Design Vocabulary: What Is Chinoiserie?

Above, a chinoiserie mirror in white adds graphic punch to this space by Sam Allen, while a chinoiserie cabinet brings an elegant feel to Chloe Warner’s design.

Chinoiserie has always been popular among collectors, as well as designers who want to add a little worldly (or vintage) flair to a space. But, many of us hear the phrase without knowing what the term means. We’ll define it for you: Chinoiserie refers to a decorative style that uses whimsical drawings depicting Asian motifs, as interpreted by the Europeans. Common decorative motifs include dragons, figures, landscapes, and pagodas. Favored by European monarchs and aristocrats, chinoiserie reached its height of popularity around 1750. However, it also became “trendy” again during other decor “periods,” from the Aesthetic Movement to the Hollywood Regency style. What makes this style endure is that the refined details make each piece a work of art. Below are a few of our favorites, available now at Viyet:

Theodore Alexander Chinoiserie Armoire

Theodore Alexander

A striking example of the chinoiserie style, this armoire features stunning drawings on its paneled doors, top, and trim. With bamboo design legs, this piece can be separated in two to use as a display case (top) and as a sideboard (bottom). The top features an interior light.

Antique 18th-Century French Chinoiserie Wallpaper Panel

Chinoiserie Panel

This beautiful panel depicts two French women sitting in a Chinese garden. Hand-painted and finely detailed, this stunning antique find is on a wooden stretcher, which allows it to be hung or leaned against a wall.

Ralph Lauren Lacquered Chinoserie Upholstered Armchair

Ralph Lauren Chinoiserie

This armchair has a pretty striped fabric in blue and green. The lacquered arms feature a bamboo-look design and whimsical painted details.

Antique Chinoiserie Red Painted Corner Cabinet

Red Chinoiserie

Storage is so stylish with this charming cabinet, which is detailed with chinoiserie pictures all over the outside. Inside, you’ll find two drawers and three shelves. This piece also can stand alone or be wall-mounted.

Antique Chinoiserie Low Table

Chinoiserie Low Table

A striking example of the European interpretation of Chinese style, this lacquer-finish table has curved legs that give the piece a graceful shape. The top features Chinese floral garden scenes and the sides are carved in a geometric pattern.

Custom Iron Tole Chinoiserie Birdcage
Chinoiserie Birdcage

Elegance meets the unexpected in this custom design, which makes a regal statement. At a commanding 67″ in height, this is a birdcage fit for the grandest of interiors (not to mention the grandest of birds).

Vintage Chinoiserie Mirror
Chinoiserie Mirror

With its bamboo-like wood frame that takes the form of a pagoda, this mirror from Woodson and Rummerfield’s award-winning house of design certainly makes a statement.

Vintage Chinoiserie Canister Lamps

Chinoiserie Lamp

A Greek key motif draws the eye around the exquisitely painted scenes that grace each lamp’s base. This blend of styles is the perfect example of how a piece that can be called “chinoiserie” can actually encompass a surprising array of influences. Yet, as you can see in these lamps, the mix of motifs work so gracefully together.

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