Is shabby chic still on trend in 2024? Interior designers weigh in on this rustic-inspired, romantic aesthetic

Designers explain how to modernize shabby chic for a contemporary take on this nostalgic decor style

shabby chic decor in different rooms
(Image credit: Joshua Smith Inc/photo Lisa Romerin, Betsy Wentz Interior Design, Joshua Smith Inc/photo Allyson Lubow)

It's fair to say that shabby chic isn't the most used term in the interior design world these days. For lots of us, shabby chic has strong connotations of a certain ultra-feminine, core '90s look. But, any pre-connotations aside, shabby chic can indeed be an effective way of bringing rustic charm to the home. 

Admittedly, the risk with shabby chic decor is that it's often carried out to the extreme, creating spaces that are eccentric and highly decorative. However, designers agree that taking certain aspects of this interior design trend can ensure this style looks relevant in 2024. 

If you're a fan of romantic, delicate interiors, think French country, and rustic styles, then shabby chic may align perfectly with your interior tastes. To explore how shabby chic can be embraced whilst maintaining a stylish look, we spoke to interior designers to get their thoughts and ideas. 

'Shabby chic, an interior design movement that swept across homes in the '90s is definitely making a comeback just like '90s fashion,' says interior designer Sasha Bikoff, part of New York Design Center's Access to Design program.

What is shabby chic decor? 

Shabby chic bedroom with striped bed and light walls

(Image credit: Betsy Wentz Interior Design)

Dating back to the 1980s, shabby chic decor can generally be defined as a romantic decorating style that emphasizes a rustic look, with decorative items often having a distressed finish. From painted furniture that's internationally worn to reveal the original wood, to smaller decorative items that feature aged metal, across shabby chic you will often see stylishly weather pieces that give the trend its fitting name. 

In terms of the furniture items that are seen in shabby chic spaces, it's often a selection of antique and vintage finds. Furniture styles are feminine and delicate, much like furniture styles found in French country decor. Think of a decorative chest of drawers or a vanity station with ornate detailing. Upholstery also forms a key part of the shabby chic decorating style, with furniture items often covered in soft floral prints that continue the feminine and delicate look. 

'I always associate shabby chic with effortlessly feminine design details combined with a classic French country look,' says designer Kathy Kuo. 'Add this style to your home with furniture that features ornate detailing along with a weathered finish, or with materials like linen and lace, but with artfully frayed edges. It's about looking cozy and lived in, as well as sophisticated and fanciful.'

kathy kuo home
Kathy Kuo

Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry. 

In terms of colors, shabby chic decor is all about light hues. Bright white paints often form the main color scheme of a shabby chic room, with subtle pastels such as pink, green, and blue incorporated throughout the rest of the decor. Even wooden elements will reflect light tones, crucially avoiding anything too dark and heavy.

'Shabby chic mixes lighter woods and vintage furniture with softer colors and florals to create a romantic look,' says Pennsylvania-based interior designer Betsy Wentz. 'To create an updated version of shabby chic in your bedroom, recover a French country bed in a softer striped fabric, add distressed painted nightstands, and glass lamps with retro shades. Or try a Monet-inspired wallpaper and bedding in pastel tones.'

How to decorate with shabby chic in 2024

By following designers' top tips which we've rounded up below, you can decorate with shabby chic to create a cozy and vintage-inspired space that still feels in line with 2024 design trends.

1. Decorate with antiques

shabby chic entryway with rustic door and vintage side table

(Image credit: Joshua Smith Inc, photography Lisa Romerin)

Although there are many ways to replicate a rustic look by decorating with modern furniture that's been distressed to look aged, styling actual weathered pieces will always create a much more authentic look. Focus on decorating with antique furniture of an ornate style to help create a shabby chic look that feels genuine and timeless.

'Antique furniture with rustic wood finishes is a great place to start such as worn side tables or coffee tables in a living room, upholstered chairs, or a rustic headboard in a bedroom,' says interior designer Bre Hance. 

The same applies to smaller decorative items, such as mirrors. Bre continues to explain how antiqued mirrors can help create a stylish shabby chic look: 'Gilded vintage mirrors also help bring in the older look and are trending right now. They can look great paired over a wood console table, or to really take up space, a floor-to-ceiling mirror makes a statement and serves as a stunning focal point to a room. A mix of vintage accessories like candle sticks, paintings, photo frames, and special knick-knacks work great for filling shelves and telling a story through their old-world charm.'

Bre Hance

InHance is a Los Angeles-based design and build firm founded by Bre Hance, focused on custom new builds, major renovations, and complete home furnishing services. Inspired by both the desert and coastal California, Bre is recognized for seamlessly integrating modern, earthy-industrial, and timeless design into her projects.

2. Blend old and new

shabby chic bedroom with wallpapered wall

(Image credit: Betsy Wentz Interior Design)

Although worn and decorative antique pieces are central to shabby chic decor, going overboard with them can risk looking dated. For a contemporary look, make sure to also decorate with modern pieces to bring this style to the present day. 

'To bring shabby chic in a way that doesn’t look like your parents’ house from the 1980s, be sure to find a balance between contemporary pieces and older worn pieces and accessories that bring an ode to the shabby chic look,' says Bre. 'I like mixing older pieces with new ones to keep the charm in the space while also keeping it transitional.'

Designer Jill Norman, co-founder of Studio Mesa also recommends blending old and new decor, explaining that standout vintage pieces will appear more impactful this way: 'When incorporating shabby chic into a space, try to strike a balance with modern elements so you don't go too shabby. Pieces with a lot of age or character can get lost if everything in the room feels the same. For example, the imperfections of an exposed brick wall make a perfect background for more modern art to be displayed. In the same way, the beauty that comes with age on a knotty pine dining table can really shine if the dining chairs surrounding it are more subdued.'

The same applies to your choice of colors, too. Shabby chic is known for its muted, pastel tones, but to put a modern spin on this decor style, go bolder with colors to give it some edge. Sasha explains: 'You can also take the subject matter of shabby chic which is usually faded pastel chintzy colors and give it a jolt of freshness with some more bright hues.'

3. Don't overdo it

shabby chic bedroom with pale pink walls, gray dresser and mirror

(Image credit: Joshua Smith Inc, photography Allyson Lubow)

Going overboard with shabby chic decor – think pink floral prints, laced fabrics, and rustic decorative items – can soon look dated. Of course, some may love this look, but if you're aiming to create a slightly more contemporary and sophisticated scheme, keep things a bit more pared-back. 

'While shabby chic plays off frilly linens and heavy florals, I like to take the minimalist approach to these elements to keep this look less dated,' says Bre. 'But these elements can work well in throw pillows, blankets, wallpapers, and your selection of accessories. I just like keeping the floral patterns muted and soft, so there isn’t too much going on. But, if you do want to lean into the frilly side of shabby chic, nurseries are great places to do this. You can play with wallpaper, go for the upholstered look on the crib, ottoman, and even couch if you have space for one. It’s also the perfect place to add a rustic rocking chair to truly make the space feel cozy and sweet.'

Whether you want to go all out with your shabby chic decor for a nostalgic, comforting look or want to modernize this trend with a more pared-back approach, there's no doubt that this decorating style is here to stay.

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.