How to Make Stuff Look Shabby Chic

Updated February 21, 2017

Shabby chic is a contemporary design style that incorporates the use of old or distressed wood furniture and accessories, along with pastel floral fabrics and vintage linens. It is commonly used to create a rustic cottage look that is also elegant. Remaking items in your home or thrift-store finds to a shabby chic style is not difficult. Any wood items throughout your home are candidates to convert to a shabby chic look. Refinishing a wooden picture frame is an example of the process that will help you turn eclectic elements into a cohesive design.

Sand the entire exposed wooden surface of the picture frame with 120-grit sandpaper to remove the sheen. Continue sanding random areas of the frame down to the wood to allow some portions of the frame to look more worn than others. Corners are one area that often have extra wear. These areas will show through the cracked paint treatment.

Brush an even coat of paint crackle onto the picture frame using a paintbrush. Allow the crackle to sit for 10 to 15 minutes or as directed by the instructions.

Paint over the crackle coat with even paintbrush strokes. As you apply the paint, it will begin to crack. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

Seal the paint treatment with a clear wood finish using a paintbrush. Allow the finish to dry 72 hours before handling the frame.


Select white or off-white paint for a shabby chic cottage-style finish on your furniture, woodwork and accessories.


Wear eye protection when sanding wooden surfaces. Apply paint in an adequately ventilated space.

Things You'll Need

  • Old wooden picture frame
  • Sandpaper, 120-grit
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint crackle
  • Paint
  • Clear wood finish
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About the Author

Jonah Morrissey has been writing for print and online publications since 2000. He began his career as a staff reporter/photographer for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. Morrissey specializes in topics related to home-and-garden projects, green living and small business. He graduated from Saint Michael's College, earning a B.A. in political science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.