On Linens and Life: Shabby Chic Linens

February 15, 2014


Due to its easy livability, Rachel Ashwell's "Shabby Chic" style has been popular for decades but the design that inspired it stretches far further back in time. Evident in the faded chintz sofas of British manor houses and in the heirloom antiques of French farmhouses and chateaus, quality furniture and fabrics were handed down through generations and treasured for their character. Paint chips and worn edges were a proud testament to the long history of a quality possession.

In contrast to highly contrived and beautiful but impractical interiors, the shabby chic aesthetic has been a welcome respite. The hallmarks of its design philosophy are furniture and fabrics that have been artfully distressed to create an elegantly timeworn look. Though the setting is relaxed and inviting, the "shabby" part of its name is a misnomer. Shabby chic is synonymous with character and old world charm, not with dereliction and disrepair. Good quality is still important.

As such, linen is an essential part of shabby chic design. In its natural form, after wash and wear, pure linen is softly rumpled. Though it can be ironed to crisp perfection , many prefer linen in its pared down style. Even understated, it maintains its heirloom quality. Made from the flax plant, the natural ecru coloring of linen fits in well with the muted tones of shabby chic design.

The recycling and re-purposing of materials is an important component of this design. Don't buy new furniture. Throw a pure linen sheet over your existing sofa, tuck in the edges and accessorize with rumpled pillows in a subdued color palate. Add a vintage chandelier and an authentic or reproduction antique and you have the essence of shabby chic: relaxed, romantic and timelessly elegant. A forgiving style, it's great for families and survives the wear and tear of kids, pets and Friday night pizza. So cuddle up, relax and enjoy.

After all, a linen flat sheet fits into the washing machine much easier than a sofa.