In the last issue of Milieu magazine – there was a photograph of a room that I have become slightly obsessed with. I just love everything about it and can’t quite put it out of my head. It’s not a fancy room or a cluttered room – it’s very quiet and restful, as it should be because it’s a master bedroom.
But it’s what is in the room that struck me. It’s an Oriental chair. No, not a French bergere – but an Oriental one – a Chinese elm chair to be specific. Well, that’s shocking to me. I usually only like to use Oriental items in design when it’s an accessory or an accent piece.
For instance – take this dining room filled with lovely antique Chinese elm chairs. I wouldn’t even stop to look at this room – it is boring to me. The chairs –so many of them - don’t excite me or engage my eye. It’s just not my aesthetic. To me – so many of this chair ruins the effect – they don’t even look special here.
But look here instead – one Chinese elm chair – it looks so striking here in an Axel Vervoordt design.
Or in this entry, with just two chinoserie styled chairs used as accents to flank a door – suddenly the room comes alive with the use of the unusual.
And again – a room filled with Chinoiserie chairs – it just bores. The walls blend into the orange brown stain of the furniture – there is no contrast, no pop.
But here, in a Bellacasa designed dining room – mixing Oriental chairs with English styled chairs – suddenly they look strikingly beautiful. Their lines – slightly curved backs which are stark and contemporary – play against the straight lines of the windows in the curving bay, which plays against light fixture with both its straight and curved lines which plays against the curved lines of the table. What could have been a boring space is instead a very pleasing one, one that settles and quiets the eye.
The living room off the above dining room – with its long green velvet sofa is just a beautiful.
Mimmi O’Connell is a genius at using Oriental designed furniture and accessories in her designs. A designer in England, her rooms are filled with imported and antique Oriental furniture, which for years she sold at her shop called Port of Call. She is known for mixing high and low – antiques sit next to common cotton fabrics like muslin and striped ticking.
A study – with an Oriental bed – that doubles as a sofa in a library. The bed sits next to an antique Chinese chair that Mimmi plumps with muslin covered cushions.
Four Chinese chairs – their tall backs are sculptural. Hard to imagine this room with any other chair.
A bedroom – with a beautiful antique Oriental chair – I love these folding chairs. Love the large mirrors on each side of the bed. Just perfect!
Here, an antique chest becomes a vanity.
Vicente Wolf used these two Chinese chairs, mixed with an English antique styled sofa.
Mary McDonald mixes Oriental chairs and a table in this family room.
Ralph Lauren used a Japanese dining table as a coffee table.
Suzanne Rheinstein also used an Oriental table as a coffee table.
Alessandra Branca often uses Oriental styled armoires in her rooms. Here she mixes it with an Oriental coffee table and a beautiful screen. Despite the three large pieces – the room seems European in design, not Eastern.
Michael Smith used two Japanese trunks as nightstands.
And again – he used another Oriental chest and a table as coffee tables in this NYC apartment. Gorgeous!!
Oriental screens are very popular – here Rose Tarlow used this screen instead of a painting behind her sofa in her London apartment. Or course – her screen is especially gorgeous.
Suzanne Tucker used a screen, along with an Oriental table, in this living room.
In a chinoserie red library by Beverly Field – an Oriental styled chest on stand and coffee table – make interesting accent pieces.
Jackye Lanham – used bamboo Oriental chests as side tables.
And in this English styled living room – Amelia Handegan used a chinoiserie styled coffee table.
Here, in a Belgian designed room – a lone antique Chinese chair again, becomes a piece of sculpture.
And finally – this was the bedroom that started me thinking about these antique Chinese elm chairs. I can honestly say that before this photograph – I had never once thought about these chairs as beautiful. Now, I can’t understand why?
Shown in the last issue of Milieu Magazine HERE, this bedroom by Shannon Bowers would not leave my mind. I just think it is fabulous – it’s quiet, serene and exactly what a master bedroom should look like. I love the Bennison Roses in Gray – it’s probably my favorite fabric. I love the linens on the bed – simple and perfectly tailored. I am obsessed over them – the long cover that falls just perfectly at the corners. I love the lamps and the fabric shades – which is a bit of a trademark of Bowers. I love the antique prints over the bed – in shades of gray which match the fabric.
But it’s the choice of the Oriental chair at the wood desk that brings a certain contemporary vibe to the room. On the left, you can see an antique French bergere, but for the space against the windows – the bare wood chair looks fabulous, especially with the simple desk.
As they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Could you recreate this bedroom, but on a budget? Here’s a few items I found to furnish.
Pottery Barn – Upholstered Bed
This is a good copy and reasonably priced.
Pagoda Red – two antique Chinese chairs for under $1000 – Here $500 for a chair is not cheap, I know. BUT, I was surprised – these style chairs really aren’t readily available in reproductions. If you want this, you probably will have to buy an antique. $500 for a chair like this is very reasonable – some were over $2000. I wouldn’t use a different style just to save on this – it would be better to find an antique that is on sale.
The hardest item to copy is the Bennison fabric. At over $200, Bennison is out of reach for most of us.
I found this linen fabric at Lee Jofa that would substitute nicely for the Bennison.
From Calico Corner, this fabric is much less than both the Bennison and the Lee Jofa too. Though not floral, it has the light, airy feel that the Bennison Roses in Gray does.
In the end, one bedroom – with a Chinese chair – opened up a new world to me. It has reminded me to keep my eyes open when I read through magazines – probably much too quickly these days. Even though I am sure of my aesthetic, I am finding that recently new things are catching my eye, things that I have dismissed before.
Are you finding yourself liking new things you have never even noticed before???
Posted by Joni Webb