De Gournay Wallpaper Revives Fairy-Tale Belvoir Castle
In the heart of the English countryside, de Gournay revives a historic castle with traditional hand-painted wallpapers.
“Within our own homes, you and I might say that 10 years is a long horizon for the decoration of a room. But at Belvoir, they’re looking for the decoration to stand up to another two centuries.”
“One of my greatest pleasures is keeping traditions alive. Some things of the past are very much worth preserving,” says Dominic Evans-Freke, director of de Gournay, a British company specializing in hand-painted and hand-embroidered wallcoverings.
De Gournay was recently commissioned to bring new life into England’s Belvoir Castle with a sumptuous interior renovation. By introducing a historically infused design scheme to the newly named Howard Room, Evans-Freke and his team hoped to revive the space with lasting appeal, marking a new chapter within the ever-evolving narrative of the castle.
With an august history that began in the 11th century, Belvoir (pronounced ‘beaver’) is one of the nation’s most impressive examples of Regency architecture. Positioned on top of a hill in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, the stately home’s classic good looks are recognizable from films such as The Da Vinci Code and TV series such as The Crown.
Belvoir has served as the ancestral seat of a single dukedom for almost 1,000 years—a rare feat, even by English lineage standards. Today, the castle is home to the current Duke and Duchess of Rutland, David and Emma Manners, and their five children.
Not your typical homeowners, the Duke and Duchess are the latest iteration in an unbroken line of stewards, each caring for Belvoir in their lifetime before passing on the mantle.
“These ‘treasure houses’ are part of the historic fabric of the nation, woven into the story of England,” Evans-Freke says. “Within our own homes, you and I might say that 10 years is a long horizon for the decoration of a room. But at Belvoir, they’re looking for the decoration to stand up to another two centuries.”
Evans-Freke likens the nature of heritage house stewardship to that of possessing a Patek Philippe watch—one never truly owns the object in question, but instead looks after it for the next generation. “You’re only the custodian,” he says.
Belvoir Castle houses a prized collection of antique Chinese wallpapers, many of which date back to the 1700s. A jewel in this crown is the paper hung in the Wellington Room—the space is named after the Duke of Wellington who stayed there in the 1850s. That scene depicts an ornate Chinese garden, with peonies and exotic birds rendered in delicate pistachio and vivid berry hues.