Shabby chic ideas for furniture

Updated July 20, 2017

Shabby chic is a comfortable, casual look employing pastel colour schemes and vintage accents and accessories. Rachel Ashwell first coined the term "shabby chic" in the late 1980s to describe her technique for renovating furniture found at flea markets and garage sales. To create the shabby chic look, old furniture is stripped, painted white and upholstered with worn slip covers and other accessories.

Soft Colors and Prints

Floral prints and delicate colours like pastels define shabby chic, sometimes called cottage chic, rather than bold and vibrant colours. The shabby chic palette favours pale pinks, muted or light greys, faded greens and soft whites.


If your furniture looks old, it will work with the shabby chic style perfectly. Shabby chic designers like Rachel Ashwell shop for furniture at garage sale, flea markets and even thrift stores. As long as a piece is made of wood, it will fit the decor with a few minor changes. Just spray paint the entire piece white, and then rub the corners with sand paper to give it a worn look. Cast iron furniture is also appropriate for the shabby chic look. Don't worry if there are rust stains on the piece. Simply sand the areas and apply about two coats of clear, non-glossy varnish.

Vintage Fabric and Patterns

To upholster furniture for the shabby chic look, shop for vintage fabric or create some yourself. Typical shabby chic patterns include stripes, flowers and checkered prints, which create an inviting feel in the home or room. You can make vintage fabric look even older by tea staining it. Use a small piece of the fabric you found or purchased as the test piece. Soak the fabric in the brew from several tea bags until it is the desired shade. This process may take several tries; it is important you determine the perfect shade you want for the look. Don't worry if the fabric gets wrinkled. That will just add more shabby chic character.

Think Outside the Box

Use furniture and other items for purposes other than what they were intended. Use a side chair as a table to hold a vase of wild flowers or stack wooden boxes in the corner of the room to hold books, knick-knacks or other little trinkets.

While tea staining can give an antique look, make quilts look worn by washing and drying them a few times.

Create a shabby chic look outside the home by placing a bed frame in the garden as a flower bed.

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About the Author

Celeste Whitehead began writing in 2007, ghostwriting for local businesses. Her work now appears on Web sites such as eHow. Whitehead has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of South Florida..