At La La Land, we love Chinoiserie and in particular unique Australian Chinoiserie.
This timeless style is experiencing a revival. We’re excited to be able to share local artists’ clever twist on the artform.
Never heard of Chinoiserie or are you just as obsessed with it as we are? Take a look behind the scenes of this enduring decorative style and learn how to bring it to life at home.
The Rise Of Chinoiserie
If you’re familiar with style and fashion trends, you may have noticed Chinoiserie bursting back on to the scene. It is hugely popular across fashion and decor for the current season.
This rich style has a fascinating past that is well worth exploring for anyone who wants to dive into the stunning options available (and who wouldn’t?).
The word Chinoiserie is borrowed from the French and roughly translates as ‘in the Chinese taste’. Interestingly, the style developed in Europe, not China.
After Marco Polo famously opened up the path between the east and west in the late 1200s, relations between Europe and China began to develop.
In the centuries that followed, seafaring and exploration opened the world more than ever before. By the 1700s, trade and communications with the East were at a new peak. Despite this, the area then known as the Orient remained exotic to those who remained in their western homelands. The East was open to merchants and traders but remained intriguing and distant to most Europeans.
This combination of growing trade but continued mystery piqued an interest in all things Eastern in many of the moneyed people of France.
As Asian art found its way to Western Europe, artisans were inspired and began to create furnishings, decor and objet d’art in the Oriental style. This Oriental style, now becoming known as Chinoiserie, happened to blend very well with the ornate, asymmetrical and bold ‘Rococo’/Late Baroque trends that were popular at the time. The style was seen as exotic and even mystical. Europeans of the time fetishised the Asian culture that they barely understood.
Chinoiserie Takes Hold
Despite its beginnings as a form of cultural appropriation, Chinoiserie provided a delicate and beautiful yet still bold style that spread across Europe. It retained followers in England until the first opium war broke out towards the mid 19th century. By the end of the century, Sino-British relations were repaired. The tail end of the Victorian era saw a love affair with the East that rivalled that of the Rococo period. Happily, for us, this means that Chinoiserie remained in the cultural awareness and had several resurgences in popularity.
The rise of Chinoiserie as an artform was so successful that it spread throughout Europe. Historical examples of Chinoiserie can be found in Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, England and Russia. Its popularity was so long-lived that it even found its way to the USA, where Palm Beach is famous for its own version of the style. Chinoiserie may be considered to be an early form of globalisation!
Now we know how Chinoiserie came about, what exactly is it?
Chinoiserie is more a movement or a style, than any, one, quantifiable thing.
This unique artform encompasses paintings, porcelain and interior design (particularly wallpaper). Architecture, landscaping and even tea tins are shared as examples. It also has its place in fashion, with textiles being available in Chinoiserie style.
As a style, as its name suggests, Chinoiserie is Chinese-inspired but European produced. Asiatic lion dogs, pagodas, dragons and blossoms predominate and, to the uninitiated, it can be easy to mistake some pieces for genuine Chinese works. More often than not, Chinoiserie is detailed and intricate rather than having big, bold shapes. It can involve a pattern which repeats and usually includes animals and plants.
As mentioned earlier, none had a greater fascination and love of the East than the Victorian British. It did enjoy a healthy revival for some time in the 1920s and 30s. The between-war period saw Chinoiserie used to represent success and opulence.
Many of the Nouveau Riche in the US loved the gold trims and lavish designs the style utilised. As stated earlier, wealthy residents of Palm Beach in the USA embraced Chinoiserie wholeheartedly. It was embraced to such an extent, in fact, that ‘Palm Beach Chinoiserie’ is a style all of its own. Chinoiserie also became briefly significant in architecture again, most significantly in lavish cinemas. Grauman’s famous Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is a magnificent example of American Chinoiserie.
Chinoiserie remained popular with lovers of classic design after the pre-war period. The bold design fits so well with so many other styles that it can work in almost any room or space. You’ll find Chinoiserie in many public gardens throughout Europe and architecture worldwide. A room can be decorated with an extravagant feast of Chinoiserie or simply have a few subtle hints of the style splashed around. Keep an eye out next time you’re out and about to see if you can spot some examples.
How to create your own Chinoiserie art
You can create your own version of Chinoiserie art in your own home. One of the best ways to make your own is to paint. You can make your own wall hangings, framed artwork or even wallpaper. Depending on your skill level and what you hope to achieve, there are a few ways to go about it.
If you are a confident artist, create whatever you imagine with a selection of oil paints and some canvas and brushes.
Use some images for inspiration. Asian gardens and pagodas and blossoming trees are a great start. For those who are a little daunted to dive right in, there are options to make things easier. Look for stencils available online and at art supply stores to help you begin. By placing a stencil over your canvas and either painting carefully with a brush or using a roller, you can create perfect images of reaching branches. Dab a sponge dipped into coloured paint along these branches to create blossoms.
Basically, your imagination is the only limit to what you can create for your own Chinoiserie art. Another nice trick is to get hold of some gold transfer foil. Cut it into any shape you require and fix it to any surface with a brush-on glue. Use the foil to highlight branches or pagodas, or to stand out on its own. Spend some time in craft and art supply stores and browsing online and you should be able to find dozens of ideas to create your own art.
Where To See Chinoiserie Around The World
Chinoiserie was popular and prevalent across Europe for many years. When you visit almost any significant house, estate or chateau from the 1700s to the late Victorian period, you are likely to see the style at its finest. Its popularity during the Rococo period in France means that there are stunning examples in the palace at Versaille.
In fact, any decent house belonging to the wealthy and aristocratic simply had to have a ‘Chinese Room’. A stunning example remains at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, England. On entry, you’ll be surrounded by ornate pagodas and intricate fretwork. This room is a beautiful example of Rococo excess, tempered by Asian subtleties.
To see a collection of Chinoiserie style objects and pieces, there is no better place than the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design in London. The V&A’s collection boasts furniture, wall hangings, art and porcelain among its peerless collection. One interesting point you may notice when perusing the collection is the mishmash of Asian styles. Whether something was Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asian country’s style meant little to the Westerners buying the art at the time.
In Drottningholm, Sweden there is the remarkable Chinese Pavilion. Built between 1753–1769, the Pavillion is actually a royal palace as well as a world heritage site. The Pavillion and its surroundings are clearly Chinoiserie. Pagodas are scattered throughout the gardens and the building itself has two specifically Chinese inspired wings. The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm retains a good deal of European style architecture, however, with highly European interior rooms. This makes it perhaps the best example in the world of the blending of East and West that can be seen in Chinoiserie.
Where To Go For Chinoiserie Inspiration
Despite Chinoiserie’s popularity over time, few artists are named as being the pinnacle of this genre.
To find inspiration, however, there is more than one place to look. Designers and interior decorators around the world often include Chinoiserie to reflect a client’s interest in opulence and ornate decor.
After you have check out La La Land’s Australian Chinoiserie collection (more on that soon), Pinterest is a good place to visit. There are many boards dedicated to this artform, sharing examples from cushions to table lamps to carpets.
There are also several blog posts dedicated to Chinoiserie decor:
Take a look at the above links for lovely examples of wallpaper, furniture and more.
Go beyond the home and add flair to your fashion with the following Chinoiserie-style looks:
How To Choose Chinoiserie For Your Home
One of the joys of Chinoiserie is the many options it gives. For those who truly want to indulge and live the Chinoiserie life, wallpaper is the most extravagant way to go. Wallpaper is one of the greatest hallmarks of modern Chinoiserie and is a bold statement in any room. Anyone who walks into your room will instantly be wowed by its impact. Chinoiserie wallpapers come in a wide range of prices. In fact, hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpapers are among the most expensive in the world! Of course, there are more affordable options.
Expect pale pastels and plenty of blossoms and birds on your Chinoiserie wallpapers. Go for a feature wall or have the Chinoiserie paper above hip-height to soften its impact. Continue the theme with ornate mirrors and Asian-style furniture or temper it with plain furnishings.
Even cheap wallpaper may be too expensive and too big a statement, however, for everyone. The good news is there are more options open for you. Add Chinoiserie influence to your home with some simple homewares.
Ginger vases are a mainstay of the style and can make a pleasing addition to a table or mantle. Wall hangings and prints deliver Chinoiserie flare without overpowering a room. Plates and other dinnerware can also dramatically bring Chinoiserie into view at any dinner party. You guest will love your stunning dinnerware and you have a brilliant conversation starter now you know all about Chinoiserie!
Unique Australian Chinoiserie
Australian Chinoiserie brings the Australian culture to the decorative style. Forget Lion Dogs and Pagodas, our special take includes native birds and plant life. The Australian Chinoiserie you’ll find brings a touch of whimsy to classic Aussie images.
For something extra-special, head to La La Land to see our exclusive Australian Chinoiserie range.
Check out Australian Chinoiserie range for a stunning selection of homewares adding unique Australian flair to classic Chinoiserie style. Artist Lilly Perrott beautifully blends native Australian birds and flora with Chinoiserie to create an Australian Chinoiserie style that you won’t find elsewhere.
From crockery to diaries to tote bags, La La Land’s Australian Chinoiserie selection is a brilliant way to get on board with the trend while bringing something new to the table. With Asia being one of our closest neighbours and much of our heritage being European, it is only natural that we adopt this style.
Find the perfect Australian Chinoiserie gift or something simply stunning for yourself at La La Land today.