Shabby chic decor is romantic, with a vintage feel, and uses either old pieces of furniture or newer pieces painted to look old. This style works well with inexpensive pieces of used furniture as well, making it an affordable decor option. No matter how old your piece of furniture, you can update it with a coat of paint and distress it to give it a well-used, distressed look and feel.
Strip the furniture piece with a chemical paint stripper or with sandpaper. If you use chemical stripper, follow the instructions on the can and wear protective eyewear and clothing. If you use sandpaper, sand with the grain of the wood in small, circular motions. For either method you choose, remove any wax or lacquer clear coat from your piece of furniture. Strip your piece in a well-lit, well-ventilated area. Remove any remaining wax, paint or lacquer with a fine wire brush.
Clean your furniture piece with a soft cloth to remove any excess dust. Vacuum to remove large amounts of dust, especially if you use sandpaper.
Prime furniture pieces that have a dark stain or paint colour, especially if you are painting your furniture a light colour. Priming your furniture seals in the darker colour.
Paint your furniture. Shabby chic decor is most often a series of light-coloured furnishings, and white or off-white is a common choice. Indoor latex paint works best for this project. Paint with a wide brush, following the grain of the wood. Apply a second coat of paint if necessary. Let the paint dry completely.
Distress your painted piece of furniture. Shabby chic decor has a used, lived-in look, and distressing your furniture gives it an old feel. Start by sanding the entire piece with fine-grain sandpaper. To further distress, sand the piece lightly on the corners and edges where it would normally see wear. Take a small hammer and add some dings and dents to your piece.
Add a clear coat of lacquer to your furniture to protect the finish and let dry. Install vintage or vintage-looking knobs or fixtures to finish your shabby chic piece.