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Shabby Chic

August 23, 2010

Last weekend I went to Charleston for my friend Caroline’s bachelorette party. We stayed in a beautiful home on the Isle of Palms and had a great weekend full of lots of laughter, and wine. My plan on Sunday was to get up early and spend some time alone in Charleston walking around taking pictures to share with you. But then… remember that “lots of wine” part? Somewhat debilitating, at least in terms of getting up early.

I fully expected the beach house we stayed in to be decked out with fluffy white couches and antiqued white furniture, as I’ve seen in beach houses from the Hamptons to LA. I was excepting the style commonly known as Shabby Chic, and here are a few things I learned about the style:

1. Rachel Ashwell did not coin the term Shabby Chic.

Despite the fact that her name is synonymous with the Shabby Chic I grew up with, the term “shabby chic” was first reference in The World of Interiors in the 1980’s. That said Ashwell’s Shabby Chic lifestyle brand and store (established in 1989) spurred renewed interest in the casual, comfy style.

2. Shabby Chic is derived from English Country.

Another term of shabby chic is cottage style and it was derived from English Country, with it’s florals and wood. I think this picture of the two white, worn leather Chesterfields perfectly exemplifies the combination.

3. Shabby chic incorporates everything from Swedish painted furniture to American Shaker influences.

Oh, I love Gustavian painted furniture, which always reminds me of Vermeer, for some unknown reason. Shabby Chic makes it easy to take aging pieces and renew them with a little paint. It is an easy evolution for old European pieces that makes them look distinctly American.

4. Recycling old furniture is an important part of Shabby Chic style.

When expensive decor became fashionable with the upper middle classes, Shabby Chic was an alternative for modern Bohemians and artisans. The original Shabby Chic interiors were considered works of art themselves. It’s a design style that is both totally popular but also accessible and easy to replicate.

For the record, the house we stayed in was not shabby chic. It was reminiscent of the inside of a yacht; deep dark wood (on the ceilings as well) and  shiny metal accents. Somewhat unexpected for a beach house, yet totally appropriate and amazing!



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