Looking for an injection of style, colour and joy? Chinoiserie could be just the remedy
Chinoiserie is one of Wendy Morrison’s favourite things. Drawing inspiration from nature, tropical birds, flowers and elaborate scenery, this decorative art has been hugely influential on everything from architecture to painting and interior design for centuries.
‘I fell in love with chinoiserie more than 20 years ago,’ Wendy explains. ‘I became more aware of the style when I discovered the art of Feng shui, which was just the start of my interest in Eastern philosophies. I practised tai chi and was fascinated by its spiritual aspect and my interest grew from there.
‘Featuring birds, flowers, palm trees, dragons and pagodas, chinoiserie is full of pretty, colourful details and lends itself to creating timeless beauty,’ Wendy says. ‘It is such an elegant and charming style, full of joyful elements, that it makes it easy to incorporate into any room of the home. Because it is so full of detail, it draws the eye again and again.’
Derived from the French word ‘chinois’, meaning ‘Chinese’ or ‘after the Chinese taste’, chinoiserie did not come directly from Asia, but is a Western style of decorative art that drew inspiration from Chinese motifs and techniques. Originating in Europe in the 17th century, the style became hugely popular in the 18th century as trading links with China and East Asia developed, and the fascination with Asian cultures grew.
An inspiring new book, and one of Wendy’s current favourite reads, Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie, by Aldous Bertram, is full of colour, inspiration and lavish illustrations that beautifully capture the essence of chinoiserie.
It may have been around for centuries, but chinoiserie works beautifully in modern homes and is a style that is easy to use. ‘When the French Royal Court gave the style its seal of approval it was initially kept for private quarters, used to create an intimate tone as part of a more-feminine look,’ Wendy explains. ‘Today, I would say chinoiserie lends itself to be a feature in any room, but particularly the lounge or bedroom.
Where to start
‘If it is a style you love, but are a little unsure where to begin, start with a pretty floral wallpaper in a cloakroom or small guest room. If you are anything like me, you’ll find chinoiserie is addictive and it will spread to the rest of your home!
‘I am very much inspired by this style and have collected quite a few chinoiserie pieces over the years. I love them all, but one piece that features most in my photography and always looks beautiful whatever the setting, is my hand-embroidered screen. It was a Christmas present from my husband Gregor and I never tire of its beauty.’
Whether you are already a fan, or are keen to try this delicate, ornate style for the first time, we have selected a few of our chinoiserie-inspired rugs. Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest and Instagram pages for lots of tips too – we always have plenty of inspo to share.
Dragon Florals Black & Gold
Dragons hold a prominent place in Chinese mythology, and are a symbol of strength and good luck. These mythical creatures are often depicted in chinoiserie designs and Dragon Florals features a striking gold base with a powerful dragon in black at its heart. The black and gold are beautifully highlighted with a sprinkling of pink peony roses, a flower which symbolises romance, prosperity and good fortune.
Dragon Florals Blue & Gold
With the same symbolic design, this version features a blue base teamed with a gold dragon, creating a bold shot of colour. Blue and gold make a glamorous combination with incredible impact. We suggest how to use rugs to add the wow factor to rooms in our previous journal, Glamour in the Home.
The exotic birds, delicate detail and uplifting colours seen in new rug Mandela Solace are all examples of chinoiserie style. This is a versatile rug that is easy to place and a gentle introduction to the elegance of chinoiserie style.
Hand-tufted Okinawa was our first circular rug. Inspired by chinoiserie, the natural world and Oriental symbolism, she is a wonderful addition to hallways, living spaces and bedrooms. Perfect for bay-windowed areas, you can read up on the versatility of circular rugs and how to use them here.
Cranes in Trees
Inspired by Chinese symbolism, Cranes in Trees features exotic, wild, red and gold cranes – the bird that represents beauty, harmony, grace and longevity – flying above gold-etched pine trees – which represent resilience and the ability to withstand adversity.
A beautiful example of storytelling through Oriental symbolism, Eternal Toile is composed of almost all of the symbols depicted in Korean and Chinese philosophy for a long and happy life. Black, gold and the spiritual shade of lilac combine in a beautiful pattern inspired by the natural world and Eastern philosophies. This gorgeous pattern also features as part of our limited-edition collection of wallcoverings, which will be available very soon.
The gorgeous imagery of Eternity Light shares the story of eternal life. Taking inspiration from American rug maker Walter Nichols, who introduced vivid colour to rug design, the wonderful life-affirming motifs shimmer under a circular pink sun.
Hand-knotted wool & silk design Floral Waves Blue features the intricate flora and fauna details – handcrafted here in silk – that are so much a part of chinoiserie style. Inspired by Japanese culture, this design symbolises grace and beauty.
Jardin de Orient Green & Gold
The beautifully intricate gold frame adds a traditional chinoiserie twist to this hand-tufted wool & Tencel rug. Colourful, exotic birds stand out in striking contrast to the jewel-green base.
Jardin de Chinois
This exquisite hand-knotted design features ornate chinoiserie elements. From the detailed, shimmering gold flora, fauna and exotic bird life set against a deep blue backdrop, to the intricate, delicately-coloured birds on branches, this is a gorgeous scene that draws you into another world.
These glorious, ornate rugs all celebrate the art of chinoiserie and bring a touch of exoticism, colour, pattern and happiness to homes.