How To Shabby Chic
Shabby Chic is a personal favourite of mine because of the ease and freedom in style. You can pick up an old unwanted dressing table from a charity shop, apply a layer of primer, a layer of a paint of your choice (pastels of course, it’s Shabby Chic darling!) and then simply use a bristle pad or piece of sandpaper to scrape away at the paint in the corners and in small amounts on the main surface to display a little false wear and tear.
You really don’t need to buy new from the box items which are going to use your entire budget up before you get to choose your wallpaper etc, simply give an old bed frame a little love and affection and the results will amaze you. You could even ask family and friends what items they no longer want or up-cycle items that you already have in the house and save even more money!
Many people who start out up-cycling go straight to antique dealers and don’t think to go onto ‘swap’ sites like Gumtree and Freegle. Here you can exchange your old (modern, keep up with me now!) items with those people who are wanting to modernise their home. If you are lucky there are even some people offering old furniture free to a good home if you were willing to travel to their location. Up-cycling furniture really can be as easy as you want it to be if you take the time to research before you spend a large amount of money, you never know, someone three doors down could be giving away a vintage dressing table for pennies or even better, free!
If you have bought a vintage or charity shop item there is a good chance that this item has already been up-cycled in its previous home a number of times. Not to worry though, this is even better for your Shabby Chic look. If there are already layers of paint on the item then that just means when you scrape away the paint you have applied instead of only seeing the wood/metal base of the item, you will see other colours, textures and layers coming through which can really create an interesting effect. It really is as simple as that – faking it!
If the item you are going to up-cycle does not already have a primer or base coat, I personally would apply one layer before painting in your chosen pastel colour. This allows an easier surface for your paint and won’t pull off as much colour when you use the scrubbing motion. However, if you are wanting your items to look more than a little ‘used’ I would skip the primer step and head straight to paint as it will be much easier to scrape off and you don’t need to use as much force.
Supplies You Will Need
Before you take a head dive into the first paint, lets take a minute to check out the supplies you will need to make it happen:
- Paint Brushes (Multiple for smaller detail and larger surfaces, one for paint stripper if you are using)
- Sand Paper / Bristle Pad
- Paint (Chalk Paint works best for a matt effect finish but it really is up to you)
- Primer (Only if the wood already has a gloss coat, this will help your paint apply better)
- Paint Stripper (Only if you totally want to remove any existing colours / texture from under the layers)
- Rubber gloves (Can be worn throughout but are especially needed for paint stripper)
- Screwdriver (In case you want to take off handles while painting)
- Wood Filler (Only if you are going to be changing from pulls to knobs or filling in holes etc)
- Bin liners or an old cloth (you will only need this if you’re Shabby Chic’ing in your home or somewhere you can’t get messy)
- Steel wool
- Your boring old furniture!
How To Achieve Your Perfect Shabby Chic Look Using Paint Stripper
- Assess your item - If you are stripping the paint, sanding down or just going straight into painting you MUST assess and examine your furniture. Are there holes that need filling in? You may want to keep them to achieve an extra vintage look. Are there handles that need unscrewing or can you paint carefully around them, maybe you want to paint over the handles? Either way, you need to understand your item before you start to paint and make an irreversible mistake. Remember to cover your floor with a cloth or liner to make sure you don’t spill any paint or stripper.
- Paint Stripper - Make sure you are wearing your rubber gloves before starting with the paint stripper, this stuff can burn through layers and layers of paint, goodness knows what it could do to your hands should you let it! Apply a thin layer of stripper covering your furniture with a brush and wait the directed amount of time suggested on the tin. Come back in the suggested time and then use your scraper to scrape away at the varnish. If you have any grooves or holes, use steel wool as this will be able to get into them a lot easier than your hands will.
- Wood Filler (Optional) - If there are holes that you are wanting to cover up, now is the time for your wood filler. As described on the tin, simply apply a small amount to your scraper and run over the holes. The wood filler should slowly start to fill the gaps. Once dried you can use your sandpaper to level out the filler and ensure that your surface is smooth ready for the next step.
- Primer (Optional) - With your varnish free wood you can now set the base for your paint, the primer. Apply a small amount to your brush and cover the whole of the item. The primer will ensure that the surface is ready for your chosen paint and you shouldn’t have to use as many layers which saves time! Not to worry, this step is optional if you would prefer to get straight to the painting.
- Painting - Painting leads up to my favourite part, distressing! Simply paint the item of furniture like you would paint a wall, be mindful of the groves and angles though. Although it doesn’t as much matter about dripping paint, you can always sand them down in the next stage.
- Distressing - If this isn’t your favourite part of Shabby Chic’ing then it will be by the end of this tutorial! Just grab your sandpaper or bristle pad and start attacking (not literally) the edges of the dresser and anywhere else you want to look distressed. You can look for tools and other items to make patterns, textures and different layers to achieve any style you want. If you were feeling adventurous you could even get a meshed material and blot on different colours. You really can let your imagination go wild!
How to Shabby Chic With Layering
- Assess your item - If you are using primer or not you MUST assess and examine your furniture. Remember to cover your floor with a cloth or liner to make sure you don’t spill any paint or stripper.
- Wood Filler (Optional) - If there are holes that you are wanting to cover up, now is the time to use your wood filler. Follow the instructions on the tin, leave to dry then sand off any additional filler to smooth out the surface.
- Primer (Optional) - Now is the time to set the base for your paint, of course this step is optional if you would prefer to get straight to the painting. Apply a small amount to your brush and cover the whole of the item. The primer will ensure that the surface is prepared for your chosen paint.
- Painting - Painting leads up to my favourite part, distressing! Simply paint the item of furniture like you would paint a wall, be mindful of the grooves and angles though. Although it doesn’t as much matter about dripping paint, you can always sand them down in the next stage.
- Layering - Once the item has been painted the first time, you now have the extra option of adding another layer. If your first layer is rose pink for example, the second layer should be a different colour and will be the main colour of the item.
- Distressing - Just grab your sandpaper or bristle pad and start to rub any areas of the item you want to be distressed. By adding the extra layer of paint, this means that when distressing not only will the base of the item come through, in most cases wood, but the first layer of paint will also show through giving you a really interesting distressed look. To add extra details you can look for tools and other items to make patterns, textures and different layers to achieve any style you want. If you were feeling adventurous you could even get a meshed material and blot on different colours.
The end! All you need to do now is wait for your masterpiece to dry, probably the most boring step of them all. Once it has fully dried and you are happy with the outcome, reattach your handles (if you took them off) and there you have it, your very own one of a kind, custom made piece of Shabby Chic furniture.
If you have any successful stories of Shabby Chic’in your furniture, please leave comments or send in some pictures and we might feature you in a follow up post! Also if you have any other ways to DIY your furniture to blissful Shabby Chic standards, please let me know. I love trying new techniques!
To add to my article I have also included some reading material that further inspires me and I hope will give you some great ideas to bring to your home.
"52 Ways To Incorporate Shabby Chic Into Any Room" - An excellent resource you can use after creating your items to provide some ideas on where you can place things!
"10 Shabby Chic Style Ideas" - This post gives you a further insight on how to achieve that shabby chic look with 10 image ideas to get you started.
Floral Border Wall Sticker