Love it or loathe it, shabby chic kitchens are one of the most popular interiors trends ever and it shows no sign of going out of style just yet. The phrase ‘shabby chic’ was first coined in the 1980s, with its trademark vintage styling, relaxed, romantic look and homely, timeworn furniture and furnishings, that were in contrast to the decadent, opulent trends of the time.
When it comes to shabby chic kitchen ideas, this eclectic look is as popular as ever and there are plenty of ways that you can add this style to your kitchen ideas, whether relaxed and rustic, soft and feminine or urban and industrial. With no hard and fast rules, it’s often just a matter of going with what looks good and feels right when putting a scheme together.
Shabby chic kitchen ideas
Vintage finds, timeworn furnishings, distressed paintwork and salvaged materials are all hallmarks of shabby chic kitchen style and while it has its roots in classic country kitchens, influences of industrial and farmhouse style, cottagecore and French country often come into play too. But whichever way you work this look, comfort and homeliness are at its heart, so it's not difficult to see why shabby chic style is as much loved as ever.
1. Create a rustic vibe with reclaimed timber
Borrow from rustic kitchen ideas and ensure a unique, one-of-a-kind look by opting for custom-made kitchen units in reclaimed timber, rather than anything too luxe and glossy. Full of shabby chic character, these base units use standard kitchen carcasses with bespoke doors and sides fashioned out of recycled fruit crates, complete with original inked lettering.
Opting for open shelves in place of top units lightens the look and mood, with painted panelling giving a practical wipe-clean finish. Open shelves also allow space for a characterful display of vintage pieces from kitchenware to crockery.
2. Try a relaxed look with off-the-peg pieces
Sleek built-in units look super-stylish, but for a more characterful vibe, swap wall-to-wall cabinets for freestanding pieces. With bags of character, this shabby chic kitchen uses vintage flea market finds in a mix of muted colours and timeworn finishes that create a warm and homely mismatched style.
Freestanding open shelving units allow favourite kitchenware and cooking items to be displayed - or can just as easily be hidden away with the addition of woven baskets, wooden crates and tin boxes to tuck them into. Add to the mismatched vibe by using a variety of kitchen worktop ideas, from solid butcher’s block to classic marble or timeworn stainless steel.
3. Team warm white and mellow wood
It’s hard to go wrong with classic white kitchen ideas and the same goes when it comes to shabby chic style. You can team pretty much any colour with a white kitchen, but warm wood complements it perfectly, creating a relaxed, rustic style that’s comfortable and easy to live with.
A weathered wood floor is the perfect starting point in a white kitchen, which helps to anchor the scheme and tie-in the extra touches of wood around the room. Opt for open pine shelves, vintage wooden crates, chopping boards and signage to add personality, complemented by fresh greenery and foliage trailed on shelving as a finishing flourish.
4. Fake a ‘timeworn’ style
Weathered wood, distressed paint finishes and faded linens are part and parcel of shabby chic style. Avoid pristine items and hunt out imperfect pieces if you can, from fleamarket finds and thrift shop buys to newer pieces that have been given a timeworn finish for effect.
Painting mismatched furniture and newer finds is an easy way of faking a distressed, weathered finish. Use chalk paint for easy all-over coverage and then once dry, give wooden surfaces a light sanding so that paint flakes away in places to lend a lived-in timeworn look.
5. Add character with mismatched pieces
Half the fun of a shabby chic kitchen is that you can experiment with the style, mix it up and bring in different influences. Whether elements of country cottage or farmhouse style, French country or a folksy flavour, there are no hard and fast rules as to what goes together, just go with what looks and feels right.
Starting with a simple white backdrop is a good basis for any scheme, creating a blank canvas against which more colourful elements or characterful pieces can be added. The classic farmhouse table is a staple of shabby chic style - it's a simple budget kitchen idea as it can easily be picked up cheaply in antiques shops and customised with paint with mismatched seating and colourful linens to accessorise.
6. Work in industrial elements
Shabby chic kitchen style often favours the pretty, but can also work equally well when it has a harder, more industrial edge to it. Exposed brickwork, reclaimed floorboards and steel cabinetry lend a rawness that gives a well-used and lived-in look.
Balance industrial edginess by adding colour and softness where you can. A hero display piece in battered painted steel offers an area for display that can be prettied up with china and glassware, vintage kitchen pieces, linens and greenery.
7. Open up the space with shelving
Adding colour and personality is key with this look. While painted cabinets and shabby chic furniture form a sound backdrop, it’s the finishing touches that pull this style together and give it character.
Swap built-in wall units for a run or two of open shelving. Factoring in open storage allows kitchen essentials to be within easy reach and offers a display area where you can showcase favourite things. From chintzy crockery and glassware lined-up in a row, to vintage kitchenware, painted enamelware and copper cookware, display pieces will help fill the space with colour.
8. Invest in classic pieces
Fully fitted kitchens and appliances can often feel quite uniform in style, which doesn’t sit well with the more relaxed, mismatched charm of this look. Opt for a more informal set-up with a combination of fitted units and open shelving, teamed with standalone pieces such as a dresser or freestanding butcher's block, or a kitchen range taking centre stage.
If you're looking to add this look to small kitchen ideas aim to mix it up with surface materials too, to provide visual interest and contrast, from solid wooden worktops and stainless steel counters, to glossy tiled walls against rustic exposed brickwork.
9. Mix and match with pretty pastels
A relaxed, lived-in look and mismatched charm is what sets shabby chic style apart from other looks. One of the easiest kitchen styles to put together on a budget, using reclaimed materials and finding a space for pre-loved pieces and vintage finds can help cut costs as well as create a unique, one-off vibe.
Upcycling furniture with paint or re-upholstering with fabric can be a thrifty way of giving unloved pieces a new lease of life. Kitchen cabinets are easily repainted for a quick colour pick-me-up or try transforming a farmhouse table and mismatched chairs with a lick of paint and pretty fabric seat covers.
10. Work in colourful elements
While white is often the go-to colour in shabby chic kitchen schemes, don’t rule out using brighter colours and mixing in a few more contemporary pieces too. Part of the fun is in putting together unexpected elements, so adding a modern chair against a trad table or retro-style cabinet can add a quirky, surprise element.
Statement kitchen lighting ideas are another great way of working vintage style into a kitchen scheme. Antique chandeliers, retro pendants or colourful woven vintage light fittings can create a striking focal point in a simple scheme and add a pop of colour against a plain backdrop.
11. Create character in a contemporary extension
Shabby chic style isn't restricted to cosy country kitchens, as this light, bright contemporary kitchen extension shows. All the hallmarks are here, from the limewashed wooden floors and mismatched vintage chairs to the open shelving and industrial lighting (these are on a grand scale to match the space). The result is a rough-luxe finish that feels airy and welcoming.
12. Give a barn kitchen a contemporary lived-in finish
Is it a country kitchen? Is it an industrial kitchen? With elements of both at the same time, we're going to say it's actually shabby chic kitchen ideas - those distressed pressed-tin tiles on the wall above painted Shaker units certainly seem to point that way!
Antique and vintage accessories and furniture - mostly made from dulled metal - are placed throughout the space, tying the disparate elements together. A solid wood breakfast bar brings in some natural warmth and colour.
13. Choose free-standing furniture for a rough and ready space
Free-standing kitchen furniture is a great way to achieve the shabby chic look. This glass-fronted painted cabinet both stores and showcases an eclectic collections of plates, ceramics and serveware. Rough wooden accents and wood panelling bring a more casual tone to the space.
14. Boost a white kitchen with colourful shabby chic accessories
Warm solid wood worktops bring a cosy feel to an all-white kitchen that's packed with tactile surfaces, from metro tiles to panelled units, industrial metal to painted floorboards. Taking the look from modern country to shabby chic are a series of colourful and well-placed accents, including vintage bar stools, pale blue pendant shades and a jumbled array of artwork hung on the wall. Fresh and fun.
15. Mix up vintage and industrial finishes in a modern kitchen
A smart modern country kitchen, with built-in wooden worktops, benefits from pieces of furniture and kitchen accessories in contrasting materials. Here vintage bar stools, made from distressed metal and well-worn leather, bring a relaxed element to this structured space, while brushed metal pendant shades add a glam touch. Retro cookware and storage jars complete the shabby chic line-up.
16. Mismatch whitewashed timber for a cohesive shabby chic look
This all-white scheme is the ultimate shabby-chic look; it has a scrubbed-wood beach house type feel that is fresh rather than fussy. A well-worn wooden table adds a rustic edge that is matched by the timber worktops, while pendant shades are hung low enough over dining table and work surfaces to function as task lighting. An open roof-space and stripped floors - all painted white to match the walls - bring a fresh liveliness to the kitchen.
17. Try vintage-look open shelving
Metro tiles, rough-hewn open shelving, reclaimed vintage cabinets, scrubbed wooden table and brushed metal fittings - this kitchen is shabby chic from floor to ceiling. The kitchen storage ideas are key to this look being successful, shabby should never mean messy. Everything has its place, from the Kilner storage jars to the foldable dining table, bringing order to an array of design styles and kitchen essentials.
18. Place shabby chic furniture at the heart of the scheme
Look to buy second-hand furniture that can channel the shabby-chic look single handedly. In this traditional country-style kitchen the addition of an antique oversized butcher's block and stools - all sporting distressed white paintwork - suggests shabby chic in an instant. A white metal pendant cements the look and it's cleverly placed to highlight the star feature too.
19. Mismatch wooden furniture for a warmer take
If you're not a big fan of painted furniture, just hone the look down to one piece. Timber finishes draw the disparate elements of this modern kitchen dining area together; the painted table sits at the centre of the space, contrasting with the unfinished and varnished timbers of the mantelpiece, storage and chairs. Mix and match antique upholstered chairs with designer versions for a freer interpretation of shabby chic.
20. Reverse the tables with a glossy rough-luxe kitchen
Traditionally we think of shabby chic kitchens being pale country cabinetry boosted with industrial accents, but this space turns that idea on its head. A high-gloss kitchen offers a gleaming black backdrop for rough-hewn flooring, a heavy-painted wood country dining table and mismatched vintage school and church chairs. It gives the usually girly style a more grown-up feel, that looks amazing in an urban home.
21. Pick pastel paint for a soothing kitchen space
Swap a white kitchen colour scheme for the palest of green and discover a richer, less stark version of the shabby chic look. In this kitchen, country essentials such as a twin butler sink and plate racks - which house a selection of pick-and-mix plates and French-style ceramics - create a welcoming scheme whose warmth is reflected by the choice of curtains (rather than blinds) and a richly mottled marble work surface.
22. Personalise kitchen space with arty objects
The stainless steel appliances are in place, you have a rustic exposed brick wall, country-style cabinetry and open shelving... it looks great, but something is missing. Your own personality!
Use kitchen wall decor ideas and shelves to bring a bit of extra character to this family space. Whether it's spelling out your initials, framed art prints or random objects you've picked up at a flea market, these are what make a shabby chic kitchen feel like its actually your cooking space.
23. Use dining accessories to zone a shabby chic kitchen
Simple touches can change the whole feel of a kitchen. In this beautiful multifunctional space, all it takes to add glamour and a chic French vibe is a crisp white tablecloth. Make use of home furnishing discount codes to find smart stripped-wood cross-back chairs, glass candelabras and gleaming ice buckets to suggest shabby chic style without committing to a full-scale kitchen makeover.
24. Be bold by mixing textures and styles
While original terracotta floor tiles might not be synonymous with shabby-chic style, this kitchen still manages to pull off the look with aplomb. By whitewashing brickwork, fitting glossy metro tiles and hanging a rise-and-fall pendant and ornate mirror around a central painted table and upholstered chairs, the styling manages to embrace the flooring as part of the look.
25. Blend French country with chateau chic kitchen style
Traditionally the most relaxed area of a kitchen, a breakfast bar can make a strong focal point for shabby chic style. Here, bar stools are swapped for high seating with a French-style painted and upholstered finish. The gleaming marble and ice-white finish is set off by an offbeat aged bronze chandelier overhead, which ticks the 'shabby' box perfectly!
26. Mix matt and gloss finishes for visual contrast
Achieve a pared-back shabby-chic feel in your kitchen by painting tongue-and-groove doors to match stripped and painted wooden floorboards. Unpainted furniture, including a pew-style bench, introduces a rustic touch, while hi-gloss black worktops add the glamour element. The simplicity of traditional Shaker-style units makes a nice contrast.
How can I make my kitchen shabby chic?
Essential ingredients in a shabby chic kitchen include worn, well-loved furniture in distressed finishes, low-slung metal pendant shades or glamorous sparkling chandeliers. Scrubbed farmhouse-style tables, open shelving and white painted French-style furniture with scrolling carved wood details are also ideal for playful layering.
Group or make a feature of different styles to set apart distinct spaces for different kitchen tasks. For instance, highlight food prep surfaces, rustic butcher's blocks and utility sinks with practical pendant lighting; the dining area can showcase a scrubbed rustic table, refectory-style benches and smart upholstered chairs; a breakfasting space can be set apart with modern bar stools and glorious hi-gloss marble surfaces. Yes, it's eclectic, but that laid-back mix-and-match style is the aim here.
What is shabby chic colour?
Whites and neutrals are favourite decorating colour palettes in the shabby-chic kitchen. Use them on ceilings, walls and floor too (if you dare) and they will create a bright and vibrant stage for essential fixtures and fittings in your cooking area. Many shabby-chic kitchens will extend white tones on to cabinetry, appliances, lighting and storage for a cool and ultra-chic feel.
But shabby chic kitchens ideas don't have to be white. Shades of gentle grey or green have a classic feel that will bring a naturally warmer atmosphere to a shabby chic scheme and work particularly well on kitchen cabinetry.
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