Recently I have found myself looking at a number of beautiful antique and shabby chic stores which all have enormously expensive furniture. It all looks beautiful, so I wouldn't mind paying the price if I actually had the money and not a mortgage.
Let's face it, who can afford to buy all those beautiful shabby chic cabinets and bookshelves and bedside tables when they are at least $400 or $500 for a simple bedside table. So what you need to do, if you want the same look is to make these items yourself.
This doesn't have to be a big scary task - although it does help if you have a garage or somewhere to store the items while you are working on them. In saying that, I have heard of lots of people who are happy to sand and paint in their carport area or on the concrete in front of their house/apartment, so do what feels comfortable for you.
But let's get to the business part.
1. The first thing that you need to do, is to find a wooden piece of furniture that you wouldn't mind shabby chic-ing.
You may have something already at home which is suitable. My problem is that with most of the wooden furniture I have, I just don't have the heart to shabby chic because it is beautiful as it is. So I looked at op-shops, Ebay and garage sales, where I had the potential to find wooden furniture that maybe was looking a bit dated and therefore hopefully cheaper. I have been noticing lately that a lot of the television cabinets which fit the TV inside have become a bit cheaper, mainly because people are buying widescreen TVs. These television cabinets can be used as a display case or a bookshelf, which is what I am doing.
Don't stress if it has a few scratches, this works with the shabby chic look.
The piece I worked with was a television cabinet with metal legs which I got from Ebay for $10. When I first picked it up, I was almost horrified at how much more orange it appeared than it had on the sale picture. It also had scratches all over it, making me wonder if paying even $10 was too much. But now it looks fine.
2. You might want to give the piece a light sanding. Perhaps an undercoat of paint or a primer.
Now when I started on this project I was very blasé about it. It wouldn't have worried me if it really worked or didn't. So I bypassed using an undercoat and only gave a very light sanding. I'm not recommending this, unless you are as easy going as I am. It did work with my piece but you may want to be more careful, especially if you are doing up a piece that you paid a little bit more money for.
3. Find paint. Two coats at least are good, but you made need more depending on the piece.
Now here I am being all bargain hunter again, and also thinking that I didn't want to spend more than I needed on this project in case it didn't turn out okay - so I bought my paint from the mis-tinted section of a Hardware store. Most stores will have at least a couple of tins that they sell cheaper because of some problem. I got my cream/chalky two litres of paint for $20 which I am pretty sure is half price. It looks beautiful on and I would recommend for a shabby chic look that you probably go with a light cream rather than a stark white. But ultimately choose colours that work for you.
It is very important to get a matt or flat paint if you are planning on sanding back, in order to give it that shabby chic antique look. If however you just want simple white/cream furniture with no sanding back, then gloss would be fine.
Also try to leave at least four hours (depending on the weather/humidity) between coats. If you can leave it for a day then do so.
4. If you want the antique look then you need to sand back on certain areas. You can't really do this as well with gloss paint.
You need to work out how much sanding back to do and this will all depend on your taste. Some people like it almost all wiped off, others just a light sanding around the edges. The important bit is to sand away at the areas where there normally would be erosion. This would be the edges of the furniture and any bumps on the furniture.
When I was sanding back a piece of furniture that was quite light, a bookshelf of some awful chipboard material, I found that the colour shining through wasn't dark enough to give that shabby chic contrast. One way to make those areas look a little darker is to get some wood varnish (with colour in it) and wipe it over the sanded back wood sections with a cloth. Then wipe it off again gently from the wood to leave most of the stain there. Be careful to wipe it off the paint as much as possible.
5. Varnish with a clear coat at least twice.
Talk to the paint people at your local hardware store to make sure that your varnish matches the paint that you have used. I always get horribly confused about which one I should be using with which paint, but I usually find it easier to ask them than to stress that I am making the wrong choice.
6. Now you have finished everything else you may want to work on the doors and door knobs.
You may be lucky enough that the door knobs look great already, in which case why mess with perfection. If you don't like them then you could change them for crystal door knobs fittings or even antique enamel style ones or modernise it with something with some clear fluid lines.
The television cabinet that I worked on had a glass door that I didn't really like and I still haven't fixed it, because at the moment I am torn about what to put there instead. My two options at the moment are putting in chicken wire in that section using furniture tacks or have a cloth curtain that put on two wires and screw in behind the door. Most of all it is important to do something that makes it more you.