Chinoiserie Anyone?

I've always been fascinated with all things Asian and I especially love Chinoiserie. Both as a general interior design style and as individual elements seen in interiors of all types, it's one of those styles that has been around forever but really never goes out of fashion.

So you won't have to struggle through this post, here's how to pronounce 'Chinoiserie' which is derived from 'chinois,' the French word for Chinese -

It all started in the 15th century when Marco Polo explored ‘the Orient’ and brought back the first exotic Eastern treasures like colorful silks and carved ivory and jade ornaments to Europe.

Chinoiserie - which has always been less about representing the Far East accurately and more about Europe’s idyllic, romanticized idea of the other side of the world – took the west by storm in popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was truly the first international design style.

Both then and now, Chinoiserie motifs range from the natural (willow trees, mountain ranges, streams, monkeys, elephants) to the man-made (pagodas, bridges, temples) to the fantastical (foo dogs, dragons, phoenixes). 

Bearing those motifs is the ever-popular blue and white porcelain. Did you know it was at one time among the biggest exports from China to Europe? Today it’s everywhere and at just about every price point.

We see Chinoiserie's timelessness in the currently very trendy fretwork patterns and glossy lacquered furniture finishes. Chinese garden stools, lacquered Ming tables, and ginger jars also adorn many of today's homes of all styles, from staunchly traditional to ultra modern.  

If you are looking to infuse your own home with a bit of Eastern-inspired flair, here's a selection of some of my favorite pieces on the market today ranging from pagoda-shaped mirrors to foo dogs and a little bit of everything in-between.

Many of the grandest, most fashionable rooms have one thing in common:  hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper. Some of the best quality today are from Gracie or De Gournay.  Take a look at these absolutely stunning wallpapers. If cost is an issue (and these papers can get pricey) you can use panels of the wallpaper inside trim molding to give the illusion of a whole wall done in paper at a fraction of the cost. Also, take a look at the last photo - the designer used the back wall with the floral paper and the rest of the room is plain grass cloth. I am sure this saved a pretty penny.

For those of you who might be on the fence about installing wallpaper, I have found a company that sells temporary wallpaper in Chinoiserie styles and I think they look amazing. How cool is this?! 

By the way, remember to always order a sample of any wallcovering you’re looking to put in your home, whether temporary or not, as colors can look very different on a computer screen than they do in person.

When it comes to Chinoiserie print fabrics...the sky is the limit.  Almost every fabric line carries one or two patterns at the very least.  Have one pillow (or four) made for your sofa or bed.

Isn’t it fun knowing you can put something (whether it's brand new or a rare antique) in your home today that’s been considered beautiful and stylish for centuries? Even though the tide of design styles ebbs and flows constantly, I’m confident we’ll never see Chinoiserie be anything less than the epitome of chic.

So tell me, are you brave enough to include a little Chinoiserie in your home?

Liza JonesComment