Sarah’s Style: Chinoiserie Chic

Dear Sarah,

I’ve recently inherited a full set of Crown Derby china from my grandmother and want to redecorate my dining room to complement it. I love the red Mikado – both the colour and the pattern – but am having trouble visualizing it anywhere other than on display in my grandmother’s very traditional dining room. Can you suggest how to incorporate this gift without the room feeling dated?

– D.N., Whitby, ON

Chinoiserie Chic1 copy


You’re so lucky to have inherited such a lovely set of china! There’s something very special about a gift that also reflects a strong personal connection. This is a perfect starting point to decorate your dining room.

Putting out a set of china is a lovely way to pay homage to the giver, but it requires a lot of display space – a look that you seem to want to avoid. It also creates a bit of a dilemma if you intend to use your china for family dinners and entertaining because after setting the table, you could be left with a visibly empty china cabinet or a feature wall with only plate hangers and nails. Not so chic!

My solution is to create a “red Mikado” mood in your space by forming a backdrop where a few carefully selected pieces are showcased, but don’t dominate. To achieve this feel, I would begin with a classic coordinating wall covering that clearly references your china pattern. The red toile from Thibaut Design I’ve shown is an example that adds warmth, interest and depth to the walls, providing contrast to the luxurious silk drapes that frame the windows.

To anchor the space, let’s add some visual weight with a round ebony-hued pedestal table. I would repeat its dark colour and circular shape by installing Restoration Hardware’s ‘Victorian Hotel Pendant’ in bronze. (Remember: don’t hang the fixture too high. I recommend placing it between 30 and 36 inches between the tabletop and the bottom of the fixture.)

While the Mikado pattern was originally designed in the late 1800s, the rest of your decor elements don’t need to be from the same period. To add some serious glamour (and prevent the seating area from feeling too heavy), I love Modern Drama’s 1970s brass bamboo dining chairs (pictured). They add some fun to the formal setting and tie in with the draperies and the finish on some of the accessory pieces.

You might want to shake things up a bit with this incredible sideboard from Modhaus (shown). The piece’s colours work perfectly, while the lines are completely unexpected. It provides lots of easy-access storage and just enough display space for your grandmother’s most beautiful pieces. Finish off this vignette with a delicate brass mirror flanked with two slender lamps, like this one from Elte (pictured).

This dining room displays a playful push and pull between the elements. These tensions not only create a “wow” factor every time you enter the room, but will also evoke fond memories for you and your family.

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