Saturday, April 9, 2011

When did shabby become chic?

I have never really understood the concept of shabby chic – who would want to buy furniture that is chipped and scratched and what’s more pay a small fortune for it. Let’s face it – these professional stylists may have enough time to trawl around second hand shops in order to find pretty objects but whenever I pop into one its seems to be crammed with brown Draylon suites and curly imbuia side tables! Of course we are supposed to recover these in faded florals or casually fling fringed throws on them to cover the cigarette burns or paint the furniture in duck egg blue or white and then sand it all off again.
When a friend suggested lunch at a new place in town last week that specialises in this look - I thought great, I am going to see some lovely nostalgic pieces and who knows I may pick up a bargain. Boy was I wrong – not only was the decor on sale similar to stuff that I sent to the rubbish tip when I last moved home – the price made more than my eyebrows rise – it elevated my blood pressure!

There is a very fine line between shabby chic and junk and very few of us seem to be able to distinguish between them. The shop’s name gave the impression of gracefully aged mementos of a bygone era but was filled with battered old ‘crap’ and very overpriced ‘crap’ at that! Things our parents would have given to the bin men! I was examining one such item – a tatty old overpriced cushion when the owner strolled over and waxed lyrical about what a wonderfully romantic accent piece it was. I loitered awhile waiting for my friend to arrive surveying grungy fabrics, tarnished mirrors and insipid prints in over-gold frames and then a blood curdling shriek pierced the air.”Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” shrieked some female. I hurried towards the commotion expecting to find at least a severed head or a 16 metre boa constrictor but no, the reason for this wild screeching , was a battered old settee with a carved wooden frame, stuffing pouring out of its dirty brown upholstery and the lattice work at the back looking like an old tennis racket that had been left in someone’s garden shed for too long. I stood in amazed shock while I listened to the owner and her friends make orgasmic moans and squeals of delight as they circled this 'amazing find'. I couldn't help think of the fairy story the Emperor's New Clothes - you know when no one will actually say that the King is walking around naked in case they look foolish.

I was rescued by the arrival of my friend and we sauntered into the adjoining empty coffee shop and sat on clapped out chairs at our wobbly painted table complete with artificial lavender springs and ordered something from the very limited menu - obviously the scarcity theory was carried over to the kitchen where wartime like rations were being drooled over. The food was mediocre, the service shabby and when the bill arrived - well that was very chic! I wont be going back - Shabby Chic is not for me - I appreciate old and beautiful objects and i know that recycling makes sense but I know when I am being conned!


  1. Me? I love a bit of shabby chic, but unfortunatley it seems to get shabbier rather than chicer when I get my hands on it! I'd much rather a bit of individual tat though than lots of mass-produced identikitness. Can't believe they had fake lavender though - that's not keeping up standards is it?! Lovely sunny day here, hope it stays that way for you. Love J x

  2. Your shabby is very chic and so suits your lovely country Georgian home. It really was absurd what they were trying to pass off as lovely!So glad you are enjoying some lovely weather - 31c here today and all set for international Iron man even in PE tomorrow - right past our house. I may dash out with some homemade lemonade for those supefit athletes.