Monday, November 9, 2015


The more I get interested in interior design, the more I notice this happening: I observe pictures of rooms that are nicely pulled together and over time I pick up on different reoccurring themes, at times specific ones really stand out to me  -- usually based on what good, cheap yet pretty find I’ve just acquired.  It’s like I subcountiously have picked up on those items being in the mix, but haven’t put any real effort in catching it. So when I see the item it’s like the ::ding, ding, ding:: goes off and I know it’s a winner. But once I get these items I want to double back and make sure I’m not crazy. And in the process I get really caught up in understanding the “why”s of the design -- like the whole history and background.

The more I do this, the more I get excited because so many things I thought were trends, are really rooted pretty deep in history. (Random example -- I went down this history-learning-rabbit-trail with clothing trends a few years ago -- and I was blown away to learn that the styles in the 1980’s were almost all “stolen” from prior decades and mixed and matched in a new way. I had always though the 80’s was a chunk of time that had stood apart from all the rest, but it was actually deeply rooted in history, while making history all it’s own. That realization was pretty big to me. It changed the way I looked at things. By the way that “stolen from before” 80’s thing applies to their interior design as well. Lots of art deco mixed back in, in a new way. Not my personal idea of a good way, but either way, it happened.)

So right now I’m on a rabbit trail regarding my new-to-me chairs in a chinese motif.
Part of my brain just wants to say “I like these regardless of anything. I just really like them.” And part of my brain just really needs to know why.

(I so wish I could find an online interior design degree -- like majoring in “the whys,” which would likely just be art history. Because I just want to soak in it for the heck of it. It makes me feel rich -- not money rich, but the rest of the definition of the word rich: having high value or quality; magnificently impressive :  sumptuous; vivid and deep in color <a rich red>; full and mellow in tone and quality <a rich voice>; meaningful, significant <rich allusions> )

As far as the chairs progress goes: Blake has been glueing and clamping the chairs for me -- getting some of the loose joints back to sturdy. And I’ve gotten 3.5 of them sanded in prep for paint. I needed to sand out some scratches. And I also decided to sand off the finish in areas that I might choose to distress later -- so if I go to sand off my own paint, I want to run into the wood not the red stain. (If I do distress, it won’t be that much, but I won’t know what’s sanded down under the paint, so I did a lot.) 

But I’m still doubling back and learning about the chairs. (Well not really THESE chairs. These chairs are actually from a chinese restaurant, and not in and of themselves rich in history. But I’m looking at chairs that inspired these chairs, so I can appreciate them as if they were the cool antiques they wish they were.)

I’ve noticed there is a lot of chinese hints or nods inside traditional non-asian (European and American) design I’ve been trying to figure out how to look the idea up -- lingo wise. And I’ve discovered this perfect word:
Chinoiserie:(French for "Chinese-esque") the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.
Cool. So now I know what to look into!

Then I found this blog post that does a very nice job of talking about the general history. Check it out if you like rabbit trails like me.

She ended her post saying "Chinoiserie pieces say to the guest: this is an interesting home, these are well-traveled and sophisticated people; this family has a history; this home has roots. Perhaps this is why, hundreds of years later, we continue to be fascinated by Chinoiserie — because it speaks about both who we are and who we wish we were, where we’ve been, and where we hope to go.” 

And I loved that because that is totally what I had thought about it. (Not just my chairs. And not tooting my own horn because of the chairs. It’s just what I think when I see chinoiserie used in design.)

The most popular Chinoiserie chair trend right now is the bamboo Chinese Chippendale Chairs. ALL OVER THE INTERNET right now.

 And I love it! Which is why I initially did not love my current chinese chairs. I wanted those chippendale chairs. But after admitting I didn’t want to pay for them new, and was super duper un-likely to find enough of them used, I decided to just admire them in photos. And I got to thinking how they might not really fit my space just right anyway. (I mean if Santa were real, and he wanted to drop some off for me I wouldn’t turn them down (Blake I’m not talking to you cause I don’t wanna spend money on them.) But my point is -- to go on a hunt for them might not really have as big of a pay off as I hoped.)

My chairs are closer to Yoke Back chairs. Here’s a fun short history on those.

But here are some random photos of the overarching theme of fun Chinoiserie chairs.

(This blog has a ton of photo examples of red and Chinoiserie influence)

These are a kind of chinese chair often called wishbone chairs

Here’s a great example of how seamlessly a Chinoiserie chair can just plop down inside a very traditional looking space and be perfect -- kinda noticeable, kinda invisible. Fitting right in, and standing out, but not even remotely clashing, just enriching.

Chinoiserie is a term that applies to WAY more than just chairs. Pottery and wallpaper are big ones.

All that blue and white china dish-wear and vases are a really classic example.

Chinoiserie wall paper or murals are so timeless that they feel trendy and yet ancient and magical all at once.

There is SO MUCH out there when you start looking. 
If you are in the mood just stick "Chinoiserie Chic” into pinterest and oogle to your heart’s desire.

Where am I going with my table and chairs?
I’m not sure they will be pinterest fodder. But I’m excited about it.
(Now be prepared for me to potentially change my mind, cause I do that a lot. But I have bought my supplies, so I’m less likely to do it at this point.)

I think I’m going to take a cue from my current design crush Joanna Gains (who doesnt have a design crush on her?), and paint it all black. 
(Black and white has more and more appeal to me every minute. I think life with kids, has me loving very calm design schemes to help counter act the noise and activity.)

I can’t totally put my finger on just how (I can’t explain linguistically or authoritatively that) these chairs have some sort of asian design influence (but they feel like they have a nod to that, with the tops of these chairs reminding me of asian rooflines.)

So that, plus the fact that the legs of this table kind of echo the curves of my table’s pedestals, help me envision my table black.
I also plan to use a similar color fabric (indoor/outdoor for wear and tear) on my seats.

I think I want to distress the edges just a bit and then touch that with some dark walnut stain, 

just to give it all dimension and faux age. (Not at all as much as the photo below. But an idea to convey on this style of chair.)
But if I do decide to distress, I’ll need to wait a while to let the paint cure fully. so I don’t make it peel up when sanding. So this makeover is very much going to be in stages. (And take a long time!)

I plan to start by spray painting the chairs lightly to act as sort of primer so I don’t have to paint on so many coats by hand. (I don’t think I can do it all the way with spray paint? But if it turns out it’s working easier I may just spray paint in full.) And I’ll roll on the paint for the table. I’m going to use satin sheen.

I have some reservations about black table tops getting dinged up by the kids or looking dirty/dusty easily. But I think I will press on past that and hope my love of oil based paint can overcome all things play-doh and craft/watercolor paint related.
And if it’s less than best, well live and learn. When all’s said and done this table and chairs are still going to cost me next to nothing, other than time. 

Table was handed down for free. And so far I’ve spent $24 on eight chairs. $35 on painting supplies. I still need to buy fabric for the seats to recover. But I sold two of our chairs so far for $50. And I have four more to sell. So I might break even at zero.
So if it’s a disaster, oh well. It’s a free disaster. haha.

But I think I’m really going to love it. And I don’t mind if it doesn’t appeal to everyone. (It won’t, that’s the very nature of interior design.) I’m excited about it.


  1. Hey! I'm kind of guilty of binging on your blog, and had a thought on the table and chairs:

    If later you decide you don't want as much black, but still like the overall black dining set, my initial thought was to use the swiss coffee white on the pedestals of the table, so that if you end up painting the cabinets, they'll match AND you would have your different whites white kitchen. If that's even what you're still planning.

    1. Hi Sadie! That’s cute -- binging on the blog. (I do still plan to paint my cabinets white…when the baby gives me a bit more time between nursing sessions.) I totally agree. I’ve pondered SO many schemes for this table, and your idea was one I came back to most often. But in the end I went with all black (just finished it this week! and I really like it!) because it seemed like the way to get the chairs and table to play nicest together. I’ve yet to get a chair painted yet -- I’m so anxious to, so I can see if it works in real life like it does in my head. But the nice thing is, I can always repaint later if I change my mind.

  2. Hope it turns out like you want it!

    I'm going back to trying to decide what color I want this waterfall dresser to be.

  3. Hope it turns out like you want it!

    I'm going back to trying to decide what color I want this waterfall dresser to be.


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