What is Chinoiserie?

Chinoiserie is a European decor style inspired by the art and design of asian countries.  It evokes the beauty of nature while blending elegant European design with intriguing, exotic East Asian artistic tradition. Chinoiserie is versatile enough to work with all interior design styles. The whimsical and  beautiful garden scenery contribute to chinoiserie's aesthetic, and chinoiserie tells a story though the little scenes  which can be colorful and engaging. Unlike other trends that have strong elements that could clash with each other, chinoiserie is complementary and easy to work with. 

Today, chinoiserie is both a classic and a trend, and can be very ornate and bold or more subtle, natural, and fresh.  The design aesthetic enjoys enduring appeal because it works throughout your home, in bedrooms, halls and living rooms, adding a pretty and sophisticated element that is the definition of timeless elegance.

History of Chinoiserie

Chinoiserie was a European invention. According to Alfred Bertram in his book Dragons and Pagodas, chinoiserie began in the 16th-century through European traders that would bring back tales of East Asian civilizations to Europe, along with a few illustrations and objects.  These rare items were decorated with lovely Chinese scenery, and it was the French Royal court that first embraced chinoiserie by creating fantastical scenes and motifs that they viewed as asian. They blended Chinese and Japanese products together using a blue and white color palette, scenes of Chinese royal court, symbols of exoticism such as palm trees and monkeys.  Today, modern chinoiserie focuses more on nature with curvy trees, flowers, birds and butterflies, but still evokes an exotic flair that is more fantasy than reality. 


How to decorate with Chinoiserie

Design trends are cyclical, and what’s old often becomes new again. In the last few years as we have moved forward into an era of maximalists design styles such a Granny Chic and Grand-millennial, some classic styles like chinoiserie have re-entered the spotlight. Chinoiserie is compelling, with scenes telling a story.  It has movement and depth that conjures up the feeling of nature. 

1) Decorate with vases or plates.

Adding a ginger jar or chinoiserie styled plates can be an easy and subtle way to incorporate chinoiserie into your home.  Ginger jars are wonderful addition to a shelf or mantel.  

White Ginger Jar, Blue and White Ginger, White Heron Calendar print, Mini Art frame

2) Decorate with Wallpaper

Wallpaper is a beautiful and dramatic option.  However it is the most expensive option. Using chinoiserie inspired wallpaper in a powder room is a more cost effective option with a stunning impact, and it something your guests are sure to love. 


3) Decorate with Chinoiserie Panels

Chinoiserie panels or wallpaper framed as art can be a less expensive route to go if you love the look of the murals but may find them to be out of your budget range.

You still get the great Chinoiserie motifs on a large, statement-making scale, for less.

Pillows are a great way to incorporate Chinoiserie into your decor without a major commitment. A low investment for major impact. The strong pattern works very well with geometric patterns


These are a few great options from one of my favorite pillow sources, Arianna Belle.



Now that you have four wonderful ways to incorporate Chinoiserie in your home, what will you be starting with?  Best, Hallie