Missing the point of Shabby Chic

I have a long, sordid history with shabby chic, but it is on the fringes of my current taste now.  Still, there are many aspects of it that I love.  So at Christmas, I was excited to pull back the wrapping paper to find Shabby Chic Interiors by Rachel Ashwell.

I think Shabby Chic has gotten a bad rap over the past few years because it's been co-opted as the label for any number of offshoot styles and mass-produced caricatures - some a little too pink, ruffly, country or mass-manufactured.  And in the midst of all this clutter, the real beauty of Shabby Chic gets missed.

For one thing, I respect that Rachel Ashwell has created a signature style.  This is a woman who has published multiple books over a period of almost 20 years, who opened a national chain of shops, designed her own bedding and furniture and has a line for Target.

You might argue that she didn't create the style alone, she merely synthesized it for all to see when she wrote her first book, but regardless, she's built on that and remained true to her vision, while still evolving. If you take a look at her new book, you'll see those evolutions.

It might not be "my" signature style.  But I respect it, because how many designers truly form a signature style that is instantly recognizable by so many people?  Not many.

But if you can look past stereotypical images that come to mind when you hear Shabby Chic (white peeling furniture, rose floral prints and slipcovers) there are brilliant underlying principles that can be applied to many different styles:
  • Irreverence - not taking style too seriously, putting in a dash of fun here and there.
  • Love for the past, openness to the future - mixing past and present styles without fear - this is actually a very edgy, modern idea.
  • Casual comfort and coziness - Things shouldn't be too formal or precious - home is for living in.
  • Simple, fresh, clean - peeling back the layers to bare essences - keeping everything simple except for a few bold, statement-making items.
  • Flexibility - Instead of "decorating" a room and leaving it that way for twenty years, it's an ever-changing montage that represents your changing life.
  • Knowing yourself and your style and reflecting that from the largest to smallest aspects of your home and your lifestyle.
And in honor of that, I say, hats off, to Rachel Ashwell!

So, what do you think of Shabby Chic these days?  Did you ever love it? Do you still love it?  Do you respect it, but are moving in other directions?


  1. I love Shabby Chic decorating, But have an eclectic home (barn). On our on-line boutique we tend to not use the phrase "Shabby Chic" out of respect for Rachel Ashwell. Although some of the items would fall into that catagory it was she who made it popular. I have my own ideas in decorating and buy what speaks to me when doing a room. I think our homes should be a mirror image of who we are reguardless of what style it is. After all we are the ones who live there and we should feel comfortable in our own homes. I think she has done a fabulous job with the style. I have her new book and have noticed how she is evolving too. I hope she writes more books. I really enjoy them.
    Blog: Capers of the vintage vixens

  2. I've always appreciated Shabby Chic as conceived by Rachel Ashwell, and I believe I've read/looked through all of her books, even though I don't necessarily decorate my home that way--you won't find much white here, nor is my look "simple" (I accumulate too many treasures for that!). But I really appreciate all the principles of Shabby Chic that you mentioned--so much better to follow these than to try to copy Rachel's look exactly, as I'm sure some people have done.