In world of vintage china and the decorative arts, the French word chinoiserie (pronounced: shə-nŭi-zə-rē) refers to the Chinese influence on European art, architecture, and design, especially in the 18th century. The term can also refer to works of art or furniture that are made to look like they came from China.
The History of Blue & White Chinoiserie Design
The popularity of chinoiserie design dates to the late 18th century when European traders returned from their overseas travels with Chinese porcelain and launched a fascination with East Asian decor. This interest led to a craze for importing Chinese porcelain and other home goods for Europeans who wanted to bring a touch of worldliness and novelty to their homes.
To capitalize on this trend and bring Chinese-inspired products to the masses, potteries in Europe and beyond began producing "oriental" influenced patterns, such as the renowned Blue Willow design. As the name suggests, chinoiserie is a European invention and differs in many ways from authentic East Asian design. Nonetheless, scenes of the Chinese royal court and symbols of exoticism such as palm trees, pagodas, phoenixes and monkeys, along with the blue and white color palette, stuck.
Thanks to the explosion of granny-chic decor beloved by grandmillennials, an aesthetic which celebrates vintage styles and nostalgia alongside modern design preferences, chinoiserie is experiencing a significant resurgence. And, as Chicago-based interior designer John Macmillan puts it, Blue Willow, the best known example of chinoiserie, has become “the little black dress of porcelain collecting.”
Where to find Blue Willow China & Chinoiserie China Today
Today, large brands like One Kings Lane and World Market mass-produce East Asian-influenced styles. However, there are many vintage shops and resellers, online and in person, that carry the older pieces from brands like Spode, Wedgwood, Copeland, Churchill, Sadler, Victoria and Allerton, to name a few. Although blue and white is the most recognized and popular chinoiserie color palette, you can also find pieces in red, pink, mulberry, green, brown, gold, mustard, and even multicolor combinations.
Looking for unique and timeless Blue Willow or chinoiserie-style teapots, teaware or tiered trays to add to your collection? Check out our ever-changing selection of blue and white transferware, perfect for adding a touch of grandmillennial flair to your home and any tea party table setting.
- For more about the Blue Willow pattern and tips for collecting, check out the Chicago Tribune's article,
Blue Willow Legend Turns Dinnerware into Hot Collectible, and The Complex History of Chinoiserie in House Beautiful.
Read about the history of chinoiserie and Asian-Americans/relationship to Westerners' use of this artform in Elle Décor.