Monday, 1 August 2016

The Homes and Interiors of Downton Abbey

Greetings from Dubai! I traveled here on Saturday for a week of meetings and I am currently in my hotel (hiding from the scorching heat) with some free time so thought I would be productive and write a new post.

On the flight from Manchester to Dubai I was struggling to find an interesting movie to pass away the time when I stumbled across the Final series of Downton Abbey. I am a huge fan of this show..I just love escaping for an hour into the past to a time when everyone was gracious and homes had armies of staff. I spent the entire flight watching Downton, even letting everyone else disembark the aircraft so I could catch the end of episode six!

One of the things I love most about Downton Abbey is its interiors. Julian Fellowes (Downton's creator) is more familiar than most with the English Country House and its ideals and it seems he chooses the set design and locations to perfection. In one episode we are taken to Ditchley Park, the famous home of Nancy Lancaster who transformed Colefax and Fowler into a brand synonymous with English Country house perfection. 

From the small but charming Georgian rectory of Isobel Crawley to the palatial splendour of Downton Abbey, lets take a look at what makes this show so enchanting. 

The 'real' Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnavon. It is a 5000 acre estate in Hampshire, England and has been used a filming location for various Films and TV shows many times before. Highclere is a Jacobean style house and its interiors are fitting to this era with dark wood panelling, stone walls, heavy fabrics and an all together more masculine feel. Personally this style along with Victorian architecture and interiors is my least favourite. Still, Highclere has a warm and welcoming feel and is very grand. The perfect setting for the Earl and Countess of Grantham. 

The Entrance Hall of 'Downton' is very masculine and typical of the era with its dark wood paneling and stone mixture. It is an impressive and imposing entrance with high vaulted ceilings, intricate stone work and vast floor space. I dread to think of the heating bills. Because this home has been passed on from generation to generation there is a distinct feeling of comfort in what could otherwise be a cold and unwelcoming room. In the show especially, we get to see the warmth of the house as a family home when this room is filled with friends and gracious lamp light gives a special glow. 

The warm glow of the Downton Entrance Hall

Drawing Rooms were often the place where the lady of the house would be let loose to decorate exactly as she pleased. A room to sit with other grand women, the Drawing room was a place for genteel conversation whilst the men smoked cigars and played cards in the more masculine library. The Drawing Room at Downton echoes this exactly and is perhaps the most feminine room in the house. With its pale green silk walls, blush pink upholstery and painted wood with gilded accents, this room is in stark contrast to the rest of the house. 

A feminine touch gives this room real beauty with its soft color palette and delicate details. 

The Downton Dining Room is another room that I love to see on the show. It is always filled with guests enjoying a scrumptious supper by candlelight with the men in full dinner attire and the ladies in jewels and tiaras. I sometimes pause the TV so I can get a closer look at the details: the name cards, the china, the cutlery and glassware, the floral arrangements. Every detail is carefully considered and it creates an  atmosphere of authenticity. 

The packed Dining Room between takes

The small details are carefully considered to create an authentic scene befitting of the times.

In this shot taken during the day it is clearer to see how the room looks. The soft yellow walls are covered in portraits which dominate the room whilst a mixture of heavy wood furniture also darkens the environment.

The Library at Downton is another room with a masculine feel. We see the family use this room mostly during the day where they take tea and chat about the problems they are facing. It is a huge room with columns and floor to ceiling bookcases. I can certainly imagine the Earl of Grantham enjoying a brandy with other gentleman in here.

The scale of the Library can be seen here with its enormous ceilings which are decorated with ornamental carvings. We often see the Crawley's taking tea here, usually with some crisis taking place.

I am a nosey person and always like to see the more personal space in other peoples homes. The bedrooms at Downton are some of my favourite rooms to see as they are more light and elegant and have the personal touches that you do not see in the more formal rooms downstairs. 

Intimate: The Earl and Countess of Grantham in their exquisite bed with its silk headboard and eiderdown blanket. 

In this poor quality photograph you can just see the beautiful color of the pale blue walls which look so good with the gilded gold of the mirror, chairs and wall sconces.

So much comfort in this room. The Countess always gets to enjoy breakfast in bed!

I was delighted to discover that in Lady Mary's bedroom she has the same lampshades as the ones in my Library at home in Scotland.

My 'Lady Mary Crawley' lampshade at home.

Recently, the real Countess of Highclere Castle shared this picture of a bedroom she had just finished decorating. 

The Dowager Countess is my favourite character from Downton Abbey..I also happen to like her house the most too. Filmed at Byfleet Manor, this home is filled with light and the interiors are wonderfully chic with a green panelled drawing room that features heavily in the show. For me it is a welcome relief after enduring all of the dark wood and masculinity of Downton Abbey.

The Facade of Byfleet Manor, the location of the residence of the Dowager Countess

In the show, we only really get to see the Drawing Room of this beautiful house. It is a fully panelled room painted in three shades of pastel green. I find this room so charming and always try to take in everything when watching.

There aren't many pictures of the Drawing Room as it shown on the show.

Recently the house was listed for sale. The interiors are not nearly as nice as the layout and furniture used in the show. 

You can just glimpse the flattering green of the panelling here.

The Dining room as shown in the Sale brochure. This room is never used for filming in the show, I imagine the wood burner would not look so authentic!

I love the curtains

And here we catch a rare glimpse of the Dowagers bedroom. It too has painted panelled walls.

The Dowager observing the news whilst having breakfast in bed.

The final look at the homes and interior of Downton Abbey takes us to the home of Cousin Isobel Crawley who resides at Crawley House. The exterior of this home is a former rectory in the village of Bampton in England. The interiors are filmed at Hall Place in Buckinghamshire.

The exterior of 'Crawley House'

Although poor quality, this picture shows the Georgian charm of the house with its sash windows, simple facade and climbing roses. So English

To me, this house is so appealing because of its simplicity against all of the grandeur of Downton Abbey. I have always admired pretty, Georgian homes and this one is decorated so beautifully. We don't get to see much of Isobel's home and all of the pictures online are very poor quality.

The Drawing Room is so charming with the sash windows and panelling painted in a powder blue.

I just love that color on the walls! Also the silk settee and needlepoint cushions.

Here we are given a glimpse of the Entrance Hall which looks light and beautiful. 

A terrible picture of the Dining Room..although you can see it is a charming room.

I found this lovely picture of the house - To me it is the best house in Downton! Which is yours favorite?


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