All Replies on What Defines Shabby Chic in Furniture?

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What Defines Shabby Chic in Furniture?

by sophiabrown
posted 06-24-2013 07:44 AM

27 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2330 days

#1 posted 06-24-2013 12:18 PM

Pretentious junk.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1838 days

#2 posted 06-24-2013 12:35 PM

I’m inclined to disagree with the first response.

Firstly, Shabby Chic is actually a registered trademark. Rachel Ashwell did so quite a few years ago. It was a term which, in my opinion, she cashed in on. No shame in that, but shabby chic was around as a term longer than the now defunct company.

So really, its a broad term, and there aren’t really rules.

I happen to like the idea of years of life and wear showing in a furnishing, as well as the notion that an item which had fallen into disuse or out of fashion, gets new life.

My wife has always loved this style. She grew up in an historic neighborhood, and always loved the look and feel of old houses. She would paint our mantle for instance, three times and sand most of the three layers off, just to achieve the effect. I found it bizarre, but have come to love it.

Now I also admire fine joinery and beautifully finished hardwoods. I’ve got my work cut out for me creating a piece which pleases her sensibilities while doing the same for me.

I fully understand when a craftsman builds a fine piece of furniture, and the client wants it abused. It’s almost insulting. But, the client is king.

Me? I embrace the style, and when situations arise where a client desires elements of shabby chic in their build, I oblige with enthusiasm.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2267 days

#3 posted 06-24-2013 01:37 PM

sounds like Grunge Men but I like it WHAT IS THE STYLE???? Im gonna lookee it uppy see whatsa hapening

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3404 days

#4 posted 06-24-2013 01:39 PM

In a word, – Crap

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View TheDane's profile


5405 posts in 3632 days

#5 posted 06-24-2013 01:46 PM

Shabby chic: Looks like something that belongs in a dumpster, and fetches outrageous prices.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Lwin's profile


10 posts in 1832 days

#6 posted 06-24-2013 01:56 PM

There are plenty of choices for everyone and what the heck does it matter to anyone what someone else does in their house? Man, there are some petty and nasty people around here. Do you just sit around waiting for something nasty to say? Get a life.

Let me be more like you. I checked out your projects boys and I’m not seeing anything approaching the pinacle of design, style and sophistication. Wow, pens. How original! Some boxy garden stuff. How innovative! Describing your “style” as Pedestrian would be both accurate and yet too kind.

View TheDane's profile


5405 posts in 3632 days

#7 posted 06-24-2013 02:01 PM

Lwin … So, where are your projects?

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Makarov's profile


102 posts in 1775 days

#8 posted 06-24-2013 02:27 PM

I had to Google it to see what it was all about, looks like a bunch of painted furniture and fluff, when I was in college and newly married we called it dorm room poor. I should have trademarked the phrase and wrote a book. Its not my thing, I am more into scraping paint off of wood furniture than putting it on, but to each there own style or lack there of. It would be an boring world if all our houses looked the same.

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3278 days

#9 posted 06-24-2013 02:41 PM

Is renovating junk considered woodworking?
One persons trash is another persons treasure…

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2938 days

#10 posted 06-24-2013 03:21 PM

This might give you some ideas as to what passes commercially as shabby chic

Look at the piece on the bottom left of page 1, I’d be proud to make a piece like that.

Interior designers love this stuff

Of course, all design is subjective, and whilst its easy to dismiss it as pretentious junk, or crap, people who buy into it obviously like it, so who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong.

Bit unnecessary Lwin. Are you here just to antagonise?

View Scott C.'s profile

Scott C.

158 posts in 2020 days

#11 posted 06-24-2013 03:26 PM

“Shabby Chic” has it’s place just as any furniture style does. While I agree that most of it does not have the craftsmanship we appreciate on this site, it in many cases has a sense of creativity that can be appreciated. I too am sometimes bothered by the pricing of this style relative to something that has a lot more time and effort put into it. Quite frankly I think colonial furniture is pretty ugly, but I wouldn’t call it junk.

-- measure twice, cut once, swear and start over.

View JayT's profile


5590 posts in 2180 days

#12 posted 06-24-2013 03:42 PM

Shabby – showing signs of wear and tear
Chic – stylish

That is what shabby chic should be, a stylish piece that shows the wear and tear of years of use (not abuse). Those pieces that renners linked to seem to me to be in the right design vein, even if the “wear and tear” is faked.

Unfortunately the term has been terribly abused. Shabby chic is not inexpensive and boring crap that has been abused or beat on to “make a statement”. If it was never stylish in the first place, calling it shabby chic will not make it so. I realize that every person’s idea of stylish varies, but pulling a busted up crate out of a dumpster and calling it stylish doesn’t qualify.

My wife and I own several pieces I would consider shabby chic. For instance, we have a couple of antique dressers that were good quality pieces when they were made about 70 and 100 years ago. Still perfectly functional, they show the use they have gotten, but are not broken or intentionally dinged. Sure, there are spider webbing cracks in the varnish, but I don’t know how anyone could fully replicate the depth of the color that time has provided. These were not purchased for any reason other than they are beautiful, functional and nicely complement the rest of the bedroom decor, which is a blend of modern and antique (the wife has a great design eye, I just have to try and make the rooms match her vision)

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1904 days

#13 posted 06-24-2013 06:09 PM

Interesting discussion. This seems to strike a vein in everyone, including me. I think about 70% of us are wired to consider “fine woodworking” aka Krenov the epitome of fashion or style. The other 30% of us are a more abstract crowd who may like shabby chic or modern or colonial or Nakashima. I think the reason everyone (myself included sometimes) gets so pissed off about the whole shabby chic thing is because we feel like people who are not craftsmen are making a ton of money nailing pallet wood together. They spend 5 hours and build a dining room table, where it might take a skilled woodworker 200 hours. BUT, they get paid the same as the skilled woodworker. That can be infuriating, no doubt.

The way I look at it is we all have to make money somehow, and as long as I am not doing anything morally wrong, I don’t really have an issue with it. If I can get paid $1000 for a coffee table made out of junk wood from a dumpster, I’m all for it. That is not necessarily what I want in my living room, but if someone else wants to pay me a lot for it, fine by me! Everyone has their own tastes and style, and fashion is nauseatingly cyclical, but it is the nature of the beast. At some point or another, many of us will end up making something that a friend, family member, or client wants that we don’t really care too much for. But, we make it anyway. I have found that “distressing” projects presents a fun and interesting challenge. You have to really get crazy with methods to get the look you want, but it can definitely be fun.

I have no qualms with shabby chic. I would build something in this style if requested. I see no difference between it and the other abstract realms of woodworking.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2330 days

#14 posted 06-24-2013 07:01 PM

It’s still pretentious junk. Nyuk nyuk

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Woodbum's profile


808 posts in 3034 days

#15 posted 06-24-2013 07:21 PM

I guess that is why there are so many different styles of furnishings. What may be hip and eclectic to some is prententious junk to another. That is why we are called individuals. While some may favor early American syle, others lean toward modern or contemporary or somewhere in between like G & G or Stickley. The guys that build early American reproduction pieces fascinate me. I am in awe of their talent. But David Marks’ more modern work knocks me out too. I am not very fond of the knotty alder being used today in a lot of higher end homes. To me it looks like cast off barn wood. But it IS a really big deal…I guess. Taking a perfectly fine piece of wood, and intentionally beating the s**t out of it with chains, nails, hammers etc to “distress” it to me is pretty lame. I guess since I grew up with beat up, distressed ( just from age and wear) stuff, I don’t want to have any more of that stuff around than I can afford to replace. I had a decorating “style” like that when I was in college, like as in an orange vinyl settee in my living room, or a scrounged couch that someone set by the curb for a junk or otherwise pick-up. Only then it was just “funky” with no prententions of an actual style of “shabby chic” A great subject for discussion though. If you like it, put it in your house. If you don’t, then pass.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View Viktor's profile


463 posts in 3388 days

#16 posted 06-24-2013 07:46 PM

“Shabby – showing signs of wear and tear
Chic – stylish”

- Does the distressed Library Wall in Clint’s projects qualify as shabby chic? Oh, sweet irony.

View Monte Pittman's profile (online now)

Monte Pittman

28966 posts in 2307 days

#17 posted 06-24-2013 08:08 PM

Every generation has it’s”fads” of sorts. It’s a generation gap issue i believe. It’s not for me, but neither was psychedelic suits during the disco era. Being human we should accept the fact that we have different likes and dislikes.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2159 days

#18 posted 06-24-2013 09:59 PM

i’ve built a couple of benches from old headboards which imho turned out good,then the owner turned them into “shabby chic”.which basically distressed them,she did a nice job on them,but not exactly my each his own….....

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2659 days

#19 posted 06-25-2013 01:36 AM

Monte, I’m relieved that you don’t have a psychedelic double knit leisure suit! But it might qualify for “shabby chic!”

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View sophiabrown's profile


9 posts in 1780 days

#20 posted 06-27-2013 04:26 PM

Really very interesting to see so many wonderful replies & views by each of you.
The discussion has become very informative and hot now.

Lets see what others say!

-- Sophia |

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1862 days

#21 posted 06-28-2013 02:40 AM

Some of these responses are hilarious.

If this was about sweaters, a few of you are trying to explain the aesthetic value (this is 100% subjective) of a simple yet worn looking cardigan, while some you are saying you despise new or hand-me-down argyle sweaters.

Shabby chic is a whole interior design look – it cannot be defined by a single piece of furniture, for starters.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2467 days

#22 posted 06-28-2013 03:46 AM

I see a fair bit of this stuff in local restaurants, start-ups mostly, when they can’t afford our kind of prices for proper tables, chairs and serving stations. Funky? sometimes, just shabby more often than not.
It is curious that the ethos doesn’t dare extend its reach though. Customers wont put up with a chipped coffee cup, a tarnished fork or badly scratched glassware. It seems there are some standards.
I think they miss the boat on the tables mostly. A simple well made table inspires confidence in the joint. It looks clean (and sanitary), doesn’t rock about and provides a more attractive setting for dishes and food. A visual, proximate frame for your experience as it were.
Then again, most people seem to be quite blind.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View krisrimes's profile


111 posts in 2504 days

#23 posted 06-28-2013 12:43 PM

I actually agree completely with what Monte said on this one. It seems to me like this is a generational gap issue more than anything. There seem to be two different issues being discussed in this thread, the buisness side of woodworking and personal taste. If you are approaching this issue from a buisness perspective, change with the times or get left behind. I know there is still a market for high dollar pieces of furniture and some folks make a great living at it. If I was trying to make a living on soley wood working, I would make what ever the customer wanted. When I do sell things, I approch a deal with the attitude that I do not care what they do with the piece once it leaves my shop. That is not to say that I don’t want them to enjoy what they purchased from me and get good use out of it, but I no longer own it. If it is a personal taste issue, whose to say your way is right and my way is wrong. My brother is a classical guitar major in college. We took a road trip together a couple of years ago and let me tell you, I can’t stand listening to classical guitar. I give him a hard time about his muisic all the time. His response, fine things aren’t for everyone.

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 2868 days

#24 posted 06-28-2013 05:38 PM

Well Im going have go with Monte on this one I have build furniture all my life as my grand father before me and my girls work in the shop along with me but if they see a piece of furniture on the side of the road and it looks good they bring it back to the shop sand it paint it and abuse it and some time’s they make more off it than I do on a new piece who thought?

View sophiabrown's profile


9 posts in 1780 days

#25 posted 06-29-2013 05:56 PM

Agree with Vipond33 that it is better to have some kind of furniture than not. I have also seen some restaurants where I have seen such furniture, they do have it because of the economic factor. Different people have different likes and dislikes it is a matter of choice and pocket size as well.

-- Sophia |

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1862 days

#26 posted 06-29-2013 06:22 PM

”. . when they can’t afford our kind of prices for proper tables, chairs and serving stations.”

What makes a “proper table” for a restaurant? Laminated modular stuff at McDonalds? Solid carerra marble only on wrought iron for chef-designed pizza? Reclaimed, wormed-out douglas fir bolted to black plumbing pipe table legs for cappaccino and cake? Can’t a serving station be made from an old solid wood dresser (and look better)? Yes, some people and places do shabby chic better than others – it requires broad and artful aesthetic design skills in planning and execution.

Pre-conceived notions and standards live on the dark side of creative interior design. Unless you’re a manufacturer insisting people should buy your stuff.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View sophiabrown's profile


9 posts in 1780 days

#27 posted 07-07-2013 07:42 AM

Yes many can afford our kind of prices for proper tables, chairs, serving stations, etc. but not all. And it is the creativity and good lumber skills which can do better with shabby chic better than other ones. I have so may furniture with shabby chic and which look so good and attractive. It is just the pre-conceived notions that shabby chic is old fashioned and not good.

-- Sophia |

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