Are you still suffering withdraw symptoms after THAT Christmas episode? Even though this year’s Christmas special saw the estate’s residents gathering for some harmonious singing around a simply enormous Christmas tree, rather than the dramatic death that overshadowed Christmas Day the year before, fans could be forgiven for feeling a large Downton-shaped hole in their lives during early 2015. But between tours of the house itself, a range of products launched that promise to give you some authentic Downton style in your own more modest home, and the fact that the real design action seems to be going on below stairs, it’s never been easier to get the look yourself.
If it’s inspiration for a well-appointed country estate you’re after then why not go straight to the source. As any self-respecting fan knows, Highclere Castle in Hampshire is used for many of the location shoots on the show. Visitors can take a tour of not only the key rooms like the Library and Dining Room, but also rooms upstairs which serve as bedrooms in the series.
If you want to soak up the aristocratic ambience a little longer, then perhaps you could be tempted into a stay on the estate? Although the house does not have rooms for rent – so very déclassé – the estate’s London Lodge gatehouse (below) has just been renovated and is available for short stays.
Sugar-coated though it may be, the depiction of the below-stairs spaces are – for us – where the real interiors ideas are. From the scrubbed wood of the central kitchen table to the authentically Edwardian drab grey paints that adorn the walls, the utilitarian simplicity of the servants’ rooms are where it’s really at right now. Below the set during shooting looks not unlike our own dream kitchen.
Unlike the upstairs rooms, the servants’ spaces are in fact a built set. Set designer Donal Woods explained to The Telegraph recently that he and his team constructed the sets at life size to give a feel of the bustling busy atmosphere, as well as sticking to a monochromatic scheme in contrast to the opulent fabrics and colours of upstairs. “We wanted to get that below-stairs feel, with all the walls 3ft thick,” Woods said. “And you can’t light them, so the passageways are dingy.” Luckily, this dark look is currently all the rage. We recommend picking a mid-grey with slightly green undertones, or a stoical, stoney grey to start your Downton kitchen scheme off. Team with well-crafted basics like brown mixing bowls, plain crockery and of course plenty of copper and you have a look that is very Downton, but also perfectly contemporary too.
Clockwise from top left: pans from Lakeland, kitchen by John Lewis of Hungerford, stool from John Lewis, Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball, copper sink from Copper Sinks, Mole’s Breath by Farrow & Ball, mixing bowl from Lakeland.
And of course, no servants’ kitchen would be complete without a bell to summon you for your duties. Downton Abbey At Home, a company specialising in products that reflect the look of the show, sells a Butler’s Bell that looks as if it could be heard in the next county. Perfect.