February 3rd saw us enter the Chinese Year of the Rabbit which according to some interpretations is a year when good taste and refinement shine on everything and people will acknowledge that persuasion is better than force. So we can remain ever optimistic!
The East has influence interiors from virtually the moment that trading routes opened, from the blue and white patterns that have become a staple of porcelain design to the Toile de Jouy wallpapers and fabrics beloved of Country House and French themed interior design.
I adore the opulent colours found in classic Chinese design which has a strong link to nature and natural beauty. Each colour has specific meaning and is thought to help influence the lives of those in the household.
Of particular importance is red which features heavily at New Year and also other key celebrations. Red symbolises fortune, happiness and joy. Not a bad thing to introduce to any home.
If you want to add some Oriental influence there are no shortage of options, but ensure that it is not a half-hearted effort. The key to success is a bold, imperial colour palette (including red, emerald, gold and black).
Fabrics and soft furnishings are vital to create a warm, welcoming environment. Comfort and feel are key so include soft finishes and silks. John Lewis stock a wonderful range of items in their Pip Studio Chinese Rose Range (from £20 - www.johnlewis.com; 0845 6049 049).
Choose a warm wallpaper such as Toile de Jouy Palais Chinoise from Osborne & Little (£52 per roll - www.osborneandlittle.com; 020 7352 1456) which is available in key red or emerald and has a shimmering background that reflects light in the room. Alternatively, consider the Willow wallpaper from B&Q in striking black, green or red (£12.48 per roll - www.diy.com; 0845 850 0175).
Dress the room with Chinese influenced painted panels which often feature stylised depictions on a strong single colour background. Landscapes are particularly good to add the important element of nature. Alternatively, add some imperial style in the shape of a pair of hand painted Ancestor portraits from Gong (£275 - www.gong.co.uk; 020 7370 7176).
May your year be filled with plenty of refinement and good taste!
Jamie Hempsall, BIID is an award winning Interior Designer. Contact him at www.jamiehempsall.com or on 0800 032 1180.