Chinoiserie In A Minimal Age

January 7, 2021
Wilfrid Chan

Chinoiserie is a visual art inspired by the world. From the iconic blue-and-white porcelain designs we all know and love to the slow meticulous process of glossy lacquerware pieces, the whimsical designs are timeless. Immerse yourself into the world of Chinoiseries through its deep-rooted history and discover how you can authentically incorporate the style into your home. Take advantage while minimalism is on the rise as we reveal how you can adopt these featured accents in sync with modern simplicity.

The History of Chinoiserie

During the 17th and 18th century, the European aristocracy was inspired by the Asian motifs and techniques which drew on Chinese heritage and Chinese culture. From the rising trade with China and East Asia, European commerce blossomed and exported an influx of Chinese and Indian goods. This realm of Chinese art became popular with Europe as trade with Asia flourished, they began to emulate their version of this worldly art. The Europeans wanted to recreate the eastern aesthetic but blend elegant European style with flavoured East Asian traditions; known as ‘chinoiserie’. The word derives from “chinois,” which is French for Chinese. Chinoiseries is expressed across various regions in the form of decorative art, furniture, and architecture.  


The association of tea drinking in the 18th century was the height of fashion and demanded the perfect mise en scène amongst the aristocracy society. This led the Europeans to quickly adopt the Asian culture and traditions for their tea rituals and strengthened the market for chinoiserie pieces.

Tea Leaves by William McGregor Paxton,
Boston, MA. Image via metmuseum.
1743. Tea Service. Italian. Porcelain. Image via metmuseum.

A classic example of remarkable chinoiserie in interior design can be found by the canal-side mansion in the Chinese room which has eight Rococo wallpaper panels decorated with fantasy flowers, birds and Chinese motifs dated 1775 in the Museum Geelvinck-Hiplopen Amsterdam. The most surviving chinoiserie interior stands in England but designers have used the classic and ageless chinoiserie interior design for centuries. The décor compliments any space from its strong features of culture which pair exceptionally well with modern design.

The Chinese Room at Claydon House, Buckinghamshire. Designed in 1769 by Luke Lightfoot.

Folding screens were a historically popular choice which detailed Chinese patterns, figures and extravagant scenery from those of myths, tales, nature and romance in Chinese literature.

18th-century Chinese folding screen from the Imperial Furniture Collection, Vienna. Crafted from wood and glass paper. Image via Sandstein.

Chinoiserie Motifs and Characteristics

Chinese art has been interpreted by many artisans over the years which resulted in a fusion of designs and trends. The intricate and ornamental aspects of the enthusiastically decorative style had piqued the interest of many designers. These depictions found their way into garden buildings, house accessories such as clocks, famous porcelain pieces, as well as furniture carvings, wallpaper, and paintings.

Natural Landscapes

Many chinoiserie designs in art and interior design incorporated bold and fanciful pavilions that included birds, nature, lavish gardens and rambling floral motifs. These oriental landscapes were favoured by the Europeans and were often handmade and expensive.

Amazonia-designed wallpaper. Image via de Gournay.

Mythical Creatures

Mandarin dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology, folklore, and culture. They symbolise strength and luck and are a key character in chinoiserie inspired design.

Image via Extreme Design.

Foo Dogs

Shishi means ‘lion’ in Chinese also known as foo dogs in English culture. They are a common motif in the chinoiserie style. These Chinese lions appear outside, guarding temples and palaces and repel all negative energy.

Image via Extreme Design.

The characteristics and motifs of ancient Chinoiseries are jubilant, loud and in your face, you may wonder how such a style can exist in an age of minimalism. Relish in our curated infuses of Asian chinoiserie furnishings complimenting in the modern-day home.


Infusing Chinoiserie Furniture in a Modern Fashion

Lacquerware is objects decoratively covered with lacquer. As seen earlier in this article it is commonly found in Chinoiseries. Lacquer work has been a tradition to East Asia for thousands of years. It is a technique which requires incredible skill and craftsmanship. It is recalled the British cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale popularised the production of chinoiserie furniture through his book The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director which displayed a blueprint of 160 designs providing an intricate guide to implement Chinoiserie furniture.

A single lacquered cabinet styled with a dark backdrop accomplishes the modern home chinoiserie look. Elegant, ornate yet still in keeping with the theme of modern-day simplicity.

Image via Pinterest.

Porcelain and ceramics are greatly desired elements of chinoiserie because of the skill and craftsmanship required to produce them correctly. Primarily ginger gars were serving as storage containers for spices in ancient China. Europe replicated the chinoiserie porcelain and took on a more decorative appeal all over the home which eventually cemented their reputation as a décor classic.

The porcelain sauce boat vase sports the iconic blue and white hues and keeps in line with the historic tradition, brings classical style to your modern displays and is a must have for any well-collected home.

Image via Pinterest.

Glazed ceramic lamps have also become iconic in the interior design industry. They are a display of timeless, classic forms and bold vibrant glazes which transforms any given space.


These blush lamps are fashion accessories for the home, the jewellery of a room made to infuse well with the chinoiserie chic aesthetic of a modern home.

Image via Pinterest.

Known as Flower power: the ‘four gentlemen’ four flowers hold tremendous importance in Chinese heritage: the plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo. Together they exude beauty, warmth, strength and optimism.


A chinoiserie carpet radiates a botanical wonder in Asian cultures, adding a cosy yet vibrant touch. The virtues of purity, modesty, uprightness, and strength are naturally embedded in the ‘four gentlemen’ flowers of virtue.

Image via Wendy Morrison Design.

The increasing demand for bringing scenes from the exotic, faraway orient into the homes of the West came in the form of beautiful, intricate chinoiserie designs through wallpaper and fabrics. Hand-painted companies such as de Gournay detail decorative collections which explore historical themes like the Kiso Mountains in Japan to simply spruce up a westernised homes.


The traditional natural landscape and floral accents are placed delicately atop a beautiful tea paper texture. A hand-painted and handmade fabric style wallpaper may just be the touch you need.

de Gournay Kiso Mountains.

Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) became a cabinet maker in London, designing furniture in chinoiserie fashion.The mid-Georgian, English rococo and neoclassical styles were published in the furniture catalogue “The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director” which extensively featured influences from Chinese architecture.


This Chippendale seating collection details lacy patterns, typically made of mahogany, a long-lasting material which is easily carved and upholstered with fine fabrics like velvet or silk. Designed in metallic tones to be the focal point and used to create a sense of sophistication in the modern home.

Thomas Chippendale Design.

Chinoiserie lends itself beautifully to modern home interiors. Top designers are cleverly weaving chinoiserie styles into their own homes and projects, proving that this age old vision holds its own even in the modern landscape, becoming truly timeless.

“Tea drinking was a fundamental part of polite society; much of the interest in both Chinese export wares and chinoiserie rose from the desire to create appropriate settings for the ritual of tea drinking” - Beevers