de Gournay: The Art of Timeless Elegance

By Oliver Burns

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April 8, 2016|Guest Editorials

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  • ounded in 1986, de Gournay’s exquisite hand painted wallpaper, porcelain and hand carved furniture resonate a timeless elegance, drawing on a rich heritage of traditional craftsmanship. Founded by Claud Cecil Gurney, de Gournay formed the creative solution to a decided lack of expert artisans to restore the antique wallpaper in his family home. Inspired by the Far East, de Gournay heavily references orientalism from silk kimonos to decorative screens, becoming synonymous with the exotic and ornamental.  Reviving ancient traditions that date back to the 18th century, de Gournay’s highly skilled artists hand paint traditional Chinoiserie, Japanese and Korean wall coverings as well as 19th century French Papiers Peints Panoramiques which adorn the walls of super prime properties worldwide. Here, de Gournay provides an enchanting insight into their brand.
Image via de Gournay

At de Gournay, the same meticulous techniques used to create the 17th–19th century originals, are employed to craft reproductions ensuring each design is not only historically accurate but customisable. It is this shared vision around thoughtful luxury which makes de Gournay an excellent addition to our projects. Each wallpaper is tailored to fit the client’s specifications and takes on average three to four days to complete so that the end result is a bespoke and highly specialist work of art. From hand gilding a design with 22ct gold leaf to the creation of a custom colour, the knowledge and expertise of our master craftsman enable the individual’s vision to be realised. For instance, a unique design incorporating the native birds of South Africa and Australia was created for a client thereby adding personal value to their home. The Chinese coined the term ‘spirit resonance’ to refer to the spiritual power they felt wallpaper was imbued with through this intense dedication and passion for an artistic craft; a legacy de Gournay upholds to this day.

Image via de Gournay

de Gournay is most renowned for our original collection of striking 18th century Chinoiserie designs. The Chinoiserie Collection affords our clients the opportunity to continue decorating in the style that was employed by the wealthiest individuals and the crowned heads of Europe during the halcyon years of the 18th and 19th centuries. Chinese wallpapers, initially known as ‘India Papers’, first appeared in Europe during the 17th century, fueling momentum for the growing trend of papering walls where previously fabric hangings would have adorned the most splendid of homes.

Image via de Gournay

By the mid-18th century, oriental styling had become the height of fashion with many of the finest interiors in the world decorated in this manner, with key distinguishable features being decorative flora and fauna. de Gournay interiors can be admired in grand surroundings at Drottningholm, Brighton Pavilion, Oranienbaum, Temple Newsam and Chatsworth, to name but a few. de Gournay produce a diverse range of wallpapers for grand rooms in classical houses around the world but we pride ourselves on continually adapting and developing our collections to offer elegant and contemporary products that have evolved out of the pages of history.

Image via de Gournay

Feather gilding and block gilding are two innovative techniques, which offer a contemporary interpretation of the classic Chinoiserie design. Feather gilding lends a soft, romantic effect rendered in delicately diffused brushstrokes whilst block gilding is more dramatic in finish allowing for bold accents. de Gournay artists use a combination of pearlescent paint and metal leaf in either gold or silver hues to create this entirely tonal gilt design. The gold colourway consists of layering 22 carat gold and 12 carat white gold leaf hand-gilded accents. The silver colourway consists of layering aluminum leaf and 12 carat white gold leaf on white gold pearlescent paint. Both make for stunning results.

Image via de Gournay

Popular designs amongst Oliver Burns’ discerning clientele include the Panoramic collection of scenic papers which is enjoying a resurgence. This takes artists over 100 hours to complete one panel, resulting in a truly exquisite example of craftsmanship. Another much loved design is the St Laurent. Inspired by an impressive set of 18th century antique panels, the design maintains the full drama and grand scale of the original. The design enchants with its finely worked renderings of exotic birds amidst densely packed flowering bushes of peony, finger citron, prunus, camellia and chrysanthemum. The thoughtful selection of colours maintain the faded beauty of the original paper, reinterpreted on a rich turquoise Edo painted on xuan paper ground. True to the original, St Laurent makes for a detailed botanical study of the many plants and birds that were exotic to Western eyes, transporting the viewer on a visual journey.

Article by Susannah Charbin, friend of Oliver Burns in NYC. Susannah is the owner of The Beaux Arts Consultancy, a digital agency working with luxury and lifestyle brands.


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