Amitha's Blog

Chinoiserie Chic

Do you have a bucket list? One of the things on my husband’s list is to travel to China and beyond – Singapore, Thailand, and lots of other far-flung locations in Asia!

But what does that have to do with antiques and home décor, you must be wondering? Well, a lot, as it happens. Because the exotic Far East is where chinoiserie comes from, and chinoiserie is top of my love-it list right now!

Chinoiserie is actually a French word to describe an Asian influence on design, particularly an influence originating from China. In the 17th and 18th century, when the traders started bringing art, fabrics and silk back to Europe, it became all the rage to design with all things Asian. Furniture, silks, lacquerware, ceramics, screens, and many other beautiful objects bore the imprint of Asian style. Just like today, people liked to have a few of these wonderfully exotic pieces grace their interiors to reflect a sense of worldliness. 

Chinoiserie pieces would reflect patterns, geometric shapes, bamboo prints and deliciously beautiful painted scenes depicting life in China. Chinoserie blended well with the French Rococo style, which embraced organic shapes, nature and curiosity – and I’ll be sure to share more about that in a later post. 

One classic Chinoiserie design staple you might have seen is this type of gorgeous hand-painted wallpaper often seen in the design magazines.

Here you can see how lovely a gilt Rococo mirror looks atop the chinoiserie paper. 

Another hallmark of chinoiserie design is the geometric shapes and lacquered finish. This is the kind of finish typical of furniture brought back from China – like these chairs:

Take a look at those ginger jars on the table, and those Chinoiserie-style lamps. What a statement!

Below is another great example of chinoiserie inspired plates, jars and a console, mixed in with another gilt Rococo mirror.

You’ve probably seen many a cabinet like the one below in black with the lovely scene painted on it. These are another classic piece in the style of chinoiserie. 

I just love the scenes painted on the cabinets above! Whether in France, China or really anywhere idyllic, scenes of daily life seem so inspiring.

And of course chinoiserie is a classic motif for fabrics. Say you found a beautiful vintage chair while out antiquing… wouldn’t it be absolutely perfect to upholster it in this fabric?

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing design feature. You might just prefer a taste of chinoiserie versus an entire wall covered in wallpaper or a dining room full of chairs. Here are a few chinoiserie-inspired pieces currently at the store that you could use to add a hint of this style to your home:

So you see, you too can create an eclectic look with just a few additions to your decor. 

In my own house this year we are renovating our powder bathroom which is currently in dire straits. I dream of having the entire powder bathroom wallpapered in a chinoiserie type wallpaper in pale blue and pale yellow tones! I hope we can find a suitable wallpaper that my husband and I will both love!

What do you think about this style of design? Leave a comment on our Facebook share, or continue to share when you come in next! 

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