A Modern Marriage

I am always intrigued by the creative process, the journey behind great design resulting in truly memorable interiors and benchmark collections.  What’s the secret? the spell includes imagination and  craftsmanship, it needs great skill and dedication, but for interior-alchemy you need  a wand that spells out S-T-Y-L-E.  There are stylish designers in each generation, but only a few stand the test of time creating work that is referenced as influential by the next generation or sought after at auction, for me the two style-setters who are collaborating below achieve this.

De Gournay is a company whose collections  weave together to create harmonious interiors akin to works of art, exquisitely crafted, luminous… enchanted even.

 Above is Cecil de Gurney’s  London home, the founder of de Gournay an avid collector, and  18th century conosseiur. Cecil states: I am not a designer…but I can look at things and decide whether something is lovely or not, and I can see what’s wrong and change it. We started with Chinoiserie and patterns from 18th Century houses where we would go and find something we loved.  Think Ham House, Petworth, Chatsworth and Blenheim.

Below: their famed Chinoiserie  wallpapers, de Gournay’s  Eastern inspired wallpapers are found in the chicest homes and establishments from Bergdorf Goodman to Smythson, Cameron Diaz to Caroline Sieber – oh and let’s not forget no.10 and the White House, surely chic too these days?


When you look into these the detail is stunning, de Gurney refers to a ‘spirit resonance’  which each artist imparts into his hand painting, I felt it looking at the individual brush marks and characterful charm of each design:



Like many a girl I  dream into those butterflies and birds, but the Chinoiserie has my heart: I love the Harewood House effect of ‘Coutts‘ below:


I could start playing with the colour  cards right now, just tweaking here and there for the PERFECT Decorative Affair … dressing room, maybe?colour palettes

De Gournay are famed for these bespoke capabilities.  Everything is made by artisans using traditional methods to their designers’ specifications, whose level of knowledge extends down to the tiniest detail: exact decorative motifs of the  18th century? true historical colours? temperatures of porcelain firing? choice of gesso? tick, TICK, tick and tick.

They are also proof that when you have truly mastered your subject, you can play with rules… have fun.


Bespoke creations above and below.degoournaygrahamvineyDe Guornay’s  ‘Savannah-Jungle’ incorporating a client’s South African and Australian heritage, where koalas hang out with…giraffes, in a personal interior Eden.

This is probably why Kit Kemp has a such a rich working relationship with De Gournay. Kit’s acclaimed London hotels are a visual feast, a collage of  pattern, texture  and colour,  Ham Yard opened this summer complete with bowling alley and kitchen garden to critical acclaim.  Kit’s work is extraordinarily in tune with the de Gournay aim to bring happiness into people’s lives by creating light, bright, vibrant and happy interiors where they can find refuge from the busy world.

Chez  Ham Yard the giant graphic rik-rak zig zags  in the final image look simple.  They are actually the longest single ‘drop’ de Gournay has ever produced  and were supremely challenging ( – no cuts – no joins – seamless). Jemma, head designer at de Gournay, says: Kit maximises the design potential – she pushes the boundaries. The Haymarket Hotel’s Shooting Gallery was our first collaboration, here the 18 ft walls were clad in de Gournay’s Tropical scene.  Kit added whimsical elements: volcanoes and tribesmen to pull in the viewer and simultaneously tempered  this by it commissioning it in sepia tones, so the people using the space would stand out within it… clever non?

De Gournay and Kit have joined creative forces for a special project: Hogarth’s ‘The Marriage’ from his moral series ‘A Rake’s Progress‘. It is being spectacularly re-imagined for the entrance of Decorex (the chicest interior design show in town).  Do you know the story of Tom Rakewell’s downfall?  it is rich in atmospheric detail and social satire, and like all great stories inspires re-interpretation… it’s got the ‘biggies’: greed, sloth, arrogance, unrequited love – oh and a final descent into bedlam.  The De Gournay-Kemp scene is where our ‘rake’ marries an old hag for money (eyeing up her pretty maid) so he can continue his wicked ways.

William_Hogarth_A_Rakes_Progress Marriage1

I love de Gournay’s work and stay chez Kit Kemp  whenever I can so it was a treat to peek inside de Gournay’s showroom and over tea (in their hand painted china) quiz them about their approaching ‘marriage’.

In this instance ‘the brief’ is a painting with a moral story, also a show space you can really let rip in… so how you did set about transposing this scene for a modern audience, what were your inspirations and touchstones, how does the creative process evolve with Kit?

Kit is fantastic to work with, she arrives with a very clear vision, yet she’s open to interpretation and playful to new styles and ideas.  We pored over archive imagery, particularly theatre work  – The Rake’s Progress was made into an opera by Stravinksy and David Hockney’s 1975 designs for a Glyndeboure production are extraordinary: highly stylised, graphically striking  and yet full of comic detail. Obviously we also  looked at Grayson Perry’s Vanity of Small Differences, we loved the detail in both. Once we chose our interpretation, there were copious sketch books and mood boards which evolved as the sampling, rendering options and colour ways arrived.   We think it’s different from what you would expect from de Gournay….


 Hockney’s  stage design for ‘The Rake’s Progress’ above and Grayson Perry below.

Georgian Britain is an extremely rich decorative seam, what did you focus on?

We’ve gone naughty! Playfully looking at the Georgian fashions and designs, we have developed new techniques and designs for this project. The scene is eclectic and packs a punch and as you look in there’s more and more detail to take in. (let’s not forget de Gournay have produced hand painted fabric for Jenny Packham, have their own line in silk velvets and make exquisite versions of classic furniture).

If you had to choose so adjectives to describe the scene’s atmosphere, what would you choose from:

DRAMATIC, dark, light, layered, STATELY, imposing, reflective, VIBRANT, sad, BOLD, classic, bight, MODERN.

cue… giggles: all of the above! It’s surprising marrying lots of different styles.

For me looking through their fantastic online archive of projects, currently this image stands out: graphic and pared back, yet decorative and detailed  …but I am expecting to be surprised at Decorex.


Inevitably I asked them about their own plans for Decorex … what was inspiring their new collection? their own stand?

We are always inspired by classical design but this time we really looked at how 20th century modernists re-interpreted it.  Lanvin’s seminal apartment (created by Armand Rateau  and part of the permanent collection at the Musée de les Arts Decoratifs) combines grace, glamour and modernity with charming details …oh, and of course Lanvin blue!  

We are  fusing ancient artisan process with new materials, it’s exciting. On the back of this we are launching lots of new designs  and a new paint with which we can create really bold shapes,  strong graphic detail.  (maybe in Lanvin Blue)

One thing’s for sure in this modern marriage, once you fall in love with de Gournay it is forever….  so be prepared to lose your heart.

Images from  the following websites de Gournay’s, Firmdale Hotels, David Hockney, Soane Museum and Le Musée des Arts Decoratif.

3 thoughts on “A Modern Marriage

  1. Oh Juliette! What have you done? My life will be incomplete until I’ve some bespoke de Gournay wallpaper in it!!! A simply fabulous blog darling.

  2. Pingback: Decorex Sketch | adecorativeaffair

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