Interior Design and You: Shabby Chic | Blog Post #28

Today, we explore the inspirations and fruition of plunging into a shabby chic interior design style. From our earlier post on minimalism, we delved into the design’s roots as a movement of resistance against grandeur or excess – a physical manifestation of a state of mind. In much the same way, the shabby chic interior design style is a physical representation of the designer’s desire for ornamentation and creative expression; often combining elements of vintage design and craft, the shabby chic style has enormous room for personal interpretation.

Shabby Chic and Art

While it doesn’t have the lofty origins of minimalism or modernism, shabby chic is the product of a culture that embraces creativity on a personal scale and encourages growth through introspection. The two biggest online presences that can symbolise the spirit of shabby chic are Pinterest and Etsy.

Why Should Pinterest and Etsy Matter to Me?

Pinterest and Etsy are good representations of the core concept of shabby chic. The style demands a strong personal creative direction when implemented in a living space, so that it actually feels like a home instead of a café or a fancy cosmetics store. In contrast, minimalism and modernism come with clearly defined guidelines that are far easier to follow without great creative direction on your part. In short, shabby chic takes constant personal attention to achieve a look you can call home – a challenge homeowners should be aware of before deciding on the style.

Pinterest is the digital equivalent of scrapbooking – when you see elements that speak to you, from artsy photos of flowers in a field to snapshots of popular fashion, you simply pin it to your Pinterest board. The board allows you to share your inspiration with others, as well as derive inspiration from other boards.

Intense hipster alert.

Meanwhile, Etsy is commercialised creative expression on a personal scale. The website allows people to sell the crafts they have made at home – from trinkets like clay earrings to larger crafts like wicker baskets and chairs – thus connecting people with a desire to create and others who enjoy the fruits of such creativity.

Handmade clay earrings by an independent artist on Etsy. (Image © The Pair Palettes)
This drawing captures many key elements of the shabby chic design style.

Shabby Chic and Interior Design

Shabby chic designs make use of three key elements: pale or pastel colours, painted or distressed furnishings, and a light-coloured floor. Curtain drapes or sofa fabric also often have floral prints and distinctly vintage décor. The end-result is a house with a DIY feel that is soft and cosy.

The shabby chic style emphasises the feel of DIY and homeliness. (Image © Jody LaGreca)

Living Room

Picture the sitting room of a favourite grandmother or aunt – one with the warm fragrance of cinnamon and assorted spices, the smell of baking cookies, and maybe the light aroma of fresh-cut flowers. This safe space, full of familiar smells, is awash in the comfortable glow of midday sunlight streaming through pale translucent drapes. The sunlight strikes the off-white wooden frames of family photographs resting on a dresser in the corner of the room – everybody’s smiling on warm and happy days spent together. A vase full of hydrangeas from the morning market stands on the rough wooden surface of the coffee table, individual grains illuminated by the sunlight.

The love of family and happy memories, you’ll have to make yourselves. But for the rest, it’s simply a matter of the same key elements combining and complementing one another. Start with a light-coloured floor. While a pickled hardwood floor is the most faithful to the concept, homeowners wary of the maintenance of wooden floors may choose to go with a wood-print laminate or an epoxy floor.

This living room contains an abundance of vintage furniture and may even cross over into the antique interior design style. (Image © Closewithcindy/Pixabay)

With the next few guidelines, bear in mind the key element of pale or pastel colours. A large carpet with floral prints can sit beneath the centrepiece of your room. This centrepiece may be a wooden coffee table appropriate to the size of your living room, surrounded by fabric sofas and comfortable throw cushions, or vintage leather sofas.

The décor on the fringes of the room can range from pale-coloured art like framed watercolours and vintage lamps perhaps decorated with birds or flowers on the lampshades. Decorative curtains and drapes should strive to be lacy and light, while heavier ones need simply be in pastel colours. Ceiling fan and lights fit perfectly, but avoid ones that look too modern or straight-edged.

Decorative items can include French curios like these.


The shabby chic living room should seek to emulate the décor and floors of the living room. Feel free to include a copious number of drawers and wardrobes – wooden and vintage, for sure – and one or two framed paintings. Bedside tables are a plus, as are bedside lamps with cute lampshades. Your floor should still strive to be a pale-coloured version of any original, while fringe furnishing can include vintage leather ottomans or dresser stools.

While not a bedroom, this darker-themed shabby chic living room can be used for inspiration for a more restful bedroom setting. (Image © Tammy Manet/Flickr)


This is where things may get a little dicey. Shabby chic concepts, by default, have many elements of wood. The bathroom is often wet and humid, and terrible for most wooden furnishings like counters or dressers. For smaller bathrooms, we recommend using a glass partition for your shower or bath area to ensure everywhere else remains relatively dry. While glass is not a particularly shabby chic thing, it’ll keep your wooden furniture mould-free and happy.

Besides striving for the same ambience as the living room, you may wish to include details such as small hanging wooden shelves for décor such as candles or crafts. Avoid overtly modern countertops but opt for a waterproof flooring like epoxy.


A shabby chic kitchen is where the most compromise will take place. With modern kitchen accessories like microwave ovens and robotic washing machines, it can be hard to maintain a purely rustic aesthetic. You should keep modern alternatives like epoxy countertops or acrylic backsplashes for practical purposes, but you’ve free reign to shabby-chic furniture such as cupboards, drawers, and kitchen stools. Go with a distressed-look for such wooden furniture. Bigger kitchens may also benefit from high shelves for décor such as jars of spices or wicker items, as well as a small wooden dining table and chairs.

Note the distressed wood on the cupboards and their vintage carving and handles. (Image © Sündenherz/Flickr)

Home Is Where The Heart Is

There is a lot of room for interpretation in a shabby chic styled home. To make a home that is truly yours, explore your options for furnishing and décor, whether at a flea market and antique store or online at Etsy and Pinterest. The more awareness you have of your options, the better you can express yourself with your brand of shabby chic.

If you like today’s post, be sure to stay tuned for next week’s one on Bohemian themed homes!