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Shabby Chic Style – How to Modernize Vintage Finds 

Updated: April 15, 2024
Shabby chic style embraces imperfections and blends vintage with modern distressed furniture. Soft pastel hues, ornate accents, and plenty of texture create a romantic, collected look. Mix period furniture, incorporate antique accessories, add natural elements, and distress finishes. Keep walls and large furniture neutral, then layer in vintage rugs, artwork, and textiles. Flea markets, reclamation yards, and secondhand shops are go-to sources for unique shabby chic finds.
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The shabby chic style is all about embracing imperfections and creating a comfortable, lived-in look in your home. This romantic style features distressed, worn furniture and vintage accessories that look like they’ve been collected over time. It’s the perfect look for those who love antiquing and want to give new life to flea market finds. In this blog post, we’ll explore everything you need to know to create the shabby chic style in your home.

The shabby chic style has become increasingly popular in recent years as an inviting and cozy interior design aesthetic. It celebrates imperfection and cherishes items that show their age and history. While the look is dreamy and feminine, it can also work beautifully in any space when done right. We’ll share tips on how to modernize vintage finds and design a shabby chic interior that looks fresh and current.

What is Shabby Chic Style?

Shabby chic style is all about blending vintage, distressed furniture and accessories to create a comfortable, lived-in look. The style features soft, faded colors like powder blue, pale pink, and creamy whites. Key elements include:

  • Distressed wood furniture with chipped paint or white wash finish
  • Vintage textiles like lace, linen, and floral prints
  • Repurposed flea market finds and antique accessories
  • Soft, cozy textures like cotton, velvet, or wool
  • Pastel color palette with white and cream
  • Romantic and feminine accents like chandeliers, fresh flowers, and canopy beds
  • A relaxed vibe that feels collected over time

The shabby chic look celebrates imperfections like peeling paint, scratches, or stains. It combines elegant, often ornate furniture with more worn and rugged elements. This juxtaposition creates visual interest and depth.

History of Shabby Chic Style

The shabby chic style has its origins in the English cottage look of the 1980s. Rachel Ashwell, an interior designer from California, is credited with popularizing the romantic style. After moving to the US from England, she began selling upcycled antique furniture with a distressed, feminine look.

Ashwell opened her first store, Shabby Chic Couture, in Santa Monica in 1989. She sold refreshed flea market finds along with items like Victorian-style bedding and lace table linens. Her relaxed, vintage aesthetic resonated with consumers, and she expanded her stores nationwide.

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the shabby chic brand grew rapidly. Ashwell authored books, launched product lines, and licensed her name. A Shabby Chic Inn in Santa Monica opened in 2000. Her refreshing spin on antique styling became a major interior design trend.

Many designers today continue to embrace the shabby chic aesthetic. It maintains popularity thanks to the renewed interest in sustainability and recycling vintage home goods. The soft, welcoming look provides a cozy and cheerful backdrop for any home.

Elements of Shabby Chic Style

There are a few key elements that make up the shabby chic look:

  • Distressed Wood Furniture – Weathered, chipped wood with a matte chalk paint or light wash finish
  • Vintage Textiles – Lace, embroidered linens, and florals in muted color palettes
  • Metal and Wood Accessories – Wrought iron, carved wood elements, patina finishes
  • Fresh Flowers – Roses, peonies, and wildflowers provide pops of color
  • Soft Fabrics – Lightweight cottons, velvets, slipcovers in neutral tones
  • Cottage-Inspired Details – Ruffled or pleated lampshades, ceramic knickknacks, embroidered pillows
  • Crystal and Glassware – Cut glass vases, crystal chandeliers, and mirrored trays
  • Ornate Furnishings – Carved wood pieces, tufted chairs, clawfoot tubs
  • Vintage Rugs – Persian carpets, braided rugs, rag rugs with faded patterns
  • Pastel Color Scheme – Soft pinks, blues, mint greens create an airy, ethereal look

Many shabby chic pieces look like flea market finds or items passed down through generations. The worn, collected look is instrumental to the style’s charm and appeal.

How to Achieve the Shabby Chic Look

Here are some tips for designing shabby chic style interiors:

Mix Period Furniture Styles

Combine Victorian-era carved wood pieces with more modern distressed painted furnishings. Varying periods creates depth.

Incorporate Vintage Accessories

Use antique picture frames, mirrors, vases, and other flea market finds throughout your space. Display collections for an eclectic look.

Add Soft Fabrics

Upholstery and drapes in airy cotton, linen, or velvet add coziness. Florals and small print patterns work well.

Use a Neutral Base

Stick to a neutral background of white or cream on the walls and larger furniture pieces. This allows the vintage details to stand out.

Distress Your Furnishings

Give new or thrifted furniture a shabby chic makeover. Sand edges, paint, add hardware for an antiqued look.

Display Natural Elements

Dried botanicals, sea shells, and weathered wood add organic contrast to ornate furnishings. Use symmetrically for balance.

Include Plenty of Texture

Incorporate different wood grains, woven textures, ruffled trims, embroidered accents, and more. Touches of luxury contrast the worn.

Add Architectural Interest

Salvage antique shutters, mantels, molding and more from reclamation yards. Incorporate as shabby chic wall accents.

Use a Light Color Palette

Stick to soft hues like powder blue, pale pink, mint green and of course white. A faded, ethereal look is key.

Rough Up Finishes

Distressing, sanding, or whitewashing new furniture gives it the worn look. Chip paint or rub edges with sandpaper for character.

Best Practices for Shabby Chic Style

Here are some top tips for successfully executing shabby chic style:

  • Search secondhand shops, thrift stores, estate sales for unique vintage finds. The older and more distressed, the better.
  • When distressing furnishings yourself, don’t overdo it. Keep chipped paint and wear looking natural.
  • Mix metals like silver, brass, and iron for depth. Varying patinas add visual interest.
  • Add glass cloche domes and bell jars to display meaningful books, flowers, or decor items.
  • Incorporate ornate mirrors and art with carved, gilt frames to contrast worn textures.
  • For flooring, use vintage rugs, or distressed wood planks. Avoid anything too sleek or modern.
  • Sheer linen or lace drapes diffuse light beautifully and enhance the romantic vibe.
  • Candles and fresh florals instantly add coziness. Use pharmaceutical bottles, mercury glass, or cut crystal as vintage vases.
  • Don’t be afraid to combine patterns and textures. Florals, stripes, embroidery and chintz can live together beautifully. Just stick to a muted color story.
  • Display old books, letters, or framed photos for a collected look. Prop these items on side tables or floating shelves.
  • For walls, use reclaimed wood boards, shiplap or tongue and groove paneling. Or simply whitewash existing paneling for a worn effect.


The shabby chic style allows you to blend beloved antiques and flea market treasures into a relaxed, livable interior. By keeping a light color palette and including plenty of vintage accessories, any space can take on the romantic, collected vibe that defines shabby chic. Be sure to visit InteriorxDesign for more inspiration on infusing vintage charm throughout your home decor. With a little creativity, you can easily give tired finds new life with chipped paint, softened edges, and other easy distressed finishes. Your home will have loads of character that looks perfectly imperfect.


Mr. BS Parasher, Founder @ Interior x Design & UrbanDAC, He is the Top Interior Designer in Gurgaon & India's Premier Home Theater and Home Entertainment Designer, A Hi-end AV Expert with a deep passion, vision and knowledge about Interior Design.