Shabby chic – past its best or back on trend?
Does ‘shabby chic’ ever go out of style? Or is it one of those interminable design standards that, admittedly when it’s done well looks fantastic, but is really coming to the end of its shelf life? And does our reliance on shabby chic actually turn it into some kind of design ‘comfort blanket’ – something we can always depend upon to keep us on trend with our interiors?
Well, whatever your opinion on the subject, shabby chic is still in vogue and filling the pages of home design magazines on news-stands around the country. So let’s take a closer look at the concept of shabby chic – what it is, why it’s so popular and how to achieve the look without tipping over into just…shabby…
What is shabby chic?
In its best incarnations, shabby chic is a celebration of all things retro. It takes the very best vintage ideas and brings them into a modern setting without losing any of the character of the original pieces. It’s a direct retaliation to the flat-pack monotony of generic interior design – a kick against the ‘burbs and a fight back against mundane magnolia. If the look is a little bit worn or ‘lived in’ then so much the better – it’s this slightly threadbare and used look that shabby chic attempts to achieve.
But take it too far and you risk achieving a look that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Grimebusters. Shabby chic has to strike just the right balance of pathos and intentional shabbiness to hit it spot on. Get it right and you’ve got a real French Provincial feel that’s light, airy and instantly relaxing.
Why is it so popular?
Shabby chic is quite an easy look to achieve for not much cost, making it a perfect look for budget-conscious homeowners who still want to stay on trend with their interior design concepts. Second-hand furniture from flea markets and slapping some paint around means that even a reasonably large room can be transformed from dull and generic to individualistic and unique on next to nothing.
What about the floors?
Achieving the right look for a shabby chic floor is key to locking together the whole concept. Sanded and polished wooden floorboards give a beautiful foundation from which you can build up your shabby chic look with miss-matched retro furniture and antique style wallpaper. The beauty of a sanded and polished wooden floor or a waxed wooden floor is that if you change your mind and suddenly decide to go modernist or minimalist, you already have one of the key areas covered. So waxed wooden floors that have been perfectly sanded are also an economic choice – especially if you change your mind about your décor more often than you change your socks!
Alternatively, you can whitewash or paint your floor boards. However, this needs to be absolutely right if it’s to work without ending up looking just plain ugly. There’s a fine line between shabby chic and out and out ‘distressed’… Whitewash will give you that ‘French farmhouse’ look that forms the basis of the whole shabby chic genre, but it quickly loses its appeal as it becomes much more shabby than chic through ground-in dirt, stains and general wear and tear. Be warned – an overuse of white combined with light coloured furnishings and walls can mean that your French farmhouse interior starts to look more like a run-down hospital ward; cold, clinical and rather drab.
You can use paint on your floor boards, but again remember that when you change your mind about your interior, the surface will need to be sanded back to bare wood by professional floor sanding experts before you can start again with polishes, waxes or stains.