Chinoiserie derives from the French word chinois, which means "Chinese" or "after the Chinese taste".
Chinoiserie derives from the French word chinois, which means "Chinese" or "after the Chinese taste". It is a decorative style cultivated by Western aesthetics inspired by Eastern design. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Europeans began to trade with East Asian culture, their traditions were considered mysterious by the Europeans, so it fostered a deep desire for Chinese motifs and characteristics in the Western world and became a historical novelty.
Chinoiserie significantly influenced antiques throughout the last few centuries across paintings, architecture, porcelain, and interior design. Europeans even adopted the style within fashion and ritual tea drinking. The designs were rooted in the highly decorative rococo style that members of the royal family favoured. Drinking tea became the height of fashion, and those of good taste required an elaborate chinoiserie mise-en-scene complete with tea sets, silverware, dining furniture, tea chests and more. As a result, the demand for all things chinoiserie grew in popularity.
Chinoiserie is characterised by several significant motifs and occasionally replicated directly from Chinese artefacts, but its main components are created by European artist's. The patterns often included dragons, phoenixes, pagodas, floral designs, natural landscapes, and Chinese figures. Our 'Chinoiserie In A Minimal Age' blog further explores the history of chinoiserie and how Chinese art has been interpreted by artisans over the years, resulting in a fusion of style and trends.
What's old often becomes new again, so if you enjoy the art of clashing colours, statement furnishings, and mismatched patterns, maximalist interiors have always welcomed chinoiserie's classical style.
Integrating the old with the new can prove tricky, but a little control, balance, and tweaking go a long way. A modern and fresh aesthetic that balances traditional homeware with an east meets west design language blend shiny lacquered walls, contemporary furniture, and lighting. Here are our top picks for achieving a chinoiserie style in your home.
Chinoiserie is fascinating, with little scenes telling a story, yet the style can still be versatile and bring a timeless fashion to various rooms. Be generous with colour and use patterns boldly. Choosing contemporary chinoiserie-inspired wallpapers such as this Belton Scenic design from Little Greene is a great example on how to channel the chinoiserie trend into entertaining spaces or entry passages.
If wallpaper is a bit overbearing, try a framed piece of chinoiserie artwork that oozes nature in its most captivating moment, which was hand-painted initially on silk using traditional brushes, techniques, and watercolours. Using chinoiserie artwork allows you to transition a space throughout the seasons and rotate different pieces throughout your home freely. Art is a great starting point if you’re toying with the idea of creating an entire chinoiseries-style room.
Chinoiserie furniture is a fusion of Western and Eastern design, which mixes exquisite Chinese motifs with European Rococo-style furnishings. The blend of unique detailed textures with classic lacquered furniture can exude a chic chinoiserie style in a maximalist atmosphere.
The traditions of Asian lacquerware date back thousands of years, and the technique used to craft them is a display of incredible skill and craftsmanship. Often painted or carved with asymmetrical Chinese motifs, explored in depth in our Lacquerware glossary post.
Porcelain vases are most commonly known in chinoiserie for the skill and craftsmanship required to produce them correctly, our Porcelain: Home Decor Guide dives further into the history of the material. Chinoiserie is notable for its iconic blue and white patterns that the Chinese used primarily on ginger jars to store spices.
These pieces were imported across Europe and were quickly embraced because of their aesthetically pleasing designs, soon they began appearing as decorative accents in Western homes. Eventually, European designers imitated the Ming-style blue and white designs onto jars, vases, fabrics, and tea sets, cementing their reputation as a decor classic. Blue and white porcelain is a classic way to add some Asian flair and achieving a Chinoiserie style from minimally modern to traditional homes.
Chinoiserie can be identified by its fanciful decorative style and theatrical, playful perceptions of life in East Asia. The style focuses on images of nature, leisure, and pleasure, evoking all things chinoiserie today.
Chinoiserie was born entirely from European designers and artisans who sought to imitate the decorative style of Chinese arts, silk and lacquerware in China, Japan, and other Asian countries during the 18th century. These imitations differed significantly from authentic East Asian design, appearing for the first time in French literature to refer to the craftworks made in the Chinese style.
Chinoiserie is a timeless and classic aesthetic that had a resonant influence on many facets of interior design, porcelain and decorative art, paintings, furniture, and architectural styles; in other words, the style will always have a place in interior design for its historical significance and ties to lavish living.