Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shabby chic

Shabby chic seems to have been popular for ages. I'm not a follower of fashions, but nobody could possibly miss all those shops selling shabby chic - mostly fake admittedly, but the market seems to be there.

What's it all about, all that painted furniture, mass-produced objets trouvĂ©s and hand-crafted imports obviously made in bulk to strict standards?

I don't dislike the style myself, although it can be far too chintzy, but why it is so popular I don't know. As far as I can see, every single town in the UK has at least one shop selling the stuff. Little painted cupboards, chunky glass vases, artificially distressed bits of wood studded with coat hooks, cake stands, imitation baroque mirrors and picture frames, cake tins with fake vintage designs, imitation Victorian boot-scrapers, whole dining suites in painted wood - pastel shades of course.

Uncomfortable metal chairs, folding patio chairs with distressed paintwork, modern copies of Victorian four-legged stools and candlesticks in riotous profusion, often debased versions of older styles - as is so common with shabby chic. Lumpy notebooks with covers made from recycled straw, scented candles and so on and so on. You must have seen hundreds of shops stuffed with it - I certainly have.

What happens when it goes out of fashion though? Does it go genuinely shabby as buyers cling on to their first foray into domestic style, or is it all deeper than mere fashion?

Is shabby chic our way of preparing for the inevitable - the day when shabby becomes a way of life for those of us left outside the charmed circle of political power?

Shabby - but not chic.


WitteringsfromWitney said...

Fancy tat?!

Macheath said...

From what I've seen in shops, most of it will fall to pieces long before it goes out of fashion, unlike the originals it imitates.

Sitting here at a rickety junk-shop Victorian table on a salvaged chair so distressed it needs regular counselling (and doses of wood glue) looking at my great-aunt's moth-eaten velvet curtains, I can be happy that, for once in my life, I'm actually in fashion instead of being just plain shabby!

Sam Vega said...

I think it is the middle class attempt to mimic "old money". People who live in stately homes full of faded and abraded objects that are well made and tasteful. They don't see the need to buy modern stuff, and are attached to it because of its history and redolence. And not worrying about a few scuffs and those marks where the deerhound whelped on the Kashmiri carpet shows a certain high-mindedness and English unconcern, does it not?

I would imagine that originally some middle class people realised you could buy the real stuff quite cheaply, and then the manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon.

Sam Vega said...

I don't know if you were inspired by Julie Burchill's piece in today's Observer, but here it is anyway.

I saw her described recently as a middle-aged woman who writes like a gobby teenager, which is probably why she pisses off Guardianistas so much. Setting is everything...

Anonymous said...

As a style I quite like the 'fin de siecle' look.

A friend ran a junk shop and said that young couples buy the stuff their grandparents threw out. If you think about the timing the slung-out stuff spends about 18 to 20 years on the market before being bought.

Only applies to the non-posh of course, when one lives in a stately home nothing is slung out for positively centuries and one's children have little need to 'buy their own furniture'.

Macheath said...

Only applies to the non-posh...

And to families too poor to throw anything out or to replace furnishings for the sake of fashion.

My parents arrived in the middle-class from families on opposite trajectories; I have inherited a few tatty relics of the catastrophically ruined fortunes of one side and some long-cherished items the others acquired after years of careful saving.

None of it is worth anything, of course, but it's interesting that neither side of the family ever bought anything new if they could possibly avoid it.

Demetrius said...

It takes fifty years of really hard wear to achieve the right effect.

Sam Vega said...

"It takes fifty years of really hard wear to achieve the right effect."

Well, in that case I peaked a few years ago, which is why skinny blonde women who drive their husband's Range Rover don't want to take me home and sit on me.

A K Haart said...

Witterings - yes, it's mostly tat. Not all of it though.

Mac - some of it isn't so bad, but as you say most of it will fall to pieces. Old secondhand furniture can be cheap, very well made and worth buying to use.

I'm writing this at a cheap bureau we bought from a junk shop, but it's solid oak made in the 1920s.

Sam - I didn't see the JB piece, I'll give it a quick read though.

Reminds me of Alan Clark quoting Michael Jopling — referring to Heseltine - "The trouble with Michael is that he had to buy his own furniture"

Roger - we like the 'fin de siecle' look too. Maybe furniture should be inherited if we are serious about sustainability, which of course we're not.

Sam again - what's this skinny blonde Range Rover fantasy?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - I know - the scars and patina of age can't be faked.

James Higham said...

Next it will be torn jeans.

A K Haart said...

James - surely not!

nathan storm said...

No doubt that the shabby chic furniture has been liked by the families from ages, and till now the shabby style furniture is being used by many of the homes, i like the shabby style of ancient look. Nice sharing and the pics are too lovely.