20 June 2013

Shabby Chic -- a history of style and decor

The term “Shabby Chic” was initially coined by The World Of Interiors magazine back in the 1980s, but first became really popular in The US in the 1990s, when there was a surge in decorating styles, especially in cultural metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Furniture that takes on the description of shabby chic is usually designed to feel like it has been through the ages, and been painted and repainted to give it a natural layered look. Often an item will be painted, before having parts of it rubbed or sanded away to display the underlying wood or base coats. This process is known as “distressing” a piece of furniture’s finish.


There are multiple opinions on what shabby chic items should really be in the furniture world. Some purists believe that real shabby chic items should be naturally old pieces of furniture that have been handed down from person to person, and can often be found in auctions or car boot sales. In the world of shabby chic, a scratch or imperfection on a chair or table is seen as something of a bonus instead of a problem that needs to be repaired.


A great example of how shabby chic’s popularity grew in the late 90s onwards, is when it became the main focus of a famous episode of Friends called “The One With The Apothecary Table” which originally aired in 2000. The storyline of the episode surrounds Rachel attempting to imitate the shabby style décor look in her flat by visiting Pottery Barn and purchasing a couple of items of furniture. Her housemate Phoebe detests the idea of the store so Rachel lies and tells her she just picked the furniture up from a flea market. Phoebe eventually finds out the items are new and goes on to fall in love with more furniture at Pottery Barn. This episode nicely demonstrates the irony of the shabby chic design philosophy – even though shabby chic furniture looks old and unique, it can still be mass produced.


Shabby chic can be wonderful for those on a budget, as well as for those who have young children or animals, who may not be as kind to your furniture as you would hope. You can beautifully imitate a rustic country home feel and give your interior décor an antique and vintage feel. You can find lots of shabby chic items at flea markets and also online. In fact, there are some gorgeous shabby chic inspired furniture and home accessories from Sylvester Oxford.

2 comments:

  1. Great post. I don't know about World of Interiors magazine but "Shabby Chic" was a trademark brand invented by Rachel Ashwell, who opened Shabby Chic home furnishing store in 1989 and authored a book of the same name in 1996. (I know cause I bought it) It's a very warm and forgiving style of decorating and there's nothing wrong with that!

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  2. Leaving Rachel Ashwell out of this write up is absolutely insane! She brought the term to a level unheard of before her and her mark on the entire style is phenomenal.

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