Anyone who’s read this blog for a few months or longer knows that I adore all things Chinoiserie. I mean, I just checked, and there are well over 200 posts that mention the word Chinoiserie. That’s nearly one-third of them!
That sure is a testament to how important I feel it is.
This post is going to explain its place in history briefly. And, also why Chinoiserie decor and furnishings are so terrific.
But, first, what IS Chinoiserie decor and furnishings?
Laurel, wait a sec. Are you trying to say that in nearly nine years, you’ve never done a post purely on Chinoiserie?
Well, yes, I have. However, it was back in 2012.
At the time, it was my favorite post. And yes, for its day, it was pretty splendid. Alas, now, when I look at it, I find it cringe-worthy. The text was a little ponderous, and most of the photos weren’t that great, either.
I’m in the process of redoing many of the old posts. Usually, I delete them as soon as I’ve created the new version.
Then, the old URL gets redirected to the new post. I have a plugin that makes that super easy for me.
The other reason for redoing old posts is to keep it fresh for Mr. Google.
He likes that. Plus, there are over 750 blog posts. This is a BIG website. I’ve been told that it is better not to let it get too much more extensive. So, the only way to do that is to get rid of the dead weight. This is the sort of information you’ll find in my Six-Figure Income Blogging Guide.
This guide is for anyone who has a website and wants to get the most out of it.
Okay, let’s move on and discuss what Chinoiserie IS?
Well, for those who don’t already know, the assumption that it has something to do with China is correct.
And, today, many items such as porcelains and furniture are manufactured in China. Or, if vintage or antique, sourced in China. Those items are definitely Chinese.
However, much of what we call Chinoiserie is European, not Asian.
Chinoiserie is a French word that refers to a EUROPEAN artistic style that reflects Chinese influence and is characterized by using a fanciful, romanticized version of how Europeans IMAGINED people in the far east to be and live. So, what we think of as “Chinese” is often actually European! Who knew?
Above, in this glorious painting by Francois Boucher, “The Chinese Garden, (Le Jardin Chinoise)” c 1742. This is an excellent example of fictitious rendering that artists like Boucher imagined life in China were like in the 18th century.
Please note that the painting characters look about as Asian as I did when I performed in The Mikado back in 1977.
Yes, I was in show business. If you’d like to learn some other inconsequential information about my youth, please go here.
But, getting back to Chinoiserie decor, I have a short story for you.
Years ago, I showed some of my favorite clients a Chinoiserie toile wallpaper I thought would be perfect for their dining room. Sorry, I can’t remember which one at this point. I probably sent them the image via email. On our next visit, I asked them what they thought of the paper.
Well, they thought the paper was wonderful; however, they wouldn’t dream of having anything on their walls with Asian people as some of their friends were Chinese, and they would certainly be offended.
At the time, I saw their point entirely. But, what I didn’t know then was that what was on the paper was a European’s fantasy bearing little, if any, resemblance to reality.
mid-eighteenth century painted silk panel – Chinoiserie wallpaper panel – via @nicolefabredesigns – Instagram
When and how did Chinoiserie begin? Well, remember that guy, Marco Polo?
In the 14th century, he traveled to the Orient by making several trips via the “silk road.” After a lengthy stay in China, he brought back not only silks, porcelains, and other exotic goods but also fanciful stories of pagodas, unusual dress, and an exotic race of people.
This incredibly intrigued the Europeans, particularly the English aristocracy, who grew to covet everything Chinese.
I’m not sure what happened in the gap years; however, Chinoiserie was all the rage in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Whimsical Oriental scenes with fantastical decorative details – Chinese people in elaborate robes with coolie* hats, long ponytails and mustaches, along with intricately detailed pagodas, layered with fretwork, bells, and tassels; or exotic animals such as monkeys, lions, and elephants in costume were all aspects of this fantasized depiction of Asian life.
* Please note:
Every time I mention the word, Coolie, I am met with one or two hateful folks chastising me for using this word.
In this context, it is referring to the name of a HAT or a LAMPSHADE (like we saw here) and NOTHING else. Thank you to the two people who are planning on defaming me for staying silent. I very much appreciate that.
Chinoiserie is a broad classification of both traditional Chinese and the more modern European interpretation.
It also made its way into furniture as was first interpreted by cabinet makers such as Thomas Chippendale; subsequently, the term “Chinese Chippendale.” The fretwork designs also included the Greek Key pattern. Ahh.. but that is Greek. Actually, I believe that the Greeks probably stole it from the Chinese.
Today, Chinoiserie Decor is, again, wildly popular.
Chinoiserie is the foundation for the Hollywood Regency Style, popularized by such designers as Ruthie Sommers; however, most designers use Chinoiserie somewhere in their decorating. It is that popular and versatile and, of course, an enduring classic.
To sum up, Chinoiserie encompasses the following in Home Furnishings.
Porcelains – Porcelains are most commonly blue and white but can be multi-colored, green and white, or orange and white. Or solid colors. The porcelains can be vases, ginger jars, cachepot, planters, bowls, foo dogs, and other decorative accessories.
Related to the porcelains are ceramic and porcelain lamps, as well as lamps made out of metal (tole)
Fabrics – Chinoiserie fabrics have rung the gamut from geometrics to florals and Chinoiserie toiles.
Wall Coverings and Murals – Some of my favorite posts on the blog feature these gorgeous Chinoiserie wallpapers and panels.
Furniture – falls into different categories. There are antiques from China, as well as new reproductions.
(please click on any image in the mini widgets for more info.)
There are fine painted “Japanned” pieces with gold or other painted designs.
Also, some designers like Thomas Chippendale designed beautiful fretwork designs.
Some of them have been reinterpreted today in simpler forms, such as the Chinese Chippendale chairs, which are popular today.
So, what is so great about Chinoiserie decor and furnishings?
Oh, I dunno. I guess because it’s beautiful?
I mean, is that really a question? Yes, I asked it, but only so you’d click on the link. lol
Of course, you don’t have to like it. But, I bet that most of you do, even if you don’t know it yet.
Therefore, let me stop going on and on, and let’s look at some gorgeous room candy filled with Chinoiserie decor, furniture, and more!
This photo has been around for at least a decade. It’s actually a covered patio. Mary hit every note perfectly.
This image was in the original post but not this one. I actually found a much better version with turquoise foo dogs. Turquoise doesn’t photograph well for some reason. They are even much greener than they look here.
I’ve had this image for at least 15 years, maybe longer.
Chippendale Fretwork cabinet similar to the one I designed for this dining room
A wonderful mix of Chinoiserie, with English Staffordshire and French chairs
Michael-S Smith-Madrid – Photo – Ricardo Labougle – antique Chinoiserie panels
Remember when we were allowed to travel?
My old bedroom in Bronxville, NY, with The Mural Source wallpaper
Source unknown, but that railing is meow!
Have you seen Meg’s shop on Chairish? I want everything in it!!!
Chinese Qing Style Lacquered Wedding Cabinet Chest – vignette – ErinLaneEstate
Below is a super widget filled with dozens of Chinoiserie decor and furnishings. For more information, please click on any image.
I hope y’all enjoyed looking at all of this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. These posts are a lot of fun for me. Frankly, I could’ve sat here for another hundred hours searching for beautiful Chinoiserie pieces.
You may also enjoy this post: What Happens When You Mix Chinoiserie with Gustavian
Oh my! It’s DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!!!
Please check out the newly updated, and it’s a BIG UPDATE on the HOT SALES page! And the Serena & Lily entire site sale! is ending at 11:59PMPT – March 15th!
***And, are you looking for Farrow & Ball paint? Did you know that you can buy it online? Yes, you can, and that includes paint, samples, AND wallpaper. Everything you need!***