March 8, 2020

Pure Wow: Shabby Chic Was Everywhere in the ’90s, and Now It’s Coming Back with a Vengeance

By Candace Davison | Mar. 8, 2020

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Even if you don’t know the term Shabby Chic,* there’s a good chance you know the look: extra-plush bedding with slightly rumpled ruffles, teeny-tiny floral prints and vintage furniture, often whitewashed and distressed. Everything was comfortable, romantic and effortlessly undone-looking—like no-makeup makeup for your home. It was everywhere in the ’90s. Now, about 30 years after its debut, the style is poised for a comeback as the natural antithesis to the neon signs, “For Like Ever” prints and terrazzo that’s been splashed across your Instagram feed for the past five years.

“I don’t think Shabby Chic ever truly went way, but it has reemerged better than ever as a much more cleaned-up, coastal look with a tailored approach,” says New Jersey–based designer Karen B. Wolf. She’s noticed that a wider variety of Shabby Chic–inspired and traditional floral fabrics has hit the market, thanks to advances in screen-printing techniques that have allowed more artisans to break into the industry. The colors in these patterns are less muted than the previous versions, and the furniture itself is less deliberately distressed to look aged; people are favoring pieces that use bleached or cerused oak instead.