What is Chinoiserie? And What Makes it So Chic?
The popularity of Chinoiserie, in part, stems from a sense of tradition and nostalgia. The contrast between the excess of Rococo and the simplicity of East Asian country scenes.
What is Chinoiserie?
Originating in the 18th century, Chinoiserie came about from European enamorment and admiration from Asian motifs particularly Chinese (and also Japanese: Japonaiserie!)
Chinoiserie means “Chinese-esque” - from the same French word Chinoise, Chinese +erie, meaning, in the style of.
Chinoiserie is characterized by its exemplary blue and white color schemes and traditional East Asian subjects. Notoriously, pagodas, Chinese provincial life, Chinese floral patterns, and shorebirds among others.
While originally, Chinoiserie was imported to Europe via pottery, the style quickly traveled to decorative arts and furniture. Roccoco pieces were lacquered to emulated traditional Chinese finishes.
Wallpapers became a popular way to adorn large rooms and bring dramatic flair to grand parlors.
Photo: https://visitworldheritage.com/ Photo Credit: Hans Bach
Luxuriant furniture designer, Thomas Chippendale was a roaring success when he adopted Chinoise style into his pieces, incorporating Chinese style woodworking, carving and hand-painting scenes into his masterpieces.
The Chippendale chair is a ubiquitous element of classic Chinoiserie.
In the 18th century, Chinoiserie was exclusive to Old-money families that passed on signature heirlooms, symbolic of a life well-traveled.
And, frankly, we think that’s part of its allure: the hint of exclusivity and appreciation for tradition.
Thankfully, with the popularization of the style in the 21st century, Chinoiserie is an accessible way to add timeless charm to your home.
5 ways to add a touch of Chinoiserie chic to your home
If you want to add Chinoiserie to your home, add these 5 elements to your home decor:
- Blue and White: Deep blues, cobalt, and navy paired with crisp white backgrounds are the colors of the classic Chinoiserie movement. You can immediately add this color scheme via linens, tablescape and wall art.
- Ginger Jars: whether you choose to have them as a collection of heirloom pottery pieces, an antique market find, or reproduction, ginger jars are the most recognizable piece of this decorating style. Ginger jars were originally designed to transport spices (like ginger!) But can be used to create a focal point in your foyer, as vases and even stand-alone objects d’ art for the largest pieces. Ginger Jar prints are a versatile and immediately appealing way to incorporate this traditional pottery style to small spaces
- Shorebirds: whether you choose to have antique brass cranes sculptures or sandhill crane illustrations.
- Bamboo: use bamboo as the shape for frames for your wall art, the wood itself for furniture and flooring and imagine otherwise utilitarian pieces in your home such as lighting, take a new light when done in bamboo.
Photo: Woodson and Rummerfield’s mirror by Sootheby’s
4. Wallpaper: One of the most popular applications of Chinoiserie style is on pattern design. And with the elements of deep, bold colors and extravagant illustrations, Chinoiserie wallpaper is one of the top choices for statement powder rooms.
Dramatic wallpapers are chosen because they make dark, small rooms appear larger. And because they are a great way to add drama to an otherwise subdued home. But don’t think that Chinoiserie wallpaper is to be used exclusively for powder rooms, it makes a fantastic addition to your walk-in closet and dressing room.
(Go for big patterns with lots of movement and opt-out of small, high repeat patterns in smaller rooms)
Photo: Coco Coromandel paper by de Gournay; from $832 per panel degournay.com
Chinoiserie is timeless and elegant. It is an integral element of Palm Beach Chic decor and a stape of the well-appointed Southern home. With the return of Chinoiserie decorating, it is easier than ever to incorporate key elements of this traditional style into modern and contemporary home styling.
Click here to see the entire Alex Isaacs Chinoiserie wall art collection.