Painting a chinoiserie nursery - the entire process

Painting a chinoiserie nursery - the entire process

Welcome To My Very First Blog Post!

I really like the idea of connecting with my audience in a more personal way. So I thought I would talk you through the process behind this Chinoiserie room I painted for my new baby, including my thoughts, inspiration and techniques, even my pitfalls and how I fixed them!

I hope you love the room as much as we do!

SO! Let Me Get Started With My First Post - How I Transformed A Dark, Dreary Room Into A Chinoiserie Paradise For My New Born Baby.

blue chinoiserie nursey with hand painted wall mural

Thats my baby above, wee Bonnie. The name Bonnie taken from my Scottish heritage, (I'm half Scottish, half Jamaican) my Granny always called me a Bonnie wee lassie, so it seemed fitting to pass onto my newest love. Above, she is a year old, I started planning her nursery room when she was new that's an entire year in the making!

Before I Get Into How I Did It, Lets Take A Look At The Final Result......

Chinoiserie nursery by Diane Hill
Chinoiserie nursery by Diane Hill

Bonnie Adores The Room, With Flying Birds And Butterflies There Is Always Something To Look At, It's Her Little Haven.

Now let me show you what the room looked like before! It was a tired and damp box room in need of serious TLC. And wow did we work hard! Not just us, but our family and friends. If you've ever removed old rice filled wallpaper, then you will know the struggles!


The first stage in my design process was to sketch the layout. The design was inspired by antique Chinese silk wallpapers. I studied the painting style and basic elements, but gave them a modern uplift with vibrant colours, clean lines and a more open composition.
Check Out Some Inspirational 18th Century Chinese Wallpapers.
Click the image below to see more Chinese wallpaper in National Trust houses. And why not take a visit, trust me you won't be disappointed!


As this was my first mural project, I was slightly nervous about how the design would look in the room. I wanted to ensure the design was carefully placed so that the most beautiful areas were visible immediately as you walk in the room. So I turned my sketch into these 3D visualisations, which helped me to get a truer sense of the final result.

Choosing Colours...My Favourite Part!

The next stage was to decide the colours. I am very passionate about colour, I agonise over choosing the right colour combinations, this part can often take the longest of all. I always paint a sample and keep it with me throughout the process.
For this mural project I knew I wanted bright vivid colours that sing, but I also didn't want it to feel over the top. It needed to be liveable, not too wild and wacky! So I balanced the bright flower colours with slightly more subdued leaf tones, like the ones at the bottom of the sample below.

Colours Finalised, Plan Sketched.....Let Me Take You Through Each Step!

Very Light Pencil Sketch On The Wall

The black and white miniature drawing is followed very accurately. I have the design next to me on my computer so that I can easily measure exactly where each element starts and finishes. This is a very important step, if the design is not drawn accurately at this stage, then the outcome will not be as the client (Baby Bonnie!) expected.

Paint In Background Layers

In this design, the bamboo forms a background and is the first element to be painted.

Leaves Come Next

It is more economical to paint each element in batches.

Adding In Finer Foreground Details

This is where things get interesting and the design starts to form a pretty picture. I am obsessed with details, my aim is for people to want to look up close at the design and if they don't say 'wow'..... then I know I've failed! The Chinese peacock took a full day to paint, I just kept going with the fine detail until I knew i'd got that 'wow factor'!

Diane Hill chinoiserie nursery


When working on a background that is darker than my painted design, I start by painting a layer of white, that way the colours really pop! I then paint a layer of lighter colour, here it was a light pink, then on top of that I add deeper shades. The shading is the hardest part, and is what gives my murals a luxury, high end feeling.

I was trained in China how to shade colours using two Chinese paint brushes. The process is to lay down the paint and quick as lightening drag that paint with a damp brush until the finish is smooth. If you'd like to see a blog post on how I do this then let me know!

Letting The Family Join In!

I also have an 8 year old daughter, Rosie, who loves to paint as much as me, so how could I not! And that's my husband Matt who was forced into this, what a great job they did!

The Moment I Realised I Had Gone Wrong!

For some reason I decided to paint all my peony leaves in this bulbous kind of style, which upon deep reflection really niggled at me. I tried to convince myself it was ok, because what was I supposed to do? It was already done!

Well I am a perfectionist and there was no way on earth I was going to let those leaves eat away at me for another day! So I made a wild move and sanded back two thirds of the leaves, until they were completely gone! This also removed the turquoise from behind it, so I carefully painted back in the turquoise, added a brand new set of leaves and amazingly the result was flawless!

I feel that the new leaves are slender and prettier!

Painting Branches

I thought i'd experiment with a brown branch, but I wasn't really feeling it! It just didn't quite tie into the whole scheme. So I decided on a deeper turquoise, which sat just right for me. On reflection, it may have worked ok, (I reckon some of you are thinking the brown looked good!) but it was just another thing that niggled at me. If something niggles at me, I feel anxious. If nothing jumps out at me, then I get a good feeling and I know everything is working in harmony.

Just as a reminder, the image below shows the updated branch. I think it feels more contemporary and allows the flowers to take the limelight a little more!

A Year In The Making, And The Launch Of My Business.

Completing this room was such a huge deal, I felt like i had achieved the ultimate goal! Because this was for my new born child, there was so much emotion here, I agonised over every detail because I wanted to create something perfect.

This room means the world to me, it was the beginning of a completely new path in my life. Initially it was just for fun, and because we were renovating the house, little did I know this would become a new career path!

I took the plunge and presented the final images online, the response was overwhelming, it was clear I had to take this further and launch my new career. I am now writing 11 months into my business, having painted for several wonderful clients and am happier than ever, all because of this room!

This is a true reflection of everything I love about design. Bright, colourful and happy colours....but with a touch of class! Wink wink!


I hope you enjoyed my first post, I'd love you to follow me on my journey!

Please subscribe, share, like and most importantly please pin my images, Pinterest is THE place to be right now!

And if you like my work, you can find lots of chinoiserie chic designs here in my shop :)
Please leave comments below, whatever they may be!

Much love, and if you made it to the end......THANK YOU!
Diane, and family x

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  • Author image
    Susan Scott : December 30, 2022

    I love your beautiful mural, I am just about to start mine…. I have the design and have painted the individual pieces of the design. I am a bit nervous to start but I figure you can always paint over it!!
    I now feel inspired and ready to start.
    Thank you

  • Author image
    Stephanie Gamble : August 24, 2022

    21 August 2022. That is the sort of room that I would have a lock on the door and I alone would just go and sit it it for hours. It took you a year to make it I think it would take me the rest of my life to just sit and take it all in. Good luck with your new business and little Bonnie. Lots of love and best wishes The Gamble family

  • Author image
    Karen Smith : August 18, 2022

    Hi Diane
    Your work is amazing ☀️
    Could I see the blog on how to drag the cloth through for the smooth finish your talking about ?
    Yours kindly
    Karen x

  • Author image
    Nicole : February 28, 2022

    Hello Diane,

    I have hoped that you would paint murals for a long time.
    I’m thinking of ordering the wallpaper which you have done for Rebel Walls but perhaps it would be lovely to have something personally created.

    Do you take on commissions and if so how much would it cost to have a room painted? I read about the nursery you did for your baby! So lovely.

    Please advise.


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