Thrift-store finds can be used to create a shabby chic ambiance indoors and out.

How to Decorate Shabby Chic on a Budget

by Kristine Lofgren

You don't have to be wealthy to be stylish. Shabby chic decor is defined in part by looking aged and worn, making it the perfect style for the budget-minded mom. Even better, as some items are knocked around by the family, they will blend right in with the shabby style. And you might be amazed at what you can find in your own home or at yard sales that can be repurposed to fit in with your shabby chic style.


Just about any piece of furniture can be modified to suit shabby design. Throw a coat of white, red or turquoise paint on the average dining chair or side table and you have something much more interesting. To make an item look worn, rub the paint with some sandpaper, or better yet, tell the kids that for once they don't have to be careful with the furniture. Reupholster a boring seat cushion in a colorful floral print. Make a few pillows, using a simple pattern, to match the seat cushion, and put them on your sofa or armchairs to help tie things together. Cover ugly sofas or chairs with white slipcovers when even pretty throw pillows won't beautify them.


Keep an eye peeled for wood or metal frames, particularly frames with an interesting shape or detail. Remove the glass, and spray the frame with white spray paint. Use them to frame candid pictures of the kids, bucolic miniatures or inspiring quotes in a script font. If the frame is too big for the picture, tape a pretty piece of scrapbook paper or wallpaper into the back of the frame to create makeshift background. In the kitchen or playroom, spray a piece of wood with chalkboard spray paint and frame it so the kids can create art of their own.


Clear glass canning jars are a lifesaver when it comes to budget shabby design. Use a few as containers for cotton balls, cotton tip applicators and Epsom salts in the bathroom. In the kitchen, use them to hold loose tea leaves, candy, stacks of cookies or salt and pepper. In the living room, line up some jars on the mantel and put a single flower in each one. For some colorful interest, spray paint the jars bright red, pink, sea green or sunny pastel yellow. Once you are jarred out, snatch up things like old sewing dummies, mismatched teacups, old doors and glassless window frames, vintage signs, glass candle holders or wooden thread spools -- anything whimsical and aged can be grouped to create a shabby display. Old dolls are perfect for a display in a little girl's room, while a little boy's room looks great with some fading wood cars and trains.

Floor and Curtains

Once you have the accessories, art and furniture squared away, it is time to tie things together. A rug makes the room feel cohesive, even if the things in the room are not. Look for a basic white cotton, wool or nylon rug. Using latex paint, paint it in a simple design, such as the American flag, the Union Jack or polka dots. Have the kids put paint on their feet and walk across the rugs in their bedrooms -- use the same colors that you used to paint other items in the room. Finally, hang lacy, eyelet or gauzy white curtains in the room, or use light floral blankets or scrap fabric instead.

About the Author

Kristine Lofgren specializes in interior design, Web design, photography and gardening. She owns an interior design business in Salt Lake City. A graduate of Salt Lake Community College's interior design program, Lofgren is pursuing a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Utah.

Photo Credits

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