Find antique inspiration in a period TV favourite

THE HUGELY successful, Downton Abbey returned to our screens this month and you can make the period drama come alive at home by creating your own ‘upstairs downstairs’ setting, with vintage furniture and accessories to make even the Dowager Countess of Grantham feel proud.

Period drama Downton Abbey may have won over the nation with its intriguing plots around the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, but its settings are also winning hearts.

The lavish interiors of the series have prompted a revival in all things elaborate and vintage.

“The rooms in Downton are so fascinating to look at,” said Judith Miller, one of the experts on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

“They’re worthy of a show in themselves because they’re filled with treasures and authentic period details.

“Antiques and vintage pieces, which are already enjoying renewed popularity at the moment, have been given a further boost by the series.”

Our enthusiasm for vintage is, she believes, partly fuelled by a hankering for nostalgia and a desire to replicate the perceived order, obedience and security of past eras.

Judith added: “The modern world is quite scary and people now want their homes to be nurturing spaces, where they feel cocooned, safe and comfortingly surrounded by the things they love.

“There’s an appreciation for furniture and possessions that have been handed down over the years and have a history.

“Increasingly on the Antiques Roadshow we find people bringing along their items and no matter how high their value, they still want to keep them. They treasure them emotionally for their craftsmanship and links to their family history.”

It’s beyond most of our budgets to replicate those grand rooms in the great Downton Abbey. But, reassuringly, Miller says it’s perfectly possible to capture the charm of the Edwardian era it portrays, by featuring just a few vintage pieces.

This was such a diverse era for style because it reflected all sorts of influences, from Victorian and Art Nouveau, to Arts and Crafts or more delicate Sheraton-style pieces, with painted or marquetry effects. There really is something to appeal to everyone.

Vintage pieces are wise buys as new designer furniture depreciates by around a fifth the moment you get it home, in much the same way a new car does.

Antiques will generally at least hold their value, if not appreciate. They’re also made to last and many pieces, unless they’re rare, are often very affordable if you source them at auctions, fairs or even car boot sales.”

So make the series come alive at home with on-screen style furniture and accessories to make even the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the redoubtable Dame Maggie Smith, feel proud.

Get the Downton Look

Lord and Lady Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, hold court in gracious drawings rooms at Downton, which still retain their elegance in this series, even though the home’s now involved in the war effort.

Opulence using heavy fabrics, expert craftsmanship, intricate detailing and imported exotic pieces are characteristic of these homes.

Choose curtains and cushions in rich petrol blues, crimsons, burnt orange and bronze, preferably heavily embroidered or with a tapestry effect or damask, and perhaps some tassle fringing.