In Conversation with de Gournay

In Conversation with de Gournay

Since opening the doors of the new Etons of Bath showroom last September, we’ve had the pleasure of showing clients fabrics and wall coverings by one of the world’s leading luxury interiors brands, de Gournay. To give you a little background, de Gournay is a family company creating the world’s most luxurious hand painted wallpapers, fabrics and porcelain. Their designs fit in well with the interior designs created by Etons of Bath, particularly in period and Georgian properties.

The walls of the bathroom are covered with a De Gournay Indian-themed papier peint 

Cultivating an unrivalled reputation for their hand painted wallpapers and fabrics since 1986, de Gournay specialise in the creation of vibrant Chinoiserie designs, Japanese & Korean motifs and 19th Century French inspired Panoramics. In addition, they also create hand fired and custom painted porcelain.

de Gournay hand painted Amazonia Chinoiserie wallpaper in standard colours on Custom Pink Edo Painted Xuan Paper. Photo: Mariam Medvedeva


Reviving ancient techniques and original 18th century methods, the company’s highly skilled artists bring interiors to life with sensitive re-interpretations of historic painted papers and additional contemporary collections; bold aesthetics that inhabit traditional and contemporary environments with ease.

de Gournay’s bespoke expertise enables them to meet the exact needs of the most discerning of clients; ensuring the unique vision of each individual can be fulfilled, no matter how complex.

Etons of Bath’s Creative Director, Sarah Latham, recently spoke with Rachel de Gournay to find out more about the company.

Rachel Cecil de Gournay


Rachel tell us about the brand, who founded it and what is the brand’s philosophy? 

de Gournay was founded by my father Claud Cecil Gurney in 1984, as a result of his quest to restore some original Chinese wallpaper in our London home. He and my grandmother embarked on an exciting trip to China, where he found talented artists capable of painting in the same manner as his 18th century design; in doing so, he revived a long forgotten history in making wallpapers for export to Europe.

The brand’s ethos is twofold. Firstly, that the spirit of the artists lies in every work so no two wallpapers are the same and that is the nature of the beauty of something hand painted and hand made which sets it apart from machine made products. Secondly, that we want to bring light and happiness into people’s home with the use of colour. de Gournay has the unique ability to transport you to another world. Each day you may notice and appreciate a new exciting element in that world such as a pair of parakeets perched on a branch or a butterfly soaring into the air.


Which de Gournay collections would you recommend for a Georgian property? 

For a Georgian property interior, I would recommend one of our Chinoiserie designs, the majority of which depict a ‘garden’ scene filled with birds and flowers – retaining the full scale and grandeur of an original design: those which are the most faithful reproductions unaltered in scale or design to suit modern interiors.

de Gournay hand painted Askew Chinoiserie wallpaper in full custom Monochrome on custom Grey Painted Xuan Paper

Well known Georgian houses in England, Scotland and Ireland still have original Chinoiserie rooms intact today that have been hanging for over 200 years. The Georgian era saw an increased popularity for all things in the ‘Chinese Style’ – lacquer, porcelain, tea, silks and India tea papers (wallpapers).

My favourite of these is our Abbotsford design, which an unmodified reinterpretation of a set of antique panels named after a similar series hung in the drawing room at Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scotts’ home in Scotland. We have kept the 4ft width and 11ft height of the originals to maintain the historic integrity of the motif, so even if ordered at a shorter height the pattern will run off the top of the panel which has the effect of heightening the wall in the manner of genuine Georgian ‘Chinese’ rooms.


If trying to create a classically inspired look, which of de Gournay’s designs would you recommend?

For a classically inspired look our Papiers Peints Panoramiques are ideal. These are based on original 19th century block print wallcoverings, made at a time when travelling was becoming more commonplace so you have scenes from all over the world: from hunting scenes at royal palaces in France to imagined scenes from classical mythology. Our grisaille colour palette options and antique washes allow you to achieve a timeless, aged feel even when installed in a modern interior. As our designs are hand painted rather than block printed colours and design can be customised to suit your space ensuring the design looks as well balanced and beautiful as possible.

de Gournay hand painted Rousseau PPP scenic design in Full Custom Colour on Mare Verde Scenic Paper. Photo Mariam Medvedeva


When creating a more contemporary interior within a Georgian property which of de Gournay’s ranges would you recommend?

For a more contemporary interior we have an incredible metallics collection, consisting of various grounds gilded with precious and non-precious metals, in addition to more subtle pearlescent grounds. The pearlescent pigment or metal leaf can be hand laid or brushed onto a paper backed silk for a more opulent feel, a handmade rice paper for a more textured look or a European base paper for a smoother more reflective finish.

de Gournay Deep rich gold gilded paper

de Gournay Wisteria in full custom design colours on Natural Mica metallic silk

All the colours are customisable by tinting the metal leaf or mixing pearlescent pigments together to get your desired finished look.  You then have the option to apply any of our pearlescent antiqued finishes over the top which add a lot of depth to the grounds; Watered down pearlescent pigment is allowed to pool on the ground and as it dries it forms watery, irregular marks which read differently in different lights picking up different tones which looks incredibly beautiful. 


What are de Gournay’s top tips when choosing wall coverings and fabrics?

I think you need to start with the one wall covering or fabric you can’t live without then work the other elements around it. Most clients choosing a de Gournay wallpaper will start with that as their focal point then choose the fabrics to go with, sometimes to contrast against the colours in the wallpaper and sometimes to incorporate or tone with the colours in their wallpaper. Providing the colours do not clash, I think it is important not to be afraid of layering rich colours and patterns within a room; Colour and pattern are what brings a room to life. A lot of colours from our papers and fabrics refer back to colours used frequently in classic Georgian interiors-soft greys, dusky pinks, sage greens, blue greys and burgundy’s-and I think Georgian colours are timeless and elegant and work as well today as they did then.

Savages de la Mer Pacifiques in Roberts colourway on scenic paper


What’s next for de Gournay collections in 2018 and do you think that they will they suit Georgian and period properties?

We are always developing exciting new designs as well as new colourways for existing designs and new innovative techniques. We are currently looking at ways to further embellish our wallcoverings beyond embroidery as well as expanding our plains collection to offer more interesting textured plain wallcoverings such as a two tone hand painted slub organza overlaid onto a dyed paper or a hand painted rice paper made to recreate the look of paint peeling off the wall over time revealing multiple layers underneath.

Of course we also always want to add to our classic collections too so no doubt there will be a few stunning new Chinoiserie or panoramic designs launched this year which will perfectly suit a Georgian property. We are also expanding the colours in our fabric range to incorporate even more Georgian colours-our new Antique Rose and Dusk Blue silk velvets are stunning in a Georgian interior.


Can your wall coverings be used in a bathroom?

Yes they can. We can direct you towards the ground construction that would be most suitable for a bathroom application-our gilded grounds are very durable in their natural state and look stunning in bathrooms! We can then glaze the ground to meet whatever level of protection you require. As far as possible de Gournay match the finish of the glaze used to the original surface of the construction type to maintain its original nature and we would make a sample for you to approve with the glaze applied on. If there is a shower or bath in the bathroom, the installer would then glaze again on site once installed to seal the seams.

Temple Newsam standard colours on custom blue green williamsburg with matt glaze finishing

Rateau standard colours on deep rich gold gilded paper


Can anyone install them?

We suggest you use a specialist installer who has hung hand painted wallpaper before and preferably has hung de Gournay before but any skilled installer can install if they follow the instructions carefully and use the paste and lining paper we recommend. We have an extensive list of recommended installers we can share with clients


Is it beneficial working with experienced interior designers? 

I think it is beneficial to work with designers as they have such a depth of knowledge about where to source fabrics and furnishings and a lot of experience in which brands or products are of good quality and reliable. The breadth of products out there is immense and it is hard to tackle on one’s own with no prior experience of using them-you can spend days just choosing which type and brand of paint to use! Most designers are happy to work with your brief and vision so they are there to help you achieve it rather than create it for you, but they will also help you from going off piste and making the wrong decision in haste, which someone inexperienced in the interiors world is at risk of doing.


Want to see de Gournay for yourself?

Then feel free to pop into the Etons of Bath showroom at 108 Walcot Street in Bath where you will find two designs of de Gournay displayed on the showroom walls, as well the brands fabric and wallcovering collection books available for your viewing.

Etons of Bath Showroom features de Gournay wallcovering


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