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shabby chic living room

A shabby-chic living room begins with beautifully old, distressed items and a focus on white and pastel colors. How can you make it work in your own space?

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When I wrote my post about shabby chic bedroom decor, I didn’t realize how popular the topic would be. It seems that Life At Home readers have plenty of interest in this unconventional yet attractive style. So I thought I would pursue the matter by researching the style in other rooms, and today we’re going to look at how to turn your living room into a stylish shabby chic boudoir.

Colors

One of the essential elements of shabby chic is the color palette you use. Shabby chic does well with pastel colors like mint, pink, baby blue and beige. These colors tend to keep the style more feminine as well.

White is really the foundational shade of shabby chic. Think heirloom lace, white muslin, natural cotton bleached by sun and time.

Shabby-chic Style Living Room by Los Angeles Photographers Amy Neunsinger

White is the perfect backdrop to display the characteristics of shabby-chic: chipped paint, distressed fabrics, eclectic patterns.

And yet, if pastel isn’t your thing, you can still get away with pops of bright color, in moderation.

Shabby-chic Style Living Room

Once you’ve chosen one or two pastels to work with, you can build on it with darker shades of the same color, and with contrasting or complementing shades. But keep it light–a few color items are enough to make a big effect.

Furniture

The essence of shabby chic shows in the choice of furniture just as much as in the choice of colors. Heirloom, vintage, farmhouse-style furniture are all appropriate choices. Even better if the paint is chipped or the piece shows other types of distress caused by age.

Shabby-chic Style Family Room by Richmond Interior Designers & Decorators Mikey Fuller Interiors

Nothing stops you from repainting a piece if you really want to, but it’s only shabby if it looks, well, a little shabby.

For the living room, old dressers and buffets are perfect. Go antiquing for a truly shabby coffee table, or upcycle something you already have. In the summer, hunting garage sales is the best way to find interesting pieces for almost nothing.

Shabby-chic Style Family Room

When it comes to seating, you want to use fabric covers to make even the most modern sectional sofa look a little old and worn. Natural cotton fabric is a favourite among shabby-chicers because it wrinkles easily, giving the sofa an interesting well-worn look.

I don’t advocate getting sofas off the street–bedbugs and all–so you can certainly indulge in actually new furniture here. Get your sewing machine out and make your own fabric covers, or ask a specialist.

Accessories

The accessories in a shabby-chic living room are what gives it its distinctive chicness. It can’t be all shabby, after all!

Out-of-fashion glass items like vases and candlesticks can do very well in this type of living room, along with vintage mirrors (wood or metal, as long as it looks a bit distressed), grandfather clocks, wicker baskets, cushions from your grandmother’s couch, and of course a little greenery.

Shabby-chic Style Living Room

Think cute, kitschy floral patterns, hand-sewn cushions and hand-knitted throws. Artisanal accessories are a really good choice for this type of decor, since they always look a bit imperfect. And isn’t that what lends them their beauty?

For lighting, chandeliers are definitely a favourite, along with kitschy table lamps–remember those with the crystal edging that clinks whenever you reach out to turn on the light? Candlesticks are also beautifully fitted for the shabby-chic living room.

It’s all about the chic

A good shabby-chic living room balances the character of used items with the natural lightness of white and pastels. It is a space where you are a free to indulge in nostalgia for simpler, less technological times, where TV wasn’t the centre of attention and where everyone spent their time entranced by conversation rather than their phones.

I know this style is really popular lately, and it shows a desire to shed a bit of our obsession with modernity and recover the lost joys of handmade items and quiet Sunday evenings knitting or reading to the tick-tock sound of a grandfather clock. How do you see the shabby-chic style in your life? What does it allow you to do that another style wouldn’t? Let me know in the comments!

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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.