Shabby chic is a design style that celebrates the unique beauty in imperfection. It’s about blending a (usually) light color palette with distressed surfaces or objects that hint at a more genteel past. It often includes overstuffed cushions, soft lines and the liberal use of floral chintz-inspired fabrics.

Keep it Warm and White

White works well with modern architecture, and modern shabby chic designers know that. Instead of using a complex color palette, they keep it simple with warm white shades for paints and fabrics. There are lots of white paints out there, but the warmest and most inviting contain a hint of orange or red-yellow. White-on-white fabrics in checks or stripes add just enough geometry to appear somewhat modern without losing their indulgent elegance, too. They’re an inspired choice for chairs, couches, pillows or drapes.

Add Gray

If you have lots of black accents in your home like granite or marble countertops, ironwork or cabinet hardware, make a bridge between lighter, softer shabby chic elements and all that hard or reflective black by adding a gray wall or a few gray furniture pieces. Light (dove gray) and medium gray shades work well with white, off-white and colors like pink, creamy yellow, gold and even brown. Gray is actually considered a neutral by many decorators. For an understated look, choose pearly grays to cooler shades, and make that gray shine by adding accents in pewter and silver.

Add Natural Elements

Nature can provide the best accessories. Shells, driftwood, ocean glass, seeds, acorns, pinecones, rocks and woven grass pieces can all become elements of modern, shabby chic or blended decor. They also work well with cottage design and casual designs for beach homes, log cabins, lodges and boats. The nice thing about natural pieces is that they add amazing texture and shading. They can easily become the focal point of a table or mantel, and they’re great conversation starters. When using smaller elements, be sure arrange them in odd numbered groups (threes and fives). For very small pieces like acorns or seeds, collect them in apothecary jars or woven baskets.

Pick a Plaid

You may already love plaids for your shabby chic or cottage style designs. If you’ve used them before, you know they can help balance those overstuffed cushions and feminine frills. They add structure and a masculine vibe. Including a plaid couch or ottoman is one of the fastest ways to cancel out girlie elements if you think your decor is getting a little frilly. You can modernize that vase of white cabbage roses by putting it on a plaid tablecloth or next to a plaid chair. For added movement and interest, pair plaids with dotted or checked fabrics, too. You’ll like the energy they create.

Incorporate Uncluttered Lines

Poufy ottomans and chubby cushions help make shabby chic rooms look inviting. They also balance the appearance of distressed tables and other hard furnishings. When you’re building a more modern look, inject some clean lines into the mix. It will help strike a balance too, this time between the symmetry in the modern pieces and the overstuffed and exaggerated contours common in shabby chic decor. This can get tricky, so audition new furnishings and accessories until you find an arrangement that works. Modern décor often uses long, straight silhouettes and geometric designs. Finding a few that integrate with your shabby chic pieces is the challenge here. Look for natural materials like wood, glass, wrought iron and stone. If you do run into trouble, increase the physical space between pieces and try uncluttering your arrangement.


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