18 January 2012

Downton Abbey

Are you all watching Downton Abbey on PBS? I highly recommend it!!

A kind of updated "Upstairs, Downstairs", it takes place in a more interesting time: the first season in the year leading up to World War I ; the second season (airing now) during the war. Interesting because the world of servants, butlers, footmen and housekeepers is coming to an end in a most extraordinary way. Technology is advancing faster than they can keep up with (sound familiar?), and the kitchen staff are  afraid of the newest additions to the house,  electricity and the telephone.

From a design perspective, it's a glimpse into a Great House, and I often find myself re-winding a scene because I was scanning the details of the room rather than listening to the dialogue.

Highclere Castle in England, the home used as  "Downton Abbey"

I have to say, I am much more interested in the "Downstairs" interiors than the "Upstairs"~ all of the excess, gilding, marble  and fringe trim is beautiful and inspiring but does not speak to me in a visceral way. Whenever  I am on an historic  house tour, I always wish I could tour the attics and the kitchens and the see the linen closet instead of the marble ballroom.

A Drawing Room at Highclere Castle

Even the downstairs room names ~ servery, buttery, larder, pastry room, butlers pantry are more resonant ~ they conjure for me images of darkly aged wooden built-in cabinetry with fabulous hardware, old marble counters with that patina only age can achieve, huge scrubbed pine work tables, copper cookware lined up on endless shelves, dented soft silver or soapstone  sinks. I am much more apt to pull from images like these for design inspiration:

19th c kitchen floor plans : what a great inspiration for an updated
kitchen project.

The kitchen of The Breakers in Newport, RI. That mortal and pestle makes my heart stop.
The copper cookware, the butcher block on legs........

Such great light! Note the marble topped table with drawers; I would
copy that for a modern project in a heartbeat!

Note the tile walls - a huge trend in kitchens right now.
That plate rack is spectacular.

A 19th c Butlers Pantry. Sigh.

That soapstone counter on the right: how beautiful. That could be
re-interpreted now as a work station in an updated kitchen; a place
for the mail, the charging station, the keys, the ipad.
Double height Butlers Pantry at The Breakers. Only he would have the keys
to access the space, where the family silver was kept.

When Martha Stewart bought Skylands in Maine, a former Ford family estate,
she kept the pantries largely as found. These shelves and table are original;
the porcelain table was for preparing fish.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Gorgeous post! These kitchens are outstanding. So inspiring. I am so tired of the "modern" Home Depot overly designed kitchen.