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Style Spotlight: A Designer’s Guide to Shabby Chic Decor

Are you a fan of a more soft, relaxed, and romantic interior design style? Then Shabby Chic design might be right up your alley. Shabby Chic is a look that’s comfortable and inviting, but with a hint of old-world elegance that’s evocative of an old English country estate. In fact, Great Britain is where this design style was born.

It came onto the style scene in the 1980s, a decade of opulence and grandeur. Expensive, modern furniture and decor had become very fashionable during this time. A counterculture movement of bohemians and artisans bucked this trend, instead of adopting a Victorian-inspired look in their modern homes. It was faded and worn, with the type of decoration found in old country houses—full of chintz upholstery, faded portraits and landscape paintings, and sagging furniture that had solid frames. The result was a charming, elegant look that also evoked the sense of an English estate that had been in the same family for generations.

traditional classic bedroom plant on side table

This style was more broadly embraced in the late 80s and early 90s, with Laura Ashely prints and ruffles becoming quite popular. Author, designer, and entrepreneur Rachel Ashwell even launched a brand in 1989 under the name Shabby Chic—which was full of pieces that embodied this design style. While this style faded from popularity in the 2000s, with the surge in popularity of Cottagecore style, Shabby Chic is actually having a bit of a moment right now—but in a slightly different format than years past. It’s no longer Laura Ashely-style frills and florals, but a more refined take on this cottage style.

traditional bedroom sofa

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What is Shabby Chic Design?

As an interior design style, Shabby Chic combines rustic style with elements of classic design. It’s a twist on farmhouse design, with feminine touches and more frilly accents. Furniture and upholstery has an intentionally worn down and faded look about it—but these distressed pieces feature classic silhouettes that elevates the aesthetic. This style is often associated with distressed wood and vintage furniture, soft hues, linen and cotton upholstery, sofas with slipcovers, and florals galore.

The rustic design elements of Shabby Chic come through in the focus on comfort (think: sink-in sofas and plush upholstery) and the wood finishes used in Shabby Chic spaces. Natural materials are very popular in this style, with plenty of jute, rattan, and caning found in furniture and rugs. Wood pieces often have soft finishes, like a whitewash or grey wood finish. You’ll also see a lot of reclaimed, painted furniture in Shabby Chic spaces. Antiques, flea market finds, and upcycled objects are celebrated in this style, with lots of old trunks, stools, cabinets, and dressers painted in soft neutrals or pastel colors. These painted pieces will often have an antique look, with intentionally distressed finishes or chipped paint that reveal layers of other colors and finishes beneath. Shiplap walls are also a hallmark of the Shabby Chic look.

The classic side of this style shows up in the details. Upholstered furniture with nailheads and tufting add some refinement to this style, and scrolling and turned-wood legs on furniture add subtle ornamentation. You’ll also see some classical elements in furniture shapes and light fixtures—whether it’s an English roll-arm sofa, a scalloped headboard, or Rococo-inspired or vintage chandeliers.

The combination of these rustic and classic design elements results in a style that’s charming yet accessible, elegant but a little undone.

classic living room blue couch chandelier

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Is Shabby Chic Still in Style?

Right now, Shabby Chic is undergoing a bit of a facelift. Today, we’re seeing it remixed in a way that’s reminiscent of French Country design. This style has always involved European influences, and the more modern take on Shabby Chic involves European elegance taking the place of some of the more kitchy elements of the traditional Shabby Chic aesthetic. So, say goodbye to mason jars and bring on the vintage vases! Today’s Shabby Chic also involves more gray wash and natural woods than painted finishes. Gone are the days of painting and intentionally distressing wood furniture. Rather, Shabby Chic style now celebrates antiques and vintage-inspired wood pieces in all their natural glory. But soft neutrals, upholstered furniture, and plenty of natural materials? That’s definitely still at the heart of this look.

calming dining room traditional classic clock on wall

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Since this style evokes the simplicity and elegance of the European countryside, you’ll notice that it has a lot of the same stylistic roots of the wildly popular Cottagecore aesthetic. The more “precious” side of Cottagecore involves florals and ruffles, which is where Shabby Chic elements primarily show up in this style. But Cottagecore and Shabby Chic also place the same premium on comfort and lean into a more romantic aesthetic.

The collected nature of Shabby Chic interior designs means that, depending on the furniture silhouettes and decorative objects you choose, it could also lean a bit bohemian. In this case, you’d dial back on the florals and ruffles and lean more into the farmhouse side of this style, with plenty of natural materials.

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traditional bedroom natural texture chandelier

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What colors are good for Shabby Chic interiors?

Shabby Chic is big on the neutrals. Whites, creams, beige, flax, and other soft neutral colors form the base of this design style. But other soft colors—like bleached out pastels and earth tones—bring some color into Shabby Chic spaces—the most common colors being pinks, blues, and greens. In a more 90s/early 2000s take on Shabby Chic, these colors would have shown up in upcycled painted furniture. Today, you’ll see them more in patterned upholstery—in vintage floral patterns, ticking stripes, and linen pillows, bedding, and slipcovers in earth tones.

traditional classic bedroom vanity desk

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7 Tips to Ace the Shabby Chic Look

Below are some of our designers’ key tips for getting a modern Shabby Chic look in your home.

1. Start With a Neutral Paint Color

This vintage-inspired style requires a neutral base which everything else can be layered over. So, go for neutral paint colors that lean a bit warmer to balance out the crisp white upholstery often used in this style.

2. Prioritize Comfortable Base Furniture

When choosing base furniture like sofas and beds, Shabby Chic style demands comfort. Cush, comfortable sofas are a must—and a slipcovered style is ideal to pull off this look. You want it to be something that you can really sink into, while still looking somewhat elegant. For a bed, opt for an upholstered bed with tufting for an extra dose of comfort.

traditional and classic living room big mirror by fireplace

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3. Opt for Upholstered Pieces

Rather than choosing a wooden bed frame or clean-lined modern accent chair, lean into upholstered styles that are super comfortable. Linen and cotton upholstery in white, cream, and beige are particularly popular in this style. Though, adding in some vintage-inspired patterns in bedding, throw pillows, and even accent chairs is a perfect way to mix in some color and add some charm. Slipcovered or upholstered dining chairs in soft hues are also big in this style. But your upholstery doesn’t just have to be cotton and linen fabrics. You can also mix in a bit of leather (bonus points for pieces with patina!) and even some velvet to add in a bit of luxury. These two materials are especially great in accent chairs!

4. Layer in Classic-Inspired Accent Furniture and Decor

While Shabby Chic design has rustic style as its foundation, classic design elements are what visually elevate this style. Bring in classical elements through accent furniture like side tables and ottomans, plus sofas or chairs with more ornate legs. You can also bring in classic-inspired elements into Shabby Chic decor through art and small decorative objects. This is a style where you can lean into collections—especially if they’re something like tea cups, porcelain plates, or Staffordshire dogs! A very Victorian move, this affinity toward collections comes from the English estate side of this style, where homes tend to strike the delicate balance between ornate and cluttered.

5. Mix Woods in Similar Tones

Light-toned and raw wood add the perfect rustic tone to Shabby Chic style. But this look doesn’t demand perfectly matching wood tones. You can mix wood tones, as long as they’re in the lighter finish range. (You could also go for some natural, light finishes mixed with whitewashed wood pieces.)

traditional classic bedroom beige color scheme

6. Look for Finishes with a Patina

Finishes should feel rustic and a bit organic and vintage in their patina. Historically, that has meant intentionally distressed pieces of painted wood furniture. But you can also get furniture with patina by looking for antique furniture and rugs that show a bit of wear. We always prefer genuine patina over a manufactured look! (Flea markets are a great place to uncover unique pieces of vintage furniture!)

7. Bring in Cozy Accents

We mentioned this earlier, but Shabby Chic has comfort at its core. So, bring on the cozy accents through plush pillows and bedding, soft throws, and antique or vintage-inspired rugs in traditional patterns (but in faded colorways). Poufs and ottomans add to the sense of comfort in Shabby Chic spaces!

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Trend Spotlight: What is Cottagecore and How To Get The Look

There’s a new interior design trend in town, and it has us all kinds of excited! It’s called “Cottagecore” and it’s taking the internet by storm. As an interior design style, it’s a mix of traditional, classic, farmhouse, and eclectic design elements—all pulled together with a granny-chic influence.

Sound a little familiar? This style definitely has some overlap with the Grandmillenial style. But, whereas Grandmillenial is a bit more formal, Cottagecore leans casual, showing off a more relaxed, eclectic look. Consider Cottagecore the free-spirited younger sister of Grandmillenial! A space designed to embody the Cottagecore aesthetic uses bold colors and patterns, which often feature floral or foliage motifs.

cottagecore

Where did the Cottagecore trend come from?

As we’ve noted in our 2021 trend predictions, people are turning back toward comfort as a top priority in interior design. And Cottagecore has comfort at, well, its core. But this actually isn’t a new aesthetic. This trend visually came about in the 2010s on social media, with people connecting through the sharing of nostalgic, rural-inspired images and a longing for a simpler life. The Cottagecore aesthetic celebrates rural life, with idyllic images of countryside cottages at the center of this look. As this trend grew in popularity, cottages became a representation of the romanticism of folklore and symbolized a gentler, more simple way of living.

But this aesthetic has significantly grown in popularity this past year, both in fashion and design. And it’s no wonder—with a global pandemic and more time at home than ever before, there’s something nice about mentally escaping into an idyllic, romanticized version of life where gardening and baking bread are the only worries of the day.

In interior design, this trend shows up through the mix of classical forms and raw, rustic elements. The result is an idyllic English countryside vibe, full of florals, but with a more modern spin than the traditional cottage style. This is definitely a kitsch look that mixes a ton of different design elements, as we mentioned above—from classical and traditional to rustic and eclectic. It manages to embody parts of some of the biggest trending design ideas of 2021—traditional comfort, grand millennial style, biophilic design, jewel-box rooms. They’re all rolled up into one, showing up in various ways in the Cottagecore aesthetic.

What are the key elements of the Cottagecore aesthetic?

Classical shapes are foundational in this look, along with floral motifs, saturated colors, and a mix of rustic and ornate elements. This is a very antique-inspired look. So, hit up some antique stores to find vintage furniture pieces! Whether old or new, look for unique little end tables, slipcovered furniture, and textiles with classical motifs and patterns such as antique florals. Don’t be afraid to bring in color and play with the relationship between color and pattern. A more maximalist look more is more in this style. So, bring in that personalized and heirloom decor!

Keep reading for a breakdown of how to get this look!

cottagecore

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Go for a Cozy and Comfortable Vibe

Since Cottagecore is all about embracing a simpler life, comfort and coziness are key. So, prioritize comfort in the furniture you choose, while keeping in mind a classic, cottage-inspired aesthetic. A slipcovered sofa and vintage-inspired rug help set the tone for this space, and the spindle-leg side table manages to be classic-inspired while also embodying the approachable nature of farmhouse decor and cottage style. But don’t forget to add a dash of the refined! An understated yet formal chandelier hangs in the center of the space, elevating the look.

 

cottagecore

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Embrace Bold Colors

While Cottagecore has a very relaxed aesthetic, using bold colors—on the walls, in artwork, and in upholstery—taps into the British-inspired charm of this style. Bringing in bold, saturated colors gives a coziness to this look that marks it feel approachable and livable. However, you can also achieve this look through a simple mix of warm neutrals, which will make the look take on a bit more of that traditional cottage vibe.

 

cottagecore

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Bring in Luxurious Elements

While Cottagecore is all about simplicity and comfort, there’s also just a hint of luxury to this style. So, bring in small luxe elements to your space. In this living room, we did that through a velvet accent chair in a classical shape. When placed in contrast with the simple slipcovered sofa, this chair takes on a refined but relaxed vibe. Classical wingback chairs more your vibe? Embrace the look we created in our Little Women-inspired reading nook!

 

cottagecore

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Layer in Natural Materials

Cottagecore style is understated, nature-inspired, and derived from “simpler times.” Because of this, furniture can have some slight detailing—but most of it is fairly traditional, made of natural materials. When choosing wood pieces, note that in a Cottagecore space wood tones tend to be fairly natural. So, opt for pieces with a more natural finish, which lets the natural wood grain shine! In this bedroom, the comfortable bed features a cane element for slight decoration. You can also incorporate other natural materials and textures, like woven jute and wicker for more of that natural, down-to-earth feeling. And don’t forget about plants, which bring an essential bit of nature to the space—along with a slight bohemian vibe.

 

cottagecore

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Play With Patterns

Playing with patterns is big in Cottagecore style. So, embrace the chintz and bring on the florals in all forms! And don’t be afraid to mix bold patterns with subtle, larger-scale prints. You can go for more vintage-inspired floral motifs or opt for more modern renditions. In this space, we mixed florals, traditional checkered patterns, and a more modern, abstract pattern in the bedding, with the throw pillows, shams, and duvet cover. The curtains in this bedroom also bring a large, colorful pattern to the space—but because the scale of the pattern is different from the duvet cover, they aren’t competing for attention.

And when it comes to florals don’t forget to incorporate some actual flowers into your space—whether fresh or faux! A vase of flowers helps celebrate the nature-loving heart of this style.

 

cottagecore

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Choose Rural-Inspired Artwork

Artwork is another way to bring color and pattern to a Cottagecore look. In these spaces, artwork often features rural scenes or simple landscapes. We gave that idea a modern spin throughout this space, opting for landscapes in bold colors to bring more energy to the room.

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Inspired Color Palette: The Blush Collection

Valentine’s day might be over, but we are still thinking pink in terms of interior design inspiration. A little on the dustier side, this shade of blush is less sticky sweet, and instead feels muted and moody. To help you get your fix, we curated this collection of products perfectly poised to make you (and your home) feel the blush rush!

blush interior collection

Blush is the perfect hue to give your home a feminine edge or simply add a dash of warmth to a neutral space. Bring on the bohemian charm with West Elm’s blush-colored Sequin Knotted Wool Rug.

Or push the look more elegant and feminine with a blushing accent chair. We have a crush on the Slub Velvet Tillie Armchair in rosewood (Anthropologie). You don’t even have to wander too far out of neutral territory with muted blush pieces like Serena & Lily’s Whipstitch Mohair Throw.

We curated a collection inspired by this trend that makes us blush. If you are looking to warm up a neutral palette, jazz up a sophisticated space, or are simply in search of a relaxing place to rosé all day, we’ve curated this collection just for you! 

Pop the bubbly and browse the full collection below, or try it on in your home with Modsy!

blush interior palette collection

Serena & Lily

Artfully Walls
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Boho Glam Wonderland: Give Your Hollywood Glam Living Room a Bohemian Twist

Have you ever walked into a room and wanted to touch everything? That’s how we feel about this India Mahdavi-worthy living room, that’s full of luscious textures, earthy colors, and sumptuous materials. The result is a boho glam wonderland!

Boho Glam Living Room

Check out the shopping list below, with 100% real (and affordable) products and take a peek at our cheat sheet to learn how to get the look.

How you can get the boho glam look:

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  • Start with materials: The key to this look is the combination of organic and luxurious materials. Soft leather, stone, sheepskin, velvet, and shiny gold are your friends.

 

  • Make an understated statement: Nix the frills of Hollywood Glam and say “no thanks” to button tufting, sparkles, and exaggerated patterns. Instead, let the materials shine by choosing pieces with sleek forms.

 

Boho Glam Living Room

  • Add natural textures: Emphasize the bohemian element of your space with textures that showcase nature. We love the Sandstone Pattern wall art from Williams Sonoma, and have our eye fixed on the watery surface of the Ripple Media Console (CB2).

 

  • Curate an earthy color palette: If you can’t find it in nature, you won’t find it in this living room (looking at you hot pink!). We started with a base of charcoal and stoney greys and then layered in earthy hues. Think jewel tones, and seek out those saturated colors that will give your space a bohemian edge.

 

Boho Glam Living Room

  • Top it off with some whimsy: Create a playful space with whimsical accessories. Look for artwork that is a bit tongue-in-cheek for some great conversation pieces (as if this living room isn’t enough already).
    • We love the playful look of Anthropologie’s Ibex Side Table, and got a good laugh out of Alex Kostinskyi’s Knuba print (Artfully Walls).

Voila! Your living room is now the perfect balance of bohemian, glamorous, and minimal – oh my!

The Boho Glam Living Room Collection

 

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