Born and raised in England but now a resident of Southern California, Rachel Ashwell coined the term "Shabby Chic" in the 1980s. As a designer, she was drawn to the fabrics and patterns of a bygone era -- think delicate rose patterns in a poplin slipcover -- as well as the battered, once-glamorous home furnishings she found in thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales. She opened her first Shabby Chic store in Santa Monica and began designing her own fabrics, furniture and accessories. But far from being cluttered, Ashwell's visual aesthetic, as seen in her previous books Shabby Chic and Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic Treasure Hunting and Decorating Guide, features rooms with a few key pieces, minimal clutter, white walls and furnishings and feminine fabrics -- simplicity with a lived-in feel.
In The Shabby Chic Home, Ashwell takes on the challenge of her new house, a dark, "witchy" 1920s cabin with an overgrown yard and turquoise trim on brown siding. Before and after photos show Ashwell whipping the place into pale, airy shape, and a sampling of her room sketches give the reader a sense of how to work old and built-in furnishings into an evolving, simpler style. One example of this is shown in her bathroom plumbing, where new faucet bases are paired with wonderful old porcelain taps. In other rooms, she places a turquoise crystal chandelier in a simple white room with white linen slip-covered furniture. She experiments with worn, truly shabby carpets on waxed wooden floors. It's often a nice combination of "fancy" and "comfortable."
Ashwell is very fond of girlie stuff. There is a lot in the way of pink, china and floral in her schemes -- she writes that flowers influence almost everything she does. The cool thing about Shabby Chic is that it's a look you can modify for your own taste. You can replace the girlie elements with something a little more eclectic and still get a nice, spare feel in your rooms. It's also nice that although her fabrics are seen in a lot of the layouts, this isn't about buying the entire Shabby Chic line. All in all, it's a refreshing attitude, promoting simplicity.