Family Affair: Close to Home

If Hannah Cecil Gurney’s early educational pursuits (physics and accounting) seem unconventional for the leader of a wallpaper empire, it’s because they are. But transcending the norm is standard practice in the Cecil Gurney bloodline. After all, Hannah’s father, Claud Cecil Gurney, was a numbers man, obtaining a master’s degree in economics before applying his calculated thinking to more artistic endeavors.

In 1986, the elder Cecil Gurney founded de Gournay from the basement of his London home. The undertaking was born simply from frustration: on a mission to restore the antique Chinoiserie paper adorning his family home’s walls, he found the influx of modern- day mass design had eliminated traditional, hand-painted crafts. Claud resolved to get the job done himself, seeking out skilled descendants of traditional artisans.

While daughter Hannah was just a toddler at the time de Gournay launched, the brand’s decadent designs and exotic prints bestowed her with an artistic appreciation and expert eye. When she took the reigns as de Gournay’s director, the decision to remain family-run was a no-brainer. “We don’t want to dilute what we do by focusing on selling large volumes of product at high margins,” she says. “In this modern age, handmade products are the ultimate luxury.”

While there’s no specific blueprint for de Gournay’s future, they are focused on growing organically. The Cecil Gurney clan are sure of one thing: business will remain close to home. “It’s hard to beat the passion that you find in a family-run business,” Hannah says. “We have all been so blessed to love what we do and to imagine our children’s children getting to also love what they do.”

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