Shabby chic. Or just “crap”.


A new, ghastly, genre of home d├ęcor is taking over Gumtree. If it’s crap and knackered it must be Shabby Chic.

Having recently used Gumtree to dispose of an old table, I was struck by how many of the items vying for my potential customers’ attention were badged as Shabby Chic.

Now as far as I was aware, Shabby Chic was supposed to refer to one-off statement pieces of furniture, whose beauty lay in their iconic nature, and whose well worn agedness lent additional appeal. Like a well-tempered leather chaise longue, or an original Eames chair which had seen better days but whose value was enhanced by the fact that it had been sat on quite a lot. The concept was probably just invented as a magazine-filling ruse in the late ’90s.

A few googles later and it turns out that the rules for declaring something as Shabby Chic are rather more straightforward:

1. This is an old piece of tat that has been rotting in my garage.


2. I have applied some wearisome DIY techniques to this item, and now it looks like someone has forgotten to varnish it properly.

Hence, this is badged as Shabby Chic:


And so is this:


And this:


In fact Shabby Chic seems to have become the default way of passing off rubbish second hand furniture as if it’s worth something. It would be so much easier, and more accurate, to just label it as ‘tat’, perhaps subdivided into ‘clutter’ and ‘gruesome’.

Shabby Chic might have been a thing once, albeit an invented one, but now its ubiquity means it’s anything but.