State­ment-mak­ing walls

Hand-painted wall­pa­pers from luxe Bri­tish com­pany De Gour­nay can turn shy wall­flow­ers into stylish art icons, in the un­rolling of a panel.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Spaces - By SUZANNE LAZAROO [email protected]­

SIL­VER-tinged spar­rows and pheas­ants among frosty-white fo­liage on a back­ground sus­pended be­tween turquoise and pale grey; vi­brant tou­cans, but­ter­flies and blos­soms con­trasted with a pale pink base; an en­tire trop­i­cal sce­nescape sees a gi­raffe loom­ing in the mid­dle of a jun­gle, a herd of ze­bras lin­ger­ing nearby; schools of bril­liantly-shin­ing fish gleam, their scales picked out in se­quins, glass beads and crys­tals.

Gor­geous reams of hand-crafted artistry, the sheets of hand-painted wall­pa­per lie in rolls on the ta­bles of in­te­rior de­sign store Ta­tum Com­pany in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. In their abun­dance, they oc­ca­sion­ally un­roll onto the floor, fall­ing in a lux­u­ri­ous wall­pa­per wa­ter­fall.

This is, in the end, what wall­pa­per brings to a room, says Ta­tum’s owner and de­signer, Ger­ar­dine Log­gere. “It is that feel­ing of lux­ury it adds,” she says. “One panel alone can even be framed as a work of art.

“And wall­pa­per is def­i­nitely grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity here in Malaysia, per­haps as a re­sult of Pinterest and so­cial me­dia – peo­ple have ac­cess to more ideas. We get about 30 clients a month ask­ing for wall­pa­per.”

Des­tined to span en­tire rooms or fea­ture walls, the scrolls of hand-crafted wall­pa­per on dis­play this evening are from fam­ily-run Bri­tish de­sign com­pany De Gour­nay; prod­uct man­ager Saman­tha Heard has flown them in for a pre­sen­ta­tion to a room­ful of de­sign­ers at Ta­tum Com­pany.

“I think the days of the flat, plain painted wall are over for those in­ter­ested in de­sign,” she says. In­te­rior de­sign of­ten has a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with fash­ion run­ways, and she’s see­ing flo­ral pat­terns and Chi­nois­erie in favour on both.

At De Gour­nay’s heart lies a wealth of such Chi­nois­erie de­signs, from which the Bri­tish com­pany grew in 1986. Com­pany founder Claud Ce­cil Gur­ney vis­ited China and fell un­der the spell of the ar­ti­sans’ pen-and-ink-on-silk works, in which the hand­made wall­pa­per has their roots.

Hand-painted wall­pa­per can be traced to ar­ti­sans in China as far back as the 1700s, slowly cross­ing the seas to be­come pop­u­lar in Euro­pean draw­ing rooms, and later Amer­i­can.

Its pro­cesses are still the clas­sic, labour-in­ten­sive ones – each panel can take up to 100 hours to paint, ex­plain­ing a start­ing price of RM2,200 per panel.

How­ever, De Gour­nay’s sta­ble has grown far beyond Chi­nois­erie – and stan­dard pa­per. Silk, rice pa­per, sil­ver and gold leaf can also form bases, most de­signs come in var­i­ous colour­ways (com­bi­na­tions of hues) to aid cus­tomi­sa­tion, and ac­cents in­clude gold and sil­ver, beads and crys­tals and even intricate em­broi­dery.

“Art Deco-style pa­pers are also very pop­u­lar, as are the tex­tu­ral sort of de­signs that mimic tooled leather, or an­tique-y me­dieval pat­terns,” says Heard. “And the em­broi­dery tech­nique is also see­ing a lot of in­ter­est.”

“Early Views of In­dia” in­cor­po­rates a nar­ra­tive-rich sce­nescape in which there is al­ways an­other story to imag­ine.

“The Ja­panese and Korean col­lec­tion seems to ap­peal to those look­ing for more mod­ern in­te­ri­ors,” says Heard.

Nam­ban, one of De Gour­nay’s new­est, Ja­panese-in­spired wall­pa­pers brings to­gether ev­ery imag­in­able shade of gold and then some, in a 3D-ef­fect ab­stract de­sign dot­ted with el­e­gantly fly­ing cranes, evok­ing both the art of Im­pe­rial Ja­pan and the splen­dour of the Roar­ing Twen­ties.

“The com­pany is more than 30 years old, has been taken over by the next gen­er­a­tion (the founder’s daugh­ters Han­nah and Rachel Gur­ney are both direc­tors) and

they’re work­ing with many cool de­sign­ers,” she says.

A col­lab­o­ra­tion with fash­ion maven Kate Moss re­sulted in a mood­ily lu­mi­nous “Anemones in Light”, with alu­minium leaf re­plac­ing the more usual sil­ver or gold to cre­ate light shards. “This comes in two types, both day­light and dusk ver­sions,” says Heard.

Lux­ury aside, it’s the room for cus­tomi­sa­tion that draws de­sign­ers to well-crafted wall­pa­per. In that spirit: an­other col­lab with lux­ury shoe de­signer Aquaz­zura also re­sulted in a five-piece cap­sule col­lec­tion fea­tur­ing De Gour­nay’s “Ama­zo­nia” de­sign, trop­i­cal jun­gle mo­tifs splayed across a pale, pas­tel pink back­ground.

Wall­pa­per is an easy way to change the look and feel of a room quickly, and Log­gere’s ba­sic rule of thumb is: “For smaller rooms, it is very nice to use a more in­volved, in­tense, brightly-pat­terned wall­pa­per. For larger rooms, con­sider plain colours and small pat­terns.”

“But it does not need to be con­fined to walls alone – think of us­ing it on cab­i­net doors, on room di­viders, etc,” says Log­gere.

De­sign aes­thet­ics aside, peo­ple want­ing to in­stall wall­pa­per in hot, hu­mid coun­tries are of­ten con­cerned that the weather con­di­tions will ad­versely af­fect the wall­pa­per it­self.

Log­gere feels that this shouldn’t be an is­sue as long as proper in­stal­la­tion tech­niques are fol­lowed – these in­clude al­low­ing the ad­he­sives to cure fully.

Heard adds that sil­ver and gold leaf can tar­nish in the hu­mid­ity: “This is why De Gour­nay is de­vel­op­ing new types of both, which are tar­nish-re­sis­tant,” she says. Ev­ery De Gour­nay wall­pa­per can also be or­dered with a spe­cial pro­tec­tive coat­ing to re­sist dirt and wa­ter.

Heard feels that the wall­pa­per re­nais­sance that has swept the de­sign in­dus­try is here to stay, driven in large part by peo­ple want­ing to put their own per­son­alised stamp on their space.

And, some­times, that is quite lit­eral – “Peo­ple like to add their dogs into our land­scape wall­pa­pers some­times,” she says. “And we’ve even had an or­der that added hu­man faces to the mon­keys in a wall­pa­per!”

De Gour­nay wall­pa­per is avail­able at the Ta­tum Com­pany, Kuala Lumpur. For more in­for­ma­tion and open­ing hours, go to tatum­com­

Plum blos­som on tar­nished sil­ver-gilded pa­per. Flo­ral pat­terns and Chi­nois­erie are on trend now. —


Ama­zo­nia from shoe de­signer Aquaz­zura.

St Lau­rent de sign on cus­tom blue Edo tea pa­per.

— De Gour­nay

Smaller rooms can ben­e­fit from a more in­tense pat­tern such as ‘Le Eden’.


Close-up of a panel of the lux­ury wall­pa­per of­fered by De Gour­nay – it seems more like linen than pa­per.



Heard says the days of the flat, plain painted wall are over for those in­ter­ested in de­sign.

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