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Defining a Style Series: What Is Shabby Chic Design?

shabby chic decor bedroom
tatiana_dmi/ Twenty20

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shabby chic decor bedroom

tatiana_dmi/ Twenty20

Shop These Products Now: Accent Mirror

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There’s no question why shabby chic design is so appealing to many. When done right, this style strikes the perfect balance between feeling relaxed and looking pulled together. It puts forth an artistic-yet-elegant vibe, plus gives the designer plenty of freedom to bring their own spin to the table. However, if you’ve never pulled a room like this together before, it can be a little intimidating. Sometimes it’s difficult to create less-structured spaces that feel more purposeful than messy. That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled the secrets you need to know to hack the shabby chic aesthetic. Read these tips to learn how to add the necessary structure to your design without sacrificing an ounce of that bohemian feel. Keep them in mind and you’ll be able to pull off this type of look every single time.

boho chic living room

hellomikee/ Twenty20

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Start with a neutral background

Successful interior design projects are all about the give and take. While every element plays an important part in pulling the room together as a whole, some must take a more subdued role to let others shine. Since many shabby chic pieces are bold and colorful, the background for these spaces should remain neutral to balance them out.For the record, when we say “background,” we’re talking about the structural elements of the room — features such as walls and floors that aren’t part of your personal belongings. Consider painting the walls in lighter neutral shades like white or tan and sticking to simple wooden flooring.Keep in mind that a neutral background doesn’t have to be boring. Feel free to center your design around architectural elements like a fireplace or built-in shelving. Or consider adding an extra layer of visual interest to the walls through textured paint work.

boho kitchen open shelf concept

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Focus on distressed or vintage furniture

Most of the time, the “shabby” part of “shabby chic” refers to items that feature a weathered or antique aesthetic. Furniture is a great way to infuse this detail into any room.As for how to achieve this look, you have plenty of options to choose from. You could browse around for designers that make ready-made pieces with this style or buy an unfinished model and look up a tutorial online on how to re-create it at home. However, those who don’t mind their furniture having a bit of history could also look into vintage options. Check out thrift stores or yard sales to see what unique pieces you can find.One thing to note here is the furniture you choose should only look distressed. If you’re purchasing some new-to-you pieces to complete your design, make sure they are well put together, have all their necessary parts and feel sturdy. You can always alter how a piece looks, but there’s no point putting your time and money in to something that won’t be functional for very long.

rustic mirror in living room

rmalo5aapi/ Twenty20

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Mix and match accessories

Now for the fun part. Accessories are where you can truly drive home the room’s bohemian feel. This style of design is all about layering a variety of different accessories — throw rugs, blankets, pillows, wall art and décor items — to create a cozy and casual space.In this case, mixing and matching is key. Select items that feature various prints, patterns and textures. For those who prefer a more cohesive look, try to limit your color scheme to two or three different hues repeated throughout the space. However, if your style is more eclectic, you can absolutely set your own limit.When dealing with less-structured styles, it’s important to focus on ensuring that the room doesn’t end up looking cluttered. A good rule of thumb to prevent this is to change your perspective. If you’re ever unsure whether or not a particular item fits well in your design, simply take a few steps back. Doing this will allow you to see the space as a whole and determine whether the item ultimately adds or detracts from your vision.

leather couch and rustic mirror

alisevalise/ Twenty20

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Add in natural elements

Spaces that feature a shabby chic design typically have a bright, light and airy feel to them. One of the easiest ways to drive home that feeling is to bring in some elements from the outdoors. If you have a green thumb, consider incorporating plants or, if you do well with lots of natural light, think about foregoing curtains in favor of simple window treatments that let in plenty of sun.You could also think about incorporating a variety of natural materials throughout your design. You could use woods in your furniture, try out a bamboo rug or play around with a variety of clay or stone accessories like vases or coasters.

white bedroom boho

merrymirta/ Twenty20

When done correctly, shabby chic designs are tantalizing. They can appear so effortlessly stylish. It’s not until you’re behind the scenes you realize how tricky striking that balance really is. If you ever find yourself stuck in a similar situation, we can help. We’ve compiled the best tips on how to pull off shabby chic spaces without breaking a sweat. Read them over and you’ll be an expert on these interiors before you know it. What do you think of shabby chic spaces? Which styles do you want to see next in our Defining a Style series? Let us know in the comments below.


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