Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Magazine Club: The Chinoiserie Baby Shower

Some magazine features are not only worth clipping, they warrant discussion with other like-minded design-obsessed friends. For example, coverage of the chic and creative chinoiserie-themed baby shower hosted by Mary McDonald (House Beautiful, May 2005.)

Pictured in part above, the shower was really a dinner party for couples. Since the baby was a girl, McDonald opted to decorate with pink, navy and white. The navy and white kept the pink from being to saccharine, and perfectly complemented the designer's garden filled with blue-and-white Chinese export pottery.

McDonald designed the invitations using a photocopy of the Scalamandre print, Chi'en Dragon, to line the envelopes. Guests were asked only to bring a hardback copy of their favorite children's book for the new baby's library. Tucked inside the invitations were pretty bookplates on which guests could write a short personal note.

The entire feature can be viewed on Mary McDonald's site in the portfolio section.

Below, I've added an image of McDonald with her signature large-scale Chinese ceramics, as well as a room she once designed mixing the versatile blue-and-white ceramics with chocolate brown.

Blue Canton by Mottahedeh, as seen below, replicates the centuries old blue-and-white "Canton" ware, made mainly for Western markets, and named for the Chinese trading port from which it originally came. Available online, these reproduction Blue Canton dinner plates cost around $50 each. Wisteria also offers a great selection of reproduction Chinese pieces similar to those shown in the magazine feature.

If you're interested in collecting antique Chinese export ceramics, or just want to learn more, visit or Sultan's Lost Treasure.


Amy said...

you always have the most beautiful entries. i remember this story and i was most taken with the lining of the invitation envelope! tres chic indeed. i am a big fan of blue and white collections as well. it goes with absolutely everything in my book. from this beautiful baby pink to black black black. i do have to say i like a clear drinking glass. i think the blue ones are pretty but i like to see what i am drinking - purely my own wierdness. i look forward to hearing your thoughts at the end!

Anna said...

OMG, this is more beautiful than anything I have seen for a long time Courtney. You're not going to believe it but I am hosting a baby shower for one of my very close friends this weekend and this has inspired me. She is having a boy and I think I might just pull out all my blue and white china!! Thank you for inspiring me today. I love the way she has mixed pink, blue and white together. I just looked at her website, it is truly beautiful. So classic. You know, the old blue and white never goes out of fashion does it. You know I want to be part of your book club so count me in. Anna

ALL THE BEST said...

First, I love this idea! I think an online book club sounds wonderful. Of course I’m a nut for books, especially decorating and design books.

Mary McDonald’s chinoiserie-themed baby shower is such a nice and classy idea. I love great party themes and invitations. I’m a big believer in sending invitations!! I particularly like invitations that reflect personal style. I think all too often we forget the importance of sending out invitations, preferring to save them for ‘once in a lifetime’ events, such as a wedding or the birth of a child.

I recently hosted a baby shower for a friend who was expecting twins. Apparently baby showers are an American tradition and not common in the UK. In fact, superstition dictates that gifts are to be given for the celebration of the birth and not before a child is born. However, everyone was curious as to what an ‘American’ baby shower is like, so I hosted a ‘shower the mom-to-be with gifts’ luncheon. Everyone was asked to bring a gift for the mom (tea, candles, bath salts, essential oils, gift certificates, and promises for dinner).

It was a great and memorable afternoon.

Anna you’re right, the old blue and white never goes out of fashion. But classics seldom do.

Amy, on the colored glasses argument, I’m on both sides of the fence. I’ve taken many wine classes and I do truly appreciate the color, clarity and characteristics of wine. So…if it’s a nice bottle of wine I’ll always take a clear glass any day. That said, I have a HUGE collection of colored glasses I use for parties.

style court said...

Thanks for your kind words. I too absolutely love the envelope lining here -- totally sets the tone for the party. As "All The Best" said, invitations are so important.

Next, I agree about the versatility of blue and white. Kind of works as a neutral in a way -- works with apple green, orange, chocolate, everything.

Anna, what perfect timing! So glad I posted these images this week :)

Keep the comments coming.

style court said...

Also, to me the idea to make the shower a children's book shower was genius! How special to start the child off with a library of books hand-picked by close friends.

IzzyLu said...

These images are so beautiful. I am getting married in May and my colors are navy and pink. I never thought to use blue willow with pink. I have already called my mom to beg to use some of her pieces and I am going to start looking for additional items to add. Thank you so much for posting these photos, they are the perfect inspiration.

style court said...

Hi izzylu!

Your wedding sounds beautiful. I'm so glad these images were inspirational. Keep us posted on your plans.


Fairfax said...

Blue & white has been a classic combination for hundreds of years. Think of toile de jouy, blue willow and even the American flag. I have a friend who's adopting a child from China in the spring, and I think that the baby announcements I am designing for her will be based on blue & white.

I have a collection of blue & white china, mostly blue willow. But I combine it with some white with blue dots, and white and blue stripes to make the look pop!

pinkmohair said...

Courtney, I guess I missed your previous mention of an on-line book club. I would really like to be part of it. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to have a baby shower with hardback books. I also liked the fact that it wasn't just a bunch of women sitting around extolling the virtues of a "Boppy" or Gymini. I had 2 kids but never a baby shower - it makes me wistful...

All the girls who have left comments - you are all design and style inpspirations to me (including the hostess, of course) - I hope you will all contribue to Anna's and my new blog, to be announced tomorrow. We would love to incorporate some of your brilliance into my home!

style court said...

Sounds lovely. Keep us posted on your shower plans.

Anonymous said...

This is fabulous...and I am especially interested because I have a baby girl due at the end of March. I have nursery on the brain- and stylecourt, i ADORE your blog so so very much, and would love your opinion: thinking of using the Lulu DK's brown chant with Manuel Canovas bengale wallpaper and/or fabric, with some pink and brown solids...would this be too over the top for a small nursery? (i live in nyc- apartment). would love YOUR thoughts??

Elizabeth H. said...

I have Indigo Wave by Mottahedeh and I love it. Blue and white is such a great combination. I may have to get some Blue Canton pieces to mix in with it.

style court said...

Anon (mom-to-be)

Thanks so very much for your kind comment! I think your nursey sounds fabulous. Of course, I'm partial to pattern. Maybe others will have a few thoughts too. But to me chant in dark brown works with almost everything, and I do love the color scheme you described.

Thanks for sharing!

style court said...

Also I think small (or even teeny weeny) rooms usually look great enveloped in a bold pattern because of the gift-wrapped package or jewel box feel. But that's probably what you were thinking :)

Oh and congrats!

Anna said...

Courtney, I just had to come back to say that I love how everyone above has extended themselves in writing a long, detailed comment.

I am also so thrilled that you have posted today about this beautiful baby shower. I have made my decision and I am using my beautiful pale pink damask tablecloth with lots of my blue and white china plates and ginger jars filled with pink peonies and my mothers blue and white willow teaset mixed in with my pink Limoges teaset. I will take some photos for you. Thanks again for inspiring me. I just couldn't get it together in my head what I was doing for this party. I am usually such a party freak - fine invitations, fine china, beautiful napery, lots and lots of beautiful fresh flowers and everything imperfectly matching!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the inspiration. You're so wonderful!! Can't wait for your next bookclub topic. And by the looks of the comments above, I don't think I'm the only one enthusiastic about this Courtney!!


style court said...


Wow what enthusiasm! You should thank Mary McDonald for the inspiration, not me :) But I'm so glad this post came along at the right time, and I'm very anxious to see how it all comes together.

I know everyone is also anxious to view the upcoming contest results on Absolutely Besutiful Things!

Fairfax said...

Courtney... I think that Diana Vreeland once said "Pink is the navy blue of India". I think that pink, navy and white look great together.

style court said...

Oh yes Fairfax, that's true -- what perfect comment!