It has come to my attention that designer types (myself included) speak a different language than non-designer types. This is not a recent discovery. For years, as I ramble on to my clients about this or that, I’ll notice their furrowed brow as they stop me to ask, “What was that term?” Oftentimes, I feel as though I am teaching my clients a whole new vocabulary as we design their home. With this in mind, I thought I would start a new regular feature called “Designer Speak” which will, I hope, demystify interior design vernacular and give you cool new words to try out on friends and family each week.
The first word up is Chinoiserie. This is probably one of my all time favorite words not only because of its meaning (don’t worry – I’ll get to that), but because it just rolls off the tongue and sounds so fabulously decadent. If I am ever a guest on James Lipton’s show Inside the Actor’s Studio (maybe someday they’ll do a feature on interior designers) and he asks me what my favorite word is I’ll have to say Chinoiserie.
Chinoiserie is a French term used to describe decorative objects or furniture pieces which have been influenced by traditional Chinese design styles. The term was first used in the 16th Century throughout Europe. As travel and trade became more commonplace, Chinese imagery and artistic techniques became a fad in furniture, architecture and decorative objects. What once started as a trend hundreds of years ago has now become a classic design style. Today, Chinoiserie has been modernized and is still used in current decor.
Interior design by Jonathan Adler
Jonathan Adler uses these cheerful yellow faux bamboo chairs in this spunky dining room.
These white lacquered dining room chairs, complete with Chinoiserie fretwork, add a refreshing twist on traditional design.
Chinoiserie abounds in this elegant pied-a-terre designed by Alessandra Branca. The armoire and wall-mounted screen are obvious, but upon closer inspection the red lacquered cocktail table is also inspired by traditional Chinese furniture design.
Interior design by Lazaro Rosa-Violan
Mounting a painted and gilded screen is a show-stopper in this kitchen. What an incredible backsplash!
The celedon green screen above is an incredible Chinoiserie focal point. I think this bedroom is absolutley dreamy.
Interior design by Katie Rosenfeld.
I met the very talented Katie Rosenfeld at the Design Bloggers Conference in March. I love how she used the painted chest and the Chinoiserie Chippendale chair in this elegant dining room she designed. The colour mix is magnificent.
A pagoda-inspired armoire provides an interesting element in this cozy bedroom.
And finally, here is my collection of favorite Chinoiserie pieces.
Dransfield & Ross bolster pillow, twin turquoise Foo Dogs at Pieces, White desk by Kindel Furniture, Painted Cabinet at Horchow, yellow ceramic garden stool at Home Deco Direct, gold painted wallcovering de Gournay, Red Pagoda Chandelier from Pieces, Fretwork Arm Chair by Hickory Chair.
So there you have it. Our first “Designer Speak” term is Chinoiserie. Not only do I hope you can incorporate this word into your vocabulary, I hope you’ll incorporate some of it into your home too!
Join me, Calgary interior designer Jacqueline Corea, as I decipher industry-specific terminology in my new series, “Designer Speak”. Please contact me if you have a suggestion for a term that needs some translation!