DIY Shabby Chic Interior Décor Ideas

DIY Shabby Chic Interior Décor Ideas

Light and pretty. Slight distressed. A treasure found in something old. Interior design accommodates many tastes and styles, but not one is as eclectic and charming as shabby chic interior decorating — combining the new and old with a touch of grace and lightness. Chic means stylish, elegant and fashionable. Shabby means tattered and untidy. When you combine the two in shabby chic interior design, the result is a timeworn look with a romantic, soft appeal.

Let’s take a tour of all that encompasses shabby chic decorating, looking at its origin, the best examples and some DIY shabby chic interior décor ideas for your favorite rooms of the house.

shabby chic tattered look

Origins of Shabby Chic Interior Design

British designer Rachel Ashwell used the term “shabby chic” to describe her style when she came to America in the early eighties. In the late seventies, new paints and paint effects gained popularity in Britain. Ashwell brought the trend to the states, trademarked the name in 1989 and used it as her business name.

The shabby chic trend was particularly popular in LA, San Francisco and the West Coast during this time, when Mediterranean styles from Italy and France influenced interior designers. They borrowed ideas from upscale French country living and the style antiques of Louis XIV.

Within the last decade, there’s been a renewed interested in vintage designs. Shabby chic has found its way into many contemporary homes. Luckily, because shabby chic is based on a worn condition, it’s rather simple to find and make appropriate furniture and décor for your space. DIY shabby chic isn’t difficult or impossible — it simply takes a little knowledge on the subject.

The following are characteristics of shabby chic home decorating:

  • White paint. All variants of the color white — from bright white to creams — have a place in shabby chic design. You can add a layer of white paint over any surface to create a shabby chic look.
  • Pastel colors. Besides white, romantic pastel colors are preferred, such as pink, yellow and blue.
  • Layered paint. Layered paint creates a worn, distressed look when done appropriately for shabby chic interior design.
  • French country house living. Anything considered rustic French country works well for shabby chic design. Light, flowy draperies, Victoria coffee tables, slip-covered sofas, ornate mirrors, cast iron embellishments, lace doilies and linen-covered bergeres are perfect examples.
  • Simple and uncluttered ambiance. Part of the beauty that comes with a shabby chic design is a soft, unpretentious feel it brings to a space. Keep surfaces free from clutter and aim to keep design elements clean and simple.
  • Balance between old and new. There’s something gorgeously stunning about balancing the worn and weathered with the fresh and firsthand — and that is the essence of shabby chic. Aim to utilize historic and cherished pieces throughout your home, and balance those elements with inspiring, new pieces.
  • Natural textures. Wicker, woven materials, old French linen, flour sack towels, cotton and burlap are all popular in shabby chic design.
  • Unique décor. Chenille bedspreads, pretty chandeliers, roses, pillows made from vintage or vintage-inspired fabrics tie together all the elements of a shabby chic design scheme.


shabby chic interior design

Creating DIY shabby chic elements throughout your home is possible if you know what to purchase. You shouldn’t limit yourself to antique stores, but that’s a great place to start. You can DIY, purchase vintage and buy new furniture and décor to complete your shabby chic interior decorating project.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can incorporate the elements into the most popular rooms of your home.

Shabby Chic Kitchen Decorating

It’s true that your kitchen is likely the most popular room in your home. If you’re incorporating shabby chic design into your home, you can’t neglect the kitchen. Every well-decorated kitchen has a focal point, whether it’s the cabinets, the table, the countertops or a gorgeous hutch or china cabinet. If possible, be sure your kitchen’s focal point uses a shabby chic design, and then work from there.

Here are a few ideas for shabby chic kitchen decorating:

  • Consider distressing your cabinets. The process will be a bit different, depending on whether you’re working with stained cabinets or painted cabinets. Either way, you should remove knobs and handles, sand the cabinets and then vacuum and clean surface.

If working with stained cabinets, use a wire brush to open the wood grain in some areas, so the stain will soak in better. Rub a stain or glaze onto the surface — this color will show through after you distress your cabinets. Apply wax or petroleum jelly to the areas you want to distress, so the stain won’t stick to those sections, and create a weathered look.

Ideally, try to keep those weathered areas random, but still include edges and corners. Apply a few coats of latex or acrylic paint. Once dry, sand again and remove any excess petroleum jelly or wax. You can also use steel wool on those areas to really let the stain show through. Consider using an antiqued glaze or crackle glaze before sealing.

If working from painted cabinets, it’s okay not to sand the surface completely evenly. Let the wood show through in some areas. Finish with a finer sandpaper to blend the edges and add extra texture. Remove any dust and then apply a dark weathering wax to the weathered areas. Finish with a furniture wax to reseal the paint, using a large, short-bristled brush.

Whether working with stained or painted cabinets, wait until the surfaces are dry before adding your hardware. Always remember to use painter’s tape to mask off areas you don’t want to be painted or stained.

If you don’t want to distress your own kitchen cabinets, look for salvaged options.

  • Add a rustic kitchen island. Consider adding a weathered kitchen island and surrounding it with vintage or farmhouse chairs. A shabby chic lighting fixture above the island will stand out and complement the area — perhaps a chandelier or wrought iron lighting option with delicate shades.
  • Purchase vintage linens and china. Vintage linens will accent a shabby chic kitchen. Consider unbleached flour sack towels, bleached flour sack towels and vintage table clothes. Popular shabby chic kitchen linen colors are in the rose, sage, white and beige families.

China can add a personalized element to your kitchen space, especially if it’s a family heirloom. You can use it as a display or decoration if you don’t want to use it as part of your everyday dinnerware.

  • Use open shelves and cabinets for display. You have plenty of options to choose from for shelving in a shabby chic kitchen. Consider restaurant-supply style shelves and other open-style shelving and cabinet options to display vintage collections and other unique kitchen décor items.
  • Opt for wood. Wood is a primary element used in many shabby chic rooms, and it works particularly well in shabby chic kitchens. Always consider wood first when looking for a kitchen table or even consider repurposed wood for your countertops. Consider unique wooden signs and decorations for added detail.

Shabby Chic Bedroom Decorating

When done well, shabby chic radiates feelings of relaxation and comfort, making it the perfect design choice for bedrooms. Delicate fabrics, cushiony pillows, old-fashioned patterns and romantic details will fill your bedroom space with a peaceful, calming vibe. Consider the following ideas for shabby chic bedroom decorating:

  • Choose the right colors. Shabby chic revolves around lighter color combinations, but white isn’t always best for optimal sleep. Blue, yellow, green, silver and orange promote a healthy night’s rest, so try to balance a sleep-friendly color with shabby chic pastels and creams.
  • Remember that everything should not match. Avoid buying a bedroom suite with a headboard completely matching the nightstands and the dresser. Shabby chic embraces complementing elements, not elements that match completely. Consider complementing colors like sage and rose instead of keeping everything a single color family. For furniture, an old armoire can be a gorgeous focal point of the room as long as it’s paired with other complementing furniture, such as an antique night stand or vanity.
  • Refinish or paint old furniture. Sand the furniture, so it will accept the paint or finish. Wash the surface well using an ammonia and water mixture, making sure to remove any dust, dirt or debris and allow it to dry. If the piece isn’t very distressed, consider hitting it with a hammer or chains to add dents and scratches to the surface. You can also use a drill to add wormholes to the surface.

Wipe the surface again with the ammonia and water mixture and allow it to dry before adding paint or finish. Remember that shabby chic furniture is often white, but you can always add an undercoat, sanding it appropriately to show through the white. Layered paints are the essence of shabby chic! Crackle finish paint works extremely well for shabby chic — the more crackle you add, the more undercoat color will show through. Use a fine-grain sand paper to sand the corners, edges and around any ornate details.

Also, consider other paint options, such as a patina solution found at craft stores to create a distressed metal finish.

  • Accessorize appropriately. The best shabby chic accessories for the bedroom highlight the dichotomy of metal and soft finishes. Consider antique silver picture frames and soft-fabric pillows. Pair lace doilies with metal decorations or ruffled pillows on top of a wooden storage bench.
  • Consider a chandelier. Nothing screams shabby chic like the perfect bedroom chandelier. Choose one with fabric light shades made from chintz, gingham, lace or faded patterns — preferably pastels or florals. Metal and wooden chandeliers work well, as long as you complement them with softer designs throughout your bedroom space.

shabby chic bedroom deignShabby Chic Bathroom Decorating

Shabby chic bathroom designs are fun and fairly straightforward. The look is laidback, so you don’t have to stress too much about finding the perfect shower curtain or accents. You have plenty of room to add your own unique design spin to a shabby chic bathroom, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Incorporate Victorian elements. Shabby chic bathrooms often use romantic designs, details and furniture from the Victorian era. Consider a claw-footed bathtub, a repurposed sink on top of an old dresser, or an old desk or shelving for storage.
  • Combine a mix of wood and metal. Shabby chic bathroom decorating usually includes a mixture of woods and metals. Consider metal bathroom fixtures paired with wooden furniture or wrought iron shelf brackets with a wooden shelf.
  • Consider white. White is one of the staples of shabby chic, and it’s especially clean and refreshing in the bathroom space. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades of whites and creams, and then balance that palate with complementing hues in pastels, such as lavender, sage or rose. Almost any color can work, especially when you consider that some of your accents will be metals. Aim to keep things light and flowy, but don’t be afraid of a few darker colors or accents. After all, shabby chic is all about striking the right balance.
  • Add flour sack towels. Adding flour sack towels will finish off any shabby chic bathroom space. We especially love old, distressed hooks on the wall beside the sink, complete with flour sack towels to dry hands after washing. Flour sack towels will give the space the vintage touch you’re seeking, while also utilizing an efficient, eco-friendly material for hand drying.

Shabby Chic Living Room Decorating

Shabby chic living rooms encompass everything that is both rustic and charming. They’re everything romantic, feminine, comfortable and clean. Consider the following tips for shabby chic living room decorating:

  • Start with a classic sofa. Every living room needs a couch, and a shabby chic living room requires a unique couch selection. There are many options that can work, but consider an upholstered option with soft edges or removable cushions. Add shabby chic pillows, such as options with lace, ruffle and vintage fabrics.
  • Choose the right fabrics and colors. Adhere to a pastel color scheme with whites and neutrals, and consider vintage lace, soft floral needlepoint, worn Oriental rugs or gentle silk and linen.
  • Use the right window coverings. Layers of lace work extremely well in a shabby chic living room, and they are popular, but you can opt for other options such as soft manufactured blinds or shades. Keep the room light by adding soft swag valances or sheer flowy curtains.
  • Complement your living room with the right accessories. Highlight your living room with unique or antique artwork, detailed mirrors, metal shelves, metal frames or anything that complements the color and design of the space. Your living room accessories are like the jewelry you add to complete an outfit. Make sure they fit the space and highlight everything special about your living room.


shabby chic cotton creationsAvoid Common Shabby Chic Faux Pas

When incorporating shabby chic interior décor ideas into your home, be careful not to get sloppy. Shabby chic relies on worn, rustic and distressed pieces, but there must be balance and order. If everything you include in your design landscape is tattered and old, it will look undone and clumsy. The trick is to effectively balance the old with the new. For example, if you use classic shabby chic furniture, opt for new and more formal rugs, drapes and pillows.

It’s also easy for a shabby chic room to appear cheaply designed, as if the decorator visited a consignment or antique shop and came home with a room full of mismatched furniture and décor. Again, balance is key. As you shop for pieces, don’t limit yourself to only old or new. Look for a mixture of both and locate the gems among previously loved furniture, fabrics and home décor. Choose an old piece for its beautiful detail or sturdy build, and then find a unique way to make it fit into your space.

Consider Cotton Creations

The team at Cotton Creations understands the essence of everything that is shabby chic. We offer a diverse variety of flour sack towels, which you can use to accent shabby chic home decorating. Flour sack towels have been a staple in homes for generations, and we’re proud to offer them to you in dish towel form. Our vintage towels are pre-washed, 100% cotton and lint-free. Browse our site for various sizes of the following flour sack towels:

Remember that shabby chic is all about complementing details and balancing the old with the new. Whether you’re only beginning your design journey into shabby chic or you’re ready to add the final finishing touches, remember that the little details are equally as important as your focal points. Add the perfect ruffle throw pillow or flour sack towel to a small space in your shabby chic room and complete the look!

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