In conversation with Hannah Cecil Gurney of de Gournay

By Elspeth Pridham
August 26, 2020

The business development director, at hand painted wallpaper brand de Gournay, shares her enthusiasm for her dog Gyda and the fashion designer Erdem

When was the business founded, and why?
In the early 1980s as the brainchild of my father, Claud Cecil Gurney, who had a passion for both decoration and economics. He realised the art of hand painting Chinese wallpapers, so popular in the 18th century, had more-or-less vanished. He wanted to reignite the tradition, and his decision coincided with China opening up to the West.

How many staff?
Globally, around 300 – divided between seven showrooms around the world and our studio near Shanghai.

Where is de Gournay based?
Our head office and flagship showroom is in Chelsea, London.

What is your latest significant achievement/project of note?
Our recent creative collaboration with Erdem, my favourite fashion designer in the world. Having obsessed over his clothing for years I thought it would be worth reaching out to him. He was a huge fan of de Gournay and a beautiful partnership was born. We worked together to create a new motif to join our Chinoiserie collection of wallpapers. Erdem then applied the same design to a capsule collection of clothing in three unique colourways.

What is your favourite possession?
My dog Gyda (which I probably shouldn’t say as I have another dog called Jiminy – though as dogs and not children they won’t grow up and read this so I might get away with it) She is a Samoyed, the most fun-loving, good-natured and snuggly breeds imaginable. She has a limitless supply of affection to cheer up any bad mood.

I’ve just discovered…
That I don’t drink enough water – so my husband has gotten me a water bottle that lights up to remind me to do so! It’s strangely effective and I have to admit to feeling much better for it. (Hidrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle)

Who inspires me…
My father – who has managed to maintain the same energy and enthusiasm for life and work as I remember him having when I was a child. He embodies curiosity and seeks to marvel at the world around him. It’s an enormously admirable quality.

I’ve always been a fan of…
Interior designer Miles Redd. He is a complete genius with colour and characterful design. Every interior he creates is happy and alive. Why create an interior that isn’t uplifting?

My highlight of the last 12 months…
Quarantine at home with my children four year-old son and one year-old twins (a boy and a girl). I am a workaholic and am usually on a plane several times a month. I have been forced to stay home and it has been (mostly) a delight to watch the babies grow and develop in a way I would not normally be able to. I had also just completed renovations to my house so it’s been amazing to stay home and enjoy the new interiors.