The Ultimate Guide To Shabby Chic Decor

If you love old European and English cottages, shabby chic decor might just be for you. According to Nook & Find, shabby chic decor draws inspiration from Old English and 18th-century European country cottages by combining antique elegance with modern accents. Interior designers achieve this by decorating with elements like subtle patterns, pastel colors, delicate antiques, and weathered wood.

While it was the UK that originally brought shabby chic decor to the world, the trend picked up steam with Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic concept store in California. Ashwell filled her store with flea market furniture and signature slipcovers that embodied comfort, affordability, simplicity, and practicality. After her careful curation gained popularity, interior designers jumped on the bandwagon and kicked off the shabby chic trend that lives on today. Knobbles and Bobbles notes that the term "'shabby chic" was coined in the 1980s by "World of Interiors" magazine. If you are contemplating styling your home with shabby chic decor, here are 14 outstanding tips to inspire whimsical, 18th-century interiors.

Create a delicate and neutral backdrop

According to Homebliss, the most striking aspect of shabby chic decor is the use of bold accent pieces against a neutral backdrop. Therefore, it's best to choose neutral or white tones for your wall color. This will help draw attention to the more striking decor in the room.

According to Nook & Find, soft pastels like lavender, beige, powder blue, and pale pink create a lovely contrast between decorative textures and details. They also add a romantic vibe which is characteristic of shabby chic spaces. However, when choosing your colors, pay attention to existing pieces in the room. If most of your furniture is white and the floor is white, it makes sense to add a pastel hue to the walls. On the other hand, if the majority of furniture features bright colors, white walls can provide an airy feel. You can also opt for floral-patterned wallpaper for your backdrop. Whatever background you settle on should help highlight the other elements in the room.

Vintage furniture is a must

Without vintage furniture, there is no shabby chic decor. Almost all shabby chic interiors incorporate vintage furnishings to some degree. One way to add vintage flair to your space is by searching for authentic antique pieces. While they can be costly, you can typically find some good deals at thrift stores and flea markets. If you don't want to search for secondhand items, distressed, vintage-looking furniture is the best alternative. According to Homedit, these new pieces feature weathered finishes that make them appear aged. The modern techniques used to recreate vintage looks are so sophisticated that it's often difficult to differentiate between true antiques and newer pieces.

However, if you are going for an authentic vintage item, make sure it's sturdy and in good shape. According to Decorilla, settling for furniture with a yielding seat or frame is not ideal because it won't last long. Rips or tatters are fine since they can be repaired with relative ease.

Invoke textures from the Old World

Since shabby chic decor is inspired by 18th-century country cottages, adding Old World textures to your interiors is a great way to nail this style. Items like chunky rugs, lace, and leather all help create a delicate and romantic atmosphere through texture. In particular, lace provides an instant upgrade and softens modern elements like a television or sound system. When carefully done, textures can help you achieve the true essence of shabby chic decor. Focus on vintage color combos like ivory and navy to provide the cozy feel that people often associate with shabby chic interiors.

According to Decorilla, adding 3D floral wallpaper or sheer floral curtains heightens the drama and visual interest in a room. Chinoiserie wallpaper, which typically features romantic florals, butterflies, birds, and other natural elements, is an excellent choice. To get inspired, check out patterns from de Gournay and Gracie.

Focus on the feminine vibe

As reported by Decor Outdoor, the antique and the vintage materials characteristic of shabby chic decor are distinctly feminine. Sweet and nostalgic accessories, pretty pinks, floral wallpapers, and lace all help add a romantic and feminine touch to interior spaces. When decorating with more subdued colors, it's almost impossible to go overboard with feminine pieces. You can easily add a sweet touch to bedposts, clocks, doorknobs, mirrors, lamps, and more. If you are still unsatisfied, a knitted or crocheted blanket and some soft throw pillows are an excellent addition to a bedroom or living room area.

In case you want to incorporate elements that contrast with your feminine decor, The Spruce suggests adding a few industrial touches like galvanized metal stools or tables. Don't forget, it is this delightful and delicate feminine style of the shabby chic decor that results in the aesthetic beauty of the rooms.

Create contrast with white linen

Play with linen to dress up your shabby chic-themed space. According to Decorilla, using a crease-free and crisp fabric-like linen makes a room instantly appear more formal. If you want to add coziness and comfort, consider adding soft linen, cotton, or other organic textures. You can use them for everything from slipcovers and pillows to bedding and curtains. According to Decor Outdoor, natural fabrics infuse a relaxed feeling that increases the sense of calm already provided by the neutral colors. Draping linen fabric over distressed and vintage furniture creates a cool contrast that looks amazing in any room.

If you want to add warmth, add crocheted and knitted fabric. Look for neutral shades and subtle stripes to make furnishings feel more relaxed and inviting. When selecting fabric, look for subtle patterns and flowery motifs to create the romantic and airy atmosphere associated with shabby chic decor.

Elegance and harmony in furniture

Along with classic English cottages, shabby chic decor draws inspiration from decorative features traditionally found in French country homes. According to Decor Aid, one of the most distinct decorations is the cabriole leg seen on tables, chairs, and armoires. If cabriole legs aren't your style, some other vintage French features are carved pilasters, fluted legs, and engraved banisters. These classic designs are a perfect example of the harmonious and elegant lines characteristically seen in shabby chic decor.

When shopping and browsing for pieces online, be on the lookout for furniture with elaborate engraving, curlicues, and spirals. If you are looking for furniture to decorate a bright and open space in your home, opt for decorative designs or the classic woven furniture typically used in a conservatory or sunroom (via Ideal Home). Soft floral fabrics and subtle stripes will ensure your space feels trés chic.

Settle for a farmhouse look

Nothing is more charming than a quaint farmhouse in the countryside. There are plenty of farmhouse elements found in shabby chic decor, such as rustic wood finishes, muted textile prints, and rugged carpets. If you crave a French farmhouse style, distress-painted furniture paired with neutral backdrops is a great way to achieve your design vision. To evoke the French style, add cushions with toile prints and subtle stripes, along with some knitted or crocheted fabric. If you're going for a more traditional farmhouse style, match a beige and cream color palette with soft red linen cushions and upholstery. Natural materials such as linen, cotton, and oak will create a relaxed countryside atmosphere.

And don't forget your floors! According to Ideal Home, if the typical floorboards are not present, you can still get the look by using laminate flooring that mimics the look of real floorboards.

A kiss of nature and some floral accents

At its core, shabby chic decor evokes the spirit of the countryside and images like sweeping grasslands, flowing rivers, and colorful flowerbeds. Naturally, this country cottage style generously incorporates natural elements like cotton and linen for bedding, pillows, and curtains. Floral print wallpapers also add a nice touch, especially classic rose prints. 

You definitely should not shy away from adding some freshly cut flowers to your space. These colorful blooms not only add visual appeal but also help freshen the air. As far as flowers are concerned, go with varieties like lavender, tuberose, jasmine, rose, and orange blossom. All of these will help infuse your interiors with a soothing fragrance. If you love greenery, decorate with indoor ferns and houseplants to liven up the space. According to Decor Aid, natural elements like vine carvings and shells are also excellent decor choices.

A jeweled chandelier and vintage lighting

No shabby chic interior is complete without a romantic lighting source. Filling your space with soft illumination will remind you of simpler times. According to Nook & Find, a French-style, jeweled chandelier is a great option for adding vintage flair to any room. If you want to break away from tradition, look for a glamorous light fixture that falls somewhere between new and old. LED-powered lanterns are always a good idea in shabby chic rooms since they are sweet, versatile, and decorative.

To give your home a cozy and classic feel, focus on warm lighting by choosing the right bulbs (via FluxSmart). While filament bulbs harken back to the good old days, they are rather inefficient. To solve this problem, search for LED bulbs with a classic filament bulb. Low-hanging and enclosed in glass orbs, these vintage-style LED bulbs will elevate your shabby chic space.

Find accessories with rustic charm

To find the perfect shabby chic accessories for your home, comb through flea markets, browse online stores and marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, and visit estate sales. Items like vintage plates, bowls, cups, photo frames, baskets, rustic clocks, and candlesticks will all inject your living space with enviable rustic charm. In the kitchen, show off your vintage dishware collection with open shelving or glass-paneled kitchen cabinets. According to Decor Outdoor, these accessories will make your home feel like a sweet countryside cottage.

However, it's important to decorate your home thoughtfully. Keep in mind that excessive accessorizing can easily lead to your space feeling cluttered. To avoid over-cluttering, it's essential that you designate specific areas in the home for decor items and purchase items with some functional or aesthetic value. Keep the specific color base in mind and use accessories to create a striking contrast.

Welcome in the natural light

Natural light typically floods countryside cottages, making them feel open, airy, and bright. To achieve this sunny atmosphere in your home, let in as much natural light as possible. According to The Finished Space, nothing beats sunlight when it comes to brightening up a room. To welcome more light into your home, you can install a lighter window treatment like sheer curtains. Silk curtains are reminiscent of shabby chic style, plus they are transparent enough to let light inside (via The Spruce). If it's not possible to switch up your curtains, you can strategically use mirrors to bounce sunlight around the room.

One advantage of painting your walls a neutral color is that they reflect more light than darker shades. This makes interiors appear more open and spacious. However, if the walls are decorated with art, photos, or other objects, these may prevent sunlight from filling the room.

Aim for comfort, calm, and elegance

Classic country cottages know a thing or two about comfort. Since shabby chic decor draws inspiration from the countryside, don't compromise comfort when decorating in this style. According to Better Homes and Gardens, a neutral color palette is the first step to making your living space more peaceful. Layering soft accent pieces like rugs, blankets, and pillows is also a good way to create a calming atmosphere. And you certainly can't go wrong with decorating with soothing accessories like candles, oil diffusers, and photos of happy memories.

According to Decor Aid, you can make your living space more comfortable with soft furnishings like upholstered chairs. If you want to pair comfort with luxury, add sumptuous materials like velvet. However, keep in mind that using excessive amounts of velvet can shift the focus away from your neutral backdrop. The key is to mix different types of fabrics together, including distressed materials.

Add a few shiny details, strategically

To capture the sophistication of shabby chic decor, consider adding some shine to your living space. You can decorate with everything from shiny silver tea sets to metallic silver bowls. For a polished look, pair golds with other golds and silvers with other silvers. When you head for the shine, you must accessorize strategically. For instance, you may consider offsetting the extra gloss of an end table by using a vintage table runner. Or perhaps, place it against the backdrop of a weather-beaten brick wall.

When adding shine to your interiors, be careful not to go overboard. According to Elle Decor, just a touch of metallic shine is all it takes to make your home feel more luxurious. When decorating with shiny materials, balance them out with softer textures, keep it classic, and mix up different metals and finishes. It's also best to start small by adding just a few key accessories at first.

Create a calming office space

These days, more people than ever are working from home. According to Kissflow, businesses realize that remote work is becoming the new normal. If you work from home, you can upgrade your home office with shabby chic style. Start by using a floral wallpaper on the walls and adding a few vintage accessories. Let in as much natural light as possible with sheer curtains or bare windows.

When it comes to your desk, select a vintage style with a weathered look or search for a one-of-a-kind antique desk at estate sales and online. A wooden plank desk is a cool way to incorporate shabby chic style into your workspace (via Homedit). If you happen to have some old wood planks lying around, you can even build your own DIY desk if you fancy starting a new project (via CareElite). No matter which desk style you choose, keep it organized and clutter-free by utilizing drawer storage space or decorating with organizers.

Take it outside

If you have a patio or garden, transform your outdoor space with shabby chic charm. If you are unsure where to start, line your garden fence with catmint and roses to add soft pastel hues. According to HGTV, you can repurpose a discarded pedestal sink and convert it into a lovely birdbath. Surround it with shrubs and flowering plants to add a romantic touch. 

Above all, a shabby chic garden should appear rustic and natural with elements like climbing plants, soft lighting, and weathered accessories (via Italian Luxury Asset). When it comes to furniture, consider using wrought iron pieces and distressed wood. Just keep in mind that wooden outdoor furniture requires an extra level of care. It's a good idea to clean them regularly and apply a protective, waterproof coating. If you have enough space, add a few secret corners. Ultimately, taking shabby chic decor to your outside living space opens possibilities for limitless creativity.