Above, the white lacquer “bamboo” coffee table in Bailey McCarthy’s Texas home (as featured in House Beautiful) is a subtle example of the Chinoiserie style.
Dorothy Draper loved it. So did 18th-century English aristocrats. Ann Getty has one of the most exceptional collections of it, too. We’re talking about Chinoiserie, the broad stylistic category that describes furniture and accessories that often depict Chinese motifs. Though the history of Chinoiserie can be a bit complex (since it’s mainly about an idealized interpretation through a Western point of view), pieces in this style have an enduring beauty that has continued to inspire for decades. It’s not just about furniture painted with detailed scenes, either. Blue and white porcelain? That can fall under the category of Chinoiserie. Same for a simple bamboo-framed mirror, or a clean-lined chest with subtly curved legs, or a white lacquer console with brass hardware.
While traditional interiors often feature Chinoiserie, these pieces can work with a variety of styles. We’ve seen designers incorporate Chinoiserie into Hollywood Regency, traditional interiors, boho interiors, maximalist interiors, minimalist interiors, Art Deco, Arts & Crafts…need we go on?
Above, the Chinoiserie-inspired living room of Betsy Bloomingdale, designed by William Haines.
Since it’s such a broad category, the best collecting advice is to go with what you find appealing. If you’re interested in antiques, there are some things to keep in mind. Mass-produced items are often aged to look older than they are, so examine a would-be purchase for imperfections that generally indicate that the piece was handmade. Those interested in antiques from the 18th century — an era where Chinoiserie was highly valued — should look for pieces by the important names of the time, like William and John Linnell, Thomas Chippendale, and Giles Grendey.
More “recent” Chinoiserie pieces can command high prices, particularly when it comes to key designers from the Hollywood Regency, which remains a highly valued period. It’s all about provenance, especially for designers connected to the Hollywood Regency period, like William Haines. (One of his Chinoiserie walnut tables sold for above auction estimate — the provenance wasn’t just about Haines, but because the piece came from the estate of Betsy Bloomingdale.)
If you’d simply like to try to add a little Chinoiserie style to your interior, here’s a sampling of our favorite pieces currently for sale at Viyet »