand painted end table.

Photo Credit: Chris Morris

Before Photo of End Table Before Shabby Chic Treatment

Before photo of end table
Before photo of end table

A nice piece of furniture but extremely boring. See above for what you can do with a little paint and distressing.

Photo Credit: Chris Morris

Drawer of End Table

Inside of end table drawer
Inside of end table drawer

Give the inside of drawer a pop of color.

Photo Credit: Chris Morris

Shabby Chic Paint Supplies

Shabby Chic Paint
Shabby Chic Paint

In my humble opinion, this is the most fantastic paint that has ever been created. I knew I wanted a unique finish on the furniture I was repainting. I wanted to do milk painting but the effort and expense seemed EXTREME for one table

Then I discovered Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. It's just making its way to the US market and can be found in many US cities. Stores that carry the line are called "colorists". This paint comes in only quart sizes cans and about 20+ colors, with more colors being released all the time. Although it is slightly more expensive than regular paint, it is worth it.

There is no sanding or priming required other than making sure the surface to be painted is clean.The paint is easy to work with and a little goes a long way. The colors can be easily combined to create an endless array of colors. The paint dries very quickly.

If you want a distressed look then paint the furniture, apply a coat of Annie Sloan clear wax, distress wherever you'd like with sandpaper, then finish with a coat of clear wax, allowing it to dry overnight. If you like a more polished, shiny look, simply buff the piece 24 hours after waxing. The finish is smooth and very durable.

You can paint pottery, glass, metal, walls...really the possibilities are endless. And happily there is no fumes so you can work inside without stinking up the house.

Photo Credit: Chris Morris

Do you like shabby chic furniture?

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      What a great way to save money and come up with something new.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      I love shabby chic! You've done a beautiful job with the furniture. The end table is my favorite. Awesome! I've featured this on my Romantic Cottage Bedroom Ideas lens.

    • profile image

      kelli320 4 years ago

      Fantastic! What a great way to repurpose and recycle. It's probably better made than furniture now days anyway.

    • nickybutler profile image

      nickybutler 5 years ago

      The end table is fabulous! I'm a fan of creating shabby chic furniture myself... good lens!

    • elliot-small profile image

      elliot-small 5 years ago

      Its ALL about Annie Sloan!!!! I do a fair few bits my self, would be great if you could stop by my page so we can share tips etc. have a look at some of my work on

      I mainly import from France right now and paint up louis XV style furniture from 50's and am loving it!!!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Yes, I do. A lot of my own furniture is kind of accidentally "shabby chic" you might say. :) I really like the bright colour inside the drawers of that slick little table - great idea!

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      I do. I used to work for a resale store in a University area. Students would buy "distressed" furniture cheaply from us, repaint it and then sell it back to us in the Summer as they were going on break for more than they paid for it because of their "upgrades' to it. We'd turn around and sell it for even more to urbanites in the same local area who loved the look.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I've taken some old cast offs that I found at various sales and did some similar finishes on them. It is amazing how awesome something can look with a little time and care. :)

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 5 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Very fun and very nice work! I love shabby chic though I don't have the patience to do much with it myself. Thanks for sharing!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      I love to do projects like these at The Micro Farm. Your apothecary table turned out beautiful!

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      When it is done well like the ones in your photos.

    • WhyCleanCounts profile image

      WhyCleanCounts 5 years ago

      I love your projects! Thanks for sharing!

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 5 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Some shabby chic I like, some I think just looks like trash. Guess it depends on just how shabby it is to me.