There’s a time and a place for every interior design style under the sun. And — as we’ve often talked about — the only one who knows the style vibe that’s truly right for you is you. (On account of, you’re so smart and you have such good taste.) And, you know, sometimes the style your space really craves is one of refinement, simplicity, and flow. *contented sigh* That’s what’s for us today.
We’ll be exploring how an otherwise minimalistic space can also somehow feel warm and inviting. And decidedly grounded and expansive. Welcome to Shanghai Chic design. This is really just another way of saying welcome to the Chinese interior design style in the 21st century.
Today we’ll offer a refresh of Chinese design style basics, we’ll talk about a more modern approach, and we’ll look at how to bring some of the style elements into your home. Throughout, we’ll offer tips and specific ideas to do all the above through the upholstery fabrics you choose. Let’s head east.
The Key Elements Of Chinese Interior Design For Your Home Made Simple
Right up front, let’s get clear about something. Yes, this design style is minimal and streamlined. No, it is not cold, imposing, or bland. In fact, the minimalism that’s at the foundation of the design makes way for ornate details and bold pops of color to really sing.
It’s sort of like the difference between wearing clothes that are two sizes too big or a perfectly tailored outfit. With one, all you can see is frumpy and disheveled. With the other, details come through and can be truly appreciated. It’s that but for your home.
Simplicity finds its way into the flooring through the use of smooth, organic surfaces like wood or marble. Visually, they don’t clutter or weigh a space down with textures or visual noise. Practically, they’re easy to clean and maintain.
Use warm golden tones and deep browns for wooden floors. Bamboo is very common, but the key for whatever wood is used is that it’s polished or laminated, not rough-hewn. Woven tatami matting (though more typically associated with Japanese design) is also at home here with its natural texture and color.
Then there’s smooth and polished marble or stone floor tiling — a quintessential Chinese flooring choice. Made all the more so by contrasting the color of the wood or stone flooring with the color of the walls to further open up the energy of the space. Often all in black and white and laid in geometric patterns.
Somehow simultaneously simple and ornate, Asian-style furniture uses a lot of exposed wood with deep, rich tones and often ornately carved, heavily lacquered artistic flourishes like those found in rattan or antique furniture. Seat cushions are usually crisp and taut, and either simple solid colors or exquisitely patterned.
But cushions and fabrics are not so taut and refined as to be uncomfortable. These are welcoming spaces. And throw pillows provide a great opportunity for a pop of design style and a bit of a comfort upgrade as well.
Furniture and flooring are important to set the vibe, but let’s look at the big difference small decor choices can make. With the flow, simplicity, and boldness of Asian design, spaces aren’t overcrowded with too many different colors, patterns, and pieces all mixed together. But the differences and pieces that are there get to really flourish.
Asian art, like painted folding changing screens, porcelain vases, or wooden sculptures, is showcased to add elegance and sophistication to any space. Natural elements like a tabletop rock garden or bamboo plants offer life and texture. And wall art — often made from silk and celebrating the country’s rich history, landscape, and culture — is dynamic and refined.
As we look to a more modern approach, these details prove to be an easy way to create an underlying, subtle through-line as a kind of callback to traditional Asian design.