Design Definitions: Chinoiserie

We’ve been hearing about and seeing a lot of ‘chinoiserie’ out in the design world lately but, while the word conjured up images of hand-painted paper, we didn’t know exactly what it meant.  The word “chinoiserie” is French for “Chinese-esque” and refers to the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.  It can refer to furniture and decor, but in this post we thought we’d round up chinoiserie wall treatments.

Chinoiserie wallpaper is indisputably fancy, and most of the examples we found were in very posh rooms – we only found a few examples of it used in more modern spaces.  In this bedroom the slab headboard is a nice and weighty contrast to the willowy vines, while the all white bedding lets the wallpaper be the star.

This room has some particularly modern elements — most notably the Serge Mouille ceiling lamp — and the chinoiserie wallpaper adds the perfect organic element and gives the room a feeling of lived-in layers.

from Domino magazine

This verdant wallpaper beckons from the hall.

The yellow flowers on the purple-grey background of this version make it one of our favorites.  And you just know that cup of tea is perfectly steeped.

Pretty unusual to find chinoiserie in a kids room.  We’re not totally sold–do you think it works here?

chinoiserie close upThe hallmark of chinoiserie wall treatments (including wallpaper) is that it is hand-painted. Here’s an action shot.

treasure hunt 2A more affordable way to get the look is to use chinoiserie wallpaper panels and frame them in plexiglass like our favorite blogger and muse Jenny Komenda did here.

This room unabashedly embraces chinoiserie everything. The carp are a little creepy, but in a good way.

Anthropologie has its own interpretation, but if they hadn’t named it chinoiserie we’re not sure we would have recognized it. While it contains the standard elements of birds and flowers, the colors are much more vibrant and it feels overly tropical to us.

Have a great week everyone! We’ll be back on Wednesday with a report on our Eugene weekend together–we thrifted up a storm!

5 responses on “Design Definitions: Chinoiserie

  1. Nina

    These are beautiful, but overwhelming to me. I would definitely be in the “frame a small piece and hang it on the wall” camp.

    I love all things Asian-esque, but this is just too much of a good thing. I can appreciate the beauty, but I couldn’t stay for long in any of these rooms.

  2. Lea

    I think the chinoiserie could work in that baby’s room if the other style choices were different. The scale and position of the chandelier are such that it is crowing the window. As compared to the plastic crib, spangled metallic chandelier and the visual blockiness of those solid roman shades, the wallpaper seems like the most comfortable element in that room. Imagine if there were sheers that filtered the light and a wooden crib in warm walnut that could anchor the space and balance the visual weight of the wooden window trim and could draw the eye forward and let the wallpaper fade into a pleasant background.

    1. Katie & Mera Post author

      Right on Lea! With your ideas we can completely picture that room working – diaphanous curtains and a wooden crib would go a long way. Thanks!

  3. Carol Bryner

    I loved seeing all these patterns, and am especially fond of that green wall framed by the door. It’s such fun to imagine siting in one of these flower, fauna, and fish-filled rooms, but as Nina says, they might be a bit too much for everyday life. But still – I might not mind sleeping under that tree.

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