Home Archive Shabby Chic and Primitive:: The Kapowder Room Secrets

Shabby Chic and Primitive:: The Kapowder Room Secrets

by Folksy Support

The Kapowder Room Secrets is a fortnightly column in which Konnie Kapow investigates the various themes and styles to be found on Folksy.

This fortnight I’m looking at the styles/themes of Shabby Chic and Primitive. As you will see these are two separate styles with their own origins. However, they are often mixed together in today’s shops and style mags and I felt I would be able to write a better article covering both than writing two similar articles. In order to help me get a better understanding of these themes I spoke to some Folksy sellers who specialise in them!

So what is shabby Chic?

Shabby Chic is a term which has been bandied around for quite a while now. In fact, it’s been around since the eighties which makes it officially vintage if you go by the thirty year rule! It is a style of interior design applied to distressed or ‘shabby’ looking items

It is a very cosy and comfortable way of decorating, also called cottage style in some countries and is often very feminine – hence the “chic” aspect…. Painted furniture and accessories will often have the top coat sanded away to reveal the layers of paint or wood underneath. The fabrics used in this style of interior design tend to be worn, bleached, faded linens and cottons, with pastel shades being a firm favourite. Martina, Sparrow Primitives

Shabby Chic is a lifestyle with whitewashed furniture, roses round the door. Dressers with pretty china and vintage lace lined shelves. Sam, Pants and Paper

Shabby Chic is influenced by the grandeur and style of the French Renaissance mixed with the honesty and humbleness of farm-house furniture. Fred, Frederick Designs

What is Primitive Style?

Often referred to as ‘Prim’ this style has its roots in well, primitive living and is heavily influenced by Colonial Pioneer homesteads and Americana where people would have decorated their homes with whatever was available to them. As well as household decor, children’s toys are very popular in the ‘prim’ style known as Primitive Art Dolls.

Primitive stitched items came about as American pioneer women used old scraps from clothing, quilts or even feed sacks to make something simple for their children to play with. Items would be made to adorn the home and would often represent everyday life. Nothing was wasted – hence the concept of the ‘make-do’s’ where scraps of fabric would be used to make a decorative item using whatever came to hand. Primitive decor evolved as people realised that the simplicity of handcrafted items could have a place in any home. Martina, Sparrow Primitives

I tend to think of it as worn and old with a definite Americana feel. I actually visited a beautiful prim shop in New England and as soon as you walked in the smell of Cinnamon and baked apples filled the air. Sam, Pants and Paper

Why has it become so popular?

Anyone who keeps an eye on general fashion will know that vintage is very much des rigueur. Certain elements of this can be attributed to the economic recession, everyone’s had to tighten their belts and cut back on at least the extravagant spending and therefore we’ve seen a resurgence in make it yourself and making use from what we already have or upcycling. These concepts are pretty much exactly what Shabby Chic and Primitive Decor are all about.

I believe this is due to the need for quality and honesty, as well as the boom in crafting and DIY. As interiors are often influenced by fashion the Bohemian (Bo’ho) style has also added to the love of the shabby chic style, now becoming a lot more daring with colour than the original 80’s concept and more raw and rough, with an influence of the eclectic urban style found in many gastro pubs and trendy bars. Fred, Frederick Designs

My guess would be that Shabby Chic has great appeal across the board. It can be feminine and soft without being too girly (and off-putting for the males!). It is a design style which makes for a really inviting home and people are able to add humorous and whimsical touches without spoiling their overall look. The appeal of Primitive Art Dolls, Make-dos and Animals is harder to quantify. There has always been something really appealing about homemade dolls and critters! Most children have at some point in their lives favoured a funny-looking homemade toy over the more elaborate shop bought ones. Martina, Sparrow Primitives

How do these styles lend themselves to crafting?

Consumers are now becoming more adventurous and open to attempt new crafts to create their own “unique” style and add a personal touch to their home, turning an old tired piece of furniture into a beautiful and loved accent to the home can be created through crafting. Decoupage and faux painting are techniques that can be used to create shabby chic and farm-house chic styles. Fred, Frederick Designs

That’s easy! They were all hand made in the first place – even the furniture. And of course the furniture would have been painted and repainted many times in its life time and been battered and well-used. Primitive Art Dolls may have been based on simple homemade dolls, but now it is an art form in its own right and many designs are based on actual museum pieces. The pieces have then been aged and worn in order to be faithful reproductions. Martina, Sparrow Primitives

To me, particularly with Primitive Art Dolls, this style is all about quality. Just by looking at an item you can tell how much work and love has gone into it. They are works of art and Folksy is their museum!

I don’t know about the rest of you but I have found numerous beautiful shops on Folksy specialising in these themes and consider it a privilege to share the same virtual shopping centre!
List of Images (from top):
Brooch by Pants and Paper
Renaissance Chair by Frederick Designs
Home Sweet Home by Sparrow Primitives
Fox Terrier Puppy on Wheels by Northfield Primitives
Keep Calm and Carry On by Cinammon & Hill
Barn Cat Trio by Sparrow Primitives
Console Table by Potts Petal and Green

More about our columnist

Konnie Kapow is a superhero card designer on a mission to save the world from dull and namby pamby greeting cards! Her offbeat sense of humour combined with quirky card designs make her shop a popular destination for card shoppers. Konnie lives in Glasgow with her artist husband Mr Kapow! where they can be found collecting rock n’ roll memorabillia and knitting in bed.

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Shaz from OddSox February 28, 2011 - 9:25 am

I know I love this style but it’s good to have an explanation of what it is from the people who produce it. I must like it as I’ve already bought from Pants & Paper, Sparrow Primitives and Northfield Primitives!

heather aka NiftyKnits February 28, 2011 - 11:45 am

Really interesting explanations. Like many others, I’ve admired various items and wondered what made them “particularly” fit that genre. Do “Shaker” style and Amish influenced pieces fit here?

sarah @ northfieldprimitives February 28, 2011 - 12:49 pm

Love the article Konnie! Thank-you for including one of my rustic creations in the accompanying photos.

Victoria February 28, 2011 - 4:06 pm

I really like shabby chic, I always think the soft colour pallet really lends itself to being quite feminine.

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