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  • Awatef Zaoui

Shabby Chic or how the Brits have it all...

Brits… There is something about the Brits that I remain unable to comprehend. I am not exaggerating; I have been trying hard for years now. Especially since I am married to one...

So, after 18 months of video calls , we finally boarded the Eurostar for our usual (pre-Covid) two weeks in London during summer. After the 5-days release test, we were finally able to enjoy the Queen’s City. A mesmerizing place where extremes meet but never touch: strong national traditions are anchored in the DNA of its citizens, yet everyone is singularly different. Like two parallel lines, going in the same direction but never meeting each other.

Britain dominated half of the world. A fragile geographic entity (an island after all) surrounded by glacial waters and dismal skies managed to colonize every continent for centuries. The British forged many international alliances but they never changed their devices nor the side of their cars’ steering wheels. They boast Michelin starred restaurants but still eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches with aplomb. For Britons, puddings are synonymous with dessert and when they have tea it means they are having dinner! Their humour is hilarious but dark. English is a world language. The Queen is a superstar. They have the Spice Girls and Harry Potter. And my quest to discover their secrets remains unfinished!

Coming back to language, you may speak the most eloquent English, have a prolific vocabulary but , you still won’t understand anything if you are not British. With over a dozen distinct dialects, their English is nothing you would have learned in school or been exposed to. That’s probably their superpower. They have a secret communication thing. Subtle. Powerful. I managed to decode a few of their ‘tricks’. I’ve learned that when a Briton says, “That’s interesting” what he really means is “that’s so boring”. A Briton never complains, he merely ‘suggests’. He never shows off his gains or accomplishments. He finds it rude to share his opinion. He never wants your opinion but will end his sentence with a “isn’t it” …

With their history of having conquered almost the whole world, I like to think of Britons as the SUVs of the human race. Some of this resilience can be seen in the way they raise their kids. Nothing is childproof in their house. Babies will wear just one layer of clothes. Toddlers enjoy oats for breakfast; fish and chips for lunch and toast for tea. Children sleep at 5.30pm in broad daylight. Opinions are silenced with a look but executed. And when they politely suggest, it’s actually an order. . A Victorian touch, I guess.

What I particularly enjoy about their lifestyle, and interior design approach, is the constant presence of the “old is gold” adage. You can see it in the streets of London. They will refurbish an entire building complete with the latest in technology but will not touch the red brick façade. They don’t play around with their heritage and this perhaps explains why Shabby Chic is a style that Britons have a natural flair for. Only a Briton can turn a floral wallpaper and lace bedspread into a work of art.

The Shabby chic style is vintage and romantic. Its core principle is to ally old furniture (ideally with visible wear and tear) with bulky accessories. The ‘used’ look adds a touch of romanticism to the story of those pieces. The overall look must be one of imperfection and individuality, therefore loved. You will find robust wood, rough iron, and ceramic. You will also find organic materials such as cotton and linen fringed with romanticism in the form delicate embroidery and lace.

Just like the Brits’ imperceptible singularity, vintage kids’ bedrooms also exude a sense of strong attachment to their roots and history, a deep love for their heritage and an understated elegance. It is not pretentious . Nor extravagant. It is all about a suggested atmosphere: I find it difficult to define, but let’s say something between laid-back yet organised, creates a a sense of belonging while maintaining a desire for improving.

Brits, you are admirable.

Your friend and fan,

Awatef Zaoui

We selected those pictures from these talented designers :

@baileymaccarthy @mirja @coverthouse @decoideas @misskyreelsove @nickolsen @pauletpaula @thelilypadcottage @tthesebeautifulthingss⁠


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