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Furniture Decoration

Furniture Decoration
China’s rich and complex history has provided inspiration for a vast array of decorative motifs. From the ornate red and gold palette traditionally associated with Chinese style to the serene Orientalism favoured on the international scene today, designers the world over are coming up with varied interpretations of centuries-old ideas. And no more so than in the East: a new breed of globally aware China-based designers is proving the driving force behind the development of the genre. Whereas once they looked Westwards, they are now turning their attention closer to home and drawing on their creative roots to produce a new vocabulary of design that is exciting, innovative and energetic – and draws heavily on Chinese style.
Here we feature a visual array of Chinese furniture of Ming and Qing dynasty and decorative ideas, from highly collectable antiques to modern minimal interpretations of Chinese style. Materials are diverse, but tend to favour the natural. It’s a veritable cornucopia of ideas: table, bed, chair, and so on.
Chinese Antique Furnitures & Miscellaneous Items Decoration Tips

Less is more when accessorizing a minimalist Oriental dcor. Ruminate on the grace and beauty of each piece. Carefully select them for elegant, dramatic, even artistic impact. Stand larger pieces alone so they make their own statement. Group together smaller pieces, like Chinese lacquered, miniature furniture.

Blue-and-white porcelain, red or black lacquer ware, painted mask, shadow puppet, bamboo-handled teapots, carved jade, boxes with mother of pearl inlay or stoneware pottery with painted imagery are common.

Some special items include Chinese bamboo wedding baskets, 18th-century chinoiserie, fan-shaped lacquered stacking boxes. Mirrors with ornately carved frames that hail from Burma or Bali and look almost Indian, are a fusion of colonial and native styles.


Don’t forget a sculpture or two, uplit for extra effect, such as a Lahu hill-tribe musical instrument, essentially a primitive harp. Choose also a cho-fa roof ornament on a pedestal or a Chinese netsuke, a carved belt toggle used to secure pouches through the sash of the kimono.

Screens can function as a backdrop to a statue if they are solid colored, laminated surfaces or simply designed. Or they can be accent pieces unto themselves if more elaborate. Consider the 18th-century carved-jade table screens or axonometric cityscape on an eight-paneled screen.

Wall Hangings

On walls, hang framed hand-made paper or, for higher style, the striking black brushstrokes of Chinese calligraphy. For drama, place an antique Chinese kimono or embroidered Chinese shawl.

Other Dcor

Enhance a calm aura by displaying a statue of Buddha, a vase with a lone plum or cherry blossom branch, a bonsai tree. Use Chinese “scholar” rocks ¨C a flat circular basket filled with pebbles, medium-sized rocks and one large rock.

Achieve balanced energy and promote good fortune with such feng shui artifacts. Try a pair of carved-wood mandarin ducks to enhance marriage prospects, fish for prosperity, and a small water fountain for luck.

Storage Cabinets
Oriental storage cabinets and chests are solid, rectangular forms with inventive detailing and workmanship. Designs include light-relief carvings of dragons chasing pearls or lacquered surfaces with asymmetrical designs of nature themes.

Artique Galleria
Certain Furnishings staff members appear to have become addicted to Antique Galleria near downtown Minneapolis lately, bursting into the office with news of their latest finds. It’s a fun place to shop: a panorama of breathtaking beauty, color, and form, full of alter tables, carved window panels, chairs, chests, decorative accessories like ginger jars, bowls, plates, vases, and more. Prices range from $10 to the thousands.

We asked co-owner Nora Rottier how they get all that great stuff. ¡°We import directly,¡± she tells us. ¡°We spend quite a bit of time in rural China, Tibet, Mongolia, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand. We’ve gotten to know lots of people and we’re always able to find out who wants to sell things. We develop good relationships; that’s important in Asia.¡±Direct importing is a conscious philosophy for Artique. ¡°We don’t buy at shows in Hong Kong, LA or Chicago, or even in the urban Asian markets,¡± Rottier comments. ¡°We take the time to work directly with people in their villages and homes so that we can purchase unique, high-quality items. Sometimes we’re amazed at what we come across-once in a while we’ll find a piece you’d only expect to see in a museum. Customers often comment on our unique selection and good prices; that’s the beauty of doing things this way.¡±

Direct importing also results in an assurance of authenticity; they always buy pieces in the original condition with the original hardware¨Cthey won’t consider anything that’s been worked on or restored. When pieces need cleaning or repair, the pair contracts with local craftspeople who are familiar with the techniques and materials before shipping to their Minneapolis or San Jose stores.

¡°Our wedding cabinets are especially popular,¡± Rottier notes. ¡°They’re hand painted or carved wood, and they’re quite dramatic and full of interesting hardware. Customers like them because they’re unusual but incredibly functional; they’ll often put TVs or stereos in them.

Some customers furnish their entire homes in Asian antiques; others add just one piece to add to otherwise Western-style rooms. Occasionally, store staff will go to clients’ homes to help them make smart selections. Rottier has noticed that people now consider it ¡®good design’ to have some kind of Asian piece in a home. She alerts her mailing list when new shipments arrive.Artique Galleria is located at 1607 Hennepin Avenue, across from the Basilica. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11-5 or by appointment; phone: 612-370-1332. View their online catalog at


We love antique stores run by people with a passion for their merchandise, retailers who can tell you everything, for example, about that table you’ve got your eye on: where it came from, who might have used it, the style, the period. They’ll remember it a year later when you call, frantic about a water stain. Don’t worry¨Cthey know what to do. They may even come out to your home to help you.

That’s how C.W. Smith is. The Asian antique import store in St. Louis Park is a family business owned by Wade and Carol Smith and daughter, Vanessa. They’ve created a warm, inviting, even peaceful environment within their storefront space, and their dedication to helping customers find and enjoy beautiful things is refreshing.
Their vintage merchandise, a range of wood and lacquer furniture, pottery, porcelain, textiles, artifacts and more, comes from all over Asia. The displays are great–they help spark ideas for how to use the pieces in your home. ¡°One of my favorite parts of this job is just being around all these pieces and enjoying them for what they are, and helping people understand the beauty of them,¡± notes Vanessa Smith.

Many of C.W. Smith’s antique furniture pieces are hewn of incredibly large, thick pieces of wood you just don’t see anymore. We especially loved the functional beauty of the British, Dutch and Portuguese Colonial furniture and the exquisite Chinese cabinets and Thai laquerware we recently saw there.

It’s the place to go if you’re a collector; the shop has some very impressive artifacts: one visit turned up artifacts from the Han dynasty (221 BC-220 AD), the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Chinese furniture from the late16th century. There are also more ¡°recent¡± Asian antiques¨Cfurniture and accessories of all kinds from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in many price ranges.

The Smiths are direct importers, frequently travelling to Asia. ¡°You really have to go and enmesh yourself in an environment if you want to discover beautiful objects. It takes time but that’s the joy of it,¡± Vanessa says.

C. W. Smith: 4424 Excelsior Boulevard, St. Louis Park. 952-922-8542. Open Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-4 or by appointment.

Fleming * Karst
What’s larger than a convenience store, smaller than a warehouse and full, from wall-to-wall, with 19th century Chinese antique furniture and furnishings. If you guessed anew store named Fleming * Karst you would be right. The store in downtown St. Paul features armoires, chests,chairs, dining tables, end tables, altar tables, headboards, screens, baskets, planters and a host of other antiques from mainland China.

The Fleming * Karst name comes from the two principals, Barb Fleming and Patt Karst, neighbors with a shared love of old and unique Asian furniture and accent
furnishings.Barb Fleming, recently back from a furniture buying trip in China, explains. ¡°These Asian pieces can be any furniture item from a simple basket that might sit on a table to a full size armoire in a hallway or living room. They can be altar tables, side chairs or even an ornate storage box or trunk that decorators and homeowners may use as a coffee table. The pieces were originally designed to be utilitarian and functional. Today we can adapt them to both enhance a decorative styling and to provide 21st century needs.¡±

¡°The uses are many and varied,¡± adds Patt Karst. Patt Karst, a professional interior designer, believes that home interiors are ¡°most interesting when they reflect the cultural variety we find all around us. A 19th century Chinese altar table in an entryway, for example, is a fascinating introduction to a home that promises guests an international flavor throughout the rest of the interior.¡±

Does this mean we should dedicate our entire house to 19th century Asia? Not really, say the two women. The antique Asian pieces are intended as ¡°accent¡± furniture. As such, they create a focus of international interest within any decorating theme from Victorian to Contemporary. Barb Fleming, who developed her appreciation of antique furniture while living in Great Britain, has been working with antique Asian pieces for the past 5 years. Patt Karst, who has also traveled in China, joined Barb Fleming about 6 months ago and the two now oversee what must be the largest antique Asian furniture store the Twin Cities area.

The new 2,500 sq. ft. store in Lowertown offers decorators and home owners a chance to see a personally selected shipment ¡ª from ornate and high color chests and armoires to ¡°half moon¡± tables, traveling chests, screens, wash stands and canopy beds. Several pieces are well suited to present generation use such as the armoires and cabinets which have been modified to house TV sets, hold entertainment centers and internally arranged for other storage duties.

The notion that each piece is personally selected comes about through the help of an Asian associate who evaluates the pieces for authenticity and general condition. Then the staff at Fleming * Karst reviews each potential piece. Often that review entails a trip to the Orient. Carefully selected furniture items now available include Asian furniture and specialty items in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and wood finishes.Fleming * Karst also offers a fine selection of accessories that are ideal for gifts and special occasions.

The Mysterious Beauty of Black Lacquer The new Fleming * Karst store is located at 180 E. Fifth St., Suite 180 in Lowertown, Downtown St. Paul. The exterior entrance is on Jackson St. between 4th and 5th. Store hours are M-F: 10-8, Sat: 10-6 and Sun: 11-5. Phone number is 651-292-9900.

Mysterious beauty of black lacquer – antique Chinese black lacquer furniture .

Black lacquer has fascinated the Chinese since antiquity. Having the yin characteristics of dark and mysterious, black belongs to the Five Colors and is directly associated with Water, one of the Five Elements. People have always considered it sophisticated and stylish, and have appreciated the high levels of craftsmanship involved in its manufacture.

Practically speaking, raw lacquer, which is tapped from the lacquer tree (Rhus Verniciflua), typically has a dark reddish-brown to black tone. With further processing, a transparent lacquer can be produced; more common was pigmentation with iron oxide to achieve tonalities reaching jet black. Thin successive applications of lacquer form a rich, deep-toned coating that is highly resilient and impervious to water. Inlaid or painted decoration was also easily added to its surface. The finely crackled surfaces and richly mellowed tones of such finishes have been a subject of connoisseurship for centuries. Now, black lacquer furniture is “the next big thing” in antique-collecting and interior design. It has a modern, stylish look, a clean finish and a strong silhouette, so it blends perfectly with modern interiors. Also, if a collector wants to start a collection today, there are still some excellent pieces available, and they will only appreciate in value.

Techniques commonly used in black lacquer antique chinese furniture include daqi, referring to the thick finishes applied over a lacquer paste undercoating; tuiqi, a thinner finish applied directly to the surface of the wood, and miaojin (lit. “traced in gold”), involving the application of colored lacquers with gold highlights to depict painterly scenes against an opaque – often black lacquer background.

The following pieces exhibit all of these techniques, displaying the mysterious beauty of black lacquer

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