How to Incorporate the Charm of Shabby Chic Decor Into Your Modern Home

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated March 25, 2022
modern bright white farmhouse living room
Photo: Cavan Images/ Adobe Stock


  • Shabby chic decor balances casual countryside design with decadent accents.

  • The style originates from English and French country homes, but its modern iteration took off in the 1990s.

  • Shabby chic furniture often comes from a range of vintage eras and features worn or textured surfaces.

  • Shabby chic's color scheme adds soft pastels and earth tones against a white backdrop.

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With its soft white linens, delicate florals, and hints of ornate glamor, shabby chic decor is enough to make you want to cozy up with a cup of tea and a good book. While inspiration for the style stems from the French and English countryside, we can thank designer Rachel Ashwell for the shabby chic movement she sparked in the late 1980s. This resilient style is now making yet another resurgence, inspiring some of today's most Instagrammable home designs.

Key Elements of Shabby Chic Decor

We've become so familiar with the term shabby chic, that it's merged other popular styles, such as coastal, bohemian, and cottagecore design. But what is shabby chic decor? After three decades of renewed popularity, there are several key features to set it apart.

Lived-In Elegance

Shabby chic decor is all about finding harmony between refined elegance and grounded, lived-in charm. On one hand, a shabby chic room includes purposely aged surfaces, soft fabrics and textures, and an eclectic mix of vintage accents. These are all balanced with the "chic" touches including metallic decor, crystal chandeliers, and studded upholstery.

On a grand scale, the room should look deliberate and balanced while still maintaining a settled and relaxed energy.

Clean Color Palettes

Neutral farmhouse bedroom interior
Photo: poligonchik/ Adobe Stock

When Ashwell launched her small design store in Santa Monica, white linens were one of the most well-known hallmarks of her aesthetic. She branched off into complementary pastels and richer earth tones. Today, the style encourages a simple, calming color palette, often against the backdrop of soft white, cream, or beige.

Pastoral and Farmhouse Influences

As we mentioned above, the shabby chic design should make you feel like you're stepping back in time to when French and English cottages aimed to reflect the elegance of royals. Quaint, pastoral design mixed with touches of royal opulence. 

This is why you'll find deliberately textured wooden furniture from a range of eras, mixed-and-matched upholstered furniture, exposed shelves, and an overall focus on bringing nature indoors.

Soft Lines and Curves

The shabby chic movement of the 1990s grew in response to the post-modern design known for its sharp edges and striking, bold colors. The gentler look of shabby chic encouraged softer edges, linen edged in lace, and even an occasional fringe. 

Regal Accents

Balancing out the whimsical energy of the linens and lace, you will also find Rococo elements with elaborately carved molding, furniture trim, and lighting fixtures. Crystal chandeliers against a room full of farmhouse furniture are a clear indicator of the shabby-chic look.

Subtle Florals

While floral patterns have always had a place in shabby chic decor, it has made a particularly big comeback in the past couple of years. Accent walls with a touch of busyness balance against an otherwise minimalistic room. Shabby chic also incorporates flowers into dinnerware, curtains, and upholstery. Don't forget to pop some fresh flowers and houseplants around the room as well.

Distressed Surfaces

There are several upsides to opting for hand-textured and aged surfaces in your home, whether you're considering distressed wood floors or adding a textured patina to an antique hutch you found at a thrift store. For one, distressed surfaces hide natural wear and tear since it blends in with the look. And perhaps more importantly, the aesthetic adds a one-of-a-kind character that is the signature of shabby chic design.

How to Incorporate Shabby Chic Decor into Your Home

Shabby chic decor is highly accessible—likely one of the reasons it took off so rapidly. While plenty of higher-end designers offers shabby-chic-inspired items, you can also deck out a room in the style with some strategized thrift store hunting.

However, it's important to approach this style with a plan. Mixing too many vintage eras, covering every surface in florals, or choosing items that look more shabby than chic, and you could miss the target. Finding this balance is just one of the reasons why you should hire an interior designer when making major changes to your home.

Highlight Vintage

Vintage decor is at the heart of shabby chic design—and there's no reason to stick to one era of vintage. Combining two styles can accomplish the balance between shabby and chic. For example, a Victorian-style couch balances with the smooth elegance of an Art-Deco coffee table.

Opt for Natural Hues

white and neutral colored kitchen with vintage pieces
Photo: Raisa Kanareva/ Adobe Stock

Showcase the style's countryside roots by keeping the palette light and simple. Start with a base of farmhouse white or offwhite and build from there. For example, when deciding on the best colors for your kitchen, consider a monotone color scheme for your counters, cabinets, and curtains, and layer two or three pastels or earth tones on top of these with the other accents.

Floral Accent Walls

Floral wallpaper is one of those came-back-around-the-bend trends that's with us once again. However, unlike mid-century homes that covered each wall in matching paper, choose a single accent wall for a splash of color and playful patterns. Keep the rest of the room simple for balance.

Soft Textures

In contrast to industrial and utilitarian modern designs, don't shy away from throw blankets, layers of couch pillows, and billowing curtains. Even shabby chic dining room furniture often includes soft upholstery cushions and backrests. In the bedroom decor, lean into frills, ruffles, and large-knit afghans.

Ornate Lighting Fixtures

It's easy to forget about one of the best parts of the "chic" side of shabby chic—ornate lighting. Chandeliers, hand-carved antique table lamps, and vintage sconces can add endless character against the softer country design elements in the room. Spruce up your walk-in closet lighting design with a crystal chandelier or add a bit of drama to the dining room table with a vintage candelabra. 

Combine with Other Styles

Shabby chic decor has come a long way since the late 80s. Homeowners are melding the look with some of the top emerging decor trends today. Pare back the florals and elaborate details by combining them with a minimalist home design. Remove the crystal chandeliers and focus on florals for cottagecore design. Or soften up an industrial-style home with a few soft shabby-chic pastels and frilled fabrics.

Incorporate shabby chic design into your home either with the help of an interior designer or an interior decorator depending on the extent of your project. A local interior designer can assist with larger projects, such as designing a new bathroom, while an interior decorator is best if you're simply looking to overall the decor in an established space.

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