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.
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.
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.
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.
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.