Get Shabby Chic Style with Vintage Floral Patterns

Rachel Ashwell explains how vintage floral patterns influence her every day style and her new book, My Floral Affair.

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.

Rachel Ashwell’s Designer Secrets

Shabby Chic founder and Romantic Homes Columnist, Rachel Ashwell, shares the secrets behind her signature style.

Delicate and detailed, yet inviting and comfortable are the hallmarks of Rachel Ashwell’s signature style. Photo by Sarah Pankow.

Rachel’s signature Shabby Chic style is all about creating perfect imperfection. Here’s how she does it:

  • First, figure out how the room will be used and what it needs to fulfill that purpose. “The saddest thing is creating a space in a house that is never used,” Rachel says.
An inspiration book, complete with photos and fabric samples. Photo by Sarah Pankow.
Two large inspiration boards lean side-by-side against the windows in Rachel’s office nook.
  • Create an inspiration book or board. Rachel’s book for a project might include something like a picture of a pink blouse or some rose petals that speak to a palette or feeling, items that help tell the full story of what the house could be.
  • Evaluate what you already have and what can be repurposed.
  • Start visiting flea markets. Rachel keeps a master list of what she needs to buy for clients. It may take time to find just the right piece, but the end result is worth the time and effort.
Rachel keeps things simple with a soft, monochromatic color palette.
  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Details are important, but you can get caught up in them and never get anything done.
  • Less is more. Rachel was inspired by the recent bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. “Get rid of things that you don’t need,” she encourages with the caveat, “but be cautious because you could regret it later. There is a real emotional empowerment in not hanging on to stuff, things that don’t serve a purpose anymore.”
Two-toned walls are one of Rachel’s favorite ways to add color to a space.
  • When it comes to choosing paint or fabrics, Rachel doesn’t have particular favorites. “It’s how it looks or how it feels,” she says. “Try the paint on the walls to see how it works.” She does recommend avoiding creams or icy white wall paint; instead, Rachel says, “stay with pure, bright white.”

Christmas Q & A with KariAnne Wood

KariAnne Wood has the answers to your holiday decor questions!

A bottle drying rack displays several tiny wreaths. Underneath, a collection of unfinished wooden trees adds warmth to the neutral space.

Our resident design maven, KariAnne Wood or Thistlewood Farm, answers your holiday decor questions!

Q:  I love decorating for the holidays, but I want to add a few handmade projects into my décor this year.  Do you have any suggestions?

Let’s start with the best part about handmaking your holiday décor: It’s unique, inexpensive and a great way to simplify your holiday decorating. The key to handmade is sticking with projects that aren’t overwhelming or overcomplicated and don’t require a Ph.D. in directions. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Make a book-page garland with leaves cut out from old book pages.
  • Create a Christmas tree from scrabble letters that spell out the words to a carol.
  • Glue tiny pinecones onto an old wooden board in the shape of a snowflake.
  • Sew pom-poms onto dollar-store stockings.
  • Cut out triangles from old holiday cards, punch holes in the corner and tie them onto jute twine to create a banner.

Let this be the year—start a new tradition with a handmade holiday.

Q:  Typically I decorate my home for the holidays with traditional red and green, but this year I want to change it up a little and add some new colors to the mix. Do you have any suggestions?

KariAnne’s neutral theme includes both rustic textures and shimmering surfaces.

I do, but can we just start with a shout-out for red and green? (Those colors have showed up for some amazing holiday parties at my house.) That being said, I love the idea of adding a few neutrals into your décor this fall and winter. Here are some easy suggestions to change the holiday décor conversation.

Shop your yard. Bring in the colors and textures of the outdoors. Layer pinecones in a bowl, make a twig garland for your bookcase or fill a vase with stones from the walk and add in greenery and twigs.

Select natural fibers. Use burlap sacks for a Christmas tree skirt. Fill galvanized metal buckets with evergreens.  Sew stockings from flour sacks. Paint letters on reclaimed wood to spell out a holiday message.


Repurpose what you have. Sometimes all that décor that’s lost its luster needs is a coat of paint. Take a look at the basic lines of some of your traditional holiday décor, and give it a new look with a coat of gray or white paint.

KariAnne Wood blogs at Thistlewood Farm, is the author of So Close to Amazing and the DIY Home Planner.

Send your questions to romantichomes@engagedmediainc.com.

Courtney’s 5 Favorite Ways to Add Romantic Style

Courtney Allison shares her 5 favorite ways to add romantic style to any space.

Each person interprets romantic style in a unique way. To me, the look is simply not complete without my five favorite essentials!

Courtney Allison's bedroom is full of romantic style
Courtney’s classic gingham sofa makes a statement against the bedroom’s neutral tones.

1. Fresh Flowers

Fresh flowers instantly add warmth and charm to your home. Think outside the nightstand and dining-room-table box. I love to add them in the bathrooms, on the window sill in the kitchen and even on the outdoor tables.

2. Barely Blushing

Barely-there blush and shades of creams and whites are perfect ways to add a bit of romantic style. Your colors don’t have to be oversaturated to make a statement. Think subtle and simple for big impact.

3. The Midas Touch

I always love a bit of gold mixed in to create a romantic, elegant feeling.  Adding just a touch of gold on the mantel or table is all you need to bring a bit of drama.

4. A Little Bit of Bling

I am a big believer in the power of chandeliers—and those crystals and pretty little details add instant sophistication and romance to a room.

5. Something with a Story

Incorporate something with pretty patina. A gilded finish on the frame. A carved vintage chair covered in white linen—anything with a bit of history adds romance and character to a room. Plus, it gives you something to talk about when you have guests.


Get the Look: Pretty in Pink

Get the look of this bright pink room with these frilly finds.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which means lots of pink. But October is months away, so we think February should be the official Pink month. In honor of Romantic Home’s favorite color, here’s an adorable pink bedroom and some of our favorite pink finds from around the web.

Romantic Pink Bedroom

Bedroom Bench

This fun tufted bench would look perfect under a windowsill as a faux window bench, or even standing in the hallway next to a side table.

Blushing Chandelier

This chandelier will add the perfect pink sparkle to your home. Try it in a bedroom, the kitchen or even a breakfast nook.

Blushing Chandelier


Lacy Comfort

This comforter set would contribute to the ultimate romantic bedroom with white walls and some rose petals scattered along the windowsill.

romantic bedroom


Pillow Fest

Jazz up a contrasting bed color with pink pillows! Even if you don’t have a pink bedroom, a touch of blush wouldn’t hurt.



Seeing Pink

This fun mirror will brighten up a space and add a touch of pink, even if the shade isn’t your main color.

fun mirror

Treat Your Friends to a Vintage-Inspired, Paris-Themed Tea

Continue the spirit of Valentine’s Day with this elegant, Paris-themed setup for a brunch or tea with your friends. Whether inside or out, vintage, pink and Paris makes for a charming theme all year round!

Paris Themed Tea
Photo by Jaimee Itagaki

Get the Look here:

Parisienne Dining Side Chair

Parisienne Dining Side Chair by Woodard, $199.55. Visit wayfair.com.

Ellis Rectangular Rattan Folding Table

Ellis Rectangular Rattan Folding Table, $222.95. Visit jossandmain.com.

Princess Damask Vintage Tablecloth

Princess Damask Vintage Tablecloth by Violet Linen, $17.99. Visit wayfair.com.

10 Strawberry Street Coral 16-piece Dinnerware Set

10 Strawberry Street Coral 16-piece Dinnerware Set, $65.99. Visit overstock.com.

Wall tapestry, Paris for Two by OLHADAR

Wall tapestry, Paris for Two by OLHADAR, $79.00 (for large dimension). Visit society6.com.

Decorative Pink Cake Stand

Decorative Pink Cake Stand, $17.00. Visit BelleVieArtDecor on etsy.com.

2-Tier Vintage Dessert Stand
75864768765 metal tier tray

2-Tier Vintage Dessert Stand, $44. Visit save-on-crafts.com.

Light Pink SimplyPoly Cloth Napkins

Light Pink SimplyPoly Cloth Napkins, $1.09/ea. Visit tablelinensforless.com.

Orbit Napkin Ring in Brushed Gold

Orbit Napkin Ring in Brushed Gold, $2.99. Visit bedbathandbeyond.com.

Welcome Spring into Your Bedroom Décor

This is the season to celebrate new life and what better way than with the color green! In this bedroom, it is the main color, accented with white and pops of purple and gold. Add in natural light flooding through the window and, voila! You’ve got a spring-ready romantic retreat.

Romantic Spring Bedroom

1. Go green. In this bedroom, the green walls accented by green pillows on the bed create a calming effect while also livening the space. Pair these details with white and gold to add romance and a bright feel.

2. Fresh flowers. Now is the time to let blooms rule. You can never have enough arrangements as long as you keep them clean and simple. The purple flowers in this picture add a hint of color that helps enhance the rest of the room.

3. Open your shutters. Let light abound in your home. It will bring warmth and draw attention to the color in your home. The sun mirror on the wall reflects light and is itself symbolic of sunlight spreading in the room.



5 Tips for Creating a Romantic Wedding

Few things are more dreamy than weddings. So here are five tips for creating a romantic wedding.

Romantic Wedding Decor

1. Lighting sets the tone. There can never be too many candles when creating a romantic setting–and the softer the light the better. Notice in this picture, twinkle lights flood the space with glamor and remind guests of a night sky filled with stars.

2. Make your guests feel at ease with all the little details. Sheer drapery hangs gently around the reception entrances, ushering them into a dream. Chevron rugs are placed beneath the tables mixing the comfort of home with the authenticity of nature. Each and every detail is both relaxing and inviting.

3. Add some whimsy and an element of surprise. You don’t wants guests getting too cozy, after-all, this is a party! In this wedding scene, chairs and benches are interchanged creating visual interest and variety. It gives the space a chic lounge feel reminding guests it is time to celebrate.

4. Keep flower arrangements low to the table. To encourage good conversation during the meal, make sure your guests can see each other. Floral arrangements aren’t the only way to decorate and sometimes less is more. In this wedding, arrangements add a pop of color without being distracting.

5. Enjoy yourself! Delight in the romance and soak up the scenery. Let all the planning melt away as you dance under the stars. Remember to have fun, relax, and be with the ones you love.

Antique Enthusiasts Create Seaside Glamour

Learn how to give your home a touch of glamour with these styling tips.

Living Room
French antiques and crisp colors give this comfortable home a dose of glamour.

This light-filled space is as fresh as the air that flows in from the ocean below it. For Lucy and Tony Torres, former residents of Birmington, Michigan, their bright and airy home in San Clemente, California, is an enchanting oasis where birds sing in the distance and cool breezes and garden scents fill the air.

Lucy’s signature style combines romantic chandeliers and collections of crystal with antique, chippy French furniture in shades of cream and white for a look that is both collected and sophisticated. The finishing touch is a light color palette inspired by the natural views. “It is always changing,” Lucy says, “[The palette] is peaceful; there are many different shades of green, blue and aqua—soft shades and bright shades too. I love them all.” Here’s how to get a look that seamlessly blends elegance with comfort.


Mix and match. Combine styles and eras for a look that appears carefully collected over time. Scour antique stores and flea markets for pieces that are truly unique. Don’t be afraid to set an antique French sofa across from an oversized couch.

Unify found pieces with white paint. When mixing styles, pick one element that will tie them all together. For Lucy, picking furniture in shades of white helped to achieve a harmonious design.

Make a statement with structural pieces. Lucy’s penchant for architectural pieces adds elegance to her living spaces. Columns, ornate stone furniture and grand garden urns find their place indoors for a stately feel.

Add sparkling surfaces. Give your space some glamour with mirrored surfaces, elaborate chandeliers in all sizes and crystals sprinkled throughout. Try adding candelabra and silver candleholders for elegant mantel and table displays.

Accentuate the architecture. This room highlights the exposed wood ceiling and beams by allowing it to retain its natural color. Bring attention to structural details in your home by painting in a different shade than the rest of the room.

For more information on Lucy Torres, visit myparisfleamarket.com.