I’ve always admired the work of de Gournay. Renowned for exquisite hand-painted wallpapers, furnishings and porcelain, each de Gournay creation is simply a work of art. So I was thrilled to meet Rachel Cecil-Gurney, daughter of founder Claude Cecil Gurney recently in San Francisco. Rachel showed me first hand samples from their gorgeous collections. Not only are the designs inspiring, but the attention to detail and quality is outstanding.
Taken from my iphone, this St. Laurent wallpaper (below) was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment and is one of my personal favorites.
I asked Rachel about de Gournay’s history and was surprised at the answer. Claud Gurney founded the London-based high-end luxury brand nearly 30 years ago, but didn’t start in design, but had an amazing mentor. I had to find out more and am thrilled to be interviewing him today.
Simplified Bee: Tell us a little about your career and what led you to designing hand-painted wallcoverings and founding de Gournay?
Claud Gurney: My career spans farming, accounting, consulting, economics, banking, property development and design .. as you can imagine the joy of doing something creative won out over the drudge of finance and banking and I have never looked back. I am a great believer that if you do what you love you have a good chance of being successful at it eventually and if you do what you don’t love you may as well be 6 feet under .. There are lots of other narratives as to why I specifically ended up founding de Gournay around needing some wallpaper for my home and being quoted an outrageously high sum for the supply of that paper and quickly working out that it would be cheaper to set up my own firm than to buy from a company in New York .. the rest is history ..
SB: Who has been a mentor to you?
CG: My mother – taking me round to auction sales when I was very young – from 8 years onwards .. understanding how to buy and sell and how to appreciate value and to create value where others saw none.
SB: How would you describe your personal style and how has it evolved over the years?
CG: I hope that I don’t have a style – at least I don’t try to project a style .. so I shall leave that for others to judge. I have a belief that one should only buy the best and thereby one is rarely disappointed – whether it is food or clothes or houses or racehorses.
SB: What type of architecture are you drawn to?
CG: It is hard not to be drawn to the maximum amount of light and simple lines with a combination of mainly rectangles and some curves. I think that combining straight lines and curves well and creating light and space is key to goo architecture. That means classical, some 18th century and some contemporary architecture. Of course it all has to be adapted to the climate one is inhabiting ..
SB: Which other designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
CG: I have always loved Manuel Canovas and Alezandra Gioia (who coloured Colony’s fabrics for many years) and John Stefanides for their ability with colour. There are not that many designers capable of mixing different colours and patterns well – but many who can work in black & white!
SB: Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
CG: Alain Garcia seems to be the man of the moment and although I hate trends and fashions I love the way he can make so much from so little – he has a real decorator’s touch and it all seems so effortless for him. I ma hoping he will design some wallpaper for us one day.
SB: What is the process behind a de Gournay work?
CG: Art, art & art.
SB: I’ve loved seeing de Gournay in social media circles. What is your advice to other décor companies or interior designers or who are timid about trying social media marketing outlets?
CG: Like mathematics it is a dark art until one knows how to do it .. once one has started to do it one finds it easy and it starts to become addictive .. but like all addictions it should be tightly controlled.
SB: What are you looking forward to?
CG: Complete freedom for a little while followed soon thereafter by more projects and plans and new houses to build and decorate for myself .. stopping, savoring,enjoying and moving on .. and starting all over again …