All About Chinese Decorating

Chinese design shuns away from clutter in favor of accenting the living space with carefully chosen pieces, each adding its own specific value. With that said, however, Chinese decorating is often much more lavish than what you will find in the minimalist Japanese design.

With its perfectly balanced yet complex beauty, is typically made up of vibrantly colored patterns and textured objects set against darkly wooded furniture. Ivory carved figurines, porcelain vases, lacquered fixtures, bamboo, scenic tapestry and wall hangings, all serve to set a mystic and harmonious environment.

With its design traditions dating back to ancient times, it is easy to see why the Chinese decorating style has continued to increase in popularity, reaching into all quadrants of the world today.

Chinese Decorating, Colors & Textures

Chinese decorating includes colors that are bold and symbolize the many different aspects associated with life and culture. The dominant positive colors which make up Chinese palette include red, yellow, green and purple. Red, representing good luck, celebration, happiness and strength, is plentiful throughout Chinese decor. Yellow or gold exemplifies health and a long life. Green, the color of tranquility, thought and growth, also represents family, and is another favorite in this design. Another fashionable color is purple, which represents spirituality.

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Negative colors, conversely, which are generally avoided in Chinese design are black, representing bad luck and suffering, and white, which is associated with death. As you can see in the picture above, the Chinese style is a highly lavish and beautifully ornate combination of color, symmetry and design, highlighting the positive while downplaying the negative.


Moving into textures, bamboo is a common element found throughout many Asian dwellings. With its durability and flexibility, bamboo is an ideal material for crafting both indoor and outdoor furniture and various other fixtures in and around the house. he abundance and variety within the bamboo family makes it very affordable, and offers an almost endless selection in terms of color, thickness and flexibility. In addition to furniture, other smaller purposes that bamboo is used for around the home, include cooking and eating utensils, tools and picture frames.

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Lacquered furniture and artwork are other favorites found in Asian homes. With several coats of lacquer applied to these objects, a hardened high-gloss finish results which serves to both preserve and beautify the object which has been treated. Examples of items that are commonly lacquered include folding screens, tables, cabinetry, chairs and artwork.

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Chinese decorating is composed of objects made from a variety of different materials, including stone, ivory, jade and porcelain. Frogs, elephants, pigs, snakes, deer, fish and dragons are leading examples of animals used in the feng shui motif, as are figurines representing the omnipresent Laughing Buddha.


Ceramics, which are crafted from highly refined clay and superheated to a smooth glossy finish, are mostly found in Chinese decor in the form of vases, statues and pottery. White porcelain, which can have a variety of other pigments glazed into it, is the highest quality of ceramics and thus the most sought after today.


As mentioned above, lacquer is a key component in the Chinese design, especially when it comes to furniture. With wood treated to a dark brown or black glossy finish, this furniture is usually made from rosewood, elm, walnut, cedar or mahogany, with hand painted or carved scenery, mother of pearl inlays, or gold leaf overlay.

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Traditional Chinese furniture includes such pieces as two door storage cabinets and end tables (often depicting scenes of landscape or calligraphy on the doors), ornamented black stools (for seating or placing potted plants), a medicine chest (with its many drawers to historically store healing roots and herbs), a Tansu chest (which has a stair step configuration), and decorated wooden trunks or small boxes.


Chinese fabric plays an important part to the overall look in this theme. Colorful materials with intricate designs add splashes of accent anywhere in the room where it may be needed, adding a luxurious element to the interior.


The elaborate patterns, colors and settings found on oriental rugs and carpets are yet another testament to the creative means by which the Chinese have accented their living spaces since ancient times.

With sceneries embroidered of peaceful meadows, mystical creatures, birds flying overhead, a dragon keeping a watchful eye over the room’s inhabitants, or a complex maze of geometric lines and shapes, these fabrics (which are usually silk or satin) are used on such items as pillows, cushions, wall hangings, table runners, bed spreads, robes, chairs and curtains, and offer a virtually limitless variety to choose from.

Chinese Decorating & Accessories

Chinese design splendidly displays many beautiful colors, patterns and textures throughout the entire home. From babbling stone fountains, to Chinese wall decor, to scented oil lamps and exotic artwork, all of your senses are tantalized in this theme.

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Below are some more suggestions to get you started.

  • Embroidered silk pillows and cushions with dragons and other mythological figures
  • Brightly colored, hand-painted, wooden baskets for storing magazines, remote controls or books
  • Wall mirrors, with frames of bamboo, rattan, lacquered wood or gold leaf
  • Highly ornamented and lacquered fishbowls
  • Three to four-paneled room dividers of lacquered dark wood with colorful hand etched scenery
  • Carved granite lanterns and sculptures
  • Textured silk used for wall hangings, window dressing and lampshades
  • Bamboo water fountains, vases, baskets, candleholders, roll-up window blinds and kitchenware
  • Hand-embroidered wall tapestries
  • Metal, bamboo or terracotta wind chimes
  • Oriental area rugs
  • Decorative scrolls with Chinese calligraphy and characters
  • Floral and plant arrangements in glazed pottery
  • Festive Asian wall fans and umbrellas
  • Lacquered black or red boxes, dishes, table clocks, pots and vases
  • Glazed porcelain pottery and cloisonne for artwork, flower vases and dishes
  • Personal Zen sand and stone garden
  • Blue and white porcelain tea sets
  • Plaques, statues, fountains, pottery and figurines depicting flowers, frogs, snakes, deer, dragons, fish, birds, horses, cats, elephants and Buddha
  • Detailed cork carvings of city or landscape encased in dark wood and glass
  • Figurines and statues made of jade, terra cotta, brass and ivory
  • Chinese porcelain dolls
  • Aromatherapy, with incense burners, oil warmers or aroma lamps
  • Scented Chinese character candles
  • Oriental scents, lotions and gels for the bathroom
  • Indoor Zen water fountains


As with Japanese design, Chinese decorating also utilizes lanterns to define ambience. Lanterns are especially prevalent during festivals, weddings and other ceremonies, but also serve in the home as decorative fixtures just as any of the other pieces on display. Red lanterns, often adorned with black calligraphy and tassels, such as the one below, typically denote celebratory or festive occasions.

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Table lanterns are another popular form of lighting, with exteriors made of glass, rice paper, or silk, and often depict themes that the Chinese celebrate, such as harmony, love, happiness and health. Hand painted lamps with porcelain, carved wood, or lacquered black bases and plain off-white shades also work very nicely.

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