Chinoiserie Decor – What Is It? & Why You Need It

Chinoiserie Decor.

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?


chinoiserie chic Francois Boucher, The Chinese Garden

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

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.


coolie lampshade - with marble finialvintage Chinoiserie yellow lamps

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.



Ruthie Sommers


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.


Art –


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!



Mary McDonald

This photo has been around for at least a decade. It’s actually a covered patio. Mary hit every note perfectly.


Cullman & Kravis - foo dog - bookcase styling - Kips Bay Showhouse 2010 - Chinoiserie Decor

Kips Bay Showhouse Cullman and Kravis

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.


living room bookcase styling - interior design -home staging expert - Lotte MeisterThis is reminding me of Lotte Meister’s gorgeous styling.


Steven Gambrel

I’ve had this image for at least 15 years, maybe longer.


Sanity Fair


Andrew-J-Howard-chinoiserie decor dining room green and blue

Andrew Howard


blind fretwork table david skinner antiquesblind fretwork table David Skinner antiques


chippendale fretwork cabinet

Chippendale Fretwork cabinet similar to the one I designed for this dining room



You can see more of the dining room here.


Classic Home Furnishings - Chinoiserie - Staffordshire dogs - Louis XVI chairs

A wonderful mix of Chinoiserie, with English Staffordshire and French chairs


mark-sikes-gracie-wallpaper-chinoiserie-handpainted-celedon-majolica-antique-hutch-green and white rooms dining room

Mark D Sikes dining room


Michael-S Smith-Madrid - Photo - Ricardo Labougle - antique Chinoiserie panels

Michael-S Smith-Madrid – Photo – Ricardo Labougle – antique Chinoiserie panels


Greensquare Antiques - antiquing in Copenhagen - beautiful Chinoiserie vignette

I took chinoiserie in 2018 from my trip to Copenhagen.

Remember when we were allowed to travel?


Megan Rice Yager Chinoiserie decor - Scalamandre wallpaper

Megan Rice Yager – Scalamandre wallpaper


Furlow Gatewood wall mirrors French doors Chinoiserie

Furlow Gatewood


Summer Thornton - blue and white chinoiserie in a neutral and white living room

Summer Thornton


gracie blue chinoiserie wallpaper Mark D Sikes

Fabulous Gracie wallpaper


mural sources green chinoiserie mural

The Mural Source


Mural Sources Wallpaper - Bronxville, NY apartment for sale

My old bedroom in Bronxville, NY, with The Mural Source wallpaper

For more of it, please go here.


Jessicalevantiques - Jenniferbarroninteriors - chinoiserie wallpaper panels

JessicalevantiquesJenniferbarroninteriors – chinoiserie wallpaper panels


Source unknown, but that railing is meow!



Meg Braff-Chinese-Chippendale-fretwork-railing


Have you seen Meg’s shop on Chairish? I want everything in it!!!


Chinese Qing Style Lacquered Wedding Cabinet Chest - vignette - ErinLaneEstate

Chinese Qing Style Lacquered Wedding Cabinet Chest – vignette – ErinLaneEstate

Erin’s another unique shop on Chairish!


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

My Room Isn’t Blue Can I Still Do Blue & White Chinoiserie?

High-Low Furnishings + Sources & Secrets Revealed






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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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