At long last the ” chinoiserie ” room is ready to receive


To be inspired by beauty, be that from Mother Nature or by the beauty created by man is a marvelous gift for all and one that I treasure everyday. As most of you know I am a classicist at heart. My love for classic architecture, classic design is pretty evident in my style. But I also love many other periods and styles. So while the rococo is almost the opposite of classicism I think it is exciting to find amongst the purity of a classical foundation a room that is there for whimsy, the imagination and to inspire the feeling of an another time or place.

Chinoiserie  refers to the interpretation of Chinese style for a European market. This stylistic movement reached it’s zenith in the 18th century period known as the rococo. 


I love the painting above done in the style Chinoise. Just pulled the images off of the web so sorry for the small pics but this so clearly shows the combination of Chinese style reinterpreted by and for the European market by a master of French art, Francois Boucher.


Another master of this style ( above) was the French painter Jean Baptiste Pillement who created many rooms for Marie Antoinette. This is a Pillement painting I bought years ago as I have had this long time love of this style and technique called ” camieaux bleu “.


At long last my fantasy of having a room “a la chinoiserie” has been realized. Not quite in the manner I had envisioned and dreamt about. This is my pared down fantasy inserted into a southern neoclassical house built in 1836. But first now a few pictures of the  process.


The room when I bought the house. One door on the left side had been blocked and bookshelves had been added. Because I had a pair of chinoiserie inspired consoles I needed a balanced wall space –something that Chisolm house did not have  because of it’s many windows and doors. I closed the second door so the consoles could flank the fireplace. The entrance to the room is from the main hall. This was not an accurate restoration of the house but once in a while one must follow ones decorative  heart over the fence into the realm of  fantasy and long delayed dreams. So please forgive me.


The room stripped back to the basics before I closed either side of the chimney.


The Clayden house door surround

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Jonathan’s rendering of the the reconfigured door.

As I mentioned previously I did not want to keep the Victorian era fireplaces and as they were not original to the house, I did not feel compelled to do that. I also mentioned that Jonathan Sainsbury, in Dorset England, was doing other pieces for the house. During a telephone discussion  about the  room I had found a chinoiserie overmantel  and wondered if he could incorporate that over a carved fire surround. He mentioned how wonderful an over mirror and fireplace surround  would be patterned on the door surrounds of Clayden house. I heartily agreed as I had for years drooled over pictures of the famous house. Two imaginations running wild can be a wonderful thing. Tho Jonathan, at times, made my hair turner whiter with certain things -it took a year and a half to finally get the piece,  it was worth the wait.


The long awaited  fireplace surround and over mantle arrives in one piece – well two to be exact.

One of my biggest decisions was whether to leave the surround white as in Clayden House but alas I  already owned a lovely pair of chinoiserie inspired gilt mirrors from Italy and thought it would  be too much together. Then I spotted a pair of mirrors on Jonathan’s web site that  I had not seen before and with his salesmanship skills I ended up commissioning  a pair of what he described as the ” Hector Pagoda” mirrors. I could have made them all white but as another of Jonathan’s wonderful carved mirror in the bird room was already white and I wanted contrast between the rooms.  So green and gold was the decision.

After restoring the original plaster cornice and base board, closing off the doors , restoring the crumbling chimney, the room was painted green to work with the consoles, Heath painted the floors, and the decorative process was in full swing.

I painted many objects green and gold including the statues belowuntitled1-19

The fun part is the installation but the road to that point is filled with many problems to be solved and worked around—but such is life and you all know that.  Pictured above is the restored space before the faux floor is painted when the curtains were  just a bolt of fabric and the original mirrors were waiting to be hung and there was as yet no fireplace surround.


The Hector Pagoda Mirrors which finally arrived the week before Thanksgiving.



The surround did not exactly fit–with blueprints and all and there is not a level surface, corner or floor in this house built on the edge of marsh land. In every room you can place a  ball on one side and it will roll to the opposite side! A big pain in the backside for any work done in this place.

After the mirror was painted green and the first layer of gold paint glazed I realized that  it did not work with the pagoda mirrors and that I had to take the plunge and have the gold paint gold leafed. This was done by the talented faux painter Kristen Bunting from Charleston.


Kristen painstakingly painting glazing and gold leafing ( not sure that is a verb but…) The mirrors in this picture were the original ones that I bought now hanging in other rooms in the house.


I took a gold magic marker to indicate where I wanted her to paint.


Before the final change the original mirrors, the un-gilded surround.


At last all is in place even down to my first camellias for this season. Pagoda mirrors safely installed curtains up.

Following pictures of different views and details.


A detail of the 8’6″ mirrors.untitled1-8

I have no curtains in most of the rooms in Weatherstone and in my friends house in Aspen. I had been into shutters but the great gal who does the bed dressings, table clothes and pillows for me, another Kristen by the way,  was surprised when I said I think I want curtains for this house. Those 10′ high windows does make one feel rather exposed at night. So yards and yards of taffeta later the curtains are up through out the house with the exception of the bird room.



The  one of the two statues now in green and gold.IMG_1757

One of my extravagant pieces an 18th century  secretaire it is so beautiful I could not resist.

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The Pagoda Mirrors in place.

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untitled2 untitled1-24

So there we are the chinoiserie room at last. A mix to be sure but it makes me happy.

I am off to Paris for Maison Objet and to wander the streets of my favorite city for a few  days. So  sorry if there are typos here I have to go pack!  I just turned in my 12th book to my publisher—a huge endeavor culling through an accumulation of almost 30,0000 garden photos taken over many years time. After going through that I decided I needed a break and some inspiration. see you soon-cr






93 thoughts on “At long last the ” chinoiserie ” room is ready to receive

  1. Just exquisite Carolyne…hope to get to Charleston sometime this year and see it “in the flesh”..Bon voyage..

  2. Very beautiful room Carolyne. It reminds me a little of the opulence of some of the rooms at Osborne House. I’ve always loved Chinoiserie but have always somehow managed to live in houses where that style wasn’t so very suited. (like my present Craftsman period cottage) But in other house I’ve painted wall murals (like the Indian room at Blenheim). I love that as well. The 18th C secretaire is spectacular. My mother has a matching 9 ft tall grandfather clock. Hope life is lovely for you. Till next time. X

  3. Carolyn dear,

    What a lovely surprise to get your post this morning and all the magnificent
    Photos of your recent creation. You really hit a major home run in Charleston !
    I look forward to your new book and hope your tour will include the California
    Club in Los Angeles. Have a fabulous holiday in Paris .

    Hearts love,

  4. Breathtakingly beautiful! What an addition to Charleston. Gardens and views from windows out hoping you will share soon. Carolyne your talents are unsurpassed. Nice to have to the live in enjoyment stage and Spring is coming.

    • Hi Lynn–thanks. After Paris I return to Charleston to work in that garden for a week! Planting ivy and dwarf undo! pics will come in time I am still a bit of a mud pit on Tradd St. cr

  5. WOW!!! I am in love!!!!! So beautiful, Carolyne! I am now thinking of redecorating my home in this style. I LOVE IT!!!! Have fun in Paris!

  6. What a delicious treat to see these pictures! There is so much saturated color, and yet the room is harmonious and peaceful. Would you mind sharing the paint color, or was it a custom mix?

  7. Dear Carolyne,
    I have been following your blog forever and had to write you (first time) and tell you how sincerely I appreciate you being you!I have been an interior designer for years and am now transitioning into real estate as unfortunately our industry, and more importantly, the clientele has changed so dramatically over the last few years. The world needs people like you who give so much inspiration to people like me who love design, art, and the process of it all. I will look forward to your next book. Thank you again for making this new post, and making my day all the more beautiful!!!
    James Butler

    • Thank you James, for taking the time to write me. I appreciate that time because my big lament in life is there is never enough time to do everything one hopes to and finding the time to pass on a kind and encouraging word is becoming a precious thing. carolyne r.

  8. I’ve taken a keen interest in the creation of this room and delighted in its evolution until today when the newly painted, dark green chinoiserie chimneypiece was unveiled. What began as something witty and lighthearted (and in its own way, rather wonderfully daring) has become, at least via photographic evidence, brooding and ponderous, at odds with its whimsical inspiration. In other words something was lost when that fabulous Claydon-esque fireplace surround was toned with the Calke Green walls and the flanking pair of tables. Too much of a sameness. And yet I understand, totally, that the process of good design is empirical and that often what one sets out to do gets altered over time — and furthermore that one must put one’s own stamp on things.

    • Hi Toby,
      Yours is an interesting insight and one I pondered over in making the decision to all green and gold. In actuality it is a rather happy room, especially when it is filled with camellias and friends, but most certainly darker than the rest of the house. It is a room where I will stay at night because I like it with candle light. Who knows maybe life will give me another opportunity to try again for more whimsy. That would be exciting but I would have to sell Chisolm House first!!! Life is full of twists and turns and possibilities–so I hope if I get that chance I may succeed. best c roehm

  9. Thanks so much for sharing the latest and greatest of decor in your southern home, Carolyne. The living room is so breathtaking. I do believe it’s the most gorgeous room I have ever seen. And, in my 35 yrs. of being a interior designer, I have never experienced such beauty. You are such a brilliant talent. There isn’t anything you can’t do well.

    Looking forward to purchasing your newest book. I have all the others you have written, and truly enjoy looking through them from time to time for inspiration.

    Thank you for being so gracious in sharing your many talents. I particularly love your gardens. Keep the blogs coming.

    Donna Chappel
    Donna Chappel Interiors

    • Dear Donna,
      Thank you for generous comments you have always been so encouraging– it inspires me to carry on. My next book has been a long distance run—so many pictures and so little space but it is now out of my hands other than the paintings I am adding to this book —and that are due on the 20th of Feb!!!! yikes have no idea how I will get it done but will have printers cramp as soon as I return from paris. Thanks carolyne

  10. What a treat to finally see the reveal! Jonathan’s work is mesmerizing but I have to commend you for your choice in painting and gilding these pieces. Left white the room’s ambiance and true romanticism would not have been so strongly realized. What a delight by candlelight!

    • Hey Justin,
      Right you are the room is made for candlelight—I gave my first small drinks party in Charleston with candles blazing and it is rather romantic! cr

    • Hi Marie —I agree it is a bit over the top but at 63 I thought it was time to have a little stake in over the top!!! Yes, I too hope to share it with many friends—cr

  11. Beautiful, just beautiful. Have always loved Chinoiserie myself so how lovely to see your new room. The candlelight is very welcoming! Enjoy Paris!!

  12. Breath taking as always. We are getting ready to move to your home state of Missouri. You just inspired me to start another home over with some incredible ideas. keep the beautiful photos coming……..

    • Well I hope Missouri treats you well….let me know. May you find all that you need in your new home! Mid westerners are very nice in my opinion! best, cr

  13. Soooo BEAUTIFUL in every way! Thanks for sharing. I’m always INSPIRED by your WONDERFUL works of interior and floral design! Love the green color on the walls. What paint did you use?

  14. This room really twinkles for me!

    Green is the base color for the walls in several rooms in my home and it’s fun to make the accessories and fabrics pop against it. (I’m wondering if your green is a custom color. It would be fun to see the real thing since photos can alter the appearance of color.)

    Whether you call it going over the top or simply a room of your own, it takes courage to make a room into a statement piece. Who among us isn’t afraid of painting a wall a different color from that which we already have? I love everything about this room — furnishings, taffeta draperies, Mr Sainsbury’s work — too, too fabulous!

    I admire your courage and can’t wait for your next book. Hopefully you’re assembling images for a following book on your Charleston home.


    p.s. I am going to be SO disappointed when you’ve run out of rooms to re-imagine and decorate!!

  15. I was sitting here at my computer drooling over your new room when my husband walked by and said, “Wow! What a beautiful room!” We love dark colors on the walls, especially dark green. This room is totally delicious. Thanks for sharing and hope your trip to Paris is all you wish for. Best.

  16. Just glorious Carolyne.
    It is always exciting ,to open your posts,and is like opening a beautiful gift,
    As ever it is such a treat to see how your magnificent talent evolves,and this room is stunning.
    Enjoy your trip to Paris,and hopefully you will share some photos on your return.
    I look forward to your new book.

  17. To borrow a street slang – “Killin it,” Carolyn! Very beautiful room and a magnificent rendition of neoclassical chinoiserie accentuated with outstanding mix of colors. Enjoy the city of light!

  18. To borrow a street slang – “Killin it,” Carolyne! Very beautiful room and a magnificent rendition of neoclassical chinoiserie accentuated with outstanding mix of colors. Enjoy the city of light!

  19. Dear Carolyne,

    Thank you, thank you and many thanks. Worth the wait, it is so beautiful. Black chinoiserie, deep pink and green, so good. I have a black chinoiserie cabinet with deep terracotta walls and gold touches. I love having a vibrant dining room. How do you decide which room in which to spend your time. Bye for now, I am going to email your post to my daughter, Her dining room is bright yellow with black chinoiserie furniture and chinoiserie pictures.


  20. Thank you for the gift of these pictures on a cold January day, Carolyne! The green and gold color combination is bold and captivating. I thought your blue and white bird room was my favorite, but this is even more exquisite. The hand-workmanship is simply stunning, and as a reader I am so appreciative of how you detailed the whole process of your creation. More testament to your enviable talent. Paris is a well-deserved destination. Au revoir!

  21. This simply takes my breath away. Congratulations Carolyne – it is a masterpiece. Susan

  22. Perfection! Those playful pops of vibrant pink are like coy, flirting smiles sprinkling added joy into this wonderful green masterpiece. Your talent is beyond the very best and your generosity to share it with us is humbling! You inspire us!

  23. A masterpiece of creation! It is so heartwarming that you share with us your design life. Thank goodness there are still people like you who have the talent to show the world great rooms! Decades ago we would all absolutely run to the newstands in order to get the latest AD or House and Garden etc. to see the interiors. I have not felt compelled in years. You are bringing that back for me albeit digitally :-). Thank you!

  24. Thanks for sharing photos of this gorgeous room Carolyne! I love the punch of pink in the pillows along with the pink flowers.
    And the black secretary is stunning! All beautiful as usual. Cannot wait to see your next project!

  25. Thank you for these extraordinary pictures! The room is pure perfection & I’m happy you will be enjoying all your hard work.
    Without trying to sound too corny it is truly a joy to behold & I appreciate every step it took to achieve such a beautiful room..
    As for Paris it unfortunately will be one destination I plan to skip!!

  26. WOW Carolyne!

    Just when I think you have reached the top, you come up with another great idea! I don’t even like green and rarely use it.
    You may have converted me. That room is just beautiful!
    My favorite item is your lampshade. It is very difficult to find nice shades. Did you have them custom made?
    I also have and treasure all your books. Looking forward to the new book.
    All the Best,

  27. I am almost speechless. the first word that comes to mind is WOW!! Elegant beyond words, You can do elaborate design beautifully, actually I can imagine you could do any type of design beautifully, but this room as well as others I have had the privilege of seeing are done with an artist’s hand. You are not just a designer, YOU are an artiste! Enjoy Paris!

  28. Truly spectacular!! That fireplace wall – every exquisite detail – is museum worthy!! Thank you for sharing so much detail!

  29. Absolutely STUNNING Carolyne!! I am so glad that this magnificent Charleston house is in your inspired care!! I hope to see you in Charleston this spring….perhaps we can even coax Edita and Vladimir to come for a visit!

  30. Simply stunning. A dream come alive. I love to see the changes and didn’t realize you didn’t use the crystal chandelier until later! I love the blue and white and red mixed with the green. It’s just stunning. No other words to describe. Use it in good health.

  31. Having visited Claydon House many times over the years, the Chinoiserie room, albeit very beautiful, is a little too stark for my tastes. However, your room is beautiful, soft and very welcoming and I love the pop of cranberry pink. The softness of the green allows for the magnificently opulent gold leafing of the fire surround and mirrors. It’s a real feast for the senses and I thank you for the opportunity to take a quick peek into your world.

    Jo Parker Farmer
    Dorset, England

  32. I have visited Claydon House many times over the years and, albeit very beautiful, I find the white chinoiserie a little too stark for my taste. However, the soft chalky green of your room is warm, welcoming and rather beautiful. The stunning gold leafing of the opulent fire surround and mirrors lends itself beautifully with the subtlety of the green; a feast for the senses. I also love the pop of cranberry pink (my favourite colour at the moment). Thank you for this opportunity to take a peek into your world…

    Jo Parker Farmer
    Dorset, England

  33. Well. You’ve done it again. You are the wizard of elegant taste and design, and I never cease to be impressed by everything you create. Thank you for sharing this amazing project and the process.
    Jonathan Sainsbury is an incredible artist, and the two of you together are unstoppable! Enjoy your trip – I wish I could accompany you, if only to walk in your footsteps for a day.

  34. First day in paris but just checked in and there you are—thank you thank you for your encouragement and support. after this trip i hope to do a paris report bonne nuit caroline

  35. I am in love with your beautiful room , layered in shades of green with touches of gold! Chinoiserie accents only make me love it more ……

  36. The room is just exquisite. I usually prefer the doors that frame either side, but this is done so beautifully. Dare I say, that’s a sexy, sultry space! I enjoy sharing your blog with my Mother. She spent many a day in that home in her youth & can’t get over the transformation. And you are so right about the floors. We live around the corner & I can “feel” myself walking upwards & downwards on our 2nd floor. Oh, the charm of living on a filled-in marsh.

    Enjoy Paris, we just returned from there last weekend. It was a bit of a tense time, but Paris…..still. Kimberly

  37. Beautiful. Please tell me more about your upcoming book! I am looking forward to it coming out.

  38. Found this BRILLIANT decoration through Kristen’s Kurtains – so glad I did. Such time and attention to the little details make this grand room stand out as a winner!

  39. This is just an absolutely exquisite room – the lighting at night with the candles really brings out the richness of the beautiful gilding and the warmth of the soft green. A wonderful choice in colour. I also completely agree with you that sometimes it’s a good idea to ignore the original design decisions made in a house… while it’s important to preserve Heritage to some extent I’ve always said just because it’s old it doesn’t mean it was right. Too many doors in a room are definitely a problem at any rate. Well done on a stunning result.

    Looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of your next book, and enjoy Paris!

  40. Wow…..OTT!!..which is short hand for over the top…perhaps the most beautiful room on the planet….to sum up on one word, FLAWLESS…Charlotte joins me in saying bravo….love the reflection of Simon when the crates were being delivered…to both of you, job well done…now all that is lacking is the consumption of a mint julep delivered in your esteemed style.

  41. Thank you so much for sharing the progression and details. The mix of green with blue and cranberry is a feast for the eyes, as well as the mind. The energy here is very contagious! Safe travels for you!

  42. Again another stunning room!! I can’t wait to see the other rooms in your house. I am hoping you post more! Would you mind sharing who makes the beautiful stripe curtains, floral on the chairs and the pink on pillows? I love the color combination.
    Thank you Carolyne! Have a wonderful and relaxing trip.


  43. Stunning at first glance and I admire your taste and high standards. Statues should not be painted, and especiallly not green.

  44. What a wonderful room! Cannot wait to see your Paris inspirations next blog! Thankyou for all your photos of the process.Love the chalke green!Be well!

  45. This is one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen! Gorgeous! Just amazing. Such rich colors, and full of lovely details. Are you writing a book about the transformation of this house? I love seeing the process, and hearing about how you pulled it all together. Congratulations on a job well done! Thank you for always showcasing calm, beauty, and comfort in a chaotic world. And, for helping to keep exquisite craftsmanship alive. When I feel stressed out, I look at your books, and they help me feel calmer. Keep them coming…

  46. Carolyne – I imagine I’ve missed you (Paris, and all) – I just now got this post on Facebook. What away to spend a rainy Webster Groves day…….. amazed and in awe of this latest accomplishment. You are a visionary, an artist and truly a marvel. This room could make a grown woman cry. Looking at the ‘before’ picture I keep thinking….’Hey, a lot of people would think this was a pretty lovely room – maybe just some decorative refinement needed, but then would be fine.’. So glad there are people like you who can show us what more may be. Kim

  47. Carolyne, from your highly singluar vision to labored execution, what courage! A standing ovation! I keep returning now into the second day to examine your rich abundance of pictorial detail. I applaud your on-the-fly decision to go with the gold leaf, your eye knew what it wanted, and nothing less. I’m a designer of many decades, the only off note to my eye is the doggone brutality of the sunlight streaming through your windows, unwittingly turning your silk curtains to sheers, oh I ache for the fading that fabric will endure. Did the sun’s brutality come as a surprise as you went about the installation of the room? I’ve never executed client or personal work in chinoiserie, so am ignorant re the iconography of the genre, including the bows at the header rods of your windows. What moved you to forego a continuation of pagoda-inspired pelmets/valances around the rest of your room via the heads of your windows?

    • Hi Flo thank you for your comments -I am in Paris right now but will send a new post when i return to the states to answer some questions that people have had including your cr

  48. There is a book of the loveliest rooms in AMERICA from some time ago on my shelf. This could be cover and inside as there has never been a room I kept going back to the photographs as I have this. It does not have a close 2nd!
    Hope the White House and the State Department can call on you sometime.

    • Thank you Lynn—I believe my apartment is in that book so thank for the vote for the cover–cr from paris

  49. Carolyne,

    An absolutely exquisite room. I just love it. I got a chuckle out of Simon in one of the pictures ‘supervising’.

  50. If someone had told me they saw a room decorated with soft mossy green walls, gold painted chinoiserie, blue and white porcelain and hot pink accents and said it looked smashing, I would probably ask them what they were drinking! But it really does look divine!

    This is one of the most sophisticated color schemes I think I have ever seen. And boy, does it work. You must be the talk of Charleston with these rooms!

  51. So Beautiful it gave me goosebumps!!!! Love the pink with those beautiful, varying shades of green.

    Laura Hardy

  52. You are simply off the concept of the room. It is subtle and the details appear slowly and magically. It should not shout “I am a statue — look at me!” This is not a museum. The stunning black cabinet anchors the room and the fireplace transports us like a magic carpet to a different time, place, and style. The approach with the room is daring and it worked A+++++!

    • I beg to differ. It is by painting the statues that they scream, I am a statue look at me.

      The room does not transport like a magic carpet. It is too heavy, and it is indeed museum like, as it is for looking-at. It is stunning, but cold.

  53. Carolyne! It is absolutely stunning and sumptuous! You have REALLY been working hard but the end result proves it has all been worth it! xoxo

    mary t dial

  54. Hi Carolyne,

    The pale pink and lavender rooms are so, so beautiful too!! Would you mind sharing the pink fabric and stripe as well as the two lavender fabrics?
    Thank you so much!!


  55. Absolutely stunning!! I love everything you created and accomplished here. It is a room for YOU, Carolyn!

    The Arts by Karena New Feature

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