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Home Comforts: Hannah Cecil Gurney’s sweet tooth, soft spot for cider and sensational eye for style

We take a tour of the de Gournay director’s digs and wonder whether she’d rather forgo (half) a pint of Bristol’s finest or her perfectly papered walls…

Illustrations
Grace Helmer

Hannah Cecil Gurney’s home is nothing short of fabulous fantasy. Bandy-legged flamingos pick their way around her bathroom; fish dart and turtles drift in a children’s bedroom; the slender tendrils of crimson flowers sprawl in a sea of blue in the bijou library. It comes as no surprise, however, when one learns of the exquisite flights of fancy that Hannah deals in every day, as director of couture wallcovering business de Gournay

As the daughter of founder Claude Cecil Gurney, Hannah grew up learning the limitless possibilities of paper – and it’s something she brings to bear beautifully as the head of the company. De Gournay’s exquisite chinoiseries and impossibly beautiful blossoms, painstakingly painted or embroidered by hand, are regarded as among the finest in the world. The company also deals in fine antiques, with lots of Chinese porcelain, and during London Design Week will be hosting an exhibition of Frances Palmer’s earthenware works in its Chelsea showroom.

But Hannah’s discerning decoration nous is a given, so what else goes on behind closed doors? Inviting us into the Battersea house she shares with her husband, Eddie Harden, and their twins, Scarlet and Oscar, she talks to us about the little things that make her tick.

My most recent home improvement…
A rattan pelmet by Atelier Vime, which now lives in my home office above some gorgeous Le Manach curtains. It’s scalloped, which adds a lovely femininity to what can often be a more utilitarian space. The Le Manach fabric is wonderfully simple, yet it still feels luxurious thanks to the embroidery. It works harmoniously with the de Gournay ‘Siam’ wallcovering I’ve got in there, which is much more decorative and ornate.

The latest addition to my wardrobe…
A De La Vali trouser suit the colour of sherbet lemons. My husband gave me the most useful and generous gift of a few hours with a wonderful stylist named Charlotte Broadbent, who encouraged me to purchase some pieces that were outside my comfort zone. It was a great way to escape my clothing rut, especially after all the legging-clad lockdown months.

The most useful item in my kitchen…
My husband.

What’s always in my fridge…
Honeycomb covered in dark chocolate. I crush it up in a pestle and mortar and sprinkle it over frozen chocolate yoghurt every night without fail. I have such a sweet tooth.

The prize bottle in my drinks cabinet…
Organic dry cider. I went to university in Bristol, where there is a famous pub called the Coronation Tap that’s known for serving its own-brewed Exhibition cider. It was our favourite place to drink as students and the cider sent you kind of loopy – in a great way; it was so strong you could only order by the half-pint. I have adored it ever since… We even had kegs of Exhibition at our wedding.

Hanging on my walls…
Wallpaper – everywhere! Sometimes with art on top.

My favourite picture is my Pierre Bergian oil painting of an empty interior. I would love to collect more of his pieces. They are very calming and almost meditative. He uses beautiful colours too; the one I have is in gorgeous pigeon greys and dusky blues and it sits so beautifully on the cabinetry wall by my bedside, which I upholstered in a peach-coloured de Gournay velvet.

The knick-knacks on my mantelpiece…
Some Capodimonte candle holders, which were a gift from my colleague Harald, de Gournay’s press director. He loaned them to me for a shoot at our house and I was so devastated to return them to him that he let me keep them on indefinite loan. I’ve put Matilda Goad’s ribbed tapers inside. She sells some in a lovely muted pistachio, which I love; I’m always looking for candles in colours other than traditional off-white.

The books on my shelf right now…
Anya Hindmarch’s If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair. What Anya has done on Pont Street with her new ‘village’ is so dynamic, fun and visionary. I love going there to buy presents for family and friends.

I’ve also got Beata Heuman’s Every Room Should Sing. I have had the pleasure of working with Beata recently and so have become more and more familiar with her work; now I am an uber-fan. There is something so unusual and distinctive about it, yet it’s familiar and homely at the same time.

The music on my stereo…
Endless lullaby soundtracks to try to lure my children to sleep! We play them in the car, in their bedroom… I don’t remember what good music sounds like.

Growing in my garden…
Variegated geraniums. I adore their amazing patterned leaves even more than the flowers.

I also recently signed up to Seed Pantry and now, every month, I get a lovely delivery of bulbs and seeds sent at the right time to plant them, along with fool-proof instructions. I am looking forward to a flower-filled future.

Hidden away in my cupboards…
A beautiful chartreuse ball gown by Erdem, awaiting for black-tie parties, and pairs of child-sized Aquazzura x de Gournay espadrilles. I got them before I knew I would have a little girl and now Scarlet is almost big enough to fit into them. Seeing her in the shoes will be very nostalgic, as the collaboration was a pivotal moment for the company and also one of my favourite projects to date.

On my to-do list…
Plan a road trip down the west coast of the USA, stopping off for the opening of our new LA showroom before journeying down to Mexico City, to set up de Gournay there too.

I always dreamed of living in Los Angeles when I was younger. This new outpost will certainly mean many excuses to spend more time there. I am always bowled over by the city’s almost artificially blue skies and the countless soaring palm trees.

Further reading

De Gournay

De Gournay on Instagram

Frances Palmer’s work will be on display at de Gournay, 112 Old Church Street, London SW3, 17-25 September

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