Colorful, Kid-Friendly Chinoiserie

Colorful, Kid-Friendly Chinoiseriefeatured

I love that Chinoiserie is having such a moment. I am a huge fan of faux bamboo, ginger jars, foo dogs and Gracie wallpaper. I’d practically live in a Pagoda if I only I could find one in Westchester. My love of Far Eastern fixtures was honed when I spent one glorious year living in Hong Kong, where I’d spend my days in search of blue and white porcelain…and my nights reliving college in dodgy Lan Kwai Fong.

In my own home, I have an ever-growing collection of Asian pottery – melon jars, ginger jars, temple jars – you name it. None of them are “important” in the Sotheby’s sense, so it doesn’t matter much if, say, an anonymous 4 year old uses the lid of one such jar as a Chinese throwing star while playing “Ninja Turtle” with his 18-month-old brother. Theoretically, of course. My children are obviously perfect.

Trevor Traina & Alexis Swanson Traina's Napa Valley home, photographed by Douglas Friedman for DuJour

Trevor & Alexis Traina’s Napa Valley home; photography by Douglas Friedman for DuJour

Admittedly, classic Chinoiserie can feel a bit formal – better suited for display cases and civilized empty nesters who don’t use ketchup to fingerpaint your grasscloth kitchen walls. But I love taking this somewhat staid motif and turning it on its head, making it feel at home in a place where The Wild Things Are. The lovely Lily Bunn’s East 10th Street renovation (pictured at top, courtesy of the Glam Pad) is a great example of that. Other than the Gracie paper, everything is fully wipeable, cleanable and otherwise de-greasable.

House BeautifulI also adore this slumber party of a bedroom from interior designer David Kaihoi, which was featured in House Beautiful.

Recently, we conjured up a similarly inspired moodboard for a family who is also ruled by two petit garcons. Comfort and durability were of course important to our client, but she also wanted the family room to feel special since it’s a place where she spends so much time – both with and without her children. She wanted it to feel kid-friendly, not kid-centric. Here’s the scheme we ultimately landed on:

Brass Hill Design Colorful and Kid-Friendly Family Room

Clarence House’s wonderful Tibet Print anchors the room as drapes, pillows and a seat cushion – it offers an amazing palette to pick from since it incorporates a really vivid mix of raspberry, aqua, apple green, citron and navy. We kept the core furnishings simple yet textured – an oversized rattan weave on the side chair, a cross-weave coffee table that can take plenty of abuse, a big rolled arm sofa in a performance fabric. But after laying down the basics, we went wild with accessories, pulling in a mix of vintage Hollywood Regency finds and a few new friends from Dana Gibson, Currey & Co and Regina Andrew.

Brass Hill Design Colorful Kid-Friendly Chinoiserie Living RoomFor a client who lives a bit further north, we’re getting ready to install a Chinoiserie-inspired living room that will also play host to a curious 19-month-old. Again, our client wanted it to accommodate the possibility of an errant toddler wandering through, but she wanted the space to reflect her style, not the fact that she often finds Playdoh in the kitchen drain. We incorporated loads of fun fabrics and custom upholstery, but there’s nothing in there that can’t withstand an accident or two, especially the oversized sisal rug. Even the iron plant stands and soft baskets housing the ferns were selected in response to the strong possibility that they’ll be pulled down. No shards of broken ceramic, just a little dirt to sweep.

Brass Hill Design Colorful GameRoomLastly, here’s a colorful and quirky game room for a family that is hoping to entice slightly older kids away from the TV. We were able to incorporate some more precious pieces into the mix – namely the game table from Oomph – but again, it’s meant to feel young and fun; punchy and inviting. We’d imagine it’s a far cry from your grandmother’s chinoiserie curios of yore.



About the author


A lifestyle magazine writer by trade, Mariel swapped her laptop for a hardhat after spending four years (and counting) renovating turn-of-the-century homes in Westchester, NY.

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