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Shabby chic, Tuscan, Tommy Bahama trends are out

The other day I ran across an article about decorating fads on the outs. Before I covered homes, I never really identified with trends much beyond those I liked or loathed, that is, until I found shabby chic, a craze that turned out to be the love of my decorating life — at least for awhile.

I adored everything about it: its faded floral print fabrics, chipped painted furniture, old iron beds, pie safes, milk glass, flea-market artwork, old wicker, dainty chandeliers (usually painted white and dripping with crystals). I admired its sweet, faux-worn furnishings and accessories everywhere I went: antique stores, thrift shops, salvage yards. I read every magazine article on the topic and collected accessories that gave shabby chic its signature elan.

Recently, though, I began to notice that shabby chic has moved beyond its halcyon days. The style has been eclipsed by other trends, most notably "polished cottage," best exemplified in the catalog Maine Cottage. The "polished cottage" look is cute but not too cute and includes an assortment of new wicker or rattan, bright fabrics and un-chipped painted furniture.

Definitely not shabby.

Then I started noticing the demise of other trends, ones I didn't fall for but that were popular nonetheless. The Tuscan look, a favorite among west coast Floridians, seems to have lost its luster. This is purely anecdotal, of course, but I'm not seeing it in as many homes; nor are people swearing it's their favorite style. Buoyed by the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, the look incorporated the warm colors of an imaginary Italian farmhouse and offered a cozy respite from hot Florida days.

Also on the outs — and also purely anecdotal, of course — is the Tommy Bahama-inspired decor I also saw in so many homes during the housing boom. It offered an upscale, elegant, tropical look.

At the opposite end of the decorating spectrum, that sleek-chic ultramodern look (the one that screamed "I don't have any personal possessions!") seems to be going the way of these other once-hot trends as well.

My guess is that because of worries about the economy and other pressing issues, people haven't been as quick to jump on the decorating bandwagon. People want homes that are comfortable and attractive for family and friends, and they aren't too concerned about trends beyond that.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Wesley Chapel home of a well-known young jazz musician. The place was modest and pretty and unassuming. Best of all, he had actually decorated it himself. He had painted the walls, picked out the furniture, accessories, flooring and countertops. He told me that he didn't adhere to any particular style, and that his taste ran somewhere between traditional and contemporary.

I think that's where a lot of us fall these days, somewhere between traditional and contemporary. Though I mourn the demise of my beloved shabby chic, the more middle-of-the-road polished cottage look that replaced it is probably here to stay.


It's somewhere smack-dab in the center of the decorating spectrum: not too feminine or masculine, and comfortable for everyone.

Best of all, it's easily copied and thrown together inexpensively — a good thing in hard times.

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at

Shabby chic, Tuscan, Tommy Bahama trends are out 07/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 9:16am]
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