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Chinoiserie Is Making A Major Resurgence in the Design World

Blue chair with white pillow and accents.

Courtesy of Ariel Okin

Lately, we have been seeing a resurgence in everything that is traditional, elegant, and a little bit bougie in the design world. Things like ruffles and pleats, chintz, and toile, Victorian-style furniture and ornate mirrors, intensely patterned wallpaper, and ornate oil painting, that for the past decade have felt dated and grandma-ish, are filling up our Instagram feed as part of one of our favorite trends in a long time: grandmillennial style. One of our favorite design motifs of this much-needed revival? Chinoiserie. 

What Is Chinoiserie

Chinoiserie refers to the European recreation and imitation of Chinese and East Asian artistic motifs and techniques, most notably in art, furniture, patterns, and architecture. It rose to popularity in the 18th century.

Philadelphia-based interior designer, Sabrina Piazza of Living Quarters Interior Design, explains that chinoiserie is one of those sleepers in the design world—it’s always been around, but is finally getting the mainstream recognition it deserves. 

“In the super high-end traditional homes it has continued to adorn powder room walls and guest room bed canopies, even through the recent decades of modernism,” Piazza tells MyDomaine. What exactly is chinoiserie? Think “ancient Chinese motifs ripe with pagodas, peacocks, and peonies hand-painted on silverleaf, all evoking a time of days gone by with pain-staking labor in production and attention to detail,” she explains. 

At the brink of a new decade when wallpaper, floral prints, and bohemian vibes continue to trend on our Instagram accounts, it's no wonder that this theme is sparking interest.

While this ancient European reproduction of Chinese embellishment (in French meaning "Chinese'esque") has always been a go-to for the upper crust due to the labor-intensive process and high cost, people are gravitating toward it once again in revolt of the minimalism and somewhat generic design genres that have dominated the last decade. 

“At the brink of a new decade when wallpaper, floral prints, and bohemian vibes continue to trend on our Instagram accounts, it's no wonder that this theme is sparking interest,” she continues. “It’s always been there, it is now just now swooning the minimalists.”

Another reason these motifs are becoming more mainstream is that they are easier to produce. “Now catching the eye of Vogue, companies such as Tempaper, co-founded by Kate Szilagyi and nieces Jennifer Matthews and Julia Biancella, are cutting costs without compromising aesthetics,” explains Piazza. “A fraction of the cost compared to traditional hand-painted versions by institutions like Gracie or De Gournay, these mural-like 12'x10' masterpieces can be easily applied with a squeegee in a less permanent fashion.”

“I love the juxtaposition of a traditional wallpaper in a more modern application or space and chinoiserie can soften the look of a room while still feeling current if done correctly,” adds Stefani Stein of Stefani Stein Inc. “I think you can't beat the chinoiserie of the past and I prefer the old school!”

Thinking about adding chinoiserie to your home? Here is a little inspiration and a few tips on how to get the look. 

Frame Smaller Panels  

Okay, so to cover an entire room with hand-painted De Gournay is prohibitively expensive for most of us. However, this cleverly designed bedroom proves that just a few panels of chinoiserie can go a long way. 

Use it to Make a Big Statement in Small Spaces

This small dining space boasts maximum design power with the help of these beautiful blue chinoiserie panels. 

Snag a Screen

If you move a lot and don’t feel like investing a ton of money in chinoiserie wallpaper, splurge on a chinoiserie screen.

Choose Your Accents Wisely   

Chinoiserie wallpaper shouldn’t be an afterthought. In fact, you should be incredibly thoughtful when choosing furniture to accent a room dominated by the theme. “Choose one of the less prominent colors in the chinoiserie wallpaper and tie it into the rest of your design, suggests Stein.