Chinese inspired interiors are everywhere you look, from patterned blue-and-white china, pretty porcelains, ginger jars, bamboo chippendale chairs and ming tables to hand-painted de Gournay wallpapers. These are just a few of the popular elements of chinoiserie, which, as its French name indicates, is a fanciful European interpretation of Eastern allure. Chinoiserie actually refers to a European style that reflects Chinese influence and is characterised by romanticised version of how Europeans imagined people in the Orient to be and live. In other words, what we think of as “Chinese” is often actually European! who knew?
Chinoiserie patterns therefore often depict elaborate robes, long ponytails and mustaches, intricately detailed pagodas, layered with fretwork, bells and tassels, or exotic animals such as monkeys, lions, and elephants. Sound familiar?
But these days, Chinoiserie is a broad classification of both those traditional Chinese patterns and the more modern European interpretation – like bamboo Chinese Chippendale chairs.
Anything but a fad, the Chinoiserie style, which emerged in the eighteenth-century, is one with enduring appeal that works as well in intimate settings as on the grand scale.
Today, Chinoiserie is again wildly popular and you can see elements of these designs just about every where and on everything.
Whether it’s blossom and bird printed wall paper or black laquered furniture, here are a few of my favourite picks from the internet to help introduce the look at home.
Bold and bright
Soft and light
Classic blue and white
Ginger jars are perhaps the most popular item as they are so versatile and suit almost any interior. Traditionally, these were used to carry and store several items, most popular of which being ginger, hence the name. Over time, ginger jars became popular gifts to share well wishes. The colour of the jars also carries significance; yellow was a gift from the emperor to wish a life of longevity and were often used as urns, white ginger jars were a popular wedding gift with symbols of love, health and prosperity, whilst blue or red painted jars had similar well wishes and were often presented during a special occasion to bestow happiness and prosperity.
Above: classic Chinese table lamp