AS assistants scurry about, carrying furniture from one room to the next in Rachel Ashwell's Brentwood house, a photography team frets that the butter-colored sofa it's shooting appears too golden. The lighting is off, sure, but there's something else that's not quite right. "You see how it's not straight," Ashwell says, jumping into the frame to rearrange pillows in just the right way, then running to a bedroom to grab a flea market oil painting for the background. These are busy days for the founder of Shabby Chic. The woman who built a six-store chain on slipcovered furniture is expanding her brand, in scale as well as in style. A five-year plan calls for dozens of new stores, including one that opened in Austin, Texas, this summer, and locations outside Boston and in Atlanta set to launch this fall. Southern Californians will see new collections that have a broader palette of colors and materials -- think cottage gray instead of white, weathered natural oak instead of whitewashed wood. Leather chairs ($2,275 each) and patchwork kilim rugs ($700 to $4,000) are a distinct departure but still blend with Shabby Chic classics. "I feel like I'm evolving," says Ashwell (pictured in her dining room, above). "It's been interesting for me to go to sleep in this house knowing all that was here," she adds, eyeing the new collections staged in her living room. "My son kept doing a double take." www.shabbychic.com.
Carlos Chavez / LAT