Named for the hot shot 18th-century cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale and influenced by Eastern design motifs, Chinese Chippendale furniture is as classic as it gets. But, thanks to a class of tastemakers who are shaking things up, this trad style is suddenly feeling deliciously rad. From posh paint jobs to mad style mash-ups, these rooms show how Chinese Chippendale can easily be reinvented to feel like the peak of chic.


Photo by Erin Comerford Miller Photography

Cue Up a Stylish Mash-Up

Chinese Chippendale furniture feels fabulously fresh by pairing it with striking pieces from other eras, as designer Charlotte Lucas did in the dreamy retreat above. A Chinese Chippendale mirror pairs perfectly with Dorothy Draper’s classic “Espana” chest. If you’re looking for a foolproof style pairing to live alongside a Chinese Chippendale piece, give a big yes, ma’am to Hollywood Regency. Both styles share elements like fretwork and bamboo details.

Photo by Chris Edwards Photography

Make It Pop With Pattern

Chinese Chippendale may bring its own pattern to the party, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get along famously with a bit more. In the bedroom above, Charlotte Lucas paired a Chinese Chippendale chandelier with a wild medley of prints, including a kooky palm frond and flamingo flocked fabric. The riotous pattern plays to the chandelier’s whimsical design. If you’re worried about patterns clashing with your Chinese Chippendale, make sure at least one pattern loosely mimics the Chippendale fretwork pattern and you’re off to see the wizard.

Photo by Aimee Mazzenga

Add Panache With Paint

It’s common to find Chinese Chippendale furniture in tonal colors like black and oxblood, but when done up in a popping shade—be it a funky fuchsia or a not-so-mellow-yellow—Chinese Chippendale really knocks the top off. To embolden a client’s dining room, interior designer Sarah Vaile trotted out two Chinese Chippendale chairs coated in a hot tamale red. “Painting chinoiserie immediately makes it feel updated. The bolder the color, the better!” she says. The red puts the chairs’ fretwork on blast and also ties them into the striking modern abstracts above. The effect instantly renders them part of the contemporary dialogue.

“When done up in unexpectedly bold hues, this traditional style feels fabulously fresh. Whether it’s a chinoiserie-inspired headboard in a luscious turquoise paint or a fretwork hutch outfitted in a raucous banana yellow, painted Chinese Chippendale furniture is equal parts elegant and funky.”

Anna brockway, chairish Co-founder & President
Photo by Aimee Mazzenga

Fab It Up With Fabric

Chinese Chippendale’s graphic qualities mean it basically begs to be reproduced on fabric. Textiles with a Chinese Chippendale-inspired pattern take on a maximalist, lattice-like effect. To pair with a trellis fabric in posh periwinkle, designer Sarah Vaile draped a duo of master bedroom chairs in a Chinese Chippendale print in the same soothing blue. The result is a quixotic retreat the exudes both whimsicality and sophistication.

Photo by Aimee Mazzenga

Cap It In a Topping Textile

Just like paint, reupholstering a Chinese Chippendale piece in an unexpected fabric is an easy way to dial things up. Designer Sarah Vaile is a fan of this tactic. She transformed the Chinese Chippendale piano stool above by reupholstering it in a punchy, fuchsia velvet. The result is a piece that acts as a perfect bridge between the classicism of the piano and the chirpy modernity of the rest of the space.

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February 1, 2020

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