Get That Look: Downton Abbey – Servants Quarters

The English period soap opera known as Downton Abbey is now in full swing and as with Season 1, Season 2 is filled with characters and lots of exposition of the story line. Season 1 just won the Golden Globe for best mini-series tonight, as a matter of fact. They sure know how to pack it all in and if you’re not paying attention, you might miss an important bit of story. Luckily, they seem to be running the episodes twice in a row, which gives me a chance to fill in any blanks I missed while tweeting, or blinking for that matter. Downton Abbey is presented by Masterpiece (formerly and forever Masterpiece Theater) which is produced by WGBH, Boston’s PBS station. I worked there for many years and if I was there now, I’d have been able to see advance screeners of the whole season by now. I’d also be preparing for an onslaught of work around the sales reporting on all those dvd’s as well – and I do not miss that in the least!  I am much happier doing what I’m doing now and watching the show with a decorator’s eye.

Last week, I wrote about the Kitchen of Downton Abbey and this week I am focusing on the rest of the servants quarters – both the basement workrooms and the bedrooms.  These utilitarian spaces were certainly not “decorated” per se. They were functional and practical and there was little room or attention to fripperies like color. Yet, these spaces have a certain vintage charm to that is worth taking a look at. The color palette is a mix of grays and taupes, along with stained oak or walnut, darkened with age.

Carson, the butler ruminates in the servants dining and work hall. Note the room bells on the wall behind. The furniture is heavy and has put up with a lot of wear and tear.

Anna, the maid sitting in the servants hall (pining for Mr. Bates). In the first season, it was noted the electric lighting was upstairs, but not downstairs. Season 2 marks the addition of electricity to the work areas of the house, but the set still shows a mix of gas and electric lighting.

The generally evil Miss O’Brien and Thomas, the once valet and now soldier. This image really shows the wear and tear on the table, along with the simple cups and saucers on the cabinet in the background.

The servants bedrooms continue the muted color palette. The furnishings are simple, often time painted. Servants shared rooms, based on their ranking in the household. The men and women slept in separate hall ways with a locked door (locked to the men’s side) between. Generally, there were no locks on the actual bedroom doors and there was very little privacy for the servants. The beds are iron or painted woods. Rooms also had small tables and chairs, clothing cupboards and small side tables.

Additional links for Downton Abbey:

One of the downsides of doing all the photo research for these posts is that I’ve managed to actually spoil much of the season for myself, including a fall from grace from a most unlikely character. I’ll say no more, but writer Julian Fellowes will have had to really pull something out of his hat to make it all make sense!

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xoxo Linda