De Gournay wallpaper is more than just your average roll. Unbelievably beautiful and incredibly expensive, these hand-painted silk panels will cost you about the same as a piece of fine art, with single panels costing over £400 each. You’ll hardly be spending out on De Gournay if you have children and/or pets, and don’t have a huge bank balance!
But, we can dream. I like to imagine that someday I’ll have an apartment that’s decadent enough, and an accountant who’s confident enough, to warrant splashing out on wall-to-wall De Gournay…
The off-the-peg product:
As we don’t all have £8000 spare to paper our lounge, luckily there are some cheaper alternatives out there. Osborne and Little and Laura Ashley offer more affordable, printed versions of Chinoiserie wallpaper.
The do-it-yourself version:
Now, don’t raise your eyebrows in disbelief as I suggest this, but it really is possible to create a Chinoiserie feature wall by just painting it yourself (or by twisting the arm of a slightly more artistic friend).
Recreate authentic designs
You don’t have to invent a design from scratch, just search the internet for Chinoiserie and you’ll find plenty of inspiration. Print out some of your favourites and sketch some plans – remember that you can always simplify a design that’s too elaborate for your level of skill, as quite simple strokes work as well as detail.
A smooth, matte base
You’ll need to put up some plain, matte wallpaper, in a muted colour, or paint over existing wallpaper with an opaque base colour. Don’t buy anything with a coated surface as wallpaper with a slightly porous, papery feel will be better to paint on. Buy just one roll to start with, and test painting on it before you buy a whole load. You could also paint directly onto a plastered and painted wall if it’s completely smooth and nick-free.
A delicate wash of flora and fauna
Depending on the effect you want, you can play around with different types of paint. Again, buy a few paints and brushes and practice on some cheap wallpaper first. You also might want to think about finishing your wall with a thin coating of matte varnish or sealant if you want to keep it extra-safe from dirty fingers.
Though this isn’t exactly the method that De Gournay use, I’d recommend that you paint the wallpaper when it’s up on the walls, glued up and dried out, for two reasons: there’s a risk you’ll ruin your hard work putting it up afterwards, and you’ll have a better perspective of what you’ve painted. Painting flat makes it harder to see if you’ve got the design a bit wonky.
This does mean that you’ll be needing a sturdy ladder if you plan to do a large wall. Alternatively, you could take the design just halfway up – Chinoiserie designs don’t have to be repeat prints, they can look more like a mural.
If you have a go, let us know how you get on!