If travelling from home is all we have at the moment, there is no better place than Hannah Cecil Gurney’s West London home.
Hannah is the daughter of Claud Cecil Gurney, who founded the exquisite handmade wallpaper company de Gournay in 1986. Today, it is world-famous for its hand-painted vibrant Chinoiserie, exquisite Japanese and Korean motifs and 19th Century French inspired panoramics, where Hannah works alongside her sister Rachel.
In her own home, you will dine in the tropics with peacocks and pomegranates, then head over to India’s riverbanks, all whilst sitting in the comforts of West London. Drenched in colour and pattern, her London home is a beautiful love letter to her family’s intoxicating wallpapers.
Citizen Femme meets the wallpaper maven and mother of three, as we delve into her suitcase psyche…
What’s the first trip you remember taking?
My father is a Francophile having lived there for a decade in his youth. We were dragged across France in the car every chance that he got. We would visit his best friend’s castle in Normandy and have such fun times rowing in the moat, playing hide-and-seek in the unused wings of the castle (this was as much terrifying as it was fun!) Then we would drive to Trouville and eat gauffres on the beach. Or we would reluctantly shop for antiques in lovely villages that we stumbled across. And all the while, us children would be bickering away in the back of the car or singing along to our favourite cassette. It’s very nostalgic to think about it now, and it also helped me develop a wonderful habit of falling asleep very easily in the car. My husband’s family estate is in North Wales so it is very a useful skill for the frequent 5 hour car journeys.
Which holidays have been your favourite and why?
A trip my husband and I took to Argentina. Buenos Aires is the coolest city I have ever been to. It is so vibrant and it feels like 5 different cities wrapped into one. You can walk everywhere. There are incredible parks, insanely good restaurants and the weather is beautiful. The energy there is infectious. After Buenos Aires, we then went down to Patagonia where we saw some of the most breath-taking landscapes I have experienced. We canoed on the lakes and we hiked in the mountains. It is perfect for those that love active outdoor holidays.
Where or what is your escape?
A long hot bath with a Gin & Tonic.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your travels?
With 3 young children that I don’t take on the majority of my travels, trips are usually limited to a week or 10 days so as not to be away from them for too long. Because of this, I like to choose one place and really take the time to explore it rather than rush through too many places and never really connect with the culture, history and nature. I love to get a very strong feel of a place that I have visited. I always find it burrows deeper into my memory that way.
What’s your idea of a luxury holiday?
Privacy and nature.
Where do you get holiday inspiration from?
My work takes me all over the world. We have showrooms in 6 different countries. I recently returned from Beirut where we have just opened a showroom in the most amazing 20th century Lebanese house. The architecture is gorgeous and it has been such fun to work on the renovations and decoration over the past year. I travel a lot to all our showrooms around the world. Everywhere I go I meet designers and journalists who are passionate about travel.
They always give me amazing recommendations for where to go, as do my colleagues. My recent trip in Beirut was short, but I am already desperate to go back and take my husband with me. I want to experience a weekend where I am on a boat in the sunshine on a Saturday and skiing in the mountains on the Sunday. It is a 2 hour drive from the marina to the slopes. For a Londoner like me it is such a crazy concept that these two contrasting experiences could be so easily accessible from one city.
If you could sit next to anyone – dead or alive – on a long-haul flight, who would it be?
How do you usually recover from jet-lag?
I have a weird rule that tends to work whereby I try make sure I sleep on the plane for at least 50% of the time difference between the two locations I am travelling between. And if I struggle to sleep I usually find a glass of red wine does the trick.
Your flight’s delayed an hour and your phone’s out of battery. How do you pass the time?
I love to buy design magazines wherever I go. If I am flying back from Germany I will pick up all the design magazines I can find in the German airport. Our business is very international and I love to try understand the different tastes and styles in each country. I am also constantly evolving the decoration of my own home and love to find new inspiration.
Ultimate plane outfit?
Stella McCartney for Adidas hoodie, Lululemon leggings and Nike trainers. I absolutely prioritise comfort. And I like to be able to walk fast through the airport.
What’s your favourite hotel?
The Bowery in NYC. I used to always stay somewhere different every time I was in NYC and then I discovered The Bowery. It is in the Lower East Side which is where all my favourite restaurants and shops are.
And they always have a roaring fire in the lobby and the best G&Ts (am I sounding like an alcoholic?!) Now I always stay there when I am in NYC for work and my husband will come join me on the weekend.
Favourite property you have worked with?
We created an incredible wallpaper for The Ned Hotel in London which is part of the Soho House group. They wanted us to create something completely bespoke based on The Voyages of Captain Cooke. It turned into the most beautiful scenic wall covering hand painted onto an antiqued gold gilded paper. It feels historic and contemporary at the same time. There is so much to see and every time you look at it you notice characters, animals, ships or vegetation that you didn’t see before.
Qatar. Their staff are unbelievably charming and their lounges are exceptional.
It was meant to be skiing in Austria! My husband has been trying to get me to go for years and I finally gave in. I am a useless skier but he is determined to make me ski-obsessed so we can eventually be one of those families with all our kids on the slopes every year. I think his expectations may be a little high! I would be going mainly for the melted cheese.
What are your must-have suitcase picks?
I am obsessed with Natura Bissé Diamond Cocoon SPF and rich cream – it evens out skin tone with light coverage and provides SPF50 protection. It is the only one I have ever found that doesn’t make me feel like I need to put other make up on top… Also, I always use the Eve Lom rescue mask after a flight. And Lifestraw water bottle so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles at the airport. It has a super high tech carbon filter that means you can fill it up from a stream and it purifies the water as you drink it. It is great for hiking! And also great when you aren’t sure about the quality of the tap water.
First thing that comes to your mind
Your hand-luggage essential?
Beats headphones and my kindle.
Packing: roll or fold?
On the way out OCD folding. On the return chuck it all in as fast as I can in a total mess.
Time killer on a long-haul flight?
I love to organise the photos on my phone. Between babies, dogs and wallpaper my phone gets packed with pictures. When I then want to find a particular one I never can. So if I am disconnected from emails and social media I love to attempt to sort through them. I am guaranteed to come across so many that bring back happy and funny memories. It always makes me smile.
Holiday tipple of choice?
Wine always beats cocktails for me.
Bucket list top destination?
Best shopping gem found abroad?
Adolfo’s. We were in a boat with some friends on the Amalfi coast and we were starving, so we headed towards a beachside restaurant we could see hidden away in a remote cove. It looked so casual, there were no menus, they just bring you what they are making that day. Little did we know we had stumbled into a mega hotspot and sitting next to us was Gwyneth Paltrow. And we ate the best pasta of my life.
Beach or City?
Beach. I live in a city. I have to get a dose of the seaside every now and again to feel sane to connect with nature and to see the horizon.
Ultimate holiday treat?