How one ShabbyChic Lover does it
If you like roses and lace and lots of whites and creams and old furniture and faded vintage fabrics as a lifestyle then you are halfway to creating your own shabby chic environment.
I didn’t realise it at the time but when I first got married at a quite young age and money for `nice’ things was scarce, I began to build the basis of what was to become a lifetime fascination and love of what is popularly called today, shabby chic in my decor and my wardrobe.
As my family grew and money got even scarcer, much of my wardrobe was hand-me-down and second-hand clothing boutique finds that I had carted home and cleaned and fussed over and often transformed with a bit of stitching and adding here and there. Funnily enough, people often used to comment on my lovely wardrobe when, in fact, it was just a reflection of a lack of money. In fact, I was forced by circumstance to take great care with what I had.
I seemed to have an eye for nice shabby chic pieces of `junk’ jewellery too, always looking for something to go with the special little angora cardy I’d bought at the hospice shop, or the scooped neckline sweater salvaged from someone’s garage sale and lovingly cleaned and restored to a fresh new beauty with a bit of lace around the frayed neckline and some contrasting edgings. Funnily enough, I never felt deprived because I couldn’t buy new, as did most of my friends and acquaintances who wouldn’t be seen dead in an op shop or rummaging around in someone’s garage sale. It never occurred to me to be envious. I loved my op shop treasures. Sometimes I would spot a blouse with some ancient posh label that might only have cost me 50cents. But back home my life style provided me with not only fabric but often lovely buttons and sometimes some pretty embroidery to use at some later date. Fortunately, I could sew and many an admired outfit emerged from my op shop stash.
I can remember many times when I had only a few dollars in my purse and little in the pantry. It was many years before I could afford a car so I walked everywhere so transport cost was never an issue.
With my tiny funds I knew what would give me the best value for the children’s meals, like a tray of chicken nibbles (back then very cheap and they loved them with rice), or a pound of mince for a nice cottage pie, and the usual bottle of milk (which back then was subsidised and very cheap). On the way home, a quick peek into the local op shop often revealed another little goodie to add to my stash at home – a length of ribbon and lace, maybe a full skirt with just the right fabric to make a cushion for the old rocking chair I’d rescued from a neighbour who was tossing it out and I’d taken home and painted white and green with some old paint I’d scrounged off my brother.
Today I still hunt for precious bargains and my home is filled with salvaged pieces that I have treated to a new coat of paint or sewn cushions for or just kept as it is because I love it like it is and we are talking shabby chic after all. Sometimes an old lace doily on top of a scruffy dresser with a vase of flowers gives me the the look I want. My walls are filled with old paintings found in dusty second hand stores and family photos in frames of all descriptions, bought for cents, which I have either painted or decoupaged.
Much of my wardrobe is still put together from my rummaging ventures and, with the emergence of designers like Anna S, whose clothes have that wonderful vintage look and Trelise Cooper, whose gorgeously romantic, feminine, styles make a woman feel treasured and special, my own style fits in quite well.
Today money is not quite so scarce but I still live my shabby chic lifestyle. I love nothing more than finding a great bargain and making it into something that will fit in with my style, either in the home or the wardrobe.
With my family grown and gone I travel a bit now and enjoy huting down my treasures in Europe, particularly in my favourite place on earth, Paris, where I have discovered the best antique flea market imaginable. Marches au Puces en St Ouen. It’s actually several flea markets flowing together with about 3000 stalls and a visit is a bit like being a kid in a candy shop – they sell everything I love from bric-a-brac to furnishing, clothing and antiques. I want to fill containers and bring it all home but I don’t have a bottomless pit of spare cash, so I force myself to be selective, which turns out to be a good thing, and come home with pieces I will treasure forever.
That is my shabby chic lifestyle in a nutshell. I adore it more and more with each new precious piece I uncover. I never want to live any other way. To me, finding my treasures and giving them a loving home is why I am here in the first place.
Call me a rescuer of fine junk. I see the hidden rubies that time has covered over and I’m so fortunate to have a husband who loves my shabby chic taste almost as much as I do.
A final little secret – he’s my best ever find – I saw his heart of vintage diamonds and claimed him for my own – and he didn’t cost me a cent.
Author Amelie Rose