The Aesthete: Claud Cecil Gurney talks personal taste

The de Gournay founder established the wallpaper, fabric and porcelain firm 30 years ago and now works with his daughters to expand its flamboyant collections

Claud Cecil Gurney at home with Mowgli
Claud Cecil Gurney at home with Mowgli | Image: Jooney Woodward

My personal style signifier is a hunting stock with a beautiful stock pin. It is typically white silk or crepe, or sometimes a flowery handpainted pattern; we make loads of outrageous de Gournay ones. I had a tie made to match the Silk Tree wallpaper in green we did for a show living room by San Franciscan designer Jonathan Rachman, and wore it with a white suit. The pin I most often use is my mother’s, which has little rubies in the form of a shamrock. de Gournay, 112 Old Church Street, London SW3 (020-7352 9988; degournay.com).

Gurney’s hunting stock
Gurney’s hunting stock | Image: Jooney Woodward

The last thing I bought and loved was my German Shepherd, Mowgli. He is so adorable. Eternal requited love and beauty in one package, on all fours. He’s 11 months old and I’ve just taken him for his first cycle ride on Rotten Row.

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And the thing I’m eyeing next is a little blue wooden fishing boat with an outboard for my house on the beach in Croatia, as my 12-year-old daughter wants to go fishing. You can just sit in the middle of nowhere for three hours. It’s wonderful relaxation – just you and nature and peace and quiet. 

One of his favourite Chinese teas
One of his favourite Chinese teas | Image: Jooney Woodward

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Wuyishan in Fujian Province in China. It has beautiful tea terraces on misty mountains that have been there for thousands of years. There are bamboo forests and the green on green everywhere is so beautiful. A local tea is the fantastic Wuyi Hong Cha’ black tea. $8.95 for 28g; musiccitytea.com.

Gurney’s donkey – a gift from a friend
Gurney’s donkey – a gift from a friend | Image: Claud Cecil Gurney

The best gift I’ve received recently is a donkey, given to me by a Croatian friend. One really needs to be in communion with an animal to remain sane in life and, as long as you choose one with a good character, a donkey is forever. They’re so sweet and friendly. They’re like big dogs: they follow you everywhere and bray to warn you about burglars or snakes. Adopt a donkey via The Donkey Sanctuary, thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.

One of his lampshades made from a sari bought in Kolkata
One of his lampshades made from a sari bought in Kolkata | Image: Jooney Woodward

And the best souvenirs I’ve brought home are old silk saris from Kolkata that make wonderful lampshades. A sari is generally not a repeating design, so you get a sense of movement. They’re very pretty and each one is different. From $40 in the Ahiritola and Howrah districts of Kolkata; or Joss Graham in London, jossgraham.com.

French version of Gut by Giulia Enders
French version of Gut by Giulia Enders

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Gut by Giulia Enders. It explains all one needs to know about the digestive cycle in order to lead a healthier and happier life. I actually read the French version, which has a prettier title, Le Charme Discret de l’Intestin

His waistcoat by Parisian tailor Le Débotté
His waistcoat by Parisian tailor Le Débotté | Image: Jooney Woodward

Indulgences I would never forgo are freshly ironed, 1,000-thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets and my Hungarian goose-down pillows from Peter Jones. And macadamia nuts from Carpo in Knightsbridge – they roast them on site. Pillows, £95 each; johnlewis.com. Carpo, 5 Montpelier Street, London SW7 (020-7584 2777; carpolondon.co.uk).

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The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a red velvet double-breasted evening waistcoat with my French hunt buttons, although I stopped hunting 30 years ago. I had it made by Le Débotté, a Parisian tailor. 52 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris (+331-4296 1477). 

My favourite app is Pimsleur, which I use to keep my Spanish up to speed – it’s not quite as fluent as my French and the programme is an excellent way to immerse myself in the detail.  

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