Shabby Chic vs Farmhouse: Understanding the Differences

When it comes to interior design, two styles that have gained popularity in recent years are shabby chic and farmhouse. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are key differences between the two that set them apart. As someone who has studied and practiced interior design, I can confidently say that understanding these differences is crucial in achieving the desired aesthetic for your home.

Shabby chic is a style that emphasizes a vintage, feminine look with lots of soft colors, floral patterns, and distressed finishes. It often incorporates antique or vintage furniture, and the overall feel is cozy and welcoming. On the other hand, farmhouse style is more rustic and utilitarian, featuring natural textures, distressed wood, and industrial elements like galvanized metal. It is inspired by traditional farmhouses and emphasizes practicality and simplicity. While both styles have a cozy, lived-in feel, the differences in their aesthetics can greatly impact the overall look and feel of a space.

Understanding Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic is a style of interior design that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is characterized by a vintage, feminine look, with a focus on distressed and weathered materials. In this section, I will discuss the origins of shabby chic and its key features.

Origins of Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic was first popularized by designer Rachel Ashwell in the 1980s. Ashwell began selling vintage furniture that she had refurbished and painted in pastel colors, creating a look that was both feminine and rustic. The style quickly caught on, and Ashwell opened her first Shabby Chic store in Santa Monica in 1989.

Since then, Shabby Chic has become a popular style for both home decor and fashion. It is often associated with a bohemian, romantic aesthetic, and is often used in beach or cottage-style homes.

Key Features of Shabby Chic

There are several key features that define the Shabby Chic style. These include:

  • Distressed or weathered materials: Shabby Chic often incorporates furniture or decor items that have a worn or aged look. This can include distressed wood, chipped paint, or rusted metal.

  • Soft, pastel colors: Shabby Chic is known for its use of soft, muted colors such as pale pink, mint green, and lavender.

  • Vintage or antique items: Shabby Chic often includes vintage or antique items, such as old picture frames, chandeliers, or mirrors.

  • Floral patterns: Shabby Chic often incorporates floral patterns, such as roses or peonies, into its decor.

  • Feminine touches: Shabby Chic is often associated with a feminine aesthetic, with touches such as ruffles, lace, and bows.

Overall, Shabby Chic is a style that emphasizes a vintage, romantic aesthetic, with a focus on distressed materials and soft, pastel colors. It is a popular choice for those looking to create a cozy, welcoming home with a bohemian flair.

Understanding Farmhouse

Origins of Farmhouse

Farmhouse style is a design aesthetic that is inspired by the traditional homes found on farms in rural areas. It originated in Europe, particularly in countries like France, England, and Germany. The style was popularized in the United States during the 19th century, when settlers were building homes on the prairies and farms of the Midwest.

Farmhouse style has evolved over time, but it has always been characterized by its simplicity, functionality, and practicality. The style is rooted in the idea of creating a comfortable and welcoming home that is both beautiful and functional.

Key Features of Farmhouse

There are several key features that are characteristic of farmhouse style. These include:

  • Exposed wood beams: Farmhouse style often features exposed wood beams on the ceiling, which add a rustic and natural touch to the space.

  • Neutral color palette: The color palette of farmhouse style is typically neutral, with shades of white, beige, and gray being popular choices.

  • Rustic materials: Farmhouse style often incorporates rustic materials like reclaimed wood, distressed metal, and natural stone.

  • Vintage decor: Vintage decor is a hallmark of farmhouse style, with items like antique furniture, old signs, and vintage textiles being used to create a cozy and nostalgic atmosphere.

  • Cozy textiles: Farmhouse style is all about creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, and this is often achieved through the use of soft and comfortable textiles like wool blankets, cotton quilts, and linen curtains.

  • Functional furniture: Farmhouse style furniture is often designed with functionality in mind, with pieces like farmhouse tables, benches, and bookcases serving both a practical and decorative purpose.

Overall, farmhouse style is a timeless and versatile design aesthetic that is perfect for creating a cozy and welcoming home.

Comparing Shabby Chic and Farmhouse

Shabby Chic and Farmhouse are two popular interior design styles that have some similarities but also some significant differences. In this section, I will compare and contrast these two styles.


Shabby Chic and Farmhouse both embrace a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. They both use natural materials such as wood and stone and incorporate vintage elements into their design. Both styles also use soft colors and floral patterns to create a comfortable and relaxing environment.


The main difference between Shabby Chic and Farmhouse is their overall look and feel. Shabby Chic takes a more feminine and delicate approach, while Farmhouse offers a more rustic and vintage style. Shabby Chic often uses pastel colors and incorporates lots of curlicues, while Farmhouse uses more neutral colors and rustic, unstained wood.

Another significant difference is the use of accessories. Shabby Chic often features vintage and antique items, while Farmhouse uses more practical and functional items such as mason jars and chicken wire. Shabby Chic also tends to use more ornate shapes, such as fluting, scalloping, and carving, while Farmhouse uses simpler and more straightforward shapes.

In terms of furniture, Shabby Chic often uses distressed and painted furniture, while Farmhouse uses more natural and unfinished wood. Shabby Chic also incorporates more soft and plush fabrics, while Farmhouse uses more durable and practical fabrics such as cotton and linen.

Overall, while Shabby Chic and Farmhouse share some similarities, they have distinct differences that set them apart. It’s essential to understand these differences when choosing which style to incorporate into your home decor.

Choosing Between Shabby Chic and Farmhouse

When it comes to choosing between shabby chic and farmhouse styles, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the overall look and feel you want to achieve in your home decor.

Shabby chic is known for its feminine, delicate approach, incorporating pastel colors, floral prints, and soft, natural elements like wood and stone. This style often includes vintage or antique pieces that are distressed or aged to give them a worn, lived-in look.

On the other hand, farmhouse style is more rustic and vintage, with a focus on natural materials like wood, metal, and stone. This style often includes simple, functional pieces that are sturdy and practical, yet still stylish and aesthetically pleasing.

When deciding between the two styles, consider the following factors:

  • Color palette: Shabby chic tends to feature pastel colors and floral prints, while farmhouse style often incorporates neutral, earthy tones like beige, brown, and gray.
  • Furniture: Shabby chic often includes vintage or antique pieces, while farmhouse style focuses on simple, functional pieces with clean lines and minimal ornamentation.
  • Accessories: Shabby chic often includes delicate, feminine accessories like lace doilies and floral arrangements, while farmhouse style incorporates more rustic, practical accessories like woven baskets and metal lanterns.
  • Overall aesthetic: Shabby chic is known for its whimsical, romantic feel, while farmhouse style is more rugged and practical.

Ultimately, the choice between shabby chic and farmhouse style comes down to what best suits your personal taste and the overall vibe you want to create in your home. Both styles can be mixed and matched to create a unique, personalized look that reflects your individual style and personality.

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