Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eastern Influences

I confess. I have never been to China. In fact, the closest I have come is hosting an international student from outside of Shanghai. And he prefers to go by his Western name, Toby! So what is it with my fascination with Chinoiserie? Let’s start with understanding that Chinoiserie is not simply Chinese style or aesthetic, but a Western interpretation thereof. It is a very romantic portrayal of a distant culture.

19th Century Export China

19th Century Export China

Growing up, my grandmother had an impressive collection of 19th Century Cantonese export china. While a product of Canton, it was clearly tailored to Western taste. I am fortunate enough to have several pieces from that collection, and enjoy a well styled reproduction from the maker, Mottahedeh.

Sketches of Thomas Chippendale's Chair Designs

Sketches of Thomas Chippendale's Chair Designs

This Asian influence can be seen in both furniture and architecture. The highly influential English cabinetmaker, Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), boldly borrowed Chinese motifs and incorporated them in his own designs.

Detailing at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Detailing at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

And founding father, Thomas Jefferson, used clearly Chinese-inspired detailing in the balustrades at his home at Monticello.

Today, the decisive patterns inherent in Chinoiserie, lend themselves to both traditional and contemporary interiors. The clear geometries that we associate with the style can be abstracted to create more updated designs.

The Pagoda Collection from Ramsay Gourd Home

The Pagoda Collection from Ramsay Gourd Home

I have enjoyed developing my pagoda collection for Ramsay Gourd Home which includes fabrics, wall coverings and soon to be released lighting. It’s just the right combination of whimsy and structure that appeals to my architectural design sensibility.

 
Table Lamp from Ramsay Gourd Home

Table Lamp from Ramsay Gourd Home