Knobbles and Bobbles' Blog

How to Shabby Chic Furniture: The DIY Guide

how to shabby chic furniture

If you are getting an itch to refresh your home decor or want to upcycle your old furniture, our DIY guide on how to shabby chic furniture will take you through the tips and tricks that you need to know to make everyday furniture into something unique.

Here at Knobbles and Bobbles, it’s no secret that we are huge fans of the shabby chic trend. Shabby chic decor is loved the world over for being timeless and although it was first coined in America during the 1980s, we can trace it back to the dramatic Baroque and Rococo architecture in 18th Century France.

Don’t just take our word for it – data shows that searches for “shabby chic” went up by 47% year on year, with terms like “shabby chic bedroom” going up by a massive 91% up from 2019. It certainly seems like it’s here to stay.


Shabby Chic Characteristics: Two Standout Features

Before we go into how to shabby chic furniture, let’s iron out what makes this decor style stand out so you know how to approach your next DIY shabby chic project yourself.

Peeling paint

A defining characteristic of shabby chic decor is this sense of imperfection or incompleteness that is given off from the distressed furniture. Uneven and peeling paint, when done right, can look like the piece has been well-loved and can add a rustic charm to any room. This can be achieved pretty easily by rubbing some 80 grit sandpaper on the surface. Take extra caution with metal surfaces to avoid unsightly scratches.


Strategically chipped wood is also a common feature. It’s common for shabby chic furnishings to make use of natural material like wood, so you will often find that coffee tables, stools and chairs may have a few or even several marks here and there. The finish is often uneven and surfaces are not usually sanded down, which also contributes to the rustic factor of this trend. Again, sandpaper can work wonders to achieve that chipped finish.


Shabby Chic Bedroom

If you want to sport that rustic and vintage accent in your bedroom, how about adding a shabby chic flair to your mirror? This is especially great for old mirrors that look a bit outdated.

How to Shabby Chic a Mirror

What you’ll need:

  • Chalk paint
  • Masking tape
  • Soft clear wax
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • A brush to paint with – an old one is preferable
  • Your mirror

Step one: Tape around the mirror to protect it from paint. The actual frame itself doesn’t need to be evenly painted, but make sure none of it gets on the actual mirror!

Step two: Using an old brush, begin painting around the mirror. Be sure to paint with uneven strokes – shabby chic furniture, after all, is all about being imperfectly perfect, so don’t worry if the paint job is not uniform. 

Step three: Wait for the first coat of paint to dry. This can take up to two hours. Once it has dried, give the frame another coat of the chalk paint. Consider mixing some water into the paint to add some variation in the finish.

Step four (optional): Once the final layer of paint has dried, it’s time to seal the deal with some wax. Using a brush, take a small amount of wax and work it into your mirror frame. Use a cloth to wipe any extra bits off.

Step five: Use sandpaper to file down sections of your mirror frame, such as the edges and anywhere that is more likely to naturally age. The sandpaper should reveal some of the original paintwork underneath.

Step six: Using a lint-free microfiber cloth, clean your mirror to remove excess debris from the sanding process.

TOP TIP: if your mirror frame isn’t a great colour and needs an extra helping hand in terms of aesthetics, fear not – you can go over it with a base coat before step two – just make sure you allow enough time for drying before you apply the top coat!

Shabby Chic Living Room

You can also turn your living room items into talking pieces by adding a DIY shabby chic touch to chairs and coffee tables. 

How to Shabby Chic a Coffee Table

What you’ll need:

  • Filler
  • Primer paint
  • Top coat paint
  • Clear soft wax
  • Dark soft wax
  • Sandpaper
  • Brush

Step one: Fill any nooks and crannies with filler and allow up to an hour for drying.

Step two: Sand down your surface using some 80 grit sandpaper. This is a crucial step for helping the paint adhere to the surface better. Use a lint-free cloth to remove any excess dust and debris.

Step three: Apply some acrylic priming paint to prepare your shabby chic coffee table for the top coat. Two to three layers should suffice. Don’t forget to allow each coat to dry before beginning the next layer.

Step four: It’s time to paint! With your brush, paint over the surface using any paint of your choice – we find chalk paint works best as it delivers that weathered and powdery finish that is commonly found in shabby chic furniture. Allow to dry, then go over it with another coat to ensure the original paintwork has fully been painted over. To smooth over the painted surface, brush over the table with a small amount of clear soft wax.

TOP TIP: a little goes a long way, and overdoing it with the soft wax can create hard bumps and make your table turn an unsightly yellow colour. Wipe any excess with a lint-free cloth if you accidentally apply too much.

Step five: Want to add an antique finish to your shabby chic coffee table? Simply paint over your fully dried surface with some dark wax. Again, use this with a light hand, and wipe off with a lint-free cloth.


How to Shabby Chic a Bed Frame

Working with metal? You can still shabby chic metal furniture – all you need to keep in mind particularly for metal surfaces like brass is that you should lightly work sandpaper into the surface – too much pressure can cause scratches and damage the surface.

What you will need:

  • Lint-free cloth
  • Chalky paint
  • Brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Clear coat spray

Step one: Prepare the surface for painting by using a damp cloth with soap to clean the frame. Allow to air dry.

Step two: Lightly take your sandpaper and begin to go over the surface. Try not to take the original paint off completely and work in patches so it is uneven.

Step three: Depending on your preference, you can now go in with a paint of your choice – we’d recommend chalky paint for its versatility on both wooden and metallic surfaces. Dip your brush and use a cloth to take off most of it so you are left with a small amount still left on the brush and use uneven strokes to paint the surface.

Step four: Finally, seal the deal and ensure you have finished the paint appropriately with some clear coat spray after you have allowed the frame to fully dry.

How to Shabby Chic a Chair

Have an armchair that needs a refresh? Follow the steps below on how to shabby chic a chair easily.

What you’ll need:

  • A wooden armchair
  • Chalk paint
  • Brush
  • 80 grit sandpaper
  • If your armchair has a cushioned cloth seat, find some old sheets to cover it

Step one: Cover your armchair’s seat with some old sheets to protect it from paint.

Step two: Using messy brush strokes, begin painting on the surface of the wooden chair. You can either allow the first layer to dry and go in with another coat, or leave it at that.

Step three: Once the paint has fully dried, you can now begin to sand areas that you would expect to naturally age overtime – the edges are key areas that you should focus on, however lightly sanding all around the surface works, too. Again, just like with the paint work this sanding process does not need to be symmetrical – you want that imperfect finish to come through!


Shabby Chic Kitchen

Want to give your kitchen a farmhouse or country shabby chic appeal? Here is a super simple technique that will add some character to your cabinets, which will help to make your kitchen feel more homely and lived-in. This is a great DIY alternative for when you don’t want to completely alter the paint work on your cabinet.

How to Shabby Chic a Kitchen Cabinet

The ‘dry brush’ technique is an easy way to make your cabinet look like it’s been here for a while, and gives it a rustic upgrade without the need for a lot of tools.

What you’ll need:

  • A brush
  • A paper plate, cloth or tissue
  • Paint that is darker than your cabinet

Step one: Identify areas of your cabinet that are the most prone to ageing. This will most likely be the edges, the outsides and corners.

Step two: Dip your brush into some paint and brush most of it off into a paper plate/cloth/tissue so that a small amount remains on the brush.

Step three: On the edge perimeter of your cabinet, paint using upward strokes to imitate that aged effect. The more uneven you are with it, the better. For this technique, you want to focus on the outer parts of your cabinet rather than pointing over the whole thing. Repeat on the corners of your kitchen cabinet.


DIY Shabby Chic Furniture Tips

Colours: Where and How to Use Them

Want to shabby chic a single piece of furniture, rather than the whole room? We recommend utilising pops of colours for items such as chairs, bowls, door knobs and other smaller items. Larger features such as cabinets, tables and walls should generally make use of neutrals (think egg white, beige and sky blue

Contrast is Key

When you are transforming furniture such as drawers, cupboards and cabinets, we also recommend adding bold accents like contrasting door knobs to make the piece stand out. You can go as eclectic as you’d like, a simple contrasting ceramic drawer door knob, or a funkier glass cupboard door knob can add an extra wow-factor to your room.

Contrast can also add dimension to your room – if all of your furniture has the same finish, material and colour scheme, it may appear flat-looking, so use contrasting accents for some depth.

Add the finishing touches to your DIY shabby chic furniture projects with our collection of door knobs, cupboard door knobs, drawer knobs and more – shop now!

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