London’s shabby chic scene

Ever wondered what ‘shabby chic’ ACTUALLY means? According to the Collins Dictionary, whom added the term in 2012, shabby chic is ‘a style of interior design that uses worn or distressed furnishings to achieve a romantic effect’.

Often adding a form of distress, be it as discoloration or evidence of wear, to newly-built products enhances the appeal and thus reduces the demand on genuine, antiquated items.

The term has been in use since the 1980s – in 1989 interior designer Rachel Ashwell created a brand called Shabby Chic that made vintage-style furniture.

The term has become synonymous with beautiful, homely furniture that looks as if it could have been picked up at a flea market, although in 2014 it’s harder than ever to find good second-hand furniture markets.

With the advent of online design sharing websites, such as Pinterest, the demand for such design has soared.

And whereas newly made vintage-inspired products are freely available online, at stores such as Bronte Rose & The Orchard, the ability to secure second-hand items becomes a far more difficult challenge.

London’s vintage scene leads the way in the UK when seeking out second-hand furniture.

Wembley Park has launched a new antiques and vintage market where people can pick up second-hand furniture once a month.

Watch their video here to get a flavour of what’s on offer. Old Spitalfields market (generally on Thursdays) is another good place to search for such furniture, as is the famous Portobello Road market which is on every Friday and Saturday.

The infamous Brick Lane street markets on weekends is another hotspot, although you should head there early to avoid the crowds.

There are few more immersive trading zones remaining in the UK, and it’s a real flashback to the street trading that London was historically famed for.

Be prepared for hustle and bustle, and sweet smelling foods from across the globe emanating from every direction, while you contemplate the goods on offer.

Another, undeniably more expensive offering, is the Eastern Objet & Antiquity department at Liberty of London.

With treasures from all around the world, it really does have to be seen to be believed and is a real throwback to the oriental offering – the Eastern Bazaar that the original owners setup upon opening the store.

Whether you’re shopping for shabby chic or vintage items at a market or a premium department store, have an idea of a space or room that you intend to design.

This way your approach is more targeted and you can visualize how you’ll present them.

The items also don’t necessarily need to be finished either.

For example, wooden tables and chairs – the epitome of shabby chic – might appear more shabby than chic on first glance, but visualizing how you could improve them (sanding down, painting, adding effect, etc.) allows increased purchasing options and lets you personalise your items.

Some people even look for old timber at flea markets and create their own furniture; old doors and railway sleepers make quirky and practical tables.

Antique frames are always a favourite among interior designers and add real character to a home.

Whether you’re shopping new or old, completed or to-be-completed, home improvements – be sure to venture beyond the typical, easier to access options.


There’s a whole world to explore and all within any size of budget.


The key ingredients required are creativity and an open mind. Ensuring your home is equally stylish and unique is the result.

Picture courtesy of La Citta Vita, with thanks

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