We’ve been hearing that Shabby Chic is making a comeback. Shabby Chic was a style that grew out of the English country house look. Old furnishings and fabrics were repurposed in the home, becoming more “shabby” as time went on. The look was made popular when it was packaged in the late 80’s with English country style slipcovers in white damask, and faded floral chintzes with ticking stripes.
But is it really returning? Not quite. Times have certainly changed since then, and Shabby Chic has too. The green movement in recent years has created such interest in reclaimed, vintage and industrial furnishings that the design elements of the industrial-chic look are beginning to inform other styles of design. The new version of Shabby Chic, or Shabby Nouveau as we like to call it, incorporates the soft, comfortable linen-covered furnishings we know well. But now we have the addition of new industrial metal finishes and aged, limed oak finishes (instead of whitewashed Victorian castoffs). Upholstered and slipcovered pieces are often seen in hemp and oatmeal colors, or even reclaimed burlap sack fabrics, as the look is influenced by the current interest in reclaimed interior design.
Materials in their found or natural state have had a big influence on wood stain colors too. Driftwood tones and reclaimed wood with layers of wax or traces of old paint look interesting right now.
Reclaimed industrial pieces such as metal shelving, wood rolling racks, and antique wood flooring re-manufactured into tables are the industrial style elements of the Shabby Nouveau look. Manufacturers are incorporating elements of metal and driftwood colors into their lines as they respond to consumer demand. Industrial style metals add a more modern, edgy look to a room, but combined with warm woods they are easy to blend into any décor. Used in moderation, they update a room without making it look like a city loft. We especially like these pieces from Stanley Furniture for their versatility and unique finishes:
The metal framed shelving on the library piece introduces an industrial element, but would work in a traditional room too. And, the top and bottom can be separated and used as a bookcase and buffet. The lighter, limed-oak style finish on the table and chairs can dress a room up or down.
Dovetail Furniture offers pieces that combine aged wood and linen with traditional European furniture shapes, that are the perfect romantic touches for modern Shabby Nouveau.
A Swedish style wood-framed sofa shows off its light, elegant lines when upholstered in simple rustic linen. Vintage sofas and chairs, or styles that have antique details such as wood frames and button tufting, are great additions to make a room comfortable and inviting. Painted woodwork makes the carvings stand out.
Look for antique frames that can be painted and reupholstered for a really personal look.
For that timeworn but sophisticated look, we keep pattern to a minimum, favoring solid textures and soft designs like damasks, ticking stripes or faded toile prints. For a quick Shabby Nouveau update, a custom slipcover for your sofa or chair in natural oatmeal-toned linen is the perfect start. For color, add some washed and faded toss pillows, and bring some rustic or painted furniture into the room. Romantic, atmospheric colors such as aqua, faded coral, and soft greens look wonderful with the oatmeal tones and keep the look from being too monochromatic. Here’s a selection of pillows we love to use with our natural Belgian-style linen slipcovers – just click on the thumbnails for more info and online ordering:
So if you are a fan of Shabby Chic, but are looking for an updated style with rustic sophistication, think about going Shabby Nouveau. With some industrial touches, textured natural fabrics, and reclaimed driftwood tones, the new chic look is very unique.
Kerry Ann Dame is an interior designer and co-owner of Posh Living, a slipcover and design shop in Surfside Beach. She can be reached at (843) 238-0078 (843) 238-0078