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Timeless Chinoiserie Design - A Guide to Antique Furniture

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

How to place antique chinoiserie furniture in to your contemporary or traditional home and why chinoiserie design never goes out of fashion

An antique Edwardian black lacquered nest of tables with gold chinoiserie art

Chinoiserie design has always been in fashion, however it is having a resurgence and can be seen in high end interior design from wallpapers to fabrics to furniture.

The naturalistic and whimsical element is calming and the decorative oriental art work is beautiful to look at.

The skill involved in hand making furniture is very often over looked. Hours, weeks and even months would be spent making an item. Buying antique furniture is an appreciation for someone else's skill and artistry which holds centuries of history.

What is chinoiserie design?

Chinoiserie is the western take on Chinese and Asian design and culture, the style became a popular way of decorating 18th century furniture. As trade grew so did the curiosity for Chinese design, used in royal courts the trend began to spread throughout Europe.

The designs featured beautiful hand painted gilt cascading flowers, birds, pagodas and landscapes often on a lacquered background

a catalogue page of lacquered furniture by Kahn

Some examples from the late 19th century of chinoiserie design on lacquered furniture can be seen in this catalogue by luxury furniture maker E.Kahn

Above are examples of the detailed hand painted gilt chinoiserie designs on a mahogany nest of tables and against a red lacquered background on a standard floor lamp.

There is a further design element as gesso is applied to make a 3D effect which is a skilful and time consuming process.

How to style chinoiserie design and antique furniture

Wallpapers are not for everybody so an alternative way of adding chinoiserie luxury to your home is to incorporate it in antique furniture. One choice piece is all it takes to transform your living space.

The bonus of choosing antique furniture is you are creating an individual unique space by not purchasing what everyone else has. Make your home personal, interesting and a talking point when entertaining. Use the beautifully hand painted chinoiserie designs as a form of decoration and art instead of only using them in soft furnishings.

For those more daring, use a combination of both wallpaper and furniture, but for most a neutral warm colour palette used as a back drop against gilt and lacquered furniture is a subtle nod to the aesthetic.

To Sum Up

Whether you choose to opt for a beautiful blue wallpaper with birds and flowers furnished with a Victorian mahogany dining table or you choose just one choice piece to showcase, you will have a piece of timeless chinoiserie design.

View our current range of chinoiserie and oriental items

A silk embroidery panel of wisteria and leaves


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