Relaxed country style for the 21st century paired with an inimitable vintage charm welcome you into the Shabby Chic space. Distressed wood, neutral palettes, antiques, and flea market finds allow you to hold on to a past that's fast slipping through our fingers. Homes filled with character, rooms that seem lived in, and accoutrements that have meaning. These are the essence of the Shabby Chic home. A space that revels in its glorious imperfections, offering glimpses of its residents, their passions, their heritage. With charming stories behind every element of decor, the romance of the Shabby Chic style is undeniable.
Shabby Chic - A Celebration Of Comfortable Vintage Country Style
Handmade, rustic, and artisanal are tenets of the warm and inviting Shabby Chic design vocabulary. Which is why those who favor this adaptation of country style delight in creating endearing, cozy spaces in any context. Even a space in an urban sprawl can be consciously transformed into a place imbued with the warm glow of nostalgia and vintage. An abandoned barn or a church may find a new life as a rustic home that is laced with the softness of French country living.
This laid back almost feminine style finds it roots somewhere in a country cottage of the previous century. Country style and vintage romance not unlike what you'd find in the English countryside of yore, the Shabby Chic space can make even a hotel or commercial establishment feel like home. Designed to be relaxed and informal, imperfections are not for covering up in the Shabby Chic space. Little messes are a good thing. Left there to remind the world that this is a space that's lived in. Where real people lead real lives. And no one and nothing is on display. Even when it's a hotel that's favoured by the rich and famous. Like The Greenwich Hotel at TriBeCa in New York City with its pleasing use of hand-crafted tiles and reclaimed wood. The Greenwich has history in its veins, as Shabby Chic spaces often do. There's even a piece of the iconic Flatiron Building - mirrored glass between French doors that lead onto the Paris-style courtyard brought in as salvage from that New York landmark. Hollywood A-lister Robert De Niro who's put his name and design aesthetic behind the property, first discovered the hidden treasures of TriBeCa while scouting for a location for a gym during the filming of Raging Bull. And the rest as they say, is history. Across the oceans, the spirit of this style is captured at the Carlton Oslo Hotel. With its fur throws and rustic dishware the hotel gives you a very country-style welcome before you even arrive, with the sounds of chirping birds greeting you on their website.
First heard of in the eighties when a British designer coined the term, the movement crossed over to America becoming hugely popular on the west coast. In fact, such was its popularity in LA and San Francisco, it was often thought of as a California style. But as a sensibility that holds on dearly to the past, Shabby Chic design took a blow as more contemporary styles and innovation and technology broke onto the architecture and decor scene. For a breathless moment it appeared to teeter on the precipice of being forgotten. Only to find the wind in its sails from diehard enthusiasts who kept it alive and thriving into the 21st century. And no one knows that better than Rachel Ashwell, author-designer-entrepreneur and champion of all things Shabby Chic. As the recession of the noughties took its toll on her businesses she was forced to declare bankruptcy. Now, a newer avatar of the style and her businesses have emerged. And Shabby Chic is strong as ever among those who love their vintage style relaxed, homey, practical, simple, and comfortable - sans the extreme wear it initially sported. Perfect for the ecologically conscious homeowners of today.
Those who love the Shabby Chic style like country singer Sheryl Crow, make somewhat of a passion of it. Crow famously refers to her love of collecting of antiques as "junking". Seeking out finds online (she's known as the "Queen of eBay" in her inner circle) and offline. She is a modern day treasure hunter of all things beautiful. Even her vintage pickup truck - the quintessential Shabby Chic wheels of choice - a 1951 Chevy, was found off eBay!
Actor Reese Witherspoon's sunny personality is much like her rustic California home - fresh, yet traditional. Warm rugs and antiques juxtaposed with a neutral colour palette. Animal themed art hints at her love of horses, ponies, dogs, and even goats and donkeys - all of which find a place in the grounds of her home. She sees it as bringing a bit of her Tennessee roots to California. And for many who favour this style, that's precisely what Shabby Chic is about. Holding onto a piece of the past. To roots, history, and memories.
Coming Home To Shabby Chic
The smell of flowers and the outdoors, a steaming hot pot of tea in a vintage tea set, perhaps some shortbread baking in the oven, a snuggly knitted throw blanket to nestle into - the Shabby Chic home is a balm for the senses. Soothing, comfortable, and putting you instantly at ease. Dusty pinks, whites, creams, pastel blues...the colours meld harmoniously to create a haven of peace and tranquility. When you visit a Shabby Chic house it feels instantly like you're coming home to family. There's no need for the residents of this home or their visitors to put up a front. Much like the distressed paint effect you have a soft spot for, you love your friends and family - warts and all!
And that's the ethos you carry forward in all your design choices. Whether it is a vintage dressing table stained a dusky rose, or a seafoam green table that wears each crack and peel like a badge of honour, you own them as much for their imperfections that reveal a handcrafted past, as the stories behind the people who created them. Collectibles are gathered from flea markets and revived with some TLC. Pieces of furniture like that cream wicker chair which has been in the family for generations are elevated to heirloom status in your home.
Vintage suitcases stack up nicely to create the perfect table. On this improvised table your favorite glass vase sits, filled with seasonal flowers that seem like they've just been plucked from the meadows beyond. That the "meadow" is the friendly neighborhood online florist isn't important. It's the spirit of the Shabby Chic home that keeps that old-world magic alive!
Whites and neutrals set the backdrop for pastel stripes to make a subtle statement. An ode to the romantics, chandeliers like the ones Rachel Ashwell makes are all the dressing up a Shabby Chic home needs. The gorgeous Lily Juliana Chandelier or the more understated Pirouette Chandelier in Blush have old school glamour writ on every last handblown glass drop. Ashwell traces her love of the style to her British roots that taught her about "making do and getting on with it" while later life in California made it easy to be chic without taking oneself too seriously. As a child, her antique doll seller mother would work her magic on old finds from flea markets with a paintbrush and young Rachel by her side. A piece of silk would be delicately stained to a new hue with tea, transformed into the most gorgeous little outfit for an antique doll. With an antique book dealer dad and a mother with a passion for preserving old treasures, the result was a home brimming with beautiful antiques. And it is such nostalgia and warm childhood memories that the Shabby Chic home captures to perfection.
Everything doesn't have to match or seem like it's part of a set. Lovers of the Shabby Chic style do collect things...vintage tea caddies, or cow bells, or porcelain figurines of a favorite animal. But these are a quirky collections of mismatched oddities that seem to somehow fit perfectly together, even though they bear scant resemblance to each other beyond the thematic. Old plates in various shades of pastel blue and yellow bring a charm to unexpected spaces like the pantry wall. A chalkboard in the dining room sunnily displays some pearls of wisdom, perhaps gleaned from the lyrics of a favourite song or a classic from the library.
Fluffy downy cushions are draped in cotton fabric that is inviting in all its crushed-look glory. The use of organic materials - rough hewn wood, cane, and even bamboo, bring a rustic appeal. Wrought iron makes for sturdy shelves, decorative details, and even chairs. Floral chintz curtains billow in the breeze and furry rugs underfoot lend a certain softness.
Warm natural light spills into rooms urging you to never leave. And with a bed that's spilling over with pillows, feathery duvets, and flounces of fresh cotton and linen, it's not hard to see why! A chest of drawers with a weathered look stands by your bedside. Just the place to tuck away a well-thumbed copy of Under The Tuscan Sun or Eat Pray Love! In the next drawer, a bundle of handwritten letters held together by twine bring a smile to your lips as you read the words that passed between you and someone dear in what seems like a lifetime ago.
Old portraits in oil casually dot the walls, piquing the interest of visitors. Are these images of previous homeowners, family members, or perhaps just incredible finds from a flea market, with colourful stories hinged to their frames?
A Space To Be Yourself
If you had your way, you'd spend all weekends snuggled up with a good book under a throw on your favourite chair, or sink into that soft as a cloud bed for a lazy morning in. You'd only move to get some home baked bread into the oven, or to tweak those leftovers into some delicious new creation. But then who'd tend to your Citroen 2CV or vintage truck that needs all the love it can get?
A country retreat gives you that escape you seek from the humdrum of technology-laden modern living. Picking up local lore and catching up on the town gossip at the local pub is an evening well spent. When you crave a change of scene, a rustic converted barn in France, or a traditional riad in Morocco lend just the touch of whimsy you like on your travels. And when you return, those memories and perhaps an antique or two will find a way of making their presence felt in your home.
Your grandmother's old record player is the perfect place to listen to those vinyls old and new. And SGP (the Secret Garden Party) is the perfect place for you to meet people after your own heart, while enjoying the music you love. The enchantment of hidden treasures that party founder Freddie Fellowes puts in, like emerging into a meadow of sunflowers via a portaloo, are not lost on you. Fellowes delights in the annual task of picking a theme, which in the past has featured concepts like Childish Things, The Gardeners Guide To The Galaxy, and Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Your relaxed style fits right in at these getaways. Jeans and soft cotton tops paired with soft slouchy leather boots and handmade knits that never go out of fashion.
Like your perfectly mismatched chairs that look like they were made just for you, your inner circle is an eclectic mix of wonderful people. And to all of them, your home is comfort food for the soul...inviting everyone into its warm embrace.