What Defines Shabby Chic in Furniture?

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Forum topic by sophiabrown posted 06-24-2013 07:44 AM 2362 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 1804 days

06-24-2013 07:44 AM

When it comes to the shabby chic style, a lot of people feel as though it is something that they would like for their own home. However, it is important to think about what the style entails, and how you can make the most of it.

To put it simply, shabby chic is making your own improvements to your home. Many of the improvements that you make will be from something that you may not expect. An example of this is if you buy a chair and then some material to cover it, or if you purchase a crate and reuse it as a coffee table something a bit wacky!

Another thing that is crucial about shabby chic is that it looks fashionable. This is not just taking a load of junk and putting it into your home. It is making the best out of what you have and improving it so that it would fit into the style that you have in mind. If you have an eye for design, there are a lot of opportunities to make a real mark on your home.

In addition, the individuality is vital. Remember, as well as making something, you can buy “shabby chic” items. These can be replicated and shipped to anyone at the touch of a button. However, you may just enjoy being able to create your designs in the style you like. This means you know there is no piece like it, and that it is unique to your home. Knowing that a piece is something that nobody else in the world will ever own since it was designed and made by you is a special feeling. Of course, buying a shabby chic item for your home can be just as rewarding as the pieces are never mass manufactured.

Please Share Your Views!

-- Sophia |

27 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2355 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 1862 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 2291 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

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Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3428 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 (online now)


5423 posts in 3656 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 1857 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.

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5423 posts in 3656 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 1799 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 3302 days

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

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

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2963 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?

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Scott C.

158 posts in 2045 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 (online now)


5619 posts in 2205 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 1928 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 2355 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


812 posts in 3059 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"

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