Celebrate the beauty and character of wear and tear with this lived-in look
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A minimal, modern kitchen isn’t for everyone. If you’re happier with a few rough edges, and prefer character to streamlined style, then the shabby chic look could be for you. Think lived-in kitchens that wouldn’t look out of place in French farmhouses, old English country cottages and windblown seaside retreats.
The trick to shabby chic is blending furnishings, accents and materials that carry the impression of age and celebrate a sense of history. It can also be a brilliant style if you’re on a budget, as it’s all about recycling and reviving rather than replacing. Distressed doors, pretty tea towels, vintage accessories, open shelving and dabs of colour all have their place in this look. Read on for some ideas on getting it in your kitchen.
Hang up your pans
The shabby chic look is all about proudly keeping interesting items on display, rather than hiding everything away: beautiful vintage glasses, Le Parfait jars and enamel jugs are all good, or try, as in this case, copper saucepans. A pan rack is not only practical, it can add a warm, period look; or simply hang up a row of hooks.
Top marks for the old-school leather armchair, too, which keeps things comfortable.
Browse the Photos tab to get more shabby chic kitchen ideas
Work with aged floorboards
Distressed floorboards are a cornerstone of shabby chic and, contrary to what you might think, they can work in a kitchen if you’re not too precious. They’re also hard to fake well, so if you’re lucky enough to have them, show them off!
The key is filling and sealing any gaps to deal with spills and errant crumbs. In this charming room, the floor echoes the tongue-and-groove ceiling and wall panelling, while the farmhouse table provides a cosy focal point.
Weave in a vintage sign
A vintage sign is perhaps the most popular shabby chic signifier, and there’s now a multitude of faux signs widely available (some incredibly convincing; others less so). However, they still look brilliant, as this bijou kitchen shows, adding an instant ‘doorway’ into the past.
Other tricks to steal here include the high shelving and cheerful mini rug (make it a cotton one you can easily shake out or pop in the washing machine).
Stick to light and lovely
A palette of white and natural hues is classic shabby chic territory; there’s something inherently restful about it. In this light, bright kitchen, flagstone flooring, a vintage armoire, factory pendants and a wooden bench all add a soft, elegant touch. Also note the curtains – far less formal than blinds. Shabby chic is all about informality.
Choose a farmhouse table
When it comes to shabby chic, one kitchen table style wins hands down, and that’s a traditional farmhouse, preferably with painted legs (characterful chips and scuffs optional). A pine, oak or elm table teamed with vintage chairs adds a sense of history and character, and exudes classic style. They’re also easy to source.
Get creative with your wall shelves
Recycle whatever you have at hand for true shabby chic style. In this beautifully eclectic (and lofty) kitchen, a weathered crate and reclaimed wire units make a quirky home for plates and cookery books, while metal lights and vintage signs further add to the pleasing jumble.
One of the great things about shabby chic is that nothing needs to match: the mix of corrugated metal with peeling green paint here simply works.
See the rest of this Oxfordshire home
Go for interesting cupboard doors
Kitchen cupboards don’t have to be glossy white or Shaker-style. These units built from reclaimed wood create a shabby chic look but in a cool, modern style.
Recycled wood is an eco way to add a modern farmhouse feel to a kitchen; team it with copper, marble, black paint and white metro tiles for a contemporary spin. This can also be a great way to do shabby chic in a non-period home.
Dress your windows
These days, lots of us plump for minimal white blinds or nothing at all at our kitchen windows. However, pretty floral blinds or curtains in the kitchen can radically change how it feels, and create an intimate, cottagey mood. Go for vintage fabrics to ramp up the shabby chic factor.
Work textured whites
There’s something so uplifting about pure white kitchens, but they can easily look cold. Subtle shabby chic finishes are an easy way to warm up the look. In this enviable space, the open dresser is ultra-homely, while units with traditional features add that crucial sense of the past.
How to use white in the kitchen
Big up collections
It’s fair to say that lovers of shabby chic tend not to be minimalists, so if you have a great collection of teapots or Delftware, show it off. In this cute kitchen, unusual open shelves proudly display a collection of blue glassware; the trick is keeping the balance between overcrowded and quirky. And think about every detail: stunning embossed tiles on the side of the island add extra personality, too.
Install a dresser
Shabby chic is about sourcing great furniture with a past, and part of the joy is hunting them down, whether at flea markets or in junk shops. One great old piece, such as this imposing dresser, can conjure up a real sense of drama. With its lacy tablecloth, baroque bench and vase of wildflowers, this Russian kitchen has an atmospheric, timeless quality.
Dabble with decorative touches
Shabby chic in the kitchen is partly about throwing out the rule book and thinking beyond gleaming worktops and neat wall tiles. In this deliciously decorative space, a vintage photo, curly shelving and an antique chandelier, among other quirky touches, prove that kitchens can feature as much personality as any other room, if you want them to.
Have you gone shabby chic in the kitchen? Share how you did it in the Comments below.