Chinoiserie is an enduring interior design aesthetic and one of my favorite decorating styles. Porcelain blue & white jars, foo dogs, pagodas, garden seats and lacquered wood furniture are its most common motifs.
Whenever I think of the timeless Chinoiserie style, the quintessential tastemaker of our era Carolyne Roehm always comes to mind. I've followed Carolyne in her various homes over the years and in terms of interior design sensibility, Chinoiserie is always the star of the show. Read here about Carolyne Roehm's renovation of Chisolm House
Design Elements of Chinoiserie-Style
Pagodas - a turreted structure with severel eves, the pagoda that translates to place of worship, originated in East Asia particularly throughout the Buddhist community. Bringing pagodas to China they became part of classic Chinese architecture.
Dragons - Dating back to early Chinese Emperors Chinese dragons or East Asian dragons were revered for their mythic strength, sense of good luck and possessing auspicious powers. Dragons decorated furnishings, ceramics, silk screens, works of art as well as clothing.
Foo Dogs - Representing the eastern philosophy of ying & yang, foo dogs which are more formally known as Chinese Guardian Lions or Imperial Guardian Lions paired - male and female stood guard protecting Chinese palaces and temples. Today, still displayed in pairs their purpose is more decorative.
Lacquered Wood - The signature sheen of a lacquered piece of traditional Chinese furniture is achieved by hand applying several coats of tree sap and then often decorated with ornate images of scenery in jewel tones or gold leaf. The British furniture maker and interior design Thomas Chippendale in the mid 1700s was famous for his elegant hand carved fretwork and Chinese-inspired designs, particularly on cabinetry and seating.
Ceramics - The most enduring and readily recognizable of Chinoiserie style are probably the Ming-style ceramic vases and ginger jars. Their original purpose in ancient China was as storage containers. Later, inspired by the classic Chinese blue & white patterns and motifs Europe copied the designs creating decorative collections in ceramic and porcelain.