Defining Neo-Chinese Interior Design

September 16, 2022
Wilfrid Chan

What Is Neo-Chinese Interior Design?

Neo-Chinese design is a new interior design trend that has recently seen a rise in popularity. It stands in stark contrast to the ‘traditional’ view of Chinese interiors, which are often opulent but busy, and can feel outdated. Neo-Chinese design, on the other hand, evokes a softer touch - bringing a holistic and zen approach interwoven with contemporary furniture. It exists between modern Chinese shapes and a hint of wabi-sabi.

Image via AD

It’s the kind of interior style you would recognise instantly when you see it. It invites you in with its soothing palette and lush materials yet is still bold in its choices without being ‘in your face’. These design choices make for more than a visually appealing room. They embody a zen aesthetic that can bring about a real calm to everyday life. An interior such as this is thoughtfully crafted to help bolster your mental health, acting as a retreat from the outside world. Isn’t that exactly how our homes should serve us?

Classic Elements Found in Neo Chinese Interiors

While the trend of neo-Chinese interiors continues to evolve and find its footing, these spaces have a few common elements. They, of course, start with a feeling of stillness and capture a quiet confidence that says, ‘less is more’, but beyond that often use the following interior design techniques:

Image via Behance

Soft Colour Palette

Neutral tones make up a neo-Chinese interior - you won’t find a shocking pink couch or lime green drapes here, but that’s not to say they are devoid of any colour. This design style makes use of gentle hues and tones like brown, cream and taupe to lay a foundation, using colours that are aimed at nurturing the soul. Bright accents are used sparingly in such spaces.

Bamboo & Live-Edge Wood

Natural materials like bamboo and reclaimed teak are favoured in much of Asian-inspired interior design. Not only does it bring a feeling of grounding into the space, but it also offers a natural patina that cannot be replicated by synthetic materials. Live-edge furniture is often used in neo-Chinese interiors as it weaves a rustic elegance into a room and adds a softness with its natural curves.


Lacquerware has long been a staple in Chinese homes. Its decorative motifs and carvings tell tales of nature, history, and mythology. Within neo-Chinese interiors, lacquerware is still present. However, it is used much more sparingly as accents on a shelf or trinkets by the bedside. They add to the fabric of the room without calling too much attention to themselves. These traditional pieces of homeware are still an important piece of Chinese culture and help to preserve an age-old craft.

Image via AD

Floral Arrangements

These likely aren’t the sizeable colourful bouquets of the West you might imagine. Floral arrangements within neo-Chinese interiors are far more demure. Taking a leaf from ikebana, you’ll find different foliage throughout the seasons, each delicately staged as an almost meditative study of nature. Dried flowers and twigs are a common sight, as they are low maintenance yet still create an inviting ambience.

Mood Lighting

Within these zen spaces, it is no surprise that mood lighting is used to diffuse light and create a serene atmosphere. This often manifests in lamps tucked in corners, candlelight, and dimmable bulbs to adjust the brightness according to the mood. Soft lighting adds to the soothing aura of the room. Naturally, this is best applied to areas of rest like the bedroom, reading room and living room.


Pottery and clay decor is often used in neo-Chinese interiors, for both their practical and decorative purposes. While traditionally ceramics are commonly used in typical Chinese interiors, earthenware with classic Asian silhouettes are favoured in modern times. Not only do they bring a touch of nature into the home, but they are also vessels for storage and decorations.

Rarely cluttered & always calming, neo-Chinese interiors are an oasis of calm.