Denise Walsh of Donovan Walsh Designs, answers your Oriental design dilemmas.


Ask the Designer

To mark the Chinese New Year on Monday, interior designer Denise Walsh of Donovan Walsh Designs, answers your Oriental design dilemmas.

Q The Chinese believe that red is a lucky colour — but how can I use the daring hue in my home?

A. Of all the colours, red is definitely the most powerful — anyone who dares to wear Louboutin heels will agree! However, as artist Henri Mattise once said, ‘A certain red has an effect on your blood pressure’ — so use it carefully and sparingly! It’s safest to add a splash of red to your home with furniture or accessories — such as patterned red upholstery, a rug or throw cushions. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, consider an accent wall in a secondary room such as a dining room — which would look amazing with some gilded picture frames. For drama, use red to punctuate black or white. Alternatively, team it with shades of brown, orange or green.

Q. My girlfriend is Chinese and I want to surprise her with a traditional dinner to celebrate the New Year — what tableware would you recommend?

A. In Chinese culture, circles (representing heaven) and squares (representing earth) have deep symbolic meaning — so stick to tableware in these shapes such as round saki cups set on square bamboo table mats, set on a round table cloth or runner. Most cities here now have Asian markets where you can buy everything from chopsticks to chicken’s feet — try Oriental Treasures on Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork for authentic tableware. But you can also find Asian-inspired homeware in stores — such as John Rocha’s ‘Pico’ range for Debenhams. Giving red envelopes filled with coins is a custom for Chinese New Year, so why not add a handmade envelope filled with chocolate coins to each place setting.

Q. What is “Chinoiserie” style?

A. Basically, Chinoiserie is just a French term for ‘Chinese-esque’. Down through the years, European artists and designers have looked to traditional Chinese craftsmanship for inspiration for everything from ceramics to fabrics and furniture. In interior design, Chinoiserie is when the two cultures meet either in shape or decoration. Elegant and laid-back, it’s definitely a style that’s worth considering for your living room — watch for Geisha girl prints, lacquered furniture in dark wood, paper lanterns and earthenware vases. Next has a fabulous new home range for Spring called ‘Oriental Red’ that won’t break the bank.

Q. My bedroom is a cluttered mess that’s driving me mad — how can I master the Chinese art of feng shui?

A. Historically, feng shui was a system of using astrological patterns to promote a more positive life. It’s used to add balance to the home or workplace. To create a feng shui bedroom, your bed should be approachable from both sides and balanced with a bedside table on each side, good mattress and solid headboard. For the best flow of energy, close all doors at night and regularly open the windows or use an air purifier to keep the room full of oxygen. Remember to avoid aggressive artwork.

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