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The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie


China style

Chinoiserie (pronounced sheen-wah-zuh-ree) is a European interpretation of Chinese culture and motifs used in Western art and design (French chinois = Chinese). Also known as ‘China style’, this aesthetic was popularised in the 17th and 18th centuries. At this time, when international travel was near impossible, Europeans relied upon word-of-mouth to learn about exotic locations. The people had a deep fascination for China (which was pre-industrial at the time), and Chinese porcelain in particular. This fuelled a demand for goods and decorative arts from East Asia.

The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie with print and vase

Imitated & reimagined

With slow and limited global trade routes, European suppliers jumped on the trend and started producing imitation Chinese goods, ranging from Ming-jar-inspired ceramics to textiles and fine art.

Chinese motifs — such as dragons, pagodas and Asian flora and fauna — were reimagined through European eyes and tailored to match the European aesthetic, rather than staying true to authentic Chinese culture.

The trend boomed in popularity after the 1670s when King Louis XIV of France built a pavilion on the ground of the Palace of Versailles ornamented with blue-and-white chinoiserie. In both interior design and fashion, chinoiserie rapidly spread throughout European courts.

Cultural celebration

Falsely presumed to be of Chinese origins, chinoiserie is entirely European.

It’s a style that was born from ill-informed descriptions of the Far East, blending Chinese, Japanese and other Asian influences under the same canopy.

A few key ‘exotic’ motifs — such as palm trees and monkeys — were often used repeatedly and the blue-and-white theme was widely seen, as it was a popular colour among European homes.

The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie cushions
Like the Egyptian-inspired components of the Recency style and Greek and Roman influences in American architecture, there are elements of cultural appropriation in chinoiserie. Yet the intention was not to mock but to celebrate and imitate this faraway land that was considered so mysterious and exotic.
The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie wall hanging

Styling with chinoiserie

When it comes to decorating with chinoiserie ceramics, the look has long been timeless in country, cottage and Hamptons homes. With the rising popularity of maximalism and granny chic, chinoiserie ceramics and décor have been rebirthed, yet again, as a hip new interior design aesthetic for millennials.

Create a fresh look in your interiors by displaying a selection of chinoiserie ceramics in a range of styles.

Paired with some modern décor and on-trend colours, it’s easy to marry the classic and contemporary to create a visual feast in your home.

You needn’t be limited just by ceramics. Chinoiserie and Asian-inspired prints, cushions, wall hangings, furniture and faux plants also offer the timeless elegance of this sophisticated Asia-meets-Europe aesthetic.

The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie mood board
As chinoiserie is a maximalist style, using a digital mood board to mix and match the pieces you like can be a great way to find the right balance for your home before you make any purchases.
The Timeless Chic of Chinoiserie sideboard

More in-store at Early Settler

Visit Early Settler in-store or online to check our timeless chinoiserie pieces for decorating your home. And if you like the Asian-inspired aesthetic, check out Japandi.


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