Welcome to the next installment of The ABC’s of Decorating, C is for Chinoiserie!
This series is all about providing inspiration and education, hopefully giving you all sorts of ideas on how to incorporate gathered finds into your home, and helping train your eye to spot these kinds of treasures “out in the wild.”
It’s easy to see the beauty of these finds “in context” – in bright, clean, stylish interiors; it’s a lot harder to gauge the potential of dusty things in poorly lit corners, or grainy listing photos. The best thing I can recommend for finding those truly special pieces is to soak up details now and file them away mentally for later, so one day when you spot a particular shape or pattern or material, it can jog your memory and make you pause and investigate further.
For example, that’s how I found my Chinese Chippendale dining chairs, even though the Craigslist posting was non-descript: a dining set for $125. The bamboo detailing caught my eye in the thumbnail and made me take a closer look.
Even though I couldn’t identify the set right away as being made by the Dixie Furniture Company, and the listing didn’t include any important keywords (bamboo, vintage, Chinese Chippendale), I recognized the style of the chairs and table as something special, and was able to do further research once I picked them up and checked underneath the tabletop and chair bottoms for a maker’s mark.
Because I already had a dining room table, I actually ended up selling the faux bamboo-detailed table for more than I paid for the entire set, which helped cover the cost of painting and reupholstering the chairs (which you can see down below in the post).
C is for Chinoiserie
All photos not my own are used by the permission of my wonderful blogging friends. You can visit their posts to read more by clicking on each picture or the link in the caption below – please pin from the original source!
What is “Chinoiserie”?
“Chinoiserie” (hear it pronounced) comes from the French chinois, “Chinese”, and it refers to a style of decorating that incorporates Chinese and East Asian influences (bamboo, fretwork, lacquer, Asian motifs and patterns), dating back to Europe in the 17th and 18th century, when trade with the East opened up a whole new world of design inspiration for the West.
In decorating today, Chinoiserie tends to fall more on the feminine, maximalist side of things. (Although personally I really dislike the use of gender in describing styles. I think we desperately need new words that describe the same vibe/feel, but don’t form boys’ or girls’ clubs!)
Bright colors, layered patterns, ornate details that invite a closer look… Chinoiserie might not be for the minimalist, but it’s certainly a fun and whimsical style to play with!
Let’s look at easily accessible ways to add a little Chinoiserie style to your decor. Smaller pieces like decorative vases, ginger jars, and even lamps aren’t too difficult to find, are usually pretty affordable, and don’t require a lot of commitment to a particular style. They’re a great way to dip your toes into the Chinoiserie water and some global flair to your home.
Warning: It can become addicting!
Spot the Chinoiserie: The vintage gold bamboo flatware.
Julia nabbed her gold bamboo flatware, showcased in her Thanksgiving table setting, at an auction. Brass/gold bamboo-handled flatware is actually pretty sought-after (I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a set one day), so don’t forget to the check those silverware trays at the thrift store, estate sales, etc.!
Spot the Chinoiserie: The blue and white vase.
Stephanie expertly blends warm and cool tones and global influences in her fall coffee table vignette. The takeaway: Even one Chinoiserie touch can make a big impact on the feel of a room!
Spot the Chinoiserie: The thrifted peacock vase, the lacquer and brass trinket box, and the Chinese Chippendale chair.
Blue and white pottery might be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Chinoiserie style, but I don’t decorate with a lot of blue (I know, weird right?), so these warmer toned pieces fit my bedroom’s color palette perfectly!
Spot the Chinoiserie: The ginger jar lamp with a brass scroll-work base.
This lamp on my dresser is a much-loved thrift store find, both for its unique camel color and its brass base. It’s on the wall to the right of my vanity, so repeating a little Chinoiserie over here as well works really well for the flow of the room.
What’s a ginger jar? Ginger jars were originally used to store and export spices. They traditionally share a similar shape – rounded, narrower at the bottom, with a domed lid and a wide mouth. Ginger jars are sometimes turned into lamps, but many lamps are simply made to look as though they were made out of a ginger jar.
Spot the Chinoiserie: The blue and white ginger jar lamp.
Here’s another way Stephanie has incorporated Chinoiserie style into her home – the ginger jar lamp lends a classic and sophisticated touch to her family room desk. That’s one of the things I love about Chinoiserie – sometimes it can feel very bold and edgy, but other times it adds a soothingly traditional layer. It might be “trendy” at the moment, but certain pieces have really stood the test of time! The takeaway: Ginger jar lamps are always a good idea.
Spot the Chinoiserie: Miniature folding screen, tiny blue and white pieces, the large ginger jar, the wall panel with the birds and cherry blossoms, certain plates on the wall.
I so enjoy following Kate’s Hollywood Regency and Chinoiserie inspired style on Instagram! She has a knack for putting things together – while each of these pieces are lovely in their own right, they form such a beautifully collected display, don’t they?
Spot the Chinoiserie: The blue and white vases, ginger jars, and planter on the shelves and mantel. Even the gold peacock figurines on the mantel have an Asian flair
Jennifer makes such great use of blue and white Chinoiserie pieces in her living room, highlighting how powerful it can be to group and repeat a certain decorative element!
Pattern Mixing: One of the fun things about blue and white china pottery is that nearly every piece has a different pattern, but because they share the same color, they work really well in groupings. It’s a great way to introduce some pattern mixing that isn’t too visually busy!
Another beautiful grouping of blue and white pieces! In Stephanie’s entryway, she pulled together six pieces, all with different sizes, shapes, and designs for this eclectic vignette.
Bamboo details, fretwork designs and Asian-inspired brass hardware are a few hallmarks of Chinoiserie style furniture.
Vintage Chinoiserie pieces can be quite show-stopping in wood tones, but you’ll often see these pieces painted or lacquered in bold colors as well.
Because Chinoiserie furniture is quite popular at the moment, it can be a little harder to find deals on properly labeled or tagged pieces, so remember – soak up the details, keep your eyes wide open, and look past sometimes-dated finishes!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Soft peachy-orange
Amanda’s faux-bamboo bookshelf may have had quite the saga, but it’s looking lovely in a coat of cantaloupe-colored paint against her black living room walls now, filled with blue and white pottery pieces, don’t you think?
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Keep it natural.
The natural golden tones of this Chinese Chippendale bamboo chair are perfect with Sarah’s high-energy red campaign desk. Natural patina can add a lot of history to a room!
What’s a Chinese Chippendale Chair? Chinese Chippendale furniture gets its name from 18th century English cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale, who incorporated Chinese-inspired fretwork and lattice details (usually interlocking diagonals) into many of designs, including the backs of chairs.
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Matte black + leopard print velvet.
I went back and forth for months over what color to paint my vintage Chinese Chippendale-esque dining chairs, mainly torn between black and white. In the end, black won out and ended up being the perfect choice for my moody dining room. You can read all about how I painted and reupholstered them right here.
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Glossy white + pink and orange toile + gray and white fretwork fabric
Kimberly collected her Chinese Chippendale dining chairs over the course of two years and had them painted with glossy white auto paint at a car body shop for maximum durability!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: White + cobalt blue; glossy red
Boy, how much do you love Eliesa’s gorgeous kitchen? Not to mention her white Chinese Chippendale dining chairs and table, and that red faux bamboo hutch in the background! (Read more about the hutch here.)
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Classic wood tone + black
Jennifer can absolutely rock bold colors in her home, but here in her entryway, I love the natural medium-wood tone of the Chinese Chippendale chair paired with a classic black seat cushion. The takeaway: Don’t necessarily rush to paint every piece of Chinoiserie furniture – if the original finish is in good shape, try it out for a little while as-is. You might fall in love!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Don’t touch it!
Of course, you can do whatever you want with your finds, but sometimes vintage Chinoiserie pieces are just too beautiful to paint, in my humble opinion. I love the way Pam decorated her living room with these ornate bamboo chairs and the faux-bamboo + brass and glass coffee table, both blissfully paint-free.
Another for the “don’t paint it” list. Our vintage teak bar, found on Craigslist, is one of my favorite pieces of furniture and I could never dream of touching it with a paint brush.
But then again, the medium-toned wood fits my style perfectly – I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea! I have to acknowledge that piece with these details could be absolutely killer in a lacquered color. I would just comfort myself by imagining that the original finish was badly damaged 😉
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Peacock Teal
See? I absolutely adore a good bold glossy color choice as well, like this gorgeous teal Cate used on this faux bamboo dresser. You have to see the totally sad “before” that Cate had enough vision to look past – the new color and new hardware made a world of difference!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Turquoise
Check out the ornate brass hardware on this Ming-style turquoise dresser in Cassie’s master bedroom! It totally pops against the turquoise color she chose. The dresser has simple lines (note – no bamboo detailing here!) that let the new color and hardware be the stars. The takeaway: Good hardware can absolutely make a piece!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Glossy black + brass patina
Eliesa gave this faux bamboo buffet (found for $29 at a thrift store!) a glamorous makeover by painting it glossy black and stripping the old paint off its perfectly patinaed brass hardware. The takeaway: Overlooking dingy finishes and poor previous makeovers can seriously pay off!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Gold + rich dark wood
Both the faux bamboo mirror and Ming-style dresser in this gorgeous bedroom makeover by Pam were bargain Craigslist finds! She gave the mirror a gold makeover and left the dresser au naturel, which was the perfect choice for this sophisticated and mainly neutral bedroom design.
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Beachy wood tone
Bethany isn’t one to shy away from bold colors, like the moss green faux bamboo hutch that stands opposite this piece in her entryway, but she listened to her gut on this one and kept the natural finish, opting only to clean it up and give the hardware a coat of gold spray paint. The takeaway: Mixing painted and natural wood finishes keeps everything from being too similar and gives depth to a space!
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Hot pink
Sometimes faux bamboo details just cry out for a fun color, and if there’s any style of furniture that can really rock bubblegum pink, like this dresser in Mallory’s guest bedroom, it’s Chinoiserie! (Also, note that gorgeous blue and white china collection – just made to pair with pink!)
Chinoiserie Color Inspiration: Cobalt blue (plus ALL the yellow, white & pink!)
What more perfect color for a piece of Chinoiserie furniture than the gorgeous blue of so many Chinoiserie pottery pieces? Paige’s kitchen reveal is so full of Chinoiserie eye candy that you’ll want to spend a good chunk of time over there just soaking it all up! And while I’ve admitted that I’m often ambivalent to the color blue, this photo is hard at work warming my heart to it!
Let me now extend a huge thank you to my wonderful blogging friends for allowing me to include their gorgeous work in today’s post!
It’s something I do not take for granted, since I know how much work goes into their content and photography, so I hope you’ll help me spread the love by visiting their posts and hopefully finding some wonderful new blogs to follow!
I’d love to hear how you decorated with gathered Chinoiserie finds in your own home! Let’s chat in the comments below, or share on Instagram using #ABCsofGathering #CisforChinoiserie!
While you’re waiting for round 4, “D is for…”, why not give this post a pin? I would so appreciate it!