Trend Alert: Mid-Century Modern + Shabby Chic

Mid-century modern and shabby chic are a lot like chocolate and peanut butter: once considered to be utterly incompatible, but now known to go together deliciously. This trendy combination is hitting living rooms everywhere. It’s also a look you can get easily, without breaking the bank. Fun DIY projects paired with smart thrift store finds can transform a ho-hum space into the living room of your dreams. 

A Quick Primer

Mid-century modern is simply a description of style from the mid-1950s. Décor and furniture is generally urban and minimalistic. That seemingly puts it at odds with the rustic, floral and antique feel of shabby chic. However, these two disparate styles actually pair quite well, and they do so because of those stark differences. For example, shabby chic florals can soften the hard, clean lines and neutral palette of mid-century modern pieces. Conversely, those mid-century modern lines can also bring some much-needed order and crispness to florals that might otherwise be overwhelming. There are nearly endless ways to combine the two styles, which balance each other out extremely well.

Shabby Chic and Modern style Thrift Store Savvy

A good place to start looking for both mid-century modern and shabby chic pieces is the thrift store. Thrift stores are a great resource for unique items at extremely reasonable prices, especially go-to pieces such as couches and sofas. The couch is a living room staple – after all, you need somewhere comfy to sit – but it isn’t always the most budget-friendly item. The growing popularity of shabby chic allows for a range of thrift store options, either incorporating your existing couch or new-to-you thrift store bargains:

  • Mine the thrift store for shabby chic pieces such as coffee and end tables and combine them with a modern sofa or sectional.
  • Go for a floral slipcover on your existing couch, for a touch of shabby chic, while using white or other neutrals on surrounding pieces such as lamps and armchairs.
  • Pick up a shabby chic, thrift store couch with plump cushions to offset an otherwise mid-century modern living room.
DIY Shabby Chic

There are several fun DIY projects that can easily bring shabby chic into your home in a variety of creative fashions:

  • Crackle finish: use on picture frames, dressers and night stands. This can be done with paint and a paint crackle product. Plain white glue can be used in lieu of the crackle product for a truly budget project. Rub gel stain onto a crackle finish for an added dimension of color and texture.
  • Distressed finish: use on desks, side tables, or buffets. Giving your furniture this look is quick and easy, involving only paint and sandpaper. Use the sandpaper to remove paint from furniture embellishments for a near-instant shabby chic makeover.
  • Decoupage: use on vases, stools, steamer trunks, or on any decorative items like magnates, boxes, or night lights. Floral patterns and roses are shabby chic decoupage standards.
  • Heat-fused porcelain paint: use on crockery such as plates, mugs, and glasses. Let your inner artist out by painting your own shabby chic designs on mismatched thrift store dinnerware.
Better Together

If you’ve combed through the thrift store and have some great new DIY shabby chic pieces but still aren’t sure how to use them with mid-century modern pieces, try some of these mix and max combinations:

  • Use clean, simple mid-century modern shelves to showcase shabby chic pieces such as pretty vintage bottles and pitchers.
  • Feature a shabby chic braided rug next to a mid-century modern writing desk. Shabby chic florals look beautiful when paired with mid-century modern wooden flooring.
  • Mix shabby chic print fabrics in neutrals with mid-century modern neutrals for a monochromatic yet textured look.
  • Juxtapose shabby chic wall décor with mid-century modern wall paper, but be sure to use the same color family for both.
  • Not only can shabby chic furniture be successfully combined with mid-century modern accessories, but sculptured mid-century modern pieces are a great balance for the more frilly elements of shabby chic.

No matter how you mix them, mid-century modern and shabby chic are proof the opposites attract – and this couple is here to stay.  

About the Designer: Judith Stern began her interior design career as in-house designer to a prestigious furniture retailer. Today Judith and her family run Modern Furniture Classics in addition to several other furniture websites. Her expert advice has been helping home decorators find the perfect modern sofas and sectionals as well as other great furniture and home décor needs.