Cover The purple cabinetry adds to the retro look of the kitchen

De Gournay heiress Hannah Cecil Gurney’s vibrant home in London showcases both her vibrant personality and her family’s wallpaper business perfectly

When it comes to style, there is one designer whose aesthetic is truly timeless, as Hannah Cecil Gurney discovered in the course of decorating her home in Battersea, London. For her living room, Gurney, the director of British wallpaper company De Gournay and daughter of its founder Claud Cecil Gurney, used a chocolate brown wallpaper inspired by Coco Chanel; the chinoiserie design perfectly sets the formal yet homely mood for the space.

“It is based on the famous Coromandel screens in Coco Chanel’s iconic Parisienne apartment,” she shares. “Our wallcovering is a beautiful reinterpretation and conjures a similar atmosphere to those screens. Everyone told me chocolate brown would be too dark but they were wrong—the room feels light and bright. The chalky white design and apricot accents keep the wallcovering bright and happy.” Combined with peach silk curtains and a deep blue velvet sofa, all by De Gournay, the space “feels super luxurious and is beautiful in evening light,” she adds.

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“It is based on the famous Coromandel screens in Coco Chanel’s iconic Parisienne apartment,” she shares. “Our wallcovering is a beautiful reinterpretation and conjures a similar atmosphere to those screens. Everyone told me chocolate brown would be too dark but they were wrong—the room feels light and bright. The chalky white design and apricot accents keep the wallcovering bright and happy.” Combined with peach silk curtains and a deep blue velvet sofa, all by De Gournay, the space “feels super luxurious and is beautiful in evening light,” she adds.

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Gurney and her husband Eddie Harden, who owns and manages his family’s Welsh estate, moved into their three-storey house four years ago. Although not a designer by training, Gurney knew she wanted to be intimately involved in building the home of her dreams for her three-year-old son George, newborn twins Oscar and Scarlet, and two dogs. “I lived in it for several years and this meant that I really understood how to furnish and decorate it for the way my family, and I wanted to live in and enjoy it. Now the space we live in suits us perfectly.”

Of course, every room in her exuberant home features a different De Gournay wallpaper, used to stunning effect to evoke various moods. Gurney’s not one to shy away from maximalist patterns and mixing colours. “Interiors like (private clubs) Annabel’s and 5 Hertford Street in London, where I love to have drinks with friends, are a feast for the eyes and senses,” she quips.

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A number of years ago, she discovered a stock of antique peach-toned wallpapers from the 1980s which her father had made as a test when he founded de Gournay. He disliked the colour but decades later, when his daughter uncovered them, she immediately fell in love with what she saw. “I love that the wallpaper sat in a box unappreciated for almost 40 years—it is now one of my favourites. I think that perhaps in the ‘80s this kind of peachy orange was underappreciated,” she says.

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So she decided to use this vintage wallpaper in the master bedroom, enlisting her installer to place it in a way that made it look tailor-made for the space. The brand’s design director, Jemma Cave, then applied the finishing touches. “She added some extra flowers and birds and butterflies wherever there were mismatches,” she says. The overall effect is that of a comforting cocoon, ideal for hibernating in. “I was also once told that this colour is the most flattering on the skin—useful for when I am not wearing makeup!”

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In contrast, the focal colour in the kitchen is the rich beetroot shade of the cabinetry, which Gurney says is more invigorating and energising for the day. “I knew I wanted my kitchen to be a rich and strong jewel tone but I had seen so many blue and green kitchens; I realised I had never seen a beetroot-coloured kitchen before, so I made it my goal to have one,” she says. “I love warm shades. I think they are inviting colours for a home—cosy and comforting.”

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She chose a custom colour, a mauve and green version of De Gournay’s San Soucis wallpaper design to balance out the deep hues of the cabinets. “We originally made this colourway for (furniture designer) Steven Gambrel—who is one of my design icons. When I saw his installation in a store in Palm Beach, Florida, I fell in love with it and when I had a kitchen with white walls I knew immediately what I wanted to put there.” To make the elements pop, hand-embroidered flowers were added to the wallpaper for depth and texture.

One of the biggest challenges of using delicate wallpaper in a home with children and pets is getting it to “withstand the wonderful chaos and mess”, Gurney admits. Luckily, a simple solution—protective glaze—was all it took. For George’s bedroom, she created a new version of the brand’s iconic Fish wallpaper to incorporate sea creatures such as seahorses, turtles, jellyfish, sharks and coral.

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“My son’s first word was ‘turtle’ as there is a turtle on the wall right next to his cot, and every night I would say ‘Goodnight George, Goodnight Mr Turtle’,” shares Gurney. “The wallpaper has been wonderful for his imagination.” The glaze has also come in handy when her child coloured in a turtle with orange crayon—she simply wiped it away. Similarly, the whimsical wallcoverings selected for the bathrooms have been waterproofed to keep damage at bay.

“At the end of the day, it is best not to be too precious about furniture and rugs,” says Gurney, looking at her home with pride. “They are made to be sat on and walked on, even the most fancy ones!”