What exactly does Chinoiserie mean? In this day and age, I simply look to my pal Wikipedia to say these things as clearly as possible. Quoting from other sources, Wiki says “Chinoiserie, a French term, signifying ‘Chinese-esque’, refers to a recurring theme in European artistic styles since the seventeenth century, which reflect Chinese artistic influences. It is characterized by the use of fanciful imagery of an imaginary China, by asymmetry in format and whimsical contrasts of scale, and by the attempts to imitate Chinese porcelain and the use of lacquerlike materials and decoration.”
So, back then, Louis XV dug it because it worked well with all that rococo stuff he loved so much, and the English garden designers based their follies upon “Chinese-esque” architecture. That’s all fine and dandy, but what does Chinoiserie mean in design today? How is it utilized? I will attempt to answer this without Wiki’s help.
Touches of Chinoiserie became popular in the states in the 60’s (see Betty’s recent living room makeover on “Mad Men”), its ornate characteristics were mixed the with clean lines of more modern pieces. The resurgence of Hollywood Regency’s popularity in recent years (see Kelly Wearstler’s work, pre-eighties fascination she’s on lately) has brought with it many touches of Chinoiserie. For instance:
PATTERN: Asian-inspired floral fabrics, wallpapers, and rugs. Birds are a welcome addition to these prints, as are cherry blossom branches.
PORCELAIN: Fine porcelain ceramics, from vases to lovely jar and gourd shaped lamps
COLOR: Bold reds, Sleek Black, Rich Jewel-tone Blues
DETAILS: Touches of Gilt in patterns and details such as hardware
FINISHES: Touches of Gloss – Take those shabby chic pieces, sand the heck out of them, and have them lacquered for a sleeker look.
SHAPE- For example, pagoda-shaped light fixtures, jar-shaped lamps.
STYLE: Cane and Chinese Chippendale Chairs, Large Lacquered Armoires, Chinese Garden Stools.
ARTWORK: Asian paintings and prints are perfect Chinoiserie accents.
Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg. I think the examples below can do a much better job of showing you the Chinoiserie accents I’m talking about.
If you are a real fan of Chinoiserie design, you may also wish to visit the Blog – “Chinoiserie Chic“. Beth Connolly is truly passionate about this style of interior design.