One of the things that I absolutely love about the whole shabby chic look in all its forms (including beach cottage and farm cottage) is that it is perfect if you’re even a teeny bit into crafting. And I don’t just mean that the look is really forgiving if you’ve left a bag of sewing out on the couch!
What I’m talking about is that it’s super-easy to make objects and transform objects that give your place the shabby chic vibe. After all, even if you can’t do much about the big, expensive features in your home courtesy of tight budgets and landlords who don’t do the shabby chic thing, you can accessorise to your heart’s content. After all, what says shabby chic better than a slightly awry homemade craft project with all its charming imperfections? Or how better to personalise your place to make it one of a kind and like nothing else? One of the glorious, glorious things I love about shabby chic is that it is so individual – one person might be into bunches of lavender and mason jars while another is into gold-leafed cupids and baroque mirrors, but it’s all shabby chic and it’s all lovely!
The other thing that makes me feel a bit smug when it comes to shabby chic and crafting is that it’s a whole lot harder to accessorise your place with things you’ve made yourself compared to what happens with minimalism. Not many of us have a metalworking or glassblowing studio handy to make something in these styles. However, you don’t need much to get started crafting accessories for your shabby chic home. A quick trip to Homecraft or Hobbycraft or one of the hundreds of craft supplies shops around London, and another trip maybe to Stationery Express, plus a rummage around your favourite charity shop and you’re ready to go.
If you’ve never had a go at crafting accessories for your home (or for your cubicle at the office!) then here’s a handful of things that you might like to collect so you can personalise your home. As usual, the fundamental rule of shabby chic applies: if you love it, go for it!
- Lace. There are only so many lace doilies that you can fit onto your cabinets, cupboards, bedside tables and dressers. However, don’t stop there when it comes to lace of any kind, either in the form of an old doily or as a long piece that looks like it might have come from an antique petticoat. Glue it or sew it anywhere you fancy, from tying your curtains back with long lengths of lace fashioned into bows through to appliqueing doilies onto cushions. Although white lace is classic, you can play around with other colours if this takes your fancy.
- Shells. If beach cottage is more of your thing, then a hot glue gun and a bag or jar of shells will provide you with hours of fun (or, if you don’t find the time to craft, then just storing heaps of shells in a glass jar makes a great accessory in its own right). Transform just about any accessory by gluing shells wherever you want them. You can pick up shells during a walk on the beach during a trip to the seaside (hey, London’s not that far from the coast!) or you can find them in souvenir shops at seaside towns (you know – the ones you want to emulate with the beach cottage look).
- Chintz fabric. Chintz fabric often features those beautiful blowsy roses and other bold romantic prints that we all love. Even if you don’t go all out for chintz curtains and chintz-covered sofas, then there’s still plenty you can do. For example, you can glue a motif or a strip of chintz around a can or jar to make a holder for pens (or makeup or teaspoons or…) Applique motifs anywhere you fancy (teatowels?). Comb through second-hand clothing stores: you can often find old sheets, curtains or clothing that you can cut up.
- Artificial flowers. Yes, I love real flowers too, whether they’re dried or fresh. However, one snag with real dried flowers is that over time, they disintegrate and turn to dust – that’s just plain shabby rather than shabby chic! Fond as I am of dried hydrangeas and roses, if I want to add their romantic elegance to something that’s going to be used often or will be knocked easily (e.g. something that sits on that sunny spot where the cat always sleeps), then artificial flowers will last longer without breaking your heart. They’re also easier to sew or glue onto things than the real thing! As a plus, they take spray paint finishes and hold washi tape better. There are some lovely ones that look just like the real thing in heaps of stores – even check out the hair accessories section at your nearest Marks & Spencer or wherever.
- Frames. Photo frames, picture frames, you name it. They all work as part of the shabby chic vibe, especially if you use them for something other than displaying pictures. What about adding some stick-on hooks after covering the backing with a print or pattern you love to make a place to put your keys? Or putting some wires inside it so you can hang up your earrings? When picking your frames, look at the overall shape and style of the frame rather than the colour. If it’s a good shape but a horrible colour, that’s nothing that a can of spray paint can’t fix.
- Old jewellery. If you’ve lost an earring or broken a bracelet or necklace, don’t throw it away in despair! Use the beads or the bereaved earring to add some sparkle to curtain tiebacks, cushions, etc. Again, keep your eyes open in second-hand clothing shops.
- Buttons. Buttons go nicely with the cottagey style – unless you have a collection of brass buttons or ones featuring anchors or shells that go with the beach cottage and nautical look. The obvious thing to do with buttons is to sew them onto cushions in heart shapes or to form some other motif. Or cover a storage box completely with buttons!
- Raffia. For curtain tiebacks and more, raffia fits well with the beach cottage end of the shabby chic spectrum.
- Fabric squares: To give the old-fashioned cottage look to what’s in your pantry (mason jars and even Marmite jars!), top them off with a square of fabric held in place with a ribbon. Snip the edges with a pair of pinking shears to prevent fraying as well as adding charm. You can salvage old squares in best frugal cottage style by saving old worn-out cotton shirts or even denim jeans cutting them up into squares. Or search through the packets of “fat quarters” or “fat flats” at your local fabric and crafting store. You can go one step further if you’re really keen and make a pretty and environmentally friendly alternative to clingfilm by melting beeswax all over big squares of cotton – although I haven’t tried this one yet so I can’t vouch for it (but it sounds gorgeous).
- Spray paint. Antique gold and white spray paint are absolute must-haves for the shabby chic crafter, as these allow you to transform just about anything into something beautiful with an old-fashioned air of faded opulence.
- Ribbon. A must-have for the farmhouse and cottage look, whether you’re using it to tie back your curtains, to give you a way to hang up trinkets and ornaments (or a bunch of dried herbs) or to add a few bows and frills. From organza to gingham checks, there are heaps of ribbons out there (save them from gifts!).
- Washi tape. My favourite quick way to add a pretty print to anything from an old tin can to a ballpoint pen! Imagination is your only limit.