9 Shabby Chic Dining Table Ideas & Styling Tips
Want to add vintage charm to your dining room, without spending a fortune at an antique shop? Try these shabby chic dining table ideas, from standout products to styling and decoration.
What is Shabby Chic anyway?
“The aura of old money, cushy comfort, and crafted indifference” – creator Rachel Ashwell
Appearing in the 1980s, shabby chic style is defined by a faded opulence. Pieces often feature painted wood in soft or pastel colours, elegant French-inspired shapes, and romantic detailing.
The ‘shabby’ comes from an emphasis on distressed finishes – the more timeworn, the better!
The right style of dining table
Shabby chic dining tables have a distinctive look. Where ‘rustic’ tables have a chunky steadfastness, shabby chic tables would be more at home in an old Parisian mansion than a farmhouse kitchen.
Curved shapes, elegant carving and pretty details are what you need to look out for.
The Toulouse furniture range is a great example of French design. For a not-so-shabby chic idea, this Toulouse dining table makes a sophisticated starting point. It’s also available in grey wash oak.
Details like tapered cornices, rounded corners, and ‘bun’ feet are shabby chic must-haves.
White, grey and pink chalk paint
If you’re creating a shabby chic dining room, it’s best to focus on soft or pastel colour palettes. If you want to get this look right, white, grey and rose shades are the go-to for this decor style.
Other ‘heritage’ colours, such as duck egg blue and pale mint green can also work nicely.
The same applies to shabby chic furniture - it’s often completely or partially painted, rather than left bare. This allows the table to develop a more aged look, as paint can be easily scuffed and worn.
Chalk or clay furniture paint is ideal for painting shabby chic furniture, due to its vintage finish.
If you’d prefer not to paint and scuff a new dining table, you could embrace shabby more subtly with a painted oak dining table with a natural top, or the grey wash of the Toulouse range.
Distressing a table to make it shabby
Determined to create a convincing shabby chic dining table? You can distress it yourself.
“Shabby chic items are often heavily painted through the years, with many layers showing through obviously time-worn areas. The style is imitated in faux painting using glaze or by painting then rubbing and sanding away the top coat to show the wood or base coats, known as “distressing” the finish of the furniture.” – how Wikipedia describes the shabby chic furniture style
Once you’ve prepared and painted your table, you can use sandpaper to achieve a distressed look. Some people even use two coats of different colours, so you see the first colour peeping through. If you need inspiration to get the aesthetic right, there are some great examples on Pinterest.
When you’ve achieved your desired level of shabby, finish with a suitable wax, polish or varnish.
Finding dining chairs to match (or not)
Now you have your shabby chic dining table, you’ll need something to sit on. The good news is, your dining chairs don’t have to match exactly. It’s up to you how shabby or chic you go.
This Florence oak table and chairs set is a little on the rustic side, but it’s use of white paint means it could work well in a shabby chic dining room or kitchen. Alternatively, you could stick with elegant, French-inspired shapes like the Toulouse dining chair range, to match your dining table.
Depending how luxurious you want to be, you could even pair your dining table with velvet dining chairs. For a more casual feel, dining benches save space and hassle when entertaining guests.
For an eclectic look, upcycle vintage wooden chairs using complementary paint colours.
Seaside, Country or Parisian style?
Many renovators, designers and hobbyists have their own take on shabby chic, and you don’t have to follow strict rules. Soft colours, elegant shapes and timeworn finishes work across multiple themes.
A shabby chic look could be inspired by Rococo or Late Baroque – an art style originating in 18th century Paris that embraces white and pastel colours, scrolling curves and decorative detail. Think tarnished chandeliers, gilding, and faded velvets. Like Marie Antoinette, but shabbier.
Seaside decor, which often uses whites and pale blues, goes beautifully with shabby chic. Pair distressed but elegant furniture with nautical accessories like driftwood, stripes and pebbles.
Shabby chic is often merged with rustic or farmhouse style, and the two can co-exist happily. If your dining space is in your kitchen, a country-inspired style can work well. Add some cottagecore to your life with comfy chintz fabrics, cut flowers from the garden, and your nan’s best plates.
Adding a tablecloth and cushions
As shabby chic dining is all about comfort, there’s no shame in adding soft furnishings.
Depending on your chosen look, a wide range of cushion patterns and fabrics work with shabby chic decor. From pastel coloured florals to crushed silver velvet, to gingham, stripes or polka dots, just keep it pretty and delicate. Cath Kidston’s vintage-inspired prints are a good starting point,
Leaving your dining table uncovered will showcase a worn patina, but you may want to decorate with a fabric or vinyl tablecloth. You can get away with kitsch patterns and frills, if that’s your style.
Don’t want to hide away your shabby chic dining table? Protect it with some tablemats.
Choosing crockery carefully
Finding crockery to match your shabby chic dining table is easy – there are a lot of options available.
If you want to keep things French-inspired, try elegantly shaped porcelain with lots of swirls and gilding. A trip to an antique shop might yield the perfect dinner set for a more grown up look.
For a more playful and kitsch take on shabby chic, Kidston-inspired floral patterns add colour and fun. Simple, embossed stoneware in cream or grey is ideal for a more rustic-leaning theme. A lot can work with shabby chic, as long as you’re avoiding very contemporary shapes and loud colours.
It goes without saying that your crockery doesn’t have to be pristine to work with shabby chic! You can even find plates and bowls that have been ‘distressed’ to look older than they actually are.
Making the most of a small dining room
Smaller dining rooms and kitchens can still have enough space for a shabby chic dining table, you just need to find the right style. You don’t need a giant table to add opulence to your home.
The Lyon oak round extending table is compact as well as beautiful – showcasing classic French style and grooved detailing, while having the versatility to extend when needed. It would fit perfectly with a more 'upmarket shabby chic theme, when paired with tastefully distressed accessories and decor.
If you love the classic shabby chic aesthetic of painted wood furniture, this painted round extending table is a readymade option that would work perfectly with a more cottage-inspired look.
Lighting and mirrors will also help; try an old gilded mirror or even a vintage chandelier.
Adding a dining table centrepiece
Shabby chic style often relies heavily on florals or floral patterns, so how about adding a natural centrepiece to your dining table? Freshly cut flowers from the garden make a great talking point.
When choosing flowers for your dining room table, look for delicate blooms in soft colours. Pink or cream roses, displayed in a vintage vase or hand-decorated mason jar, complement this look. As shabby chic thrives on its cosy, unpolished charm, you don’t have to spend a fortune on flowers.
Other shabby chic table decorations could include French candlesticks (extra kudos if they’re painted white and distressed), wire birdcages, or elegant lanterns for tealights. Just don’t go too rustic.
Antique ornaments featuring swirls and gilding can also make interesting table centrepieces.
Ready to find your shabby chic dining table? Shop our range of oak dining tables here