Inspired by antiques: Chinoiserie armchair

Editorial Staff

This week I came across a Georgian armchair that was recently offered at Christie’s South Kensington in a sale aptly titled “An English Look.” This chair—with its intricate fretwork, japanned wood, and fanciful imagery—typifies the style of chinoiserie that was popular in the decorative arts beginning in the 17th century as trade brought exotic new wares from Asia to the West. In the 20th and 21st centuries, designers ranging from James Mont to David Hicks to Kelly Wearstler have incorporated Asian motifs in fabrics, furniture, and carpets—often enlarging the scale for a bold and graphic effect. The vigorous design of the pierced back on this circa 1760 chair reminds me of the contemporary vogue for complex interlocking geometrics, while the sharp angles create a lightning bolt effect. Inspired by this imagery, here are some new finds that are, quite literally, striking:

China Seas “Aga Reverse” linen fabric, price on request, at Quadrille
China Seas carries the mantle of David Hicks with its line of geometric printed linens in eye-popping colors.

Estelle display lamp, $525, at Circa Lighting
I love the idea of delicate gilt-gesso framed oil painting resting on this angular, and elegant, easel lamp.

“Kent” cheese tray by Oscar de la Renta, $195, for Lunt Silversmiths
This marquetry pattern was inspired by a Russian parquet floor—but the angular pattern strikes a simialr chord to our chair.

Maize pillow, $24.95, at CB2

At once abstract and organic, this Japanese-inspired cornfield print creates a maze out of maize!

Skyline candelabra, $250, at Jonathan Adler
These interlocking polished nickel tubes look like Chippendale fretwork run amok!

Ziggy Stardust glitter poster, £395, by Steven Barrett
Speaking of imitating styles, here is a “brillant” interpretation of David Bowie’s glam rock persona.

Easy reader side table by Blu Dot, $148, at  Urban Outfitters
Eschewing symmetry, this table distills the frenetic movement of our chair’s fretwork into a sleek, mod design.

For more East meets West inspiration check out the current exhibition on view through August 23 at the Frick, Portraits, Pastels, Prints: Whistler in The Frick Collection, which includes work from James McNeill Whistler’s  travels to Venice in 1879-80, and highlights his distinctively Japanese-influenced  art.