Craftsmanship: An exquisite collection of wallpapers dipped in history
Behind de Gournay’s latest collection of wallpapers and textiles—handcrafted in India—is a tale of craftsmanship and grandeur inspired by the imperial court of Catherine the Great
Intricately hand-painted daisies embellished with hand-embroidered silk and metallic threads adorn the walls of a private salon in Paris. This is no painting, but given the workmanship, it may very well be considered art. The walls in question sport exquisite wallpaper from Salon Privé—the latest collection of wallpapers and textiles by de Gournay, in collaboration with the Italy-born, Chicago-based designer Alessandra Branca.
Craftsmanship | A Brief History
For a woman who engineered the coup that overthrew her emperor husband and ascended the throne in his stead, Catherine was, surprisingly, quite a patron of the arts. The empress was instrumental in creating a new style that blended the Western classicism of her birthplace (the Kingdom of Prussia), and the Byzantine style of her marital home in Russia. So for this collection, Branca and de Gournay studied both Russian and European history—the result is a stunning array of wallpaper and textiles.
Craftsmanship | A Blend of Cultural Influences
Drawing from a style born out of blending together Byzantine and Western European influences, using ancient Chinese painting and embroidery techniques, the new collection has been handmade in south India. In fact, the brand is in the process of setting up a new manufacturing facility in India, for which a special team has already been assembled. For this collection, a single square metre of wallpaper took 350 hours to create. The works have been exhibited at de Gournay’s Paris apartment (which was redesigned by Branca) and features two adjoining salons inspired by the 18th-century court of Catherine the Great.
Catherine the Great was said to have ushered in Russia’s age of enlightenment, which celebrated advancements in science, arts and craftsmanship. With the Salon Privé collection, London-based de Gournay, with ateliers in India and China, carries forward the tradition of creating handmade luxury interiors using those time-honoured techniques, but with a modern-day vision.
Craftsmanship | Hand-embroidered Elegance
The first salon, titled Winter Garden, features wallpaper made of parchment-coloured tea paper, with hand-painted, hand- embroidered oral motifs in blues, browns and creamy whites. In contrast, the second salon, titled Catherine, is a riot of cerulean, rouge and gold. For instance, the ‘Flora’ wallcovering (pictured) pays tribute to the decor of the Catherine Palace in the town of Tsarskoye Selo (30 kilometres south of Saint Petersburg). To create it, a cream wool sateen basecloth was hand-embroidered with peonies and tulips in blue silk thread, and highlighted further with appliquéd red silk and gold metallic thread. Other pieces of interest, designed by Branca and showcased at the apartment, include a bespoke gilded stone replace (designed in collaboration with Jamb), and the ‘Faux Bois’ upholstery (hand-embroidered by de Gournay).