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24 Sep 2015

Chinese Carved Wooden Panels

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

As you know, we’re big fans of the antique carved wooden panels that we source in China and sell online and in our showroom. Our customers generally buy these intricately carved panels as unusual wall art, but in this post, we want to share a little of the history of these pieces, and look at how they would have been used in a traditional Chinese home.

A little background to Chinese wooden architecture

A fundamental achievement of Chinese wooden architecture is the load-bearing timber frame, a network of interlocking wooden supports forming the skeleton of the building. This is considered China’s major contribution to worldwide architectural technology.

Unlike western architecture, in ancient Chinese wooden architecture, the wall only defined an enclosure, and did not form a load-bearing element. Buildings in China have been supported by wooden frames for as long as seven millennia. The emergence of the characteristic wooden Chinese frame emerged during the Neolithic period. Seven thousand years ago mortise and tenon joinery was used to build wood-framed houses. (The oldest are at Hemudu site at Zhejiang). Over a thousand of these sites have been identified, usually with circular, square or oblong shaped buildings. During the Yangshao culture in the Middle Neolithic, circular and rectangular semi-subterranean structures are found with wooden beams and columns. Wooden beams or earth supported the roofs which were most likely thatched.

wooden panel

A major feature of Chinese homes were the carved wooden lattice panels either used as room dividers or internal and external window covers (like the more modern shutters). It’s this type of piece that you will find in the collection at Shimu –  in a modern home they are a great way to add interest to any interior wall space.

For example, the carved wooden panel on the left was once part of the interior of a Chinese house in Shanxi province, but today would make an interesting decorative element hung on a wall, or could even be fitted with glass to create an unusual mirror.Pair of wooden panels

The pair of wooden panels on the right date from 1900 and would once have formed part of an internal dividing wall in another Shanxi home. The central lattice panels are made with mortise and tenon joints, still secured with the original nails.

Yin Yu Tang at the Peabody Essex Museum

At the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, the amazing spectacle of a 200 year old Chinese house can be viewed. Named ‘Yin Yu Tang’, the Huang family ancestral home was brought to America and reassembled. Looking around the house, either by taking the interactive online tour or in person, allows a rare perspective on Chinese art, architecture, and culture.

The house was built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by Huang, a prosperous merchant. It was a stately sixteen-bedroom house in China’s southeastern Huizhou region.Chinese house

The house was oriented in the village according to principles of feng shui to ensure a harmonious relationship with the landscape and was constructed according to local building traditions and customs. Coins were placed under structural columns to bring prosperity to the home’s inhabitants. The first floor bedrooms have intricately carved lattice windows that look out onto two fish pools in the central courtyard. These details tell as much about the aspirations, identity, and creative expression of the Huang family as they do about the architectural heritage of the region.

The family’s well-documented genealogy and the accumulation of furnishings passed down through eight generations offer the opportunity to understand historical changes in China as they affect individuals in their daily lives and cultures on a global scale. If you ever get the chance to visit Massachusetts, we’d strongly recommend a visit to the Peabody Museum to see Yin Yu Tang – it’s certainly on our bucket list!

For now, why not visit the Shimu website for a stunning selection of antique wooden panels and screens sourced from across China. All are made with great craftsmanship and would make a beautiful talking point in any modern home.


11 Sep 2015

Feasting for the Moon Festival

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

The Chinese Mid-Autumn or ‘Moon’ Festival is traditionally celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month , so this year will take place on Sunday 27th September. The Mid-Autumn festival is the second most important festival after the Spring Festival, and this is recognised with a two day public holiday.


The full moon is a symbol of peace, prosperity and family reunion. The moon is supposed to at its brightest and fullest on the night of the festival. The tradition is for people to return home from wherever they are in China or the wider world to eat with their their family, admire the full moon and eat mooncakes.

Mooncakes are traditional Chinese pastries, made of wheat flour and usually with a sweet stuffing. However, they are made in many different flavours and each region has a different style. Fillings depend on local eating culture and tradition. The most popular variations include Cantonese, Suzhou, Beijing, Chaoshan and Ningbo, and modern moon cake flavours include green tea and ice cream.

The moon cake is a symbol of family reunion, and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal to the number of family members.

Mooncakes are named after the moon goddess and in ancient times, were a kind of offering to the moon. In Chinese culture, roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness. A full moon symbolizes prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Round mooncakes complement the harvest moon in the night sky.

The mooncake is not just a food, but a profound cultural tradition held deep in the hearts of many Chinese. During Mid-Autumn Festival, people eat mooncakes together with family, or present mooncakes to relatives or friends to express love and best wishes.

Other delicaies which are traditionally eaten during th festival are pumpkin (for good health), river snails (to brighten eyes), wine fermented with osmanthus flowers (for a happy life), duck and hairy crab. To find out more about these Mid-Autumn Festival culinary delights, visit this page on the China Highlights website. In the meantime, we wish you a happy Moon Festival, however you choose to celebrate it.


28 Aug 2015

Coastal chic for your home

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

We may dream of living by the coast – fresh sea air, long walks on the beach, sound of the waves – and for most of us it is a world away from our fastpaced everyday lives.

But forget relocation, why not just bring a bit of the seaside into your home?

Zen matters

Encourage relaxation by embracing and reflecting natural surroundings. Evoke the undulations of sea and sand by choosing furniture with curved edges, like chairs with horseshoe backs, circular mirrors and round tables.

Antique horseshoe chairs from Shimu with gently curved backs

Antique horseshoe chairs from Shimu with gently curved backs

See your home as one calm and flowing space, with the eye easily moving from room to room, mimicking the constant motion of the tide.

Let in the light

Consider these key elements when creating your space. Think about how it feels to be beside the sea and the emotion that evokes within you.

Visualise that special kind of light you only get by the water… Now consider your home, and use the light sources you have to recreate those big skies. Position key pieces of furniture near windows so the space is flooded with light from sunrise to sunset. Accessorise with glass pieces and mirrors so light can reflect and illuminate. Glass panels in doors are also a nice trick to boost whatever natural light you have. Keep window coverings delicate, perhaps using voile or cotton.

Steer clear of too much polish, clutter and fussy detail. By keeping furniture to a minimum and including pieces that let light through, such as slatted or rattan chairs, you will boost a room’s sense of space.

Blue green ceramic jars evoke the sea and sky

Blue green ceramic jars evoke the sea and sky

There’s something enchanting about a completely white room; it has an immediate calming effect. Only a hint of colour is required: try accents in classic coastal shades of blue and turquoise to bring the space alive whilst also giving a subtle nod to sea and sky.

White-painted tongue and groove cladding instantly evokes the seaside. Use it on walls throughout your home, not just the bathroom.

To give a sun-baked look to floorboards, shelves and table tops, limewash the boards, or try the Scandinavian ‘white lye soap’ treatment: after sanding, apply caustic soda to open the grain then use  white lye soap to bleach the wood and give it a beautiful chalky finish.

Bring the outside in

Bring warmth to your scheme with natural textures, for example, a coffee table made from reclaimed elm evokes driftwood strewn on the beach. For soft furnishings, choose natural fabrics like cotton, linen and jute in neutral colours and touchable textures.

Coffee table from Shimu's Chinese Country collection handcrafted from reclaimed elm.

Coffee table from Shimu’s Chinese Country collection handcrafted from reclaimed elm.

Shells and coral collected from the beach make wonderful ornaments and bring back memories of happy times. Pieces fashioned from driftwood like candle holders and mirrors are perfect.

Try using everday items you would normally find outside to give a subtle hint of beach life. A vintage deckchair in the bathroom, a white-painted folding garden chair at a desk, an antique tennis racket on the wall or a aged zinc bucket as a bin.

To avoid the beach house clichés, mix new with old, high street with antique, natural with gloss. Let your personality shine through and who knows, your own unique take on coastal chic could refresh you as much as a fortnight in the sun!


23 Jul 2015

Restoring and revamping old furniture

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

If you have an unloved piece of furniture which needs attention, there is much to consider before embarking on the process of restoration. A valuable piece requires a careful approach, whereas a junk shop find can be treated with less reverence.

Consider these points before you begin:

– Is your piece out of the ordinary? Is it a masterpiece or classic example of craftsmanship? Make sure any restoration won’t diminish the value of your furniture.

– Was your furniture made by a notable craftsman or manufacturer, regardless of age? Look for any marks or labels that might indicate the origin on the bottom or back of the piece.

– Would it be more practical just to give the piece a good clean and make minor repairs?

What to consider before you start a restoration project

Anyone who’s watched Antiques Roadshow knows how poor restoration can affect value. But we’ve also seen success stories where unloved pieces were restored to their former glory.

Take some time to inspect the furniture for any labels or marks that might help you identify its origin. Look at the overall quality of the wood and craftsmanship, including any carvings. If it turns out to be a potentially valuable item, do no more than clean it. Any repairs on a piece like this should be left to a professional.

When embarking on cleaning, watch out for a hand-painted finish which resembles wood – some techniques rely on painting lesser woods to look like tiger oak or bird’s eye maple, for example, and those techniques add value when they stay intact over time.

Even if you are confident the piece isn’t a rare antique, it’s still best to be cautious. Start by cleaning drawers, cracks and crevices of accumulated debris and giving it a good dusting. Most collectors value an original finish and a patina (which translates into dirt and wear that builds up over time) that makes an item look old. Sometimes just a good clean and a little glue in the joints will be all that’s needed.

In many cases, you can bring an old piece of furniture back to life with minimal effort. Just be confident of what you are working on and its potential value before you begin.

What does ‘restoration’ mean?

It’s generally better to restore a piece to its original state rather than totally change it or haphazardly patch it up. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and at Shimu, we sell a mix of carefully restored antiques and others which have been refashioned for a modern home.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.44.31

Above is a painted sideboard from our collection of antiques in good original condition. The old red lacquer is now worn and less bright than when first applied but well preserved. The beautifully detailed paintings of flower vases, brush pots and bronzes on the doors are still very clear, each set against a cream background that is framed in blue, orange and black.

Sometimes we alter the finish of an antique piece, perhaps stripping it back to original wood or giving it a new lease of life with a bright lacquer. Below on the right is a cabinet which we’ve refinished in a deep red lacquer and added a practical interior shelf.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 11.01.37

The distressed ‘shabby chic’ look is very popular with our customers and this can be a relatively straightforward finish to achieve at home.

DIY ‘shabby chic’

To achieve this look at home, start by prepping the surfaces to be painted. Remove any handles, hinges or metalwork, then strip off the paint or varnish with sandpaper or Nitromors.

Once stripped and sanded, get rid of any dust by wiping down with warm water and allow to dry. Next, consider whether you need primer, and if the piece is in good condition, apply two coats of paint instead of primer. For the ‘shabby chic’ look, oil-based eggshells are ideal as a water-based paint won’t sand well. When applying paint always go in the direction of the grain, keeping minimal paint on the paintbrush and applying in ultra thin layers. Allow each layer of paint to dry properly before adding the next.

Avoid painting outside on a sunny day as bugs find the gleam of fresh wet paint irresistible. Once they’ve landed they won’t come off without leaving marks. Keep hairy pets away for the same reason.

Leave the piece to dry for a minimum of 24 hours before distressing. Now comes the creative part! The amount of ‘ageing’ you apply is entirely up to you. Highlight areas where wear and tear would occur, for example on raised areas, edges and around drawers. Use 180 grit sandpaper – the trick is to sand in one direction repeatedly. Once you’re happy with the finish, either leave as is or add a coat of beeswax or varnish. This will help protect the wood, but apply sparingly as an overly shiny varnish will not look authentic.

10 Jul 2015

The tricky business of wedding gift-buying etiquette

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

The wedding season is upon us. You have the hat, but what about the gift? And what do you get the couple who already has everything? They have been together for years and certainly have no need for another dinner service or a pair of crystal swans.

Buying the right gift can be a headache. In years gone by, things were simpler, with a department store list to which you had to strictly adhere, or risk being crossed off the happy couple’s Christmas card list forever.

Turning up with a random present is generally frowned upon these days. Almost half of guests are now asked to donate hard cash in place of gifts. But what will that cash to be used for? Some couples choose a charity that is close to their hearts, but more likely, the funds will be used to contribute to a dream honeymoon or a flat screen TV.

After much research, we’ve come up with ten top tips for wedding gift buying:

Buddha head

Bronze Buddha head

1. If you’re invited to the wedding ceremony, you should always give the bride and groom a gift (and please stick to the list!) Reception only? A bottle of fizz will do.

2. What if the bride and groom specify ‘no gifts’?  Dilemma: did they really mean it? If in doubt, make a generous donation to charity (and be sure to let the happy couple know), or give gift vouchers for a popular store (in our experience, M&S vouchers are always gratefully received).

3. We know attending a wedding costs a lot, but buying a new outfit, travelling to Portsmouth and staying overnight in a Travelodge does not count as a gift. Be flattered you were invited (and choose the cheapest thing on the gift list).

5. But really, how much should you spend on a gift? Ultimately, you should give what you can afford, but a recent poll suggested the average spend should be between £40 and £59.

6. To save hassle for the bride and groom, consider giving the pressie a few days before the wedding. If it’s not too large, bring it with you, but never give it after the big day.

7. Are you the bride and groom? Always send thank you notes within three months.…

8. If you didn’t receive a gift from the about-to-be-weds when you got married, do you really have to give them a gift? Unfortunately the answer is yes.

9. Even if the event is a second marriage or renewal of vows, you should still bring a gift.

10. If the bride jilts the groom at the altar, or vice versa, should the gift be returned? If you’ve chosen your gift well, you won’t want to part with it (and hopefully no one will ever notice).

We have gifts galore for discerning guests at, ranging from embroidered cushions starting at under £20, right up to a gorgeous antique wedding cabinet at almost £2,000. Be inspired, but please, remember the rules!

Some of the embroidered cushions available at our website from £20

Some of the embroidered cushions available at our website from £20

25 Jun 2015

Our pick of the Chinese antiques arriving next week

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

We have another container from Beijing due to arrive with us next week, chock full of Chinese antiques and accessories for the home that I selected during my last visit back in April.

Most of these pieces have been up on our website for a while so you can already view and order your favourites, but we will be busy over the coming weeks photographing an extra dozen or so antiques off this container that weren’t photographed in China so look out for these soon. They include several beautiful elm and walnut consoles as well as some quite rare red lacquer Shanxi cabinets, all from a new supplier I came across in Beijing quite recently.

Along with furniture we will be taking delivery of the new wall art (some lovely new Chinese ancestor paintings and Tibetan art), stoneware, bronzes and carved wooden figures that I also chose during my trip in April.

With the new container nearly here I thought this would be a good time to pick out just one or two of my own picks – the more unusual or special items of furniture that will be arriving next week.

First of these is an old two door cabinet from Shanxi province, with a wonderfully carved heavy base and old brass hardware. For reasons I’m never entirely sure of, this type of piece is referred to these days as a ‘book cabinet’, even though it’s purpose originally would have been for more general storage in a bedroom or reception area. The cabinet would once have been one of a pair, with each one being made to sit on top of a matching, much larger cabinet to form a tall storage unit.

The upper part of the cabinet is quite simple in style, with recessed door panels, beading around the frames and traditional wooden dowel hinges. The base though, is decorated with wonderful deep relief carvings. The central recessed panel is made up of an intricate geometric pattern that includes seven swastikas – an auspicious symbol in both Buddhism and Chinese Taoism for good fortune and prosperity.

We have sold a few similar cabinets in the past and have a similar one in black lacquer also available right now, but the original red colour, brass handles and detailed carvings make this cabinet one of my favourites.

Also arriving next week is another cabinet that really stood out for me when I was over in Beijing. This one is a large sideboard from Gansu province in the west of China and what’s special in this case are the wonderful, original thick red lacquer and old paintings. The cabinet has been restored with a new shellac finish and adapted for use as a modern sideboard, but still retains all of its old character.

Originally the doors at either side of the central drawers would have been fixed panels, with the areas inside accesed by removing a half board lid in the top. Unusually, the restorer has kept the half boards intact rather than sealing them – something I think is a nice nod to the furniture’s original purpose and which adds extra charm.

The paintings on each door show detailed landscapes of mountains and trees, with figures picked out in the centre. I love the way that the once bright colours have been toned down with age, so that the soft cream background and darker colours of the mountains contrast beautifully with the deep red that surrounds them.

You’ll also notice futher paintings in monochrome on the central part of the cabinet, below the central drawer. Between this drawer and the two smaller ones above are the traces left in the lacquer by the old, heavy circular lock plate that would have been used to secure this part of the cabinet. You’ll also see the ring hardware above each door that once allowed the half board lids to be locked in place.

As a statement piece in a modern home you’re unlikely to find anything finer than this and the sideboard’s size and proportions make it ideal either as a dining room buffet or as an impressive stand for a large TV.

With this particular container due in we are already looking to ship the next – we’re just finalising the last few antiques to ship along with a few new reproduction pieces from a couple of our regular suppliers in Beijing. I’m hoping we’ll have photos of most of this new selection soon so look out for these in the ‘new arrivals‘ part of our website over the coming weeks!


12 Jun 2015

Raku and antiques in the home of ceramicist David Roberts

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

David and his home

Recently we were lucky enough to visit the Yorkshire home of renowned ceramicist David Roberts, after he bought several pieces from our collection of Chinese antiques.

David is considered one of the most significant ceramic artists working in Europe today, with an international reputation as a leading practitioner in Raku ceramics. Raku is a pottery technique for small vessels which originated in the tea ceremonies of late sixteenth-century Japan. David is acknowledged as responsible for the introduction and promotion of modern, large scale Raku in Europe. A book by Lynn Green, ‘Painting with Smoke’, is devoted to his technique and his work is represented in public and private collections throughout the world.

As you can imagine, we were thrilled when David got in touch to discuss the purchase of antique furniture which could be used to display his work.

David lives in a beautiful stone barn in Holmfirth which he converted himself and which acts as both a home, studio and gallery space. As it’s in a conservation area, he was very limited as to what he could do with the exterior, which retains a traditional feel in old Yorkshire stone. However, once you step inside, it’s like entering a different world. The interior space is light and contemporary and employs clever use of Japanese-style sliding screens to compartmentalise areas and create rooms within rooms. The interior style of the house chimes beautifully with the Japanese heritage of David’s Raku pottery.

The Chinese antiques David chose act as a perfect foil to the delicacy of his ceramic art. Below you can see the beautiful Mongolian altar table with its intricate carving around the apron, designed to resemble bamboo. The table would originally have been used for offerings to ancestors, with the distinctive raised ‘flanges’ at each end of the table top denoting its religious use, but now makes a perfect display platform for David’s work.

Mongolian console

Antique Mongolian Altar Table

The beautiful carved cabinet purchased by David has a long history. Made from elm and at least 200 years old, it is a lovely example of the furniture produced in Shaanxi province in north central China, where the ancient Chinese capital of Xian is located. The ornate carvings on the two drawers, apron and on the spandrels that taper down to the feet, are very distinctive of furniture from that region.

Shaanxi cabinet

Carved Shaanxi Cabinet

The final two pieces chosen for David’s home were the beautiful and surprisingly modern-looking red lacquer console on the left; and the stunning painted temple cabinet on the right.

Red lacquer console

Red Lacquer Console

Temple cabinet

Temple Cabinet

The console originates from Shanxi province, and has been refinished in a rich, distressed red lacquer. Almost art deco in style, it works beautifully in the bright, contemporary space and draws the eye down to the final antique that David bought from us – the brightly decorated cabinet that fits snugly into an alcove at the end of the hallway. This piece is fron Gansu and still has its old paintings showing flowers around a central good luck symbol, as well as three bats – also symbolising good fortune.

David’s home is a perfect demonstration of how Oriental antiques can complement a contemporary home. I’m sure you’ll agree that the pared down Japanese aesthetic of the interior beautifully showcases both his ceramic art and the antique furniture on which it is displayed.


1 Jun 2015

Flowers in Chinese culture

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

Flowers are a recurring theme in Chinese culture. Found in art and poetry, painted onto silk, carved into furniture, stitched into textiles, each bloom has its own meaning and symbolism. In the photograph below, a wall is papered with hand-painted silk wallpaper. The detail in the paintings, depicting flowers, birds and butterflies, is absolutely exquisite.

The symbolism of a flower is often based on its pronunciation’s similarity to another word. For example, lilies are popular at weddings as the word for ‘lily’ sounds like part of a famous proverb describing a ‘happy union for one hundred years’.

Orchids are another popular flower at Chinese weddings, as they symbolise love, wealth and fortune. They are also emblematic of fertility. Orchids have been loved by Chinese scholars since ancient times, and represent integrity, nobility and friendship, all considered the virtues of a perfectly cultured gentleman. The philosopher Confucius compared the orchid to a virtuous man.

Flowers represent each of the seasons, with iris and magnolia for spring, peony and lotus for summer, chrysanthemum for autumn and plum for winter. Plum blossom represents the value of endurance – as a famous traditional poem says: “the fragrance of plum blossom comes from bitterness and coldness.”

The peony is considered by many to be the country’s national flower and even has a festival dedicated to it. The peony symbolises riches, prosperity and honour. In art, it is also used as a metaphor for female beauty and reproduction. Pictured in full bloom, it symbolises peace. Vases and other ornaments are often decorated with peonies: the peony acts as an amulet, believed to bring good luck and happy feelings. Our peony vase in red resin and lacquer is pictured right. 


The daffodil or narcissus is native to China and is known as ‘the water goddess.’ The flower is said to have the ability to rout out evil spirits.

In Feng Shui, flowers are used to bring good fortune and success in the home. Healthy flowering plants manifest good Chi (or energy). It’s said that as the flower blooms, so does the intellect and spirit.

Chrysanthemums would be an excellent gift when visiting a home (but not white ones, as they represent death) and are used by Buddhists as offerings on the altars. They are thought to bring powerful Yang energy and attract good luck to a house.

If you love the symbolism of flowers, you’ll find audacious florals blossoming across our website. From antique cabinets painted with delicately faded florals to striking silk wallpaper adorned with cherry blossom, there are blooms to suit all tastes. You can also see more of the florals which inspire us on our Blooms Pinterest board.

15 May 2015

Real-life boho style

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

We are big fans of boho chic at Shimu and we think our furniture, particularly some of the more unusual antiques, perfectly suit this relaxed, colourful aesthetic. Our customers obviously feel the same, and today on the blog we showcase the boho style of some real-life Shimu customers.

Boho is colourful, eclectic and highly personal. It’s a look associated with the 70s – with tie-dye and macramé – but the original Bohemians sprung up in France centuries before peace signs and flower power. Boho has inspired fashion and interiors since the late sixties and has never gone out of style.

Boho is an invitation to kick off your shoes and relax, to luxuriate in pattern, texture and colour. Textiles play an important role in the boho look and ethnic details feature strongly. Furniture is relaxed and careworn – distressed pieces with faded layers of colourful paint really suit the boho vibe. Accessories are quirky and fun, often antique.

We have two great examples of boho living – one a hotel by the highly regarded interior designer David Carter, and another a family home in Baildon, West Yorkshire, owned by Pippa Hamilton. Both David and Pippa are longstanding customers of Shimu and both – although totally different in their approach – show a real flair for relaxed boho style.

David is a highly influential interior designer who creates stunning interiors for clients around the world. His bijou hotel in East London, 40 Winks, was called ‘the most beautiful small hotel in the world’ by German Vogue. We created the the bespoke wooden window panels pictured above and below, and provided Oriental antiques for this flamboyant hotel.

David is a passionate exponent of a ‘grand’ design. Never bland or predictable, his work is driven by strong ideas and a conviction that a successful interior should reach out and touch our emotions.

Pippa Hamilton’s Baildon home is a more informal affair, with Chinese and Asian antiques bought from Shimu over a number of years. When we moved to our old showroom in nearby Saltaire over seven years ago, Pippa was one of the first customers through the door, and fell in love with a beautiful carved cabinet from Shaanxi province. This now takes pride of place in her main bedroom. Since then she has added to her collection with painted grain chests from Gansu and Mongolia, including the pieces shown below. She uses textiles – rugs, throws and wall hangings – to great effect and has created a gorgeously cosy family home.

Both David’s glamorous hotel and Pippa’s cosy rural home are perfect examples of how boho can work in a real-life setting. In our next blog post, we’ll feature pieces from the Shimu collection to help you achieve boho style in your own home.

29 Apr 2015

Feeling Blue

Posted by James Cottrell. No Comments

As you know, we’re currently in love with the colour blue. Our new Beijing Blue collection is the focus of our devotion – handcrafted from chunky reclaimed pine with distressed powder blue doors, each piece is totally unique. In this blog post, we thought we’d find out more about the colour blue and in particular, about its meanings in Chinese tradition and culture.

So, what about blue? It’s the colour of Earth’s largest creature, mosquitos love it, and Joni Mitchell wrote a song about it. It’s the colour of the sky, the sea and if you paint a room it, you’ll be more productive. We talk about ‘feeling blue’ or things happening ‘once in a blue moon’, and a ‘bolt from the blue’.

Although there is now a separate word for ‘blue’ (蓝) in Chinese, it was traditionally grouped with green under the name ‘qing’, whose character (青) derives from the idea of sprouting plant life. The traditional Five Elements Theory classes black, red, ‘qing’, white and yellow as the standard colours, corresponding to the five elements of water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Before the Five Elements Theory, there were only two colours: the opposing yet complementary shades of black and white – yin and yang.

Blue is a colour of mixed meaning in China. Traditionally, some family members wear blue to funerals in China, in the same way that the western world wears black. Generally though, blue is seen to represent nature and renewal, and demonstrates vitality. It’s the colour of spring, and represents vigour and growth. Even during funerals, blue is not seen as a colour of mourning because many Chinese believe that the body is just moving onto a different state.

‘Qing’ is closely linked to historical buildings and clothing, like qing bricks, and qing pattern porcelain. Antique blue and white Oriental porcelain has been highly prized in the West since the 17th century and commands great prices at auction.

In Feng Shui, decorating in blue will bring longevity and harmony. Blue establishes calm, and as it’s the colour of sky and sea, it gives a sense of vastness. Decorators who are feeling depressed should avoid this colour, as should those who feel the need to be more sociable. If you want to generate increased income, incorporating blue can stimulate wealth. Blue colours are said to bring water energy into your home, and money into your life. Simply painting your front door a rich blue (but only if your home faces southeast, north, east, or southwest) will help to start the flow of wealth into your home.

Blue stands for healing, relaxation, exploration, trust, calmness and immortality. Perhaps we all need a little more blue in our lives?

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