How many of you are in love with Matthew Crawley? If you’ve seen Downton Abbey, you’ll know he’s the charming young barrister that we all hope will end up with Mary. But he’s not the only thing that’s got us glued to our screens! This wonderfully engaging period drama on BBC has taken the US by storm. With over 7 million viewers – that’s right, 7 MILLION viewers for Season 4 – we’ve shown that we sure are enamored with everything to do with Downton.
The writers of the show do a great job depicting classic 18th and 19th century life in England, dealing with issues like societal expectations, social divisions and familial pressures. These are juxtaposed with contemporary 20th century issues such as a woman’s right to vote and inherit her own property.
Probably one of the most glorious aspects of this show is the amazing, awe-inspiring residence and grounds of Downton Abbey, which is actually Highclere Castle in England! Can you imagine growing up and living in such a beautiful property? It reflects a multitude of design influences, including Gothic, Tudor and early Victorian, which are evocative of its colorful past. This home generated income for hundreds of residents of the town, so maintaining it and keeping it up was not just crucial to “appearances” but really to the local economy of Hampshire.
I am, of course, a lover of classic European architecture and European antiques, and so I wanted to share with you some of the gorgeous rooms of Downton and other great classic English homes. There’s so much to share, and I also want to show you how to bring a little Downton home, so this will be a two-part post.
A few favorite rooms:
The library, where many scenes occur, is just divine. During that time, all aristocrats needed a library and one was usually built in the residence. I often wonder if my children will even know what a home library is; they will think of the kindle app when they envision a library. The drawing room or library at Highclere has over 5500 books! What a heavenly retreat!
Here are few other rooms that inspire my Downton passion:
The lovely drawing room, inspired and designed by Almina the 5th Countess of Carnarvon in the early 19th century, is another favorite. I love the color combinations, the mouldings and the lovely French side chairs, of course. One of the things I adore about these grand rooms is the abundance of color and pattern – such a contrast to our modern day homes. Rarely do we find this much pattern, color, and texture in one contemporary room.
This is the music room. I love the gorgeous French chairs covered in a rich tapestry fabric. And that beautiful pedestal top table in the center of the room – we still have pieces like that in our decor today.
One of my favorite rooms is the great room or salon. We all think grey is this big modern trend, but look at this classic shade of grey on the walls contrasted with the beautiful shades of lemon yellow! Yum! This is one my favorite color palettes and one that I actually incorporated into my own house even before I saw Downton Abbey!
Bringing Downton Home
If you’re inspired by some of these classic European interiors, how do you bring a little of that style to your own home? If you happen to have panelling in your house, consider painting it like many of the classic homes in Europe. Pick up a swatch book of Farrow and Ball, and choose from their many classic colors.
During this time period you would often find landscapes and oil portraiture paintings in these grand residences. Impressionism had not come about yet, so there weren’t many signs of modern art. Now, a piece of vintage art in our modern style living spaces brings back the romantic feel of the 18th and 19th century.
These are created by incising a design into a flat surface like wood, silver, steel or glass, and are relatively popular. While visiting a chateau with my hubby, I found myself mesmerised by a lovely room filled with engravings!
You might see these all of the time and not know what to do with them. Andirons were basically a rack for firewood logs. To use them, you would rest your firewood on the “rack” of the andiron and place in your fireplace.
We often have a few at the shop and these lovely antique pieces are reminiscent of centuries of cuddling up by the fire.
There are so many beautiful rooms I found while delving into this topic, too many for this post, and I want to share a few more with you next week. So if you’re inspired by great European homes and want to know how to bring a little bit of that decor into your modern day busy lifestyle, stay tuned until next week!
In the meantime be sure to share pictures of any trips to stately homes that have inspired you.
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