How to decorate with chinoiserie

When it comes to finding special things for our homes, dreams of the East are rarely far from our minds 

With their exquisitely detailed scenes of colourful birds nestled among the blossom of cherry trees, or of elegant Chinese ladies fanning themselves beside a bubbling stream, rich and lustrous chinoiserie wallpapers were once the preserve of palaces and stately homes. Today, these wallpapers are as likely to adorn the walls of metropolitan apartments and suburban terraces. Chinoiserie (from ‘Chinois’ French for Chinese and meaning ‘decorated in a Chinese style’) is a look that has captivated our imaginations for over 300 years, and as the current trend for the wallpaper and other pieces such as ceramic birds, blue-and-white china and lacquered boxes and furniture shows, it is one that is still going strong today. 

Discover how to celebate Eastern elegance in your own home with these 7 tips. 

1. An eye-catching wallpaper in soft tones of blue and green can be used to great effect, creating a soothing backdrop for an assortment of oriental ceramics in complementary shades  

Walls in ‘Earlham Chinoiserie’ wallpaper on ‘Sung Blue Williamsburg’ with antique staining, from £1,126 per panel (915mm width), De Gournay. Antique French console table with marble top, £3,800, Maison Artefact. On table (from left): chinoiserie underplate, £65, Tobias and the Angel; vintage floral jug, £15, Pimpernel & Partners; antique books, £45 each, Maison Artefact; antique chinoiserie 18th-century famille rose mug, £950, Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd; silver candlestick, £250, Maison Artefact; antique scalloped plate, £125, Tobias and the Angel.

2. Update your shelving with a subtle chinoiserie-style wallpaper, perfect for offsetting your collection of fine china

Inside of cupboard in ‘Waters Edge’ wallpaper in ‘Willow/Rose’, £79 per roll, GP & J Baker. Antique 19th-century cupboard, £1,600, Nimmo & Spooner. On top shelf (from left): concrete pear, £12.50 (with apple), Cox & Cox; ‘Flora Brittania’ porcelain plate, £467, De Gournay; antique French brass frame, £65, Nimmo & Spooner; tealight holder, find similar at Nordic House. On middle shelf (from left): antique goblet, £28, Nimmo & Spooner; antique Sèvres tea cups and saucers, c1870, £2,400, Adrian Alan Ltd; antique etched jug, £35, Tobias and the Angel; concrete apple, £12.50 (with pear), Cox & Cox. On bottom shelf (from left): antique books, £65 for a bundle, Nimmo & Spooner; bird, £15.50 for three, Cox & Cox; 18th-century Chinese teapot, £395; 18th-century bowl, £395, both Graham Smith Antiques Ltd.

3. Green and pink are a classic chinoiserie combination. A soft metallic sheen to the wallpaper, seen close up, gives the dining room an extra-sophisticated look, without being over-dramatic. 

Chimney breast in ‘Peony & Blossom’ wallpaper in ‘Ivory/Willow’, £95 per roll; alcoves papered in ‘Langdale Trellis’ wallpaper in ‘Willow’, £79 per roll, both GP & J Baker. 19th-century mirror, £2,200, Maison Artefact. On mantelpiece (from left): antique Chinese export dish, £625; antique export jug, £595, both Graham Smith Antiques Ltd; mercury candlestick, £250, Maison Artefact; ceramic candlestick, £165 for a pair, Tobias and the Angel. ‘Anise’ dining table, £859; ‘Anise’ chairs, £500 for two, both House of Fraser. Antique bleachwood carver chair, £3,900 per pair, Hilary Batstone Antiques. On chair: cushion made in ‘Mandarin Rose’ fabric in ‘Pink’, £149 per m, Brunschwig & Fils. On table: tablecloth in ‘Baroque Trellis’ in ‘Wedgwood/Chalk’, £52 per m, Sanderson; vase, £35, Cox & Cox; antique goblet, £28, Nimmo & Spooner; pink tumblers, from £6.50 each; vintage cut glass footed bowl, £30, all RE; antique soup tureen, £78; matching underdish, £68; antique scalloped serving bowl (with two pomegranates), £125, all Tobias and the Angel; silver plated flutes, £950 for nine, Hilary Batstone Antiques; ‘Abelia’ dinner plate, £16; ‘Abelia’ side plate, £10; decorated ‘August Wren’ bowl, £10; hammered brass cutlery, £38 for a set; gold shakers, £14 per pair; enamel teaspoon, £28 for four, all Anthropologie. Antique bowl, (with half a pomegranate), £75, Tobias and the Angel. ‘Tobacco Leaf’ porcelain plate, £367, De Gournay. ‘Dillie’ champagne saucers, £38 for four, Rowen & Wren. 

4. Make an eye-catching display by mixing your best and most decorative pieces together, juxtaposing large and small 

Walls in hand-painted ‘Earlham’ wallpaper in standard colours on ‘Emerald Green Dyed Silk’, from £759 per panel (915mm width), De Gournay. Antique gilt early Georgian console table, £15,000, Butchoff Antiques. On table: ‘Pembroke’ vase, £32, Anthropologie; 18th-century trumpet vase, £2,900 per pair, Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd; glass bottles, from £12 each, Pimpernel & Partners; blue and white ginger jar, £125, House of Fraser; white carp vase, £22.95; small indigo vase, £28, both Mia Fleur; decorative wood finial, £86, Rowen & Wren; 18th-century vase made into a lamp, £1,250, Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd; porcelain teapot, £485, Graham Smith Antiques Ltd; parrot on perch, £42, Rockett St George. Beneath table: lantern, £80, House of Fraser; antique urn, £380, Puckhaber; antique porcelain parrot on perch, £595, Graham Smith Antiques Ltd; 18th-century Chinese Imari vase, £7,500, Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd; golden carp wucai jar, £1,174, De Gournay. 

 5. Painted birds feature heavily in chinoiserie design. Add a modern bird-print cushion, a huge palm plant and a quirky sculpture to stop it feeling too traditional

Walls in ‘Great Ormond St’ wallpaper in ‘Tropical’, £86 per roll, Little Greene. Curtain in ‘Les Touches’ in ‘Aqua’, £85 per m, Brunschwig & Fils. ‘Versailles’ chaise longue, £1,060, The French Bedroom Company. On chaise (from left): yellow bolster in ‘Taormina’, £59 per m, Sanderson; cushion in ‘Mazely’ in ‘Leaf Green’, £65 per m, Colefax & Fowler; cushion in ‘Pure Poppy Embroidery’ in ‘Wild Mint’, £95 per m, Morris & Co; ‘Woodpecker’ cushion, £85, Timorous Beasties; cushion in ‘Madera’ in ‘Turquoise’, £118 per m, Manuel Canovas. Chinese stool, £850 per pair, Guinevere Antiques Ltd. On stool: antique bowl, £395, Graham Smith Antiques Ltd; cockatoo, £36, Rockett St George. Faux palm tree, £128, Mia Fleur.

6. If the budget won't stretch to the beautiful handmade silk panels, display a fabric-printed wall hanging instead 

Tapestry woven chair cover wall hanging, from £130, Surface View. ‘Chantilly’ desk, £575, Graham & Green. Vintage jug, £15; bobbin, £8, both Pimpernel & Partners. Marble-effect vase, £15.95, Mia Fleur. Books, £45 each, Maison Artefact. 18th-century jug, £595, Graham Smith Antiques Ltd.

7. Combine large and small patterns to bring a chinoiserie-inspired scheme up to date. Here, hand-blocked prints are intermingled with geometrics of varying degrees and a simple, oversized oriental wallpaper

Walls in ‘Sylvaner’ hand-painted silk panels in ‘Jeunesse’, £540 per sq m, Fromental. Rattan bed, £1,345, The French Bedroom Company. On bed: ‘Lazy Linen’ duvet cover, £140; ‘Lordy’ pillowcases, £40 each, both Loaf; bird print cushion, £15, House of Fraser; butterflies cushion, £60, Timorous Beasties; bolster made in ‘Mazely’ in ‘Red’, £65 per m, Colefax & Fowler; lattice cushion made in ‘Dalby’ in ‘Apple’, £36 per m, Sanderson; hand block printed 19th-century cloth, £1,200, Maison Artefact; hand block printed pink cushion, £95, Tobias and the Angel. Antique bedside table, £2,200 for a pair, Maison Artefact. ‘Tobacco Leaf’ hand-painted porcelain tea cup and saucer, £459, De Gournay. Tumbler, £6, RE. Antique book, £65 for a bundle, Nimmo & Spooner. Antique candlestick, £90, Maison Artefact. Chinese teapot, £395, Graham Smith Antiques Ltd. Antique Italian box file, £150, Nimmo & Spooner. Antique books, £45 each, Maison Artefact. ‘Florentine’ rug, £950, Cox & Cox. Antique French chandelier, £1,100, Nimmo & Spooner.

The full feature on decorating with chinoiserie appeared in the May 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here

Photographs: Katya De Grunwald 
Styling: Anna Malhomme de la Roche

 

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