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20 Shabby Chic Living Room Designs

July 22, 2020

Feminine fabrics, rediscovered (and repurposed) heirlooms and perfectly-imperfect patinas have all characterized “shabby chic” for nearly four decades. Join us on a tour of where the style has been, where it’s going next and how it can work in your space.

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Once Upon a Time...

“Shabby chic” as a design term was coined back in 1981 by Min Hogg, editor-in-chief of the English design magazine Interiors (now World of Interiors). As she is said to have put it, the style is all about “characterful, colorful, used but not abused” pieces; she championed comfortable, informal pieces with great back stories, and her influential eye was an antidote to over-the-top trends that dominated other parts of the design world in the excessive ‘80s. Rachel Ashwell — whose Shabby Chic Couture decor and accessories are featured in this living room by Lulu Tapp — opened her first store in 1989 and quickly became synonymous with the term as well.

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Photo: Houlihan Lawrence, a member of Luxury Portfolio International. From: Houlihan Lawrence.

Regal Meets Rustic

Asked to describe her aesthetic, Rachel Ashwell has said, "Think Marie Antoinette in jeans and a cowboy hat." The unfussy finery in this Westchester County home characterizes that contrast perfectly: consider how the plaster walls and timbers frame more formal elements like the area rug and upholstery fabrics. The mantel clock, tabletop globe and hearthside bird cage contribute a hint of world traveler sophistication to the space.

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Modern History

Shabby chic celebrates well-aged interiors (like that gorgeous New York home in the previous slide), but it’s also all about beginning new stories, like in this Arkansas living room, where Dave and Jenny Marrs of Fixer to Fabulous added architectural detail with a traditional mantel. A supporting cast of leather-bound books on the coffee table, the trunk repurposed as an occasional table, and the pair of leather armchairs — all 21st-century versions of shabby chic classics — contribute to the new-is-old-school feel of this living room.

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Patina and Polish

Designer Bryan Patrick Flynn modernized shabby chic motifs in this space by juxtaposing expected elements like the massive mirror with a weathered white frame with the contrasting trio of Art Deco inspired pieces in the hallway to its left. Dreamy pastels on the armchair, accent pillow and throw blankets perk up beside an eye-popping arrangement of roses perched on an oxidized brass tray.

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