Living Space: Chinoiserie styling adds timeless appeal of the Far East

By Kathryn Weber
April 18, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 17, 2013 at 11:18 p.m.

Wall treatments often feature natural design elements such as leaves, branches, fish, birds or animals.

Wall treatments often feature natural design elements such as leaves, branches, fish, birds or animals.

In the not so distant past, Asia seemed a world away. Today, the exotic cities stretching from Singapore to Shanghai and beyond are fully accessible. But you don't have to take a 16-hour flight to give your home a touch of the Far East. That's where the chinoiserie style comes into play. Fortunately, there are many resources and ways to incorporate chinoiseries into your home decor.

Although chinoiserie style refers to Asia and China, more specifically, the name "chinois" is the French term for decor that incorporates Asian accents and designs. However, it was the English who first popularized the style by incorporating motifs with Asian scenes (or what they thought looked Asian) onto porcelain ware.

Bold, dynamic

While Chinese style has its own appeal, chinoiserie is decidedly more flamboyant and dramatic. In other words, it's Chinese style with a touch of Las Vegas thrown in. Rather than simple bamboo chairs surrounding a dining table, the chairs are painted a bold, brilliant, high-gloss fuchsia.

Color is a prominent feature in chinoiserie, never taking a backseat to accessories or architecture. And sometimes, color is what's missing but what stands out most.

White porcelain dragons, ginger jars, garden stools or white furniture all make a strong impression when incorporated in chinoiserie styling.

Take it to the wall

Another prominent feature in chinoiserie is emphasis on the wall treatments. Whether with color, big bold designs or wallpaper, chinoiserie-accented walls make a statement that's daring and luxurious.

Often, they'll feature a raised relief or a design in the paper that incorporates natural elements such as leaves, branches or animals. Motifs often include birds, deemed auspicious and harbingers of good news in Chinese culture.

If you'd like to impart that oh-so-stylish chinoiserie look in your home, it helps to know how to make the most impact. Without a doubt, color leads the way.

Look for unique colors like deep teal, dark fuchsia, robin's egg blue or lime green - and don't be shy about using them.

Go graphic

Many Chinese patterns are highly geometric; your look doesn't all have to be all about dragons and bamboo. A quick search on a photo website, such as, yields many geometric graphics of Chinese patterns. Purchase one, then send it to a custom mural site to enlarge and use to create your own chinoiserie wallpaper.

If you're starved for accessories to go with your chinoiserie style, a quick search on the Internet will lead you to everything from lime-green fu dogs to a luscious, deep blue, pagoda-style lamp.

Maybe you're hunting for a garden stool to stand-in as a side table. Look no further than San Francisco's Gump's Department Store. Whether you want interlocking circles, fu dogs or garden stools in Easter egg colors, you'll find them here, plus a variety of other chinois accents.

For a full-on variety of chinoiserie, also take a look at Inside Avenue's chinoserie collection. For both sites, check under Shop by Style.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website at



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