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With that said, this week John and I thought we would discuss one of our favorite design styles, Chinoiserie.
John and I see Chinoiserie as how other countries interpreted an Asian aesthetic that is vaguely Japanese, Chinese, and a lot more rolled into one. According to the dictionary, Chinoiserie is “the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.”
And, indeed, you will find Chinoiserie design motifs in amazing 18th-century English country houses such as Badminton House and Buckinghamshire’s exceptional Claydon House. And don’t get us started on the Chinoiserie follies that popped up at the same time in Germany.
A bit more on Chinoiserie… As One Kings Lane puts it, “The term chinoiserie, which comes from the French word chinois, or “Chinese,” denotes that chinoiserie did not, in fact, come directly from Asia but is instead a European interpretation of Asian culture and decorative arts. The style originated in the 17th century, in tandem with Europe’s flourishing trade with China and other countries of East Asia.
Europeans had long been intrigued by what they viewed as “exotic” Asian cultures; as few Europeans had traveled to Asia, they knew little about the region. While this led to more than a few misinterpretations and misunderstandings, Europeans nevertheless held Asian art and culture in high regard. Wanting to imitate these far-flung styles, Europeans began producing their own takes on East Asian artifacts, which paired well with the lavishly embellished rococo designs in vogue at the time. Monarchs and the aristocracy were especially fond of chinoiserie, and it made appearances in the palaces of Louis XV of France and King George IV of England.
Tea was another of the era’s Asian imports. As traders began importing teas to Europe, the beverage grew in popularity. The culture and tradition of drinking tea, which encouraged an appropriately elaborate mise-en-scène complete with tea sets, tea tables, tea chests, and the like, only helped bolster the demand for all things chinoiserie.”
Speaking of demand, our House of Bedlam is a temple to all things Chinoiserie–as are so many of our product designs…
P.S. Be sure to follow the Madcap Cottage adventures on Instagram at @madcapcottage.
the House of Bedlam sun room
Welcome to the House of Bedlam, the Madcap Cottage gents’ 1930s-era home in the heart of High Point, North Carolina. Here, we brought the Chinoiserie storyline to life in the sun room through custom lattice-wrapped windows and decorative motifs such as antique table lamps and a Tony Duquette pagoda-shaped lamp. Timeless and forever chic. Note the “tented” ceiling overhead.
Designer Tip: John and I love to embellish store-bought lampshades from the likes of Lamps Plus with inexpensive trim that we purchase at flea markets as we did here. We install the trim with a glue gun on weekends. Cheap and cheerful.
The House of Bedlam Opium Den
In the House of Bedlam Opium Den, John and I mixed numerous Chinoiserie elements–including an antique rug, pattern-heavy vintage table lamps, and a Blanc de Chine chandelier with influences culled from other cultures such as India and Morocco. The mix is truly heady and wonderful.
Designer Tip: Pick one or two colors in a room and carry it through the space to allow the eye to connect the dots. Here, those hues are a rich fuchsia paired with “pops” of yellow and teal. The teal, for example, is not only the paint color on the shelves but appears in the ceiling medallion overhead and on the baseboard and crown molding that wraps the den. And the fuchsia runs from the rug to the vintage day bed and tassels upon the pleated-fabric lampshades.
The House of Bedlam dining room
In the House of Bedlam dining room, John and I delivered Chinoiserie chic through a Kindel Furniture console with a pagoda-shaped top that holds wonderful vintage Chinoiserie vases and other decorative objects. The vintages Karges Furniture chairs purchased on eBay have traveled from home to home along with us and have been reupholstered numerous times.
Designer Tip: The yellow floral wallpaper in the House of Bedlam dining room is from eBay and was beautifully priced, AKA cheap. Look to unexpected sources for great design. Expensive or “to the trade” does not equate GOOD.
Lake Agawam wallpaper by madcap Cottage for York wallcoverings
Capture some Chinoiserie elegance in your own home with the Madcap Cottage for York Wallcoverings paper Lake Agawam that channels a wonderfully languid lake populated with waterlilies and statuesque This paper looks just as great in an industrial Brooklyn loft as it does in a more traditional home.
P.S. Thanks to York Wallcoverings’ proprietary Sure Strip technology, this paper is super easy to install AND take down! It’s great for a rental apartment as it won’t damage the walls.
EMbrace Adventure Area Rug by Madcap Cottage for Momeni
There’s no better way to bring some Chinoiserie style to a room than with a gorgeous area rug such as the Embrace Adventure cotton rug by Madcap Cottage for Momeni. Note the Chinoiserie-inspired foo dog, the Chinese boatman, and the pagoda-like garden folly, all based upon John’s original drawings. The rug is truly a work of art that would look equally spiffy hanging upon a wall.
Jungle Road bed by Madcap Cottage for Newport cottages
Pound-rescue pug Weenie sits atop the Jungle Road bed by Madcap Cottage for Newport Cottages. Handcrafted in California, the Jungle Road bed is available in any color under the sun and can be customized to any size. Talk about Chinoiserie chic thanks to the faux-bamboo flourishes and fretwork lashings. Absolutely delicious.
The Oh, Pagoda Chandelier by Madcap Cottage for Port 68
Inspired by a vintage chandelier that John and I unearthed in the Hamptons a decade back, the Oh, Pagoda chandelier from Madcap Cottage for Port 68 is a Chinoiserie fantasy that mixes gilt influences with a ceramic pagoda in the center. We love the Chinese bells that dangle deliciously to lend that perfect punctuation mark.