Shabby Chic Antiques

Karen Jones longs for a shabby, chic haven to call her own in Cracking Antiques. Karen Jones lives in an all male household and longs for a pretty, shabby chic haven to call her own. Interior designer Kathryn Rayward and antiques expert Mark Hill help Karen to achieve an affordable yet feminine and charming dining room using antiques and vintage items.


Shabby Chic is thought to have originated in the 1980’s. The exact origins of the style are a bit murky with some claiming modern Bohemians in Great Britain created it as a rebellion against the way the upper middle class were furnishing their homes at the time. Others point to Rachel Ashwell, who started her homewares line called ‘Shabby Chic’ in 1989 and says she got the idea while selling furniture she refurbished at flea markets. Regardless Rachel Ashwell is considered a pioneer of the movement and has written several books on shabby chic that provide a wealth of inspiration.

Essentially, Shabby chic is a form of interior design where furniture and furnishings create elegance through their simplicity. The emphasis is on vintage, well-worn pieces or new items that are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique. When you decorate this way, your home should feel like a lived-in country cottage. The style is soft, relaxed, charming and unexpected touches are welcome. It’s also a decorating style that can be easily created on a budget as you can buy items secondhand and fix them up yourself.


The key thing to remember about recreating this look at home is that it’s all about achieving homespun elegance through relaxed, cozy simplicity.

As you saw from the episode (click here for full details of the items mentioned), some key things that you can do to achieve this look are:

1. Look for well-worn and distressed furniture or create it yourself. First of all, you need to decide on which pieces of distressed furniture you want to create. The beauty of this style is that you can blend distressed furniture with more modern pieces to achieve a fresh look. You can buy reproduction pieces and true vintage but many people get around the expense by distressing furniture themselves – you can buy cheap, new furniture and do this or you can use existing pieces you already have or scour out the classifieds, garage sales, op shops and flea markets.

Distressing furniture is quite easy to achieve – it’s best to use solid wood furniture. You will need to sand the furniture back but don’t remove all of the paint as the idea is to have layers of paint showing through obviously worn areas. Sanding the corners roughs up the furniture a little and really gives it that distressed look. Remember when painting your furniture that the look is for the most part about whites and pastels so white, ivory and pale blue are the best shades to use.

Be careful not to buy a paint that is too glossy as even roughened up, it may look too new. There’s also something called ‘crackle paint’ which you can buy at a hardware store that can make furniture look old. If you are distressing cheap, new furniture, you may want to also add old handles to give it an antique look. Wicker furniture is another great shabby chic option as all you need to transform it is a can of spray-paint!

2. Use a palette mainly composed of whites and pastels. The dominant colour in shabby chic is white. Walls are usually painted white and all the furniture tends to be white-washed. To convey the country cottage feel, pastel shades like rose, faded blue and light green are used as accents. Having said this, there is a lot of flexibility and this style is constantly evolving – for example, you can mix whites, creams and ivories together, floral or patterned wallpaper is often used and in the show, Kathryn mixed a bold red chair with white and brown wooden chairs for the kitchen dining set. The trick to getting it right is to overall use a palette of whites and pastels and be selective about where you might use bolder and more modern pieces.

3. Find vintage french looking fabrics in pastels and/or patterns. Floral patterns, stripes, checks, gingham, chintz, linens and cottons are all popular shabby chic fabrics. Go for whites and faded pastels and if you’re mixing patterns, it’s a good idea to keep the background colour the same creamy white and have at least one colour recurring in every pattern you use. You can also give your fabric a vintage-look by staining it with tea! It’s a good idea to pre-test a small amount of material before you use this method on large pieces. Put three or four teabags in a pot filled with hot water. Be sure to test it every 5-10 minutes so that you can achieve the look you want.

4. Don’t forget about the floor. Don’t overlook the floor - it’s an important part of capturing the essence of shabby chic. As this style is all about country comfort, most people opt for a natural wood floor or sometimes a ceramic tile floor. Painted patterns and diamond-checked floors can also work but your room could end up looking a bit too busy and chaotic if you have a lot of colour and patterns in the rest of your furniture and furnishings. If you want to decorate a room with carpet in this style, you should choose a carpet in a light soft colour that has a short, soft pile.

5. Have fun with mixing and matching. With shabby chic, there are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines so have fun mixing and matching. The great thing about this style is that accessories can help you achieve the look – lamps, flowers, candles, baskets, pillows and picture frames are all low-cost items that can pull everything together. In the show, Kathryn used a blocky shaped white wood armoire and some whitewashed wooden shelving to put all kinds of items on display such as mismatched crockery. These items along with cupcake stands on a table made it the perfect room for enjoying high tea with a bunch of girlfriends. This style is all about fun so don’t be afraid to use that old chipped teapot or china that your aunty gave you – so-called junk is often a shabby chic treasure waiting to happen!


5. (Search term: ‘shabby chic’)


Designer chair
527 pounds $879.62

Caned back chair
140 pounds $233.76

Refectory bench
325 pounds $542.46
Pale and Interesting

Solid wood dresser
1150 pounds $1,919.46

Metal Shade
57 pounds $95.14

60 pounds $100.15
Katy Potts Tea for Two

Trestle Table
775 pounds $1,293.55
Pale & Interesting

Shabby Chic Dresser
300 pounds* $500.73

One-off dining table
387 pounds $645.94

Art Deco cake stand
16 pounds $26.72
Barn antiques centre

Church pew stand
213 pounds $355.67
Leominster Reclamation

Hand painted French light shade
30 pounds $50.09

Harlequin set – odd chairs
35 pounds $58.44

Bespoke dining table
387 pounds $646.21
Leominster Reclamation

French antique dresser
300 pounds $500.94
The Secondhand Warehouse

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