Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic blue painted floral furniture with wallpaper in the background
A color palette of pink and blue is perfect for a floral-inspired space. Choose pale shades for a softer touch, or more vibrant hues of raspberry and teal for a fresh take.

As I have been focused on the journey of launching my latest book, My Floral Affair, I have been quite reflective, contemplating my world of flowers and just how much they have always been part of my life. Not only fresh flowers, but also flowers in fabrics, lighting, wallpapers and art.

Rachel Ashwell pairs busy floral patterns against solid surfaces to balance the look.
Rachel pairs busier floral patterns against solid surfaces to balance the space.

I have always appreciated finding floral beauties at flea markets and antiques shows even back when I first opened the doors of my Shabby Chic store in 1989. At that time, I was successful in consistently finding authentic floral-painted furniture, crumbling carved architectural pieces, faded artwork and threadbare fabrics. For me, the tattered elegance that comes with finding vintage florals is what helps each piece maintain its feminine beauty without being overly sweet.

Hand-painted details add character and charm.
Old-fashioned, hand-painted details add character and charm to a space. These pieces are particularly sweet when paired with contrasting elements, such as the makeshift vase in which Rachel has placed a bouquet of blue hydrangeas and pink roses. Photo by Amy Neusinger.

Over time there was a floral explosion in décor, creating scarcity for authentic vintage finds. Reproductions started popping up, some lovely and subtle, but some too strong and sugary for my shabby world. Because of that, I have treasured every original floral-embellished piece I could find. A few I have kept myself, and some just pass through my hands to become future heirlooms. My most favorite place to search for these treasures is at the Round Top Antique shows in Texas. Prices are much different now than they used to be, but these days I am just happy to stumble across any authentic vintage finds.

White Shabby Chic cabinet with purple painted folk floral pattern
Folk florals are experiencing a renaissance in appreciation, and the sweetest examples are still found on age-old furnishings.

I’m attracted to the fine handwork of painted furniture, typically from France and Italy. I have given the name of “timeworn elegance” to these special pieces. I also own several Hungarian pieces, where the painting is more primitive, often brighter, and fits with the boho side of me. I allow the style of floral furniture to guide me on where and how it should be placed in the world. Rarely do I have more than one piece in any one room, mostly so that each item can have its glory against my simpler palette of white and gray. Occasionally I will come across a bedroom set that I can’t bear to part with. In my home, I will designate a “floral zone,” maybe a guest room, just so it can be froufrou within its faded grandeur state.

Shabby Chic Prairie Stitch bedding in Shadow
Faded fabrics and natural fibers like linen help Rachel keep a simple aesthetic.

I continue to make it my mission to hunt for these rare beauties. It’s important to stay consistent while balancing my aesthetics of romantic and feminine with simplicity. Floral upholstery fabrics and my bedding collections continue to be moments where I can layer floral décor into my otherwise quiet aesthetics. I tend to like faded fabrics, and design with the thought of mixing and matching from one collection to another. I like the practical aspect of this, but also how it brings a less contrived feeling.

Floral wallpaper makes a statement when paired with all-white surfaces and accessories. The chippy green bench adds a pop of color to the space.
Floral wallpaper makes a statement when paired with all-white surfaces and accessories. The chippy green bench adds a pop of color to the space.

When I began Shabby Chic, there were still quite a lot of chintz florals available in the world. This, of course, speaks to my British heritage of country cottages and manors. Often these were quite bold in their palette, but the crumpled nature of the slipcovers back then that made the patterns seem less formal. My new Rose Majesty print, which is both for upholstery and a bedding collection, is inspired by the days of chintz.

The Bean Loveseat in Rose Majesty Chintz upholstery.
Rachel layers the larger, bolder print of this loveseat against the smaller, more muted pattern in the wallpaper. The pairing creates an interesting juxtaposition, while white wainscoting and floors balance the look.

My modern tweak is to print it both on a chintz and a grain linen fabric. The linen fabric captures the traditional floral on a muted background. While today’s furniture and furnishings have very clean, simple lines, which I am attracted to also, there is always room for a little floral slipcovered chair in a cozy corner. My floral bedding and fabrics are available both at Target under the Simply Shabby Chic line and at shabbychic.com.

Rachel Ashwell at the The Prairie in Round Top Texas
Rachel at The Prairie in Round Top Texas. Photo by Amy Neunsinger.