Blend rustic finishes with shabby chic furnishings for a stylish and inviting look.

How to Mix Shabby Chic & Rustic

by Kris Gleba

Many mothers wouldn't have welcoming and comfortable homes without the shabby chic and rustic styles of decorating. The styles may confound husbands who ask why the paint is worn or made to look old. Moms, however, not only enjoy repurposing found objects but appreciate the uniqueness of these items. The biggest plus – the shabby chic and rustic styles are lenient and accepting of the nicks, dents and scrapes left in the wake of children's chaotic activities and mom's busy schedules.

Walls and Windows

Glean inspiration from the rustic style for wall paint colors. Neutrals, such as sandy tan or stone gray, complement both weathered materials and either style without looking like a themed room. Paint the window, door and baseboard trim a shade of creamy white. This paint color adds subtle brightness to the space, and, because it complements many different shades of wall paint, you can use it throughout the house to lend a sense of continuity.

Creatively combine both styles when decorating the windows. Wooden shutters add rustic texture and balance the shabby chic femininity inherent in gauzy curtains. Hang white curtains festooned with ruffles, but use aged metal tiebacks. A straightforward approach would be to hang simple linen curtains and top with a complementary floral valance.


Remove the wall-to-wall carpeting and showcase your home's wood floors. Refinish and repair, if necessary. Holes should be filled in and nail heads should be filed down. Leave the floor as is for a truly rustic look or add texture, plus shabby chic softness, with a flokati area rug. Rustic rug choices include an aged Oriental rug for visual interest and either a sisal or jute rug for texture. Explore the versatility of wood floors by painting or staining them. Add polish to a bedroom by painting the floor white, or whimsy to a staircase by painting the risers different rustic colors, such as a dark brown and mossy green. Balance a shabby chic room with the rustic appeal of slate tile. Its natural and many varied hues add a sense of seriousness to an otherwise feminine, and sometimes frilly, space.


Relish the comfort that is the overstuffed shabby chic sofa, but draw the line at the white slipcover. Children with dirty hands and white slipcovers equal disaster. Instead, add a rustic touch with fabric featuring ticking stripes or a muted toile pattern. Pair a distressed wooden dining table with mismatched chairs painted the same shade of crisp white or teal blue. Bring in unexpected elements for storage, such as old crates repurposed as wall-mounted cabinets and wooden shutters as the family organization center.

Add whimsy and storage with jelly cabinets that you have painted and refinished yourself. However, resist the urge to replace doors with chicken wire, for this material can hurt the fingers of curious children. Paint the jelly cabinet gray, apply several coats of brown glaze and then sand until you've reached the desired shabby rustic look.


Both styles favor using found objects either as is or repurposed as something new. Use the rustic appeal of wire baskets, such as old egg baskets or school locker baskets, to corral kids' school papers, your magazines or the many TV and video game remotes. Enamelware bowls and pitchers, with or without nicks, can hold kitchen utensils or bouquets of peonies. Shabby chic touches include an old China finger bowl repurposed as a soap holder in the guest bathroom and a crystal chandelier to add either quirky elegance to the master closet or beneficial lighting over the dining room table. Use both styles to add easy comfort to any room, such as a white candle nestled in a galvanized metal serving tray which you have placed on top of the white coffee table.

About the Author

Lowell, Massachusetts-based writer Kris Gleba has been writing home decor articles since 2008. She enjoys all aspects of small home living, from complete gut remodels to ingenius home decorating that incorporates style and function. She has previously written for the “Athol Daily News.” She holds a degree in professional writing from Fitchburg State University.

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