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May: the great juxtaposition – shabby and chic an interview with fellow shabby lover Marilyn

Welcome back Diners, This second May blog is a follow up to the great shabby-chic style, and interview with fellow shabby lover. Also, a warm welcome to Marilyn!

Danielle:   First question to all my guests, “do you have dinner in the dining room”?  Yes/no – why/why not?   Please share your own personal dining room experiences –

Marilyn: I do eat dinner in the dining room, but I also eat in the living room and the bedroom. When I have guests, we eat in the dining room or, if the weather is nice, we eat outside on the patio. My dining room is very informal, more of a breakfast room, decor wise, at this point in my life.

Danielle: The breakfast room sounds ideal for the shabby-chic look and feel, the space is so cute!  I love the vintage metal chairs.  …and the orange roses… a perfect match to the bright chairs.    I can’t think of a nicer place to enjoy a meal.   

So cute! The classic elements of shabby-chic: white, light prints combined with a bit of color. There are so many Homer Laughlin patterns that are ideal for the lighter decors like Shabby-Chic, the soup bowls in the light blue below are one of my favorite patterns.  I see Panther (Marilyn’s cat) trying to sneak into the photo.

Danielle:   I know that you are a fellow “shabby” lover like me.  When did you first “discover” shabby chic? Or was it more of a natural style for you? 

Marilyn: I found my first Shabby Chic book (author Rachel Ashwell) around 1989. It was during the time when country style was very big and I was in the process of exploring styles but leaning towards antiques and vintage items. I fell in love with the white slip-covered sofas and chairs, the vintage painted furniture, the floral items, and the use of elegant china and silver/silver plated utensils. Her focus on beauty, comfort, and function, and her casual yet elegant decor, resonated with me SO much. I loved the lightness of her rooms.

My personal style incorporates some shabby chic, some cottage style, and some Scandinavian influence. The new-ish Cottagecore, Romantic Core, and Light Academia aesthetics probably most accurately describe my style now. I think we’re going to begin seeing more Cottagecore influence on farmhouse style.

Danielle: Wow, i had no idea that her work had been around that long!   I didn’t discover it until much later, when I was able to put a name to it – much easier to explain than “its how my great-grandmothers house was decorated”!  As it relates to my great-grandmothers house, I don’t believe there was any intentional decorating to it, just a hodge-podge of items, old and new, which has always been a defining element of shabby-chic to me.   I am also interested in the “light academia” style that you were telling me about.  This along with the cottage–core is also new to me. 

A small collection of Rachel Ashwell books. What I really love most about Rachel Ashwell, is her ability to take something completely random and unrelated and use it in a totally different way.  I recall in one of her books, she took old wicker lamp shades and made them into bowls,  it was really clever. 

Danielle: What are some of your favorite shabby elements?  Or stated another way, what is the one thing you would add to a room to give it that shabby chic feel?

Marilyn: White slip-covered furniture, floral arrangements, and candles are quintessential Shabby Chic decor elements that I love to see in a room. Also vintage and antique furniture that is either unfinished wood or painted white or light pastels. I love to see books displayed in a room, particularly vintage ones. In the dining room, I love to see beautiful mismatched bone china pieces on the dining table. Oh dear, I can’t isolate it to one thing! 

Beautiful antique and vintage items. There is that combination of the mis-matched antique china with a bit of glam or elegance that makes it both shabby and chic

A free standing cabinet in Marilyn’s kitchen complete with classic shabby elements

A variety of shabby finds at local vintage shops. I am pretty sure we had that same mixer when i was a kid! I love how you layered in multiple finds. What a cute corner!

Danielle: There is something about the white slip-covered furniture that really does give it the shabby-feel.  As for the dining room – I have to agree about the mismatched china patterns!  One of my personally favorite ways to set a table – along with layered linens.  And don’t forget a bit of glam…oh, I agree with you – too much to like! 

Danielle: If someone is new to shabby chic decor, but likes it and would like to take a crack at designing a shabby chic room, what is one piece of advice you would give them to get that “shabby” look?

Marilyn: Buy yummy, mushy, comfortable slip-covered sofas, chairs, and throw pillows! (Down-filled or a down/foam blend are a must for sofas and chairs; down or feather-filled for pillows.) 

Plump, cozy beds and chairs made for reading area a must. Here are some classic, comfortable shabby chic furniture pieces in white with pillows and mixed Fabrics.  Marilyn re-covered this great chair in this beautiful white matelassé.  Slip covers are also a shabby must!  Cats are a fan of the Shabby-chic décor style as well.

Danielle: Besides shabby chic, is there another particular vintage item or genre that you love?  Whats the one that got away?  

Marilyn: I very much enjoy farmhouse style which, to me, is the latest iteration of country style, and is heavily influenced by the Pottery Barn look of the early 2000’s (though most people would say it’s heavily influenced by the HGTV Fixer Upper show style of Chip and Joanna Gaines and I would agree with that, too). My guest bedroom is decorated in that style, but is currently “the one that got away” because my son is temporarily staying in that room and it’s definitely gotten away from me! I’m excited to see the evolution of farmhouse style and how the Cottage-core aesthetic will influence that look.

Danielle: Marilyn, thank you so much for agreeing to share your shabby-chic insights! I learned so much from you. And a special note of thanks for the very sweet Haviland plate you brought me – to be featured in a post soon, and your insights into my own shabby-chic efforts.

Marilyn: Thanks so much for this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite things:  home decor/making a house a home. I’ve really enjoyed the process. Cottage-core a décor style that “embraces a simpler way of life, a combination of English countryside, romantic, and nostalgic.”

The cottage-core style that Marilyn referenced is new to me, here is a link:, retrieved 5/28/2021.

Marilyn had the chance to view my shabby efforts and provide some feedback for me.   Her take on my room was that it felt more granny-chic, which makes complete sense given my inspiration and muse: my great-grandmothers house.   Granny-chic differs from shabby-chic in that it combines a lot of colors, fabrics, and textures to create a space that grandma would love with a modern twist.   Based on her suggestion and reminder about lots of white and the light-airy feel of great shabby rooms, I changed the blue matelassé coverlet for a white, cutwork lace duvet cover.   I do think it makes a huge difference! 

I love the change! Yes mom, its a bit wrinkled, but to me that is one of the elements of shabby-chic that is a stand out: that combination of lived-in glam!

In addition, Marilyn suggested that I add a well-worn rug.  Many of the rug manufacturers are actually making distressed rugs now, so finding something new with a vintage look will broaden my options.  It will be a great addition once the hard-woods are installed upstairs.  The cat, AKA “kitten” is doing a bang-up job getting the old carpet torn up for us; only a matter of time now! Keep up the good work kitten, just stay away from my sofas.

Thank you for joining me to review one of my favorite styles. Looking forward to having you back soon as summer is nearly upon us. Please come back to explore a renaissance in the yard in June, July, and August as we walk “along the garden path.” Until then, please feel free to comment, share this blog with friends, and enjoy something beautiful!

Thank you, ~d

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