How to Refinish Furniture in a Shabby Chic French Style

Updated March 23, 2017

Shabby Chic is an interior design style that combines casual, slightly worn looks with the charm of French country. If you are into the Shabby Chic look, it's easy to see that many of the custom-made items can be very pricey -- especially the furniture. Because most styles of Shabby Chic furniture come from antique and second-hand finds, it is easy to pick up items to refurbish. Use your existing furniture or furniture that needs some TLC in order to achieve the Shabby Chic look you want.

Locate furniture styles for transformation. The Shabby Chic style focuses on furniture with a wood base. Ornate and French-inspired designs that contain scrolled edging, carvings and dainty wooden imprints are suggestive of Shabby Chic design. Couches and chairs that have removable cushions can also be used and later replaced with overstuffed cotton fabric in a pastel or rose-inspired tone. Scour your favourite flea market, second-hand shop or used furniture store for Shabby Chic possibilities.

Clean the surface of the furniture. Wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove excess oils and dirt. Sand rough edges and remove old traces of paint. Repeat a final wipe down before painting.

Apply your choice of paint. The Shabby Chic design palette includes light pinks, pale greens, faint yellows, white, off-white, baby blue and mint green. Some French-inspired Shabby Chic furniture may be bolder and include solid black, red or yellow colour inspiration. Apply paint evenly and allow to dry completely. Repeat with another layer of paint if necessary.

Sand off the edges. Most Shabby Chic designs offer a distressed or weathered look. Do this by lightly sanding the edges, or where the furniture would naturally show wear, allowing white or the natural wood to show through. Wipe with a damp cloth.

Attach Shabby Chic-style accessories. Attach new or used hardware such as glass or beaded knobs, corner moulding, wooden insets, stencils and crystal beading. Mix and match antique metal knobs, if desired. Apply cut-out antique wallpaper designs to shelves and drawer interiors. Add overstuffed striped and flowered pastel pillows and antique linens for French-inspired flair.


Draw inspiration from other Shabby Chic finds. Scour yard sales, antique shops and speciality furniture shops for colours and design ideas.


Always use proper ventilation when painting indoors. Follow safety rules when using power tools or sharp cutting tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Pastel paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Furniture hardware
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author