Professional decorators and successful home stagers all have a giant bag of tricks they depend on to keep their clients happy.

They know what colors work well together, how to dress windows and beds, where to place art, what size rugs should measure, where to buy all that killer furniture, how to add those perfect finishing touches that make a room come to life, and much more!

If you're worried that you don't have that kind of know-how, relax. There's one simple method for making a room look pulled together that's always a winner.

It's not expensive or difficult to buy, it doesn't take skill to use, and it works its magic across all decorating styles.

You can tap into this power by making chinoiserie part of your repertoire. It's pronounced SHEEN-waa-zr-ee, and it translates from French as "Chinese-like." It's not an authentic Chinese style. Rather, it's a European interpretation of Chinese motifs.
Bamboo is often part of a chinoiserie-themed room.
It can be painted whatever color works for you!
Photo: MonicaWantsIt

Historically, the fascination with these motifs began when Western nations started trading with the East in the 1600s.

Aristocratic ladies and gents in Europe apparently could not get enough of the elaborately painted ceramics, the fanciful murals depicting nature and leisure, the sumptuous silks, and the exotic materials like ivory and ebony.

All across Europe, the fashions, architecture, furniture, and gardens of the wealthy reflected Asian style mixed with a heavy dose of the extravagant Rococo style.

Chinoiserie still carries with it the appeal of the exotic and mysterious. Even dashes of it incorporated into your decor will hint at playfulness mixed with high quality.

Traditional Chinese-inspired designs in iconic blue and
white patterns are a given for chinoiserie decor. The best blue
is a cobalt blue, but all blues work as well. Photo: Livcorday.


How to get the look

We've all seen decor magazine photos and Pinterest images with chinoiserie done in both small doses and in full-blown style.

The small doses show up as blue and white ginger jars and pagoda-shaped lamps.

The more extreme indulgence shows itself as whole rooms of Asian-inspired scenic wallpaper, gold Chippendale chairs, and black lacquered etageres.

But don't think for a second you need to invest in pricey pieces of furniture you'll never use or like!

Smaller chinoiserie elements have the same power to attract. They add a touch of tradition and high style to a space, no matter what size, layout, age, or architectural design your home is.

Although this style mixes well with most other decor styles, you can't assume that adding chinoiserie pieces to a room that's already fully decorated room is going to work.

This kind of blue and white ceramics display is never going to make
anyone unhappy! It's so fresh and classic at the same time. Photo: TheZhush

So, your first step has to be removing the pieces of furnishings and props that don't make your home look more valuable.

Hide, sell, or give away the objects that don't make your home look stylish. These would be the dated or useless or overly personal possessions, the unfinished projects, the broken or dirty or cheap objects. If you love them, store and keep them for your next house.

Fabric with an Asian motif can
be framed and used as art. 
Look through shelter magazines and upscale home furnishing catalogs for ideas and inspiration on what today's enviable homes look like.

Even though these photos showcase the residences of millionaires, you'll be training your eye for what's functional and smart.

You may not want to imitate exactly or buy from catalogs and websites like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, DecorPad, House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest. Still, perusing them will educate you about trends and styles. 

Don't think that you have to stay with traditional colors of chinoiserie -- blue and white or black or gold or celedon. Let the colors you are using for staging be the colors for your chinoiserie props. Spray paint to the rescue.

You'll often find chairs like these Chippendale styled ones
at flea markets and antique malls. Photo: ChinoiserieChic

Best sources

Be on the lookout for affordable chinoiserie props, and scoop them up when you see prices that fit your home staging budget. With luck, you may already own pieces that have that Asian style you are after. 

Madame Pampadour, mistress to Louis XV, may have had to commission her elaborately painted vases back in 1760, but today you'll find plenty of fun knockoffs and kitchy imitations that pass as good enough for staging. 

Shop these online sources and use the keyword "chinoiserie" to search: eBay, Chairish, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and Replacements. Locally, visit the usual second-hand stores, charity shops, estate sales, and garage sales.

Hunt for bargains on blue willow ware dishes, Oriental lamps and lanterns, chinoiserie vases, dragon-themed and peony-themed fabric, ceramic foo dogs (actually lions), monkeys, elephants, cats and other animals. Also worth looking for is artwork such as Chinese-style paintings of fish and birds, and joie de vivre renderings of people in happy, often pastoral scenes.


There are hundreds of fabrics with a chinoiserie motif available online. Use them to make pillows, framed artwork, covered boxes, window treatments, chargers, or serving trays. Photo: TheFabricCo.

Chinoiserie touches 

Foo dogs are classic. Look for ones that work
with your color scheme. Pairs are best.
Here are my choices for five budget-friendly frills you can incorporate in your staging to cash in on the appeal of Asian decor.

Ceramic foo dogs are a favorite of decorators and stagers. Ideally, you'd have a pair, representing male and female, but if you're budgeting you'll be happy to see singular ones at second-hand stores, donated I suppose after the mate fell and broke! Deal!

Chinoiserie vases can also be found second hand. They don't have to be authentic Chinese antiques to be charming. Home Goods is the best source, but smaller ones sometimes show up at discount and dollar stores.

Asian-inspired planters are another go-to item for decorators. Look for blue and white ones with designs of lotus and peony flowers. Use them for real or artificial plants, or simply for arranging empty on a mantel or bookshelves.

Bamboo frames, new or used, are common in all sizes, from ones too small to use effectively for staging, up to poster size. Any finish is good, but gold, red, black, and natural bamboo are the most stylish.

Finally, if you use nothing else from the grab bag of chinoiserie props, select some pillows with Chinese designs. They can be either fun and eye-catching, or subtle and sophisticated, depending on the style of your home.

Staging vs decorating  

Why not DIY some pillow covers with chinoiserie fabric?
A yard will cover a standard bed pillow. Photo: ChicChinoiserie
You don't need a dining room designed around a black lacquered table set with blue and white Delftware and surrounded by red Chippendale chairs to capture the essence of chinoiserie. Since you are staging and not decorating, you can count on subtlety rather than overkill.

Learn more about how to make your home attractive to buyers. My home staging eBooks take the stress and confusion out of staging your own home. You can count on my 25+ years of real estate buying and selling experience to steer you right. I'm practical and thrifty, and you can be too! You are just two clicks away from reading and staging. Go here.