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Shabby Chic or Upcycled Furniture
- What’s the Difference?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have heard the terms ‘shabby chic’ and ‘upcycled furniture’. You’ll have heard them, or seen the products they describe, but have you thought what’s the difference between Shabby Chic and Upcycled? Is there one?

Although similar in some respects there are undoubtedly some marked differences between Shabby Chic and Upcycled furniture pieces.


Upcycling (creative reuse), according to Wikipedia, ‘is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value’.

Put simply, any piece of upcycled furniture is furniture made from already existing materials. It is the least harmful to the environment out of all the furniture making processes. The environmental damage has been done and you are saving the world from any further damage as what once may have been left for the scrapheap may now end up in the pride of place in someone’s home.

Upcycled furniture can have its own unique individual look due to the nature of the materials used in its construction. And it is only limited by peoples imagination. Thanks to some great upcycling work we have seen baths transformed into sofas, car parts into benches, computer parts into coffee tables, and so on. The list is endless.

Shabby Chic

If you ask Wikipedia what shabby chic is you’ll be told it ‘is a style of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique’.

As you can see shabby chic items come in two main forms. Either they can be brand new but are given the appearance of an antique, or they are already existing pieces which have been chosen because they are effectively antique and naturally have that distressed shabby chic appearance.

The big difference here is that one of those could be described as being an example of upcycling. The other cannot. One is a method of recycling and reusing. The other is not.

Obviously, the new shabby chic furniture pieces are not in the same field as the upcycled ones. Whilst having an appearance of age it is only really an illusion. This aspect of shabby chic has more to do with style than anything else.

The already existing pieces which are simply enhanced or fine-tuned are more akin to upcycling. You are taking something already in existence, something currently unwanted, and with a little care and attention are applying your creativity to create something new and desirable. You have upcycled it. Saved it from becoming rubbish. And given it a new lease of life.

As we can see there is some difference in shabby chic and upcycled furniture. One may be considered full of style and substance as it looks good and is good for the environment. The other, not so much.

To be fair to the shabby chic purveyors though at least one side of that furniture is more environmentally-friendly than most. It still counts in the long run as every little action helps.

I guess when choosing whether to go for a shabby chic or an upcycled item comes down to your own particular tastes and preferences. As with all furniture you want something that suits your needs, be that with your environmental concerns or just the practicalities of where that piece of furniture will go in your home. There is plenty of choice out there and ultimately the choice is yours. Excellent value places to look are the furniture stores in orange county ca.

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