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The return of shabby chic – why it's right for your home

Words by Rachel Leedham, whose interior musings have appeared in Homes and Gardens, Livingetc and The Telegraph

Cushions sporting sweet ruffles and frills, slipcovers edged with pretty peplums, sofas upholstered in tactile linen fabrics… shabby chic style is making a comeback. And it is hardly surprising: at a time when our homes have become sanctuaries, this nostalgic aesthetic – together with its close relative cottagecore, which harkens to traditional English countryside style – offers a look that is welcoming and familiar, creating a sense of heritage that will be passed down to the next generation. And today’s shabby chic interiors have grown up since they first arrived in our homes in the late 1980s: think a little less cluttered and a touch more tailored; less of the shabby and more of the chic. Here are our tips for achieving the look…

 

NEUTRAL TERRITORY 

Danube/Linen/Linwood

 

Both reassuring and deeply comforting, neutral linens are the bedrock of shabby chic interiors. Their simplicity beautifully balances more romantic flourishes and introduces all-important texture to a scheme. Our Serrano collection of fabrics woven from the finest European linen includes Elba, a tumbled linen in six neutral hues (think loose covers or breezy curtains), Groselto, a classic herringbone that would be perfect for a more tailored piece, and Sienna, a glorious mix of bouclé, chenille and linen yarns that will bring a tactile quality to any design. And while the previous incarnation of shabby chic style favoured linens in the palest hues, today’s look incorporates more earthy touches, encompassing darker neutrals for depth and cosiness.

 

CHECK MATE

Danube Check/Linwood

 

An incredibly versatile design, the checked fabric is your new friend when it comes to creating a shabby chic décor. Use it when you want to add a little embellishment without too much fuss: a frill on a plain or floral cushion, for example, or a ruffle on a slipcover or eiderdown. A check also lends itself beautifully to window treatments: this Roman blind is made up in our Danube check, a 100% linen fabric that works equally well in a townhouse or a more rural setting. And when it comes to country blinds, a small ruffle wouldn’t go amiss.

 

SKIRTING THE ISSUE 

Albertine/Classic Blue/Linwood

 

Romantic yet supremely practical, slipcovers offer the opportunity to bring a ruffle, a flounce, or a frill to shabby chic interiors. It is important, though, to maintain a balance: juxtapose a skirted armchair with a more tailored sofa, for example, so that you have the mix of a soft, pretty piece with a more structured one. This slipcover, made up in our captivating Albertine linen, offers a pleasing foil to the clean lines of the painted wooden table, while the cover, too, combines flounce with restraint: a fitted “top” and a more voluminous ruffled skirt. More shabby chic decorating ideas come in the form of plain cushions with a contrasting frill and the painted table with scalloped detailing.

BOLDLY GO 

Louise/Belleville/Linwood

 

While florals are still key to shabby chic living, the faded designs of the 1980s are a thing of the past. This time around, the floral style is punchier, bringing a bolder edge to the aesthetic. Upholstering a low-slung chaise, our Louis fabric, a Chinoiserie design in 100% linen, perfectly encapsulates the look. The prettiness of the print is balanced with the slightly industrial style of the table and lamp, while all-important textures come in the form of tongue and groove walls – painted to pick out one of the colours in the upholstery fabric – and natural sisal flooring.

 

HAVING THE EDGE

Gertrude/Linwood

 

For anyone dipping their toe into shabby chic living for the first time, floral cushions are a wonderful starting point. They will lend prettiness to a plain sofa, soften a wooden or rattan chair and bring a touch of femininity to a bedroom. The modern way to introduce a ruffled or frilled edge is with a plain fabric: here, a cushion in our charming Gertrude print in 100% linen has been trimmed with a frill in Juno which adds romanticism without being overly fussy. And on that note, remember that less is often more: use an element of restraint by mixing plainer cushions with your ruffled or frilled designs.

 

HEADS UP 

Tresco/Linwood

 

An upholstered headboard in a deeply nostalgic floral provides the perfect opportunity to bring shabby chic style into the heart of the bedroom, without requiring metres and metres of fabric. The aesthetic is informal so a gentle curve for the headboard will suffice; you might also consider adding buttoning or a frilled trim. Shown here is Tresco, a quintessentially English trailing floral that is a reworking of an archival artwork. Key to the look are the mismatched floral cushions, which pick out the pretty hues of the headboard. A gently battered trunk – the ultimate piece of shabby chic furniture – completes the look.

CURTAIN CALL

Hester/The English Garden/Linwood

 

There is nothing like breezy linen curtains for bringing romance to a shabby chic interior and these patterned curtains in our leafy Hester stripe are ideal for creating a timeless home décor. For a subtly bohemian effect, the bottom of the curtains has a border in the same stripe – this time used horizontally – while more volume has been added with a layer of plain fabric that picks out the mustard hue in the print. Pretty yet free of fuss, this is a contemporary take on country style curtains. 

 

Less pale and punchier, pared of the frothiness yet still deeply feminine, shabby chic has certainly evolved since the 1980s – and it is all the better for it.